SPRINGFIELD, Mass. - Midwestern State seemed resilient all year long as the Mustangs pulled off improbable win after impossible win. In the NCAA Division II national quarterfinal, St. Cloud State's Taylor Witt who proved to be most impossible for the Mustangs. The junior guard poured in a career high 43 points to lead the Huskies to a 92-88 win to end Midwestern State's record setting season.
"I felt this team was good enough to win a national championship," MSU coach Grant McCasland said. "It was going to take a special effort to beat these guys. You have to give credit to Taylor Witt for delivering that."
Witt scored 38 of those points in the second half after Midwestern State used a 10-0 to close the opening as it held the Huskies scoreless over the final 3:08 to take a 45-39 lead into the second half.
The Mustangs, who had closed out all but one of their 49 games that it held an advantage, had plenty of shining moments and great performances of their own.
Junior guard Chris Hagan finished with a career-high 31 points which included three 3-pointers and a 13-of-20 effort from the floor, while senior guard Craig Green scored 18 of his 27 points in the opening half. St. Cloud battled back with an 8-2 run to retake the lead on a Theo Rothstein jumper with 15:08 to go in the second.
The Mustangs bounced back with a quick 6-0 run as Hagan hit a runner in the lane then finished off a transition feed from Anthony Moore before Charlie Logan tipped in another transition bucket to push MSU's advantage back to 57-53. That's when Witt struck as he converted on a bucket and a foul from the right wing on the next possesion to tie the game, then hit a pair of charity tosses two possessions later to give St. Cloud State a 60-57 lead.
Witt would score 34 of SCSU's 47 points over the final 13:24 of the game.
"He decided he wasn't going to let them lose," McCasland said. "He hit a lot of tough shots."
Witt finished with three 3-pointers and was 9-of-17 from the field, but found his way to the charity stipe where he connected on all but one of his 23 chances. Even with Witt's act, Hagan willed the Mustangs back with an 8-2 run contributing a pair of free throws, a long 2-point jumper and layup to give MSU its last lead at 78-76 with 3:17 to play.
But Witt outscored the Mustangs 9-2 over the next 2 1/2 minutes with a running trey from the top of the key and six free throws to push the St. Cloud advantage to 85-80 with 1:18 to go.
The loss snaps a 10-game winning streak for the Mustangs, who complete the best season in school history at 31-3.
Midwestern concludes the best season in school history at 31-3 (.912).
Midwestern fell to 4-4 in national quarterfinal play. The other seven were all in the NAIA national tournament.
Midwestern fell in a neutral site game for the first time since losing to Texas A&M International 70-66 in overtime on Nov. 17, 2007 - a span of 11 games.
Senior point guard Jason Ebie finished the season with 179 assists to eclipse former All-American LeRoy Shaw, who had 174 during the 1975-76 season.
Senior point guard Jason Ebie added three more steals to his season total which rated seventh in NCAA Division II. Ebie's 86 steals tie him with Cullen Mayfield (1980-81) and Damion McKinney (1996-97) for the second most in a single season in school history. James Burkhalter had 88 during the 1987-88 campaign.
St. Cloud State's Taylor Witt became the first player to score at least 40 points against Midwestern State since St. Edward's Brad Burdick scored 40 against MSU on Nov. 25, 2000.