KANSAS CITY, Mo. - A late-game offensive drought cost the Park University Pirates dearly, as No. 4-seeded Georgetown (Ky.) used a 12-0 run to take control and pull away for an 81-72 victory over fifth-seeded Park Wednesday night in the opening round of the NAIA Division I Men's Basketball National Championship.
"I'm not sure you can say this game really slipped away from us," said Park head coach Jason Kline, whose team fell in the opening round for the second straight season. "It was pretty close for the whole game. We just had a couple of bad possessions and (Georgetown) capitalized. Once (Georgetown) made their run and we didn't score and had to foul, it's hard to come back. We gave ourselves an opportunity to win and that's all you can ask."
The Pirates led 66-62 with 5:36 remaining in the game after a pair of free throws by Xavielle Brown, but those were Park's last points for 4:07 as the Tigers (24-7) scored 12 straight points to build a 74-66 lead with 2:25 to go. Park didn't go quietly, closing to within four points at 76-72 following two free throws by Brown with 52 seconds left. However, Georgetown got three stops and hit 5-of-8 free throws in the final 39 seconds to pull away and end the Pirates' season.
"Every team that gets here (to the national tournament) is good and you've got to play well if you want to win," said Kline. "We came here tonight expecting to win and we wanted to win this game. It just didn't work out that way. It's a grind all year for us just to get here and we're glad to be back, but we wanted to win."
Park (21-9) came out of the gate fast, scoring six of the game's first eight points in the opening 2:58, but Georgetown would go on a 9-0 run to open up an 11-6 lead with 13:52 to go in the first half. The Pirates didn't stay down long, though, nailing four 3-pointers as part of a 17-6 burst to go from being down by five to up 23-17 with 9:08 remaining. Brown had three of the treys as he poured in 16 points and snagged five rebounds in the first half.
The Tigers, making their record 36th appearance in the NAIA National Championship, pulled back to within two points on three occasions, one point once and tied the game at 35 on a basket by Quan Poindexter with 1:53 to go in the half, but a pair of baskets by Noel Surles in the final 1:32 sent Park into the locker room with a 39-37 lead.
Along with Brown's 16 and five, B.J. Watson had 12 points and three assists for the Pirates, who only made 14-of-33 (42.4 percent) from the field, but they drained 7 of their 14 3-point attempts (50 percent) in the opening 20 minutes and forced Georgetown to commit nine turnovers.
Park used a 7-0 surge early in the second half to amass a 52-46 advantage with 14:04 to go, but the Tigers responded with six straight of their own to re-tie the game at 52. The teams traded the lead back and forth for the next six-plus minutes before four straight free throws by Brown at the 6:11 and 5:46 marks gave Park a 66-62 lead before the Pirates' costly offensive slump.
Brown finished his storied career with 24 points and nine rebounds, 9-for-9 at the foul line, Watson had 16 and five assists, Zach Rutland pitched in 10 and five assists and Surles chipped in 10 and five rebounds off the bench for the Pirates. Park finished the game 23-for-66 from the field (34.8 percent) and hit only nine of its 33 shots (27.3 percent) in the second half. However, the Pirates did sink 10 of their 25 3-point attempts (40 percent).
Georgetown, which plays in the second round Friday at 2:15 p.m., was led by Poindexter's 24 points and five rebounds. Troy Steward had 19 and four rebounds, Edson Avila added a double-double with 15 and 12 rebounds off the bench and Darion Burns had 10 and seven rebounds for the Tigers, who dominated Park on the glass, outrebounding the Pirates, 48-34.
Brown exits Park men's basketball as the program's third-leading scorer, with 2,074 career points.