ST. JOSEPH, Mo-- Northwest men’s basketball cruised past the reigning NCAA Division II National Champion Ferris State Bulldogs Nov. 4, earning a 100-86 win.
For the second time in two days, the No. 5 Bearcats beat a team that competed in last year’s national title game at the Small College Basketball Hall of Fame Classic at the St. Joseph Civic Arena.
Coming off a game against Northern State in which the Bearcats shot just 33.8 percent, Northwest changed course quickly against the No. 13 Bulldogs. The team started the contest a perfect 10-of-10 from three-point range.
“It feels a lot better when it goes in,” sophomore forward Ryan Hawkins said of the team’s dynamic shooting. “When your shots are falling everything else is more fun.”
Hawkins finished the game with 20 points, shooting 8-of-13 from the field and 4-of-7 from three. As a team, Northwest completed the game with a 56.9 field goal percentage, good for a 23 percent increase from its game against Northern State.
“I thought we got better looks tonight,” coach Ben McCollum said. “It was more of a free-flowing game.”
The offense was once again led by redshirt freshman guard Trevor Hudgins, who scored 26 points on 7-of-11 shooting. The guard shot 10-of-13 from the foul line and added two rebounds, six assists and a steal to his ledger.
“He did good,” McCollum said of Hudgins. “He played without the ball better today. He drove strong; he’s got such a good handle it’s hard to take the ball from him. He’s learned from one of the best point guards in the country (Justin Pitts) for quite a while, so that helps a lot.
Hudgins won the Small College Basketball Hall of Fame Classic Most Valuable Player award for his performance over the weekend.
Junior Kirk Finley, who has started both games for the Bearcats at shooting guard, turned in a solid performance with 17 points, three boards and three assists. After spending most of the last three seasons on the bench, the junior is ready to play.
“(It’s been) a lot of fun,” Finley said. “I’m just waiting ‘til my number’s called to go out and play my best. We just started off hot and carried it on for the rest of the game. Guys were hitting, unlike last night.”
For Northwest, the game represented a step forward in what will be a long path ahead. Just one player on the roster, Joey Witthus, has been an everyday starter at the collegiate level. The coming weeks will serve as a baptism by fire of sorts for the young Bearcats.
“It feels good for the guys, I think they can believe what I’m preaching right now,” McCollum said. “We’re so far from being good, though. There are some lapses that we had in the game, and we’ve got to develop some depth.”
McCollum said the high-octane offense wasn’t necessarily by design, but more-so due to Ferris State’s style of play. In any case, the Bearcats produced an impressive night of offense, and more importantly, a win.
“We’re not old enough (or) mature enough yet to be able to force our style,” McCollum said. “We’ve just got to keep it rolling. We’ve got to keep getting better and understand this is far from where we want to be.”