EVANSVILLE, IN (BHSU) — Black Hills State men’s basketball advances to the Final Four of the NCAA DII tournament to take on No. 2 seed West Liberty Thursday, March 23 at 1 p.m. CT (12 p.m. MT)
The Yellow Jackets are currently 29-5 overall after their 86-68 win over No. 6 Minnesota Duluth in the Elite Eight on Tuesday, March 21. BHSU’s 29 wins is the most in a season since joining DII, as the team has now won the regional tournament and appeared in the Final Four two straight seasons.
HOW TO WATCH
Thursday’s game will be broadcast exclusively on CBS Sports Network. To view CBS Sports Network, check your current cable TV package to see if you have it included.
THURSDAY vs. NO. 2 WEST LIBERTY
The Hilltoppers are 32-3 this season, and are currently riding a 17-game winning streak. WLU won the Mountain East Conference Tournament, defeating the number-three team in the nation, IUP, 70-53 in the Atlantic Regional Championship to earn an Elite Eight berth, and will now be playing in their fifth Final Four.
UMD finished the season, leading the MEC in 11 different categories, and let the nation in assist/turnover ratio (1.95), assists per game (22.3), three-pointers made per game (12.5), and three-point attempts per game (32.7). They are top-5 in the nation in nine different categories.
The Hilltoppers are also 13th in the nation in field goal percentage (49.6) and third in both turnover margin (+7.9) and forced turnovers per game (19.3) while sitting fourth nationally in steals per game (10.8).
WLU is led by the second-leading scorer in the nation, Bryce Butler, who has scored 781 points this season and is averaging 22.3 points per game which ranks 13th in the nation. He also leads the nation in made field goals (316), and is second in field goal attempts (528).
This will be the first-ever meeting in men’s basketball between Black Hills State and West Liberty.
YELLOW JACKETS’ LAST TIME OUT
Black Hills State men’s basketball moved past No. 6 Minnesota Duluth, 86-68, in their Elite Eight matchup Tuesday afternoon.
The Yellow Jackets (29-5, 18-4 RMAC) played excellent all around, shooting over 53 percent from the floor and 47 percent from beyond the arc, while also outscoring the Bulldogs 26-7 in points off turnovers.
Matthew Ragsdale led the scoring with a season-high 25, knocking down 5-of-7 from deep and 9-of-12 from the field to go along with five boards, three assists and two blocks.
Joel Scott went 8-of-14 on the floor and 7-of-10 from the charity stripe for 23 points, five rebounds, and a trio of blocks.
Sindou Cisse and Ryker Cisarik each added 13 points. Cisse grabbed six boards and dished out five assists while Cisarik had four rebounds and two steals.
Jaeton Hackley was an efficient 2-of-2 from the floor, and from the free throw line, totaling seven points, three rebounds, two assists and two steals.
After Minnesota Duluth used a pair of early 3-pointers to take a 12-5 lead four minutes into the game, the Yellow Jacket offense lit up for seven unanswered using a Cisse layup and five points from Ragsdale to even the score at 12-all.
Two minutes later, a 10-0 scoring run featuring Cisarik and Scott layups and treys from Ragsdale and Cisarik pushed BHSU out to a 22-15 lead midway through the first.
UMD would inch back over the next three minutes, pulling within four, 24-20 at 9:38, but BHSU wouldn’t let up, using big shots from Ragsdale, Hayes, Hackley and Cisarik to outscore the Bulldogs 21-12 the rest of the half and take a 45-32 lead into the locker room.
Both teams traded points out of the break with seven consecutive points from Scott, making it 52-38 with 16:28 to go. Buckets from Scott and Cisarik before jumpers from Ragsdale and Hearne at 11:01 stretched the Yellow Jacket lead to 64-47.
The Bulldogs weren’t done, however, drawing back to within 10 points, 64-54 with 8:41 remaining. But after a timeout, the BHSU offense finished strong the rest of the way.
With under four to play, a Scott dunk capped a 7-0 spurt and gave the Yellow Jackets their first 20-point lead, 84-64, before BHSU finished the game with an 86-68 victory.
HILLTOPPERS’ LAST TIME OUT
The No. 5-ranked West Liberty University men’s basketball team hit the court running on Tuesday and never took their foot off the gas as the Hilltoppers opened the NCAA Division II Elite Eight run with a 95-58 rout of East Region champion New Haven (Conn.) inside the Ford Center.
With the win, Coach Ben Howlett’s No. 2-seeded Black and Gold improved to 32-3 on the season and advanced to the NCAA D2 national semifinals for the fifth time in school history. WLU will take on third-seeded and No. 21-ranked Black Hills State (28-5) Thursday afternoon at 2 p.m. (EDT).
“Really happy for our guys today,” Howlett said. “I thought we executed our game plan very well. We wanted to use our defensive pressure to wear them down and I think we saw some of that. We’ll let ourselves feel good about this one for about 15 minutes and then start getting ready for a very good Black Hills State team.”
The Hilltoppers’ swarming defense overwhelmed the outgunned Chargers (23-11) from the opening tip. New Haven kept the damage to a minimum for the first few minutes, trailing just 10-4 after a Kendall McMillan layup at the 14:44 mark, but Christian Montague answered with a transition 3-pointer just 12 seconds later and the Hilltopper pressure shifted into overdrive.
