Sunday, March 30, 2003

Northeastern State 75, Kentucky Wesleyan 64

NCAA Division II men's championship: Robinson leads Redmen to first title

The Associated Press

LAKELAND, Fla. - When Larry Gipson took the coaching job at Northeastern State six years ago, he started looking for players who were unselfish and disciplined. He found the perfect mix this year - one that added up to a championship.

Shon Robinson scored 26 points and Darnell Hinson added 19 to lead Northeastern State past Kentucky Wesleyan 75-64 Saturday for its first Division II title.

The Redmen (32-3) opened the second half with a flurry of 3-pointers that turned a tie game into a 52-44 lead that they never lost.

"We're going to make one more pass or set one more screen than the other team's willing to defend," Gipson said. "We put an emphasis on running our game plan and being precise, and we executed that."

Northeastern State, nestled in the foothills of the Ozark Mountains in Tahlequah, Okla., had never been past the regional semifinals.

Kentucky Wesleyan (31-4) was appearing in its sixth straight Division II title game, and its 13th overall. The Panthers have won eight national titles, including two in the past six years.

Northeastern State won the title this year with only nine players in uniform. Two players quit during the year, two were lost to grades and another was injured.

Even with the short bench, the Redmen played a halfcourt motion offense that created open 3-pointers and wore down opponents.

Robinson, Hinson and Derek Cline - all guards - combined for 57 of the team's 75 points, with 27 of them coming on 3-pointers.

The Redmen committed just six turnovers.

"I'd like to tell you we turn these guys into shooters when we get them," Gipson said. "The truth is, we recruit shooters. We work on shooting before and after practice. We work on coming off the screens and squaring up for the shots."

The Redmen were 2-of-9 from beyond the arc in the first half, but quickly got it going after the break. Behind Robinson and Hinson, the team's first eight field goals after halftime were 3-pointers.

"We did a good job of defending the 3-pointers in the first half," Kentucky Wesleyan coach Ray Harper said. "In the second half, we just left too many guys open."

The Redmen were 9-of-14 from 3-point range in the second half. In the final three games of the tournament, they were a combined 33-of-63 from that distance.

Kentucky Wesleyan's Bobby Zuerner hit a 3-pointer with six minutes to play that cut the lead to 56-53, but the Panthers couldn't get any closer.

Northeastern State made 12 of 16 free throws in the final 2:51 to pull away.

Hinson, named the tournament MVP, started the 3-point outburst. Robinson, Derek Cline and Justin Barkley each had two 3s during an early second-half run.

Robinson finished 3-of-10 from 3-point range. Cline was 3-of-7, Hinson was 3-of-4 and Barkley was 2-of-2.

Marlon Parmer, who was named the NCAA Division II Player of the Year Saturday, led Kentucky Wesleyan with 17 points.

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