Late Defensive Stand Sends St. Norbert Back to NCAA Tournament

From Sports Information Director, March 1, 2014 | Men's Basketball
by Dan Lukes, dan.lukes@snc.edu, (920) 403-4077

DE PERE - St. Norbert College held the nation's top-scoring team scoreless in the final 3 minutes 38 seconds to top Grinnell College 99-86 in the in the championship game of the Midwest Conference Tournament at Schuldes Sports Center.

The No. 5-ranked Green Knights (24-1) were tied with the Pioneers 86-86 with 3:38 to go before closing the game on a 13-0 run. Grinnell, which ended its season 19-6, entered the game averaging 118.0 points per game.

St. Norbert advances to the NCAA Division III Tournament for the fourth time in five years, and the sixth time in school history. The 24 wins also marks the most in the 91-season history of the program.

Grinnell knotted the game at 86-86 on Luke Yeager's 3-pointer with 3:38 to go. St. Norbert regained the lead when Steven Hofacker was fouled on an offensive rebound, and he split a pair of free throws. Grinnell's Patrick Maher missed a 3-pointer and Austin Elliott was fouled, and he converted two free throws with 2:55 left for an 89-86 lead.

St. Norbert stopped Grinnell again when Julian Marx missed a 3-pointer with 2:37 left. The Green Knights moved ahead by six points when Kam Cerroni drained a 3-pointer from the right corner with 2:17 to go for a 92-86 lead. Neither team scored again until Elliott made two free throws with 1:08 left for a 94-86 lead to ice the game. The Pioneers missed their last eight shots from the floor and also had two turnovers during their scoreless stretch.

The Green Knights built an 11-point lead late in the first half, going ahead 48-37 on a Hofacker layup with 3:08 left in the period. The Pioneers closed the half on a 14-6 run to close to within 54-51 at halftime.

St. Norbert had three six-point leads early in the second half, but couldn't pull away thanks to Grinnell's three-point shooting. The Pioneers hoisted a whopping 63 three-point field-goal attempts, making 23, to keep them in the game. St. Norbert committed only 15 fouls in the game, with Grinnell attempting just three free throws.

Brandon Gries led St. Norbert with 23 points and eight assists. Andrew Schwoerer added 21 points and seven rebounds. Elliott totaled 18 points, six rebounds and six assists. Garrett Thorn chipped in 13 points, and Cerroni 11 points. The Green Knights shot 63.8 percent (37-for-58) from the floor and were 22-for-31 (71 percent) from the free-throw line. St. Norbert had a 44-31 rebounding advantage.

Yeager led Grinnell with 13 points, while Maher and Julian Marx had 12 points apiece. Mike Porter and Jack Taylor each had 11 points. The Pioneers shot 39.0 percent from the floor, making 30 of 77 field-goal attempts.