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Louisville, Ky. - The Ferris State University men's basketball team advanced to the NCAA Division II Midwest Regional Championship Game and the Division II Sweet Sixteen with a thrilling 83-76 victory over Drury (Mo.) in the regional semifinals on Sunday (March 13) evening at Knights Hall in Louisville, Ky.
The Bulldogs will face top-seeded host Bellarmine (Ky.) in Tuesday's (March 15) regional title game starting at 7 p.m. (ET) in Louisville after the Knights topped fourth-seeded Northern Kentucky.
The winner of the regional championship game will move on to the NCAA-II Elite Eight set for March 22-25 in Springfield, Mass.
Ferris State improved to 24-7 overall this campaign by avenging an earlier setback to Drury in late November at the Owensboro (Ky.) Classic.
The Bulldogs used a strong first half to grab a 46-35 advantage at the break and then built the lead to as many as 18 points with 16:20 to play. The Panthers stormed back and took a four-point lead of their own with 8:08 to go before Ferris responded and made some critical free throws down the stretch to pull out the win.
FSU held a 59-43 lead with 13:03 to go before Drury went on a 17-0 run to take a 60-59 margin with 10:33 to play. The Panthers held a four-point advantage with eight minutes to go, but Ferris answered with a 10-1 run of its own to grab a five-point edge with three minutes to play.
The Bulldogs then converted seven free throws in the final 1:12 to secure the win and move on to the regional championship game.
The sixth-seeded Bulldogs moved onto the regional title game for the first time since reaching the Sweet Sixteen in the 2004-05 season.
Sophomore guard Kenny Brown (Farmington Hills/Harrison) had another strong showing as he scored a team-high 22 points following a 27-point effort in Saturday's (March 12) semifinal victory over Wayne State at Knights Hall. He made six-of-12 (50%) three-point tries in the win.
FSU also received 19 points and nine boards from senior forward/center Justin Keenan (Grand Rapids/Ottawa Hills) to go with 12 points each from senior guard Darien Gay (Detroit/Henry Ford) and sophomore forward Daniel Sutherlin (Detroit/Renaissance). The 6-5 Sutherlin also hauled in some crucial rebounds down the stretch as part of his seven total boards in the contest.
The victory came as part of a team effort as junior guard Dontae Molden (Detroit/Pershing) handed out seven assists while FSU also garnered seven points each from both senior forward Lou Williams (Muskegon Heights) and senior guard/forward Matt DeHart (Greenville).
Ferris shot 47.2% (25-53) overall for the contest, including a 55.2% (16-29) figure in the first half of action. The Bulldogs made 10-of-23 (43.5%) three's and 23-of-32 (71.9%) free throws in the win.
Meanwhile, Drury was paced by Dennon Mitchell's game-high 24 points. Brandon Lockhart added 18 points, Jajuan Maxwell totaled 14 points and 12 rebounds while Alex Hall had 11 points.
DU made 25-of-56 (44.6%) field goals and was nine-of-27 (33.3%) beyond the arc in addition to 17-of-23 (73.9%) at the stripe.
The Panthers did own a slim 36-33 rebounding edge, but Ferris grabbed 10 offensive boards and held a 19-9 advantage in second chance scoring. Ferris also came up with nine steals defensively, including three from Sutherlin.
The Bulldogs forced 15 Panther miscues and owned a 17-13 margin in points off turnovers in a game that featured six lead changes. Sutherlin also tallied two blocked shots as part of FSU's three for the contest.
Hall handed out seven assists for Drury, but was held to three-of-nine shooting and had five turnovers after being the squad's leading scorer heading into the game.
Tuesday's regional title contest will be carried live by the Bulldog Sports Network and Sunny 97.3 FM with Rob Bentley calling the play-by-play action live from Louisville. Pregame coverage will start at 6:30 p.m. (ET) and the broadcast can be heard live at www.ferrisstatebulldogs.com.
Bulldog Bites: FSU is midst its ninth all-time NCAA Division II Tournament appearance ....... This year marks the fourth time the Bulldogs have advanced to a regional final ...... Ferris won the North Central Regional crown in 1988 to reach the NCAA-II Elite Eight ....... The Bulldogs are now 1-1 all-time against Drury after avenging the loss in the first-ever meeting earlier this campaign ..... FSU has now won four of its last five games in NCAA Tournament play ...... Drury saw its season end with a 23-8 overall record ....... Ferris State was the only Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) member among the four teams that reached the regional semifinals ....... The Bulldogs have now won 16 of their last 18 contests this season ....... FSU is among only 16 teams left of the 64 who originally advanced to the NCAA-II Tournament ........ Ferris received 34 points from its bench in the win over Drury.