March 13, 2004
'Cats Roll Over Eastern N.M. in First Round, 77-57
STEPHENVILLE, Texas - The Northwest Missouri State University men's basketball team used a huge first-half run to get by Eastern New Mexico 77-57 in Saturday's first round of the NCAA Division II South Central Regional Tournament.
The Bearcats outscored Eastern 23-5 over the final eight minutes of the first half, effectively taking control of the game. Northwest led 20-18 at the 8:02 mark of the first half.
Victor James (Fr., Crowley, Texas) hit a jumper to spark a 12-0 spurt. Kelvin Parker (Sr., Raytown, Mo.) and Travis Gardner (Jr., Minneapolis, Minn.) each hit three-pointers during the 12-point outuburst, which left the 'Cats on top 32-18 at the 3:5 mark.
Each team traded buckets before another Northwest run put the Bearcats in control. Leading 36-22, Byron Jackson (Jr., Phoenix, Ariz.) hit a pair of free throws with just more than one minute remaining before intermission. The big dagger was Gardner's second three-pointer of the half. Leading 40-23, Northwest inbounded at its own end of the floor with five seconds remaining. Parker took it inside the arc and dished back out to Gardner, who buried a 23-footer as the first-half buzzer sounded. The 'Cats led 43-23 at the break.
Northwest built its lead to as many as 25 points on two occasions in the second half. Eastern New Mexico used full-court pressure to cause a few Bearcat turnovers midway through the second period. The Greyhounds pulled within 16, but would get no closer. Parker buried his third three-pointer of the game with 8:32 left, pushing Northwest's lead back to 19, 64-45. With seven minutes left, a pair of Jackson free throws pushed the Bearcat advantage back over 20 points. The Bearcats cruised from there.
Parker scored 19 points and dished out seven assists for Northwest. Jackson scored 12 points and pulled down 10 rebounds for his seventh double-double of the season. Jamal Washington led Eastern New Mexico with 15 points.
The victory was Northwest's fourth straight opening-round victory in the NCAA Division II Tournament. The Bearcats are competing in their fifth consecutive NCAA Division II Tournament and their sixth in the last seven years.
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