8:05 PM ET, November 28, 2005
Texas Hall, Arlington, Texas
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- The greatest game of Ben Hunt's career turned Texas Wesleyan into a national champion.The 6-2 guard grabbed a rebound with 6.8 seconds left, beat a triple-team down court and let fly from 25 feet. With 2 seconds left, the ball swished through the net, lifting unseeded Texas Wesleyan past Oklahoma City 67-65 Tuesday night in the championship game of the NAIA tournament."I've been playing basketball for 20 years and I've never felt anything like I feel at this point in time," said Hunt, who ended his college career with a career-high 34 points. "It's unbelievable."The native of Bendigo, Australia, was perfectly positioned to pull down the rebound when Oklahoma City's Rory Green missed the second of two free throws. The first had given the seventh-seeded Stars a 65-64 lead in the seesaw thriller for the championship of small-college basketball.It's not as though Oklahoma City failed to realize that Hunt had the hot hand and would probably take the shot. Clustered around him were three defenders."I thought we had him cut off there at midcourt," said Oklahoma City coach Ray Harper. "He got the corner turned and made a tough shot."As Hunt pulled up to shoot, Harper was trying to wave over still another defender."I was trying to get somebody to rotate over," he said. "We did a good job. We had three guys on him. Tough shot."Hunt had been almost unstoppable all night. With the title on the line, he pulled up and let fly from the right wing."To be honest, I wanted the ball at the end of the game," he said. "I'd been in a flow the whole game. It was just fortunate I got that rebound and had enough time to bring the ball down the floor and let it go."What do you do with 2.2 seconds to go?"Officials put 2.2 seconds on the clock after the Rams had rushed the floor in celebration. But the Stars, who won four NAIA titles between 1991 and 1996, never got a shot off.Evan Patterson, a 6-7 junior who helped shut down Lorenzo Gordon, Oklahoma City's most dangerous scorer, had 14 points for Texas Wesleyan (25-9) and was named the tournament's MVP."Luckily, Ben stepped up big and knocked down a shot for us," said Patterson. "Gordon is a load. He's a great player. He outweighs me a couple of pounds, but I kept battling and battling."Gordon, who had averaged almost 26 points the first four games of the tournament, was fronted down low and consistently double-teamed and held to 10 points. The transfer from Illinois State was able to get off only nine shots.Oklahoma City, which beat the Rams 89-81 in November, opened the second half with a 12-3 run as Texas Wesleyan missed its first eight shots. The Rams' 36-28 halftime lead turned into a 40-39 edge for the Stars when Gordon, after making a steal, hit a short jumper for his second basket.A few minutes later Gordon blocked Hunt's shot, but Hunt ran down the rebound and hit a 3-pointer for a 52-51 lead.In the final minutes, Hunt rebounded an Oklahoma City miss and Andrew Bradford hit a 12-footer for a 61-55 advantage.After Trevor Meier hit a shot for the Stars, Patterson's two free throws put Texas Wesleyan on top 63-57. Oklahoma City's Ryan Godwin connected on a 3-pointer and hit two free throws that sliced the lead to 63-62 with 1:20 to go.The Rams fronted Gordon all night long and denied him the ball. He managed to get off only three shots in the first half and finished with just two points.Hunt, in the meantime, was all over the court for the underdog Rams, hitting 3-of-5 3-pointers and scoring 13 points in the first half."He was incredible," said Harper. "He was the difference. They scored 67 and he had 34 of them."
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