Xavier Rhodes

Freshman Xavier Rhodes defends Mercyhurst's Derrek Ellis Junior in the NCAA Elite Eight at the Ford Center in Evansville. 

EVANSVILLE, Ind. — Coming into the NCAA Division II Elite Eight, Northwest men’s basketball knew its first-round opponent, Mercyhurst, presented a test unlike one it's taken this year.

The matchup was headlined by the Lakers’ defense was ranked No. 2 in the country in scoring defense, only allowing opponents a measly average of 60.9 points per game. Along with that, Mercyhurst is 20th in the country in field goal percentage against, only conceding 40.6 percent of shots.

The Bearcats averaged 83.9 points per game en route to a perfect run through the regular season and regional tournament. After the 507 mile journey to Evansville, Indiana, Northwest’s offense was greeted by Mercyhurst’s suffocating defense in the early going.

The Bearcats robust offensive attack — usually averaging 40.7 points in the first half — came to a halt in the early going as Northwest put up a pedestrian 24 points in the first half and only took a two-point lead into the locker room.

The No. 1 team in the country, led by MIAA Freshman of the Year Trevor Hudgins who recorded 15 second-half points, were able to stave off the Lakers for the victory.

Northwest’s 55-51 win marks only the sixth time a game has been decided by less than 10 points. The 55 points put up by the ‘Cats tied the lowest point total in a win in Elite Eight history but the Bearcats were able to shoot 47.7 percent from the field.

While most of the attention was focused on the Laker defense, the Bearcats — who are ranked No. 3 in total defense — held Mercyhurst well under their average of 62.4 points allowed per game mark.

The Bearcats’ defense will once again be put to the test as they face Saint Anselm’s explosive offense that averages 83.1 points per game.

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