Hawkins, Northwest Missouri St. repeat as D-II champs 80-54

EVANSