LAKELAND, Fla. - Bowie State has had to adapt to many different styles and speeds on its march toward the NCAA Division II men's basketball championship, and yesterday provided another example.
The Bulldogs found their aggressiveness after a lethargic first half and pulled away from Massachusetts-Lowell, 72-62, to reach tonight's national semifinals at the Lakeland Center.
Bowie, which raised its school-record victory total to 30 against four losses, will face eight-time national champion Kentucky Wesleyan (30-3) at 6 p.m. today. Kentucky Wesleyan routed Cal Poly Pomona, 85-60.
A more forceful approach on offense and a whopping edge at the foul line subdued Northeast Region representative Massachusetts-Lowell (28-5).
"It wasn't the best of games," said Bowie coach Luke D'Alessio. "Basically, it came down to who wanted it more. They were a tough team to play against."
Several factors weighed in Bowie's ability to score just 25 first-half points - the team averages nearly 85 a game - and settle for a five-point deficit at the break.
Center Jon Smith played only seven first-half minutes after being charged with three personal fouls.
"That affected us a lot," D'Alessio said. "We knew they'd double Tim [Washington], and that cost us one of our big weapons."
Washington was having trouble holding on to the ball and scoring because the River Hawks aggressively attacked him with their defense. Plus, Bowie's offense was guilty of a lot of first-half inertia.
"They had quick guys all around the court," Washington said. "They doubled me and I'd be ready to make my move and the ball was going the other way. It was like, 'Where did he come from?' It was kind of rough for me. I just tried to keep my head."
Meanwhile, Massachusetts-Lowell ran its cuts and patterns, and Elad Inbar (game- and season-high 27 points) handled the bulk of the finishing.
"He can turn either way on his jump shot and he's an under-control type of player. Those are tough to guard," said Stephen Moss-Kelley, whose shooting kept Bowie in range during the first half.
Only three Bulldogs scored in the first 20 minutes, with Moss-Kelley scoring 16 of the team's 25 while Washington was held to six points. Three starters were blanked.
It was more of the same early in the second half before Massachusetts-Lowell's attack withered. While the River Hawks managed only one basket over a nine-minute stretch, Bowie seized control of the game.
A bank shot by Washington put Bowie in front to stay, 43-41, as the team's balanced scoring kicked into gear. Massachusetts-Lowell stayed in range until Omarr Smith (City) drilled a three-pointer for his first score and provided a working margin. The River Hawks were never closer than five thereafter.
"That was a big shot that I took," Smith said. "We just weren't hitting them early. Steve kept us in the game. We had to do other things to help the team."
After that three-pointer, the Bulldogs paraded to the foul line 18 times in the final four minutes, as a variety of players made 16. When Inbar fouled out at the 2:16 mark, the River Hawks' fate was sealed.
"It wasn't the most aesthetically pleasing game," said Massachusetts-Lowell coach Ken Barer. "It was hard-fought and tough. We were executing our game plan very nicely, but you have to be able to make shots at this level. And there was a discrepancy of 30 free throws [Bowie had 34 attempts, Massachusetts-Lowell four]."
Moss-Kelley topped Bowie with 21 points and added nine rebounds. Washington finished with 15 points and 11 rebounds and Cornelius McMurray (Southwestern) contributed 11 points and eight assists in the Bulldogs' ninth straight victory and eighth without a loss on a neutral court.
"We turned it over too much the first half," D'Alessio said. "We had to get refocused and become aggressive. We just got more active."
NOTES: Washington has accumulated several more honors. He was named to the All-America second team and to the South Atlantic Region first team by the National Association of Basketball Coaches. ... The colors of teams that have won Division II (previously College Division) titles hang on the facade around the court. Included are Mount St. Mary's (1962) and Morgan State (1974). ... Bowie's energetic band and a sizable contingent of fans are here supporting the team on spring break.
MASSACHUSETTS-LOWELL-Inbar 12-20 0-0 27, Brunson 4-7 2-2 10, Jones 1-6 1-1 3, Grunwald 4-11 0-1 9, Nachmias 0-3 0-0 0, Whyte 1-7 0-0 2, Arnette 0-2 0-0 0, Benn 3-9 0-0 6, Moragne 2-5 0-0 5. Totals 27-70 3-4 62.
BOWIE STATE-Washington 6-12 3-5 15, Moss-Kelley 6-10 6-8 21, J. Smith 2-3 1-5 5, McMurray 2-7 5-6 11, O. Smith 2-6 4-4 9, Van Norden 1-5 2-2 5, Hampton 0-2 0-0 0, Lewis Jr. 1-3 4-4 6. Totals 20-48 25-34 72.
Half: Mass.-Lowell, 30-25. 3-point goals: ML 5-21 (Inbar 3-5, Moragne 1-1, Grunwald 1-4, Jones 0-1, Arnette 0-2, Benn 0-2, Nachmias 0-3, Whyte 0-3); BS 7-22 (Moss-Kelley 3-6, McMurray 2-6, O. Smith 1-4, Van Norden 1-5, Lewis Jr. 0-1). Rebounds: ML 38 (Nachmias 7); BS 39 (Washington 11). Assists: ML 18 (Grunwald, Jones 5); BS 16 (McMurray 8). Total fouls: ML 22, BS 13. Fouled out: Inbar. A: N/A.
Matchup:Bowie State (30-4) vs. Kentucky Wesleyan (30-3) in NCAA Division II national semifinals
Site:Lakeland (Fla.) Center