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2012 NCAA Men's Basketball on the campus of Hope College
Zimmer not only got up, he returned to deliver the knockout punch against the nation's top-ranked NCAA Division III team. Zimmer, a finalist for the Jostens Trophy, given to the outstanding Division III basketball student-athlete, scored 12 of his 28 points in the final three minutes of the second overtime to lift the Titans to a 108-101 second-round NCAA Tournament victory over Hope in front of a sellout crowd of 3,675 at DeVos Fieldhouse.
The Titans (21-7), advanced to the Sweet 16, where they will face Wooster (Ohio) in next weekend's sectionals. The Flying Dutchmen, whose only other loss this season was to Division I Western Michigan, finished the season at 27-2.
"This was as good a college basketball game as you are going to see, at any level," Illinois Wesleyan coach Ron Rose said. "We had to play our hearts out. Every play was contested. There was tremendous effort. It's a shame either team had to lose."
Sophomore forward Victor Davis, who scored 17 points, put the Titans ahead to stay with a 15-foot jumper early in the second overtime at 90-88. Zimmer then followed with 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions, and later added two free throws as Illinois Wesleyan built a 100-94 lead with 1:37 remaining.
Hope's Colton Overway pulled the Flying Dutchmen to within two at 101-99 on a 3-point basket with 1:17 left. However, Titan center Kevin Reed, a 48 percent free throw shooter, sank two free throws with 35.7 seconds left to extend the lead to four, and Zimmer and John Koschnitzky combined for five more free throws down the stretch to ice the win.
The Flying Dutchmen started strong, blanking Illinois Wesleyan for more than five minutes in racing to an 11-0 lead. Hope led 15-2 with 12:39 remaining in the half before the Titans started to come back.
Andrew Ziemnik's layup, off of one of 10 assists by Titans' point guard Eliud Gonzalez, cut the Hope lead to 38-36 at the half. "(Hope) defended really hard. It was a grind for us. We weren't scoring easily. I give our guys credit. They kept going to the glass over and over," Rose said.
Wesleyan tied the game early in the second half, but Hope's Nate Snuggerud scored the next six points to ignite a 14-3 burst that put the Flying Dutchmen ahead 52-41 with 13:44 remaining.
Again, the Titans refused to wilt. With Zimmer and Koschnitzky leading the way, Wesleyan took its first lead at 61-58 on a Koschnitzky 3-point play with 10 minutes remaining. The Titans extended the lead to 70-63 on a Davis dunk with less than seven minutes to go before Hope mounted a run of its own.
Snuggerud, who topped his 37-point, 14-rebound performance in Friday's win against Westminster (Mo.) with the first 40-point performance ever by a Hope player in an NCAA tournament game, scored nine of those points in a row as the Dutchmen regained the lead, 75-72, with 3:45 to play in regulation.
Koschnitzky tied the game with two free throws with 3:01 left at 76-76. Both teams had numerous opportunities the rest of regulation, but neither team could break the tie.
Illinois Wesleyan took an 85-82 lead with 45 seconds remaining in the first overtime on a jumper by Stephen Rudnicki, who had 16 points off the bench. But Hope sent the game to a second overtime at 86-86 when reserve center Josh Holwerda scored off a rebound with 3.5 seconds remaining.
Koschnitzky added 19 points to go along with Zimmer's 28 as five Titans scored in double figures. Senior guard Peter Bunn had 19 points and 12 rebounds for Hope, while Overway had 12 points and David Krombeen 10. Illinois Wesleyan shot 42 percent from the field (32 of 76), but won the game at the line by making 35 of 47 (74 percent). Hope shot 53 percent from the field (38 of 72), but missed 15 of 35 free throw attempts.
"I couldn't be prouder of my team. I'm incredibly disappointed that we didn't win," Hope coach Matt Neil said. "I'm incredibly disappointed when you're with guys like that as long as we have, to see things happen you hope wouldn't happen."
It was the second straight year that Hope was knocked out of the NCAA tournament by an overtime loss to a College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin team. Last year, Hope lost in overtime to Augustana in the second round.
Four players scored in double figures for Illinois Wesleyan (20-7), who will face the winner of the second game of Friday's doubleheader between No. 1-ranked Hope and Westminster (Mo.) at 7 p.m. Saturday at Hope's DeVos Fieldhouse. Stevens Point finished its season at 20-8.
