His first appearance as head coach will not come this year as Northwest fell to Central Missouri 60-59 in overtime in the NCAA Tournament Central Region final on Tuesday.
Having split the regular season MIAA Championship and their two previous meetings with the Mules (27-5), the rubber match became tougher for Northwest after just four minutes. Dillon Starzl came down hard on his left foot and was helped off the court. He would not reenter the game as he returned to the bench on crutches.
Senior guards Deshaun Cooper and Bryston Williams tried to carry the load, combining for 17 points in the first half to put the Bearcats up 26-22 at the break.
The two teams traded leads three times before a Cooper three-pointer knotted the game at 43-43 with 7:19 to go. Neither team would score for nearly four minutes afterward until Grant Cozad split a pair of free throws.
The Mules' Charlie Hammock would do the same to knot it 46-46 with 26 seconds left, giving Northwest a chance to win it in regulation. Cooper kicked out to Williams in the corner, but the go-ahead three rattled out.
Northwest trailed for much of the extra period, but a technical foul on Daylen Robinson allowed Williams hit a pair from the charity stripe to tie it 59-59. Robinson also hit one from the line following a simultaneous foul on Matt Wallace, putting the Mules back up one with 2.4 seconds left. Cooper launched a half-court heave to win it, but it bounced off the back iron.
He finished as the only Bearcat in double figures with 24 points. The loss marks the final game for him, Williams, Starzl, Tyler Funk, and Kyle Schlake.
Northwest's 24 wins set a new mark for most in a campaign under McCollum.