Western Oregon advances to first NCAA Final Four in school history

Western Oregon makes Final Four with win

FRISCO, Texas – Senior forward Andy Avgi led a balanced attack with 20 points and sophomore forward Tanner Omlid posted a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds as Western Oregon University opened up each half with definitive scoring runs to advance to the national semifinals with an 81-68 triumph over Saginaw Valley State University on Wednesday at the Dr. Pepper Arena in the NCAA Division II Men's Basketball Championship.

The West Region champions, ranked No. 3 nationally, improved to 31-3. The 31 victories break a school record previously held by the 1981-82 squad that finished sixth in the nation at the NAIA level.

With the victory, WOU advances to the final four on Thursday (8:30 p.m. CT), where it faces Augustana (SD). That contest will be televised live on CBS Sports Network.

Saginaw Valley State, making its first-ever trip to the NCAA Division II Elite Eight, had a three-game winning streak snapped as it finished at 25-8. Garrett Hall in a starting role and Kellen Smith coming off the bench led the Cardinals each with 15 points.

Senior guard Julian Nichols fell a rebound shy of a double-double with 17 points and nine rebounds for WOU. He added six assists and three steals. Devon Alexander added 15 points and six rebounds. Alex Roth came off the bench to contribute eight points and six rebounds while sophomore guard Nick Nestell played a season-high 17 minutes chipping in four points and three assists.

"I thought we defended well and rebounded strongly on both sides," WOU head coach Jim Shaw said.

The Wolves only shot 34.3 percent in the opening half, but outrebounded the Cardinals 25-16, including 10-1 on the offensive glass, to lead 36-29 at halftime. WOU answered an opening SVSU 3-pointer with a 15-point run capped off by a pair of Avgi triples. The key burst set an early pace for the Wolves.

Hall kept the Cardinals in shouting distance by scoring eight points in the opening half.

Saginaw Valley opened the second half with a 10-0 run over the first 3:30 to take a 39-38 lead, their first since 3-2 in the opening minutes of the game. The resilient Wolves had a fiery comeback using a 16-3 rally to build the margin back up to 12, 54-42, with 11 minutes left.

From there, WOU had to survive foul trouble, as three of the Wolves had three or four fouls with a little less than eight minutes remaining. The lead got down to seven with 6:33 remaining in regulation before a Nichols lay-up and traditional 3-point play from Alexander got the lead back to 14, 68-54.

Western Oregon iced the game away hitting 13 of its final 14 shots from the foul line.

WOU shot 38.7 percent (24-of-62) from the field and built an advantage going 28-of-31 (90.3 percent) from the stripe.

Get more from Western Oregon basketball here.


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