A 20-point lead dissolved into a one-possession game in the final minute, but two Bryston Williams free throws and Deshaun Cooper's final layup delivered a 71-66 win for the Bearcats in the NCAA Tournament Central Regional semifinals.
The Bearcats (24-8) will face MIAA opponent Central Missouri on Tuesday for the third time this year in the regional final. It's the first berth in the Sweet Sixteen for Northwest since 2006, when they lost to Tarleton State. Northwest and UCM split the regular season series as both home teams scored a 12-point win. The Mules kept Northwest from an outright regular season conference championship with their victory in Warrensburg back on March 1st.
On Sunday, freshman Zach Schneider scored all 13 of his points in the first half with four three pointers, one of which resulting in a four-point play. The Bearcats charged out to a 35-15 advantage with under five minutes left in the first half, but the Mavericks finished on an 11-4 run to make it 39-26 heading into the break.
MSU trimmed the gap to single digits with just under 10 minutes remaining and had whittled it down to one-point with 36 seconds left. Cooper's final layup polished off Northwest's win and a game-high 25-point performance.
A win Tuesday would mean the Bearcats' first trip to the Elite Eight since 2004. Tipoff comes at 7:00 p.m. from the Taylor Center.