*LOUISVILLE, Ky.* – Wayne State’s men’s basketball season came to a heartbreaking end today with a 90-88 loss to Ferris State in the first round of the NCAA Division II Tournament. Justin Keenan led all scorers with 31, but he was nearly the goat.
With 4.1 seconds left, Keenan stood at the free throw line with a chance to ice the game. Keenan missed both free throws and senior center Ike Udanoh snagged the rebound and tried to dribble up the floor for a last second shot but never got it up as time ran out.
“We didn’t have any timeouts,” said head coach David Greer. “I thought we might be able to get a long outlet to (Bryan) Smothers and he’d be able to get something in transition. It just didn’t happen.”
The Warriors (22-8) trailed 43-40 with 17:34 to play before exploding for a 14-3 run over the next 5:30. Back-to-back triples by Smothers and junior Dale Brundidge gave the Warriors a 54-48 lead.
After taking a 56-51 lead, FSU (23-7) took control of the game behind guard Kenny Brown. After two Keenan free throws, Brown scored 14 straight FSU points, including four straight triples, as apart of a 16-4 Bulldog run to give FSU a 67-60 lead.
“We lost track of Brown,” Greer said. “They were able to open up the lead. We missed way too many layups”
The Warriors shot a solid 46 percent from the floor, but were outscored in the paint 38-36 in large part to missing too many layups and short jumpers. Ferris State, who WSU defeated last Sunday in Big Rapids, shot 56 percent for the game.
“It’s really disappointing to play somebody in your own league (a week later),” Greer said. “Ferris is a good team. These were two evenly matched teams.”
The lead ballooned to 79-69 with 2:56 left in the game before WSU went on one final push. Down seven with 26 seconds left, Smothers tripled to cut the deficit to 88-84. After two free throws by Darien Gay, Udanoh converted a layup to make it 90-86 with 10 seconds left.
After Keenan committed an offensive foul on the inbound, Udanoh scored again to make it 90-88 setting up the final sequence.
WSU opened the game on a 9-2 run before the Bulldogs answered with a 14-4 run to take a 16-13 lead. Ferris led by as many as seven, 38-31, late in the first half before freshman guard Gerald Williams-Taylor converted a 3-point play before halftime to send the Warriors into the locker room down 38-34.
Smothers led the Warriors, in what was his final game, with 25 points and five assists. Udanoh had 16, seven rebounds, and two assists. Sophomore Mike Hollingsworth scored 12, and Ian Larkin had 10 and seven boards.
Brown had 27 for Ferris, who advanced to play either Southern Indiana or Drury in Round 2. The Warriors’ season comes to an end after a breakthrough year in which they won 22 games and their first conference title in 12 years.
“I thought we performed well all year long,” Greer said. “We had some great individual efforts. I thought Mike Hollingsworth and Bryan Smothers were great all year long. We had some young guys make contributions.
“It was a good year overall. But what are you gonna do? I take my hat off to Ferris and I wish them well the rest of the way in the tournament.”