Wildcat fans have been waiting for this day.
The men of IWU basketball are gearing up to make history tonight in their first appearance at an NAIA Division II Men’s National Championship game at 7 p.m. Eastern Time on the campus of the College of the Ozarks in Point Lookout, Missouri.
You can watch the game live tonight on the online streaming service ESPN3, for free, if you’re an ESPN subscriber. ESPN3 is also free to anyone connecting from an .edu network.
But if you happen to be in Marion tonight, come down to Luckey Arena on the main IWU campus to watch the game on a big screen courtesy of the IWU athletic department.
Here’s the latest update from the tournament:
POINT LOOKOUT, Mo. — Some of the best basketball in Indiana Wesleyan University men’s basketball history continues to be played at the NAIA Division II National Championship Tournament in Point Lookout, Missouri.
Indiana Wesleyan overwhelmed Southeastern (Fla.) 98-77 in the NAIA DII Final Four game in Keeter Gymnasium. IWU was playing in their first ever Final Four and on Tuesday will play in their first championship game vs. Midland (Neb.).
“It’s hard to step away from the battle and really believe that we are in the national championship game,” said Indiana Wesleyan head coach Greg Tonagel. “That is why we have played so well, it hasn’t been about the Final Four or getting to the national championship game, it’s been about playing and living in the moment. Guys are just playing good basketball, they really are. They are playing one possession at a time.”
The incredible shooting performances continue for the Wildcats. IWU shot a blistering 53.6-percent (30 of 56) from the field and 64.3-percent (9 of 14) from beyond the arc in the national semifinal contest. The Wildcats capped the evening with an 87.9-percent (29 of 33) effort at the foul line.
“So often we say about this tournament is that it’s about catching fire,” said Tonagel. “We’re hot. Our guys have caught fire and are hot and we are riding that right now.”
Indiana Wesleyan has averaged 90.5 points in the first four games at the national tournament and is shooting 51.8-percent. IWU is also an unconscious 44.4-percent as a team from 3-point range and 75.0-percent at the foul line.
“This team is hot right now,” continued Tonagel. “They are playing together and the unity on this team is at an all-time high in the nine years I’ve been here. Guys are cheering for each other. That’s probably been the most fulfilling thing so far is the unity.”
Jordan Weidner (SR, Danville, Ind.) launched a 3-point bucket to put Indiana Wesleyan in the lead 11-8 with the game just four minutes old. IWU would not trail again.
The Wildcats increased their advantage to 25-16 near the midpoint of the half but were unable to push it to a double digit lead before halftime. Dwayne Johnson completed the opening stanza with a bucket just before the horn that made it a 43-37 halftime score.
Indiana Wesleyan continued to maintain a six point cushion (55-49) five minutes into the second half until a 10-3 run put IWU up 65-52. But Southeastern (27-7) still managed to stick around until the nine minute mark of the game as the score was 75-64.
But the Wildcats let lose during the next 4:30 of the game with a 16-1 spurt to create a blowout situation. The 26 point lead was the largest of the game and one that the Fire could not recover from.
Jordan Weidner continues to shine in Branson as he scored a game-high 29 points on 10-of-16 shooting. He pulled down four rebounds and dished out three assists in 34 minutes of action.
Tonagel said, “Jordan has the biggest heart of anyone I’ve ever had on a team. He’s not ready for his season to end.”
Lane Mahurin (FR, Rockville, Ind.), RJ Mahurin (SR, Rockville, Ind.), and Nate Bubash all scored 14 points in the victory. Zac Vandewater (JR, Warsaw, Ind.) ended the night with an 11 point, 10 rebound double-double and Bob Peters (FR, Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio) earned nine points off the bench.
“Our bench continues to be the story for me,” stated Tonagel. “Kylan Dubbels (SO, Kokomo, Ind.) has been very good, Nate Bubash was incredible tonight, and Bob Peters has been unbelievable. He does not look like a freshman out there. It’s been a collective effort of the entire team.”
Indiana Wesleyan continues to own the boards as they out-rebounded Southeastern 45-33 tonight. Six Wildcats had four or more rebounds.
“When we lost the conference tournament we told the guys there are two things we have to do well,” said Tonagel. “One of them is rebounding and the other is creating for a teammate. Those two things have really carried us. Statistically we have dominated the boards and we have a high number of assists.”
Indiana Wesleyan will battle No. 10 Midland (Neb.) in the NAIA Division II National Championship Game at 7:02 p.m. ET on ESPN3. Midland crushed Robert Morris (Ill.) 100-61 in the late semifinal game on Monday. Midland defeated Indiana Wesleyan 85-81 on December 18 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
“They are a great team, probably the best coached team out here and it’s their coaches’ third Final Four,” Tonagel said. “The thing that makes them so difficult is their versatility and their balance. They have four guys who can really score and to this point we haven’t played a team like that as we’ve played teams with one or two scorers. So we will need to have a solid collective defensive effort.”
Indiana Wesleyan and Midland are competing in their first semifinal and championship game. Both had previously advanced to the quarterfinal round.
The Wildcats now stand at 30-6 on the season. The 30 wins ties a program record previously done in the 2006-07 and 2009-10 seasons.