West Liberty held the Chargers scoreless for the next four minutes while reeling off 14 unanswered points. New Haven head coach Ted Hotaling called a timeout after Alek West and Zach Rasile capped the blackout with back-to-back 3-pointers but the Hilltoppers were well on their way, leading 24-4 midway through the opening half.
“With their 2-guard offense, we wanted to challenge every catch and apply extreme ball pressure to take away the easy passes. They’re really good with that offense but it’s tough for a team playing with that deliberate style to come back from a significant deficit. Once we got the lead up to 15-20 points, our guys smelled blood in the water and that was pretty much it from that point.”
The Hilltoppers coasted into halftime with a 45-21 lead and led by as many as 40 points in the second half as Howlett substituted liberally throughout. Freshman guard Dante Spadafora was the only WLU player with more than 20 minutes of playing time, checking in at 20 minutes and 43 seconds.
Zach Rasile was 4-for-8 from the 3-point arc and paced West Liberty with 14 points. Bryce Butler added 13 points in 19 minutes with Montague and Fin Woodward adding 11 and 10 points, respectively. The Hilltoppers shot 51 percent (36-of-70) from the floor, 44 percent (16-of-36) from the 3-point arc and 78 percent (7-of-8) from the foul line while assisting on 28 of their 36 field goals.
New Haven got 12 points each from McMillan and Quashawn Lane along with 11 points from Ty Perry. Majur Majuk, the Chargers’ 7-1 senior post, was held to just 4 points but finished with 18 rebounds and four blocked shots.
YELLOW JACKETS RANKED
The Yellow Jackets are ranked T20th in the D2SIDA National Media Poll and 21st in the NABC Coaches Poll.
Statistically, BHSU is top-10 in the nation in four different categories, including third in defensive rebounds per game (30.7), fifth in three-point percentage defense (29.5), ninth in field goal percentage (50.2) and 10th in scoring margin (+13.6).
As a team, BHSU leads the RMAC in seven key statistical categories, and is also top-five in 16 categories.
A BHSU WIN WOULD…
Take the program to its first ever National Championship game to take on the winner between No. 1 Nova Southeastern and No. 4 Cal State San Bernardino on Saturday, March 25 at 2 p.m. CT.
A BHSU LOSS WOULD…
Eliminate them from the NCAA Tournament, bringing an end to the 2022-23 season for the Yellow Jackets.
Joel Scott became the BHSU all-time leading scorer in program history this season, surpassing previous record holder Kim Templeton (2,180, 1972-76) and now sits at 2,427 career points heading into the NCAA Tournament.
Scott is also currently at 983 career rebounds heading into the NCAA Tournament, 17 shy of 1,000 for his career.
Scott’s season points total is 775, 12 shy of the BHSU single season scoring record of 787 he set last season.
Scott was named 2022-23 D2CCA Ron Lenz National Player of the Year and was also RMAC Player of the Year for the second straight season.
Head Coach Ryan Thompson won his 100th game as head coach this season, becoming just the 4th head coach in program history to reach 100 victories, and is the quickest to do so.
With a career coaching record of 104-40, his .722 winning percentage is the highest in school history among coaches who have managed at least 50 games.
PJ Hayes has been incredible behind the arc this season and has ranked as high as fifth in the nation in 3-point percentage. He is currently averaging .442 from deep.
At 29-5, BHSU has reached its highest win total since moving DII, and the second-highest win total in program history. The program went 28-7 in the 2010-11 season (their final year as a member of the NAIA) and a program-best 30-5 in 2008-09.
BHSU men’s basketball matched their program record with 24 regular season wins and reached as high as No. 2 on the NABC Coaches Poll on Feb. 14, the highest the program has ever been ranked nationally.
ADDITIONAL ELITE EIGHT NOTES
Black Hills State is the 11th school to reach the national semifinals in consecutive tournaments since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 2003.
West Liberty is the 16th team to win each of its first four tournament games by double figure margins. Three of those teams (Northwest Missouri State in 2022, Jefferson in 1970 and Kentucky Wesleyan in 1968) won its fifth tournament game by at least 10 points.
This is the fourth Elite Eight in which the top four seeds have reached the semifinals since the reseeding of the quarterfinals began in 2016.
Head coach Ryan Thompson is in his fifth season leading the Yellow Jackets, having taken the program to back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances and to the RMAC tournament each of the last five years.
Hilltoppers Head Coach, Ben Howlett, is in his sixth season as head coach, having now led WLU to six straight MEC regular season titles and NCAA Tournament appearances since taking over in the 2017-18 season.
The Yellow Jackets added transfer Matthew Ragsdale ahead of the 2022-23 season, who had previously spent all three seasons of his career at Western Colorado where he totaled 1,309 points over 73 games and 2,185 minutes played. In the 2021-22 season, Ragsdale finished second in the RMAC in scoring with 601 total points and 21.5 per game, behind only current teammate Joel Scott.
Ragsdale rejoined former high school teammate, Scott, after they played together at Lewis-Palmer High School in Colorado where in their senior season they went an undefeated 28-0 to win the Colorado 4A State Championship.
This year, they are both in their senior year of eligibility and have combined for the most total points in a season by a pair of NCAA teammates who also played on the same high school team. Previously, the highest combined total was 1,047 points, accumulated by Dick (535 points) and Tom Van Arsdale (512) in the 1963-64 season at Indiana. The twins played high school basketball together at Emmerich Manual High School in Indianapolis, Ind.