The Titans' defensive intensity took its toll on Stevens Point early, as Illinois Wesleyan forced six turnovers in the game's first five minutes. The Pointers, who came into the game averaging only 12 turnovers per game, committed 13 miscues in the first half alone.
"I thought our defense was very active early," Titans' coach Ron Rose said. "Defense has been a big part of our identity all season, and when we've played well, it's started on that end of the court." Then Jostens Trophy finalist Jordan Zimmer got going on offense, scoring eight straight points during a 10-0 IWU run that pushed the Titans ahead 18-6 at the eight-minute mark.
"That was huge for us," Zimmer said of IWU's start. "You're able to play a little more relaxed, a little looser and freer with your game." Stevens Point fought back, cutting the lead to 23-19 on a Jordan Giordana jumper with about four minutes left in the first half.
However, the Titans responded with a late run before the half to push the lead back up to nine. Steven Rudnicki, who scored 14 points off the bench, made a driving layup with nine seconds remaining to give Illinois Wesleyan a 31-22 halftime lead. Playing without leading scorer Tyler Tillema, who was out with an injured thumb on his shooting hand, Stevens Point scrapped back in the game. Tillema's brother, Dan, capped a 9-0 run with a fadeaway jumper with 11:35 remaining, cutting the Illinois Wesleyan lead to 39-37.
But Rudnicki knocked down a 3-pointer on the Titans' next possession, and Eliud Gonzalez followed with a spinning layup to build the IWU lead to 44-37. The Pointers got no closer than five points the rest of the way.
John Koschnitzky led Illinois Wesleyan with 15 points. Victor Davis added 11 and Zimmer 10. Jordan Brezinski led Stevens Point with 21 points, while Dan Tillema added 14.
"Our guys made no excuses. We were resilient. We wanted to play the hand we were deal with down the stretch," Pointers' coach Bob Semling said. "We felt we could win a game in the NCAA tournament. We dug ourselves a deep hole to start the game."
Illinois Wesleyan shot 44 percent from the field (28 of 63), while limiting the Pointers to 35 percent (17 of 49). The Titans committed only seven turnovers while forcing 19 Stevens Point turnovers.
Then Nate Snuggerud took over.
Hope College's junior forward, who led the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association in scoring this season, exploded for 37 points and 14 rebounds in leading the Flying Dutchmen to a 79-65 victory over the Blue Jays in a first-round game of the NCAA Division III men's basketball tournament.
Hope (27-1) will face Illinois Wesleyan, a 69-61 winner Friday over Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Saturday night at 7 p.m. in a second-round NCAA tournament game at DeVos. Westminster, which won the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference tournament on a last-second basket last weekend, finished its season at 17-11.
"I think that good teams find a way to win, and we had to search hard to find a way to win tonight," Hope coach Matt Neil said. "I give Westminster a lot of credit. They shot the tar out of the ball in the (first) half."
Playing in front of a near-sellout crowd of 3,475, Westminster played fearlessly in the early going, jumping out to a 13-8 five minutes into the game. The Blue Jays led by five points on four different occasions during the first half, the last time at 28-23 with just under six minutes remaining in the first half.
"Our guys played about as hard as they could. The guys were focused and didn't lack confidence," Westminster coach Matt Mitchell said. "We did things that we've never done as long as I've been here defensively, trying to get Hope our of their rhythm."
But Hope came on strong to close the end of the half, outscoring Westminster 18-4, with Snuggerud scoring the final six points, to take a 41-32 halftime lead.
In the second half, Snuggerud scored 16 of Hope's first 20 points as the Flying Dutchmen opened up a 61-44 lead with 13 minutes remaining. He finished the game 16 of 21 from the field, and his 37 points was the second-most ever by a Hope player in an NCAA tournament game, topped only by Joel Holstege's 39 points against Rowan, N.J. in the 1996 national championship game.
"I don't think I could have picked a better night to do this," Snuggerud said. "We were struggling, and we need someone to get things going."
Westminster closed to within nine points twice midway through the second half, but could get no closer.
Hope shot 50 percent from the field (31 of 62) and outrebounded Westminster 41-25.
David Krombeen added 12 points, eight rebounds and four assists for Hope, while Peter Bunn added 11 points, six rebounds and five assists. Verdis Lee led the Blue Jays with 19 points, and Kurt Kovach added 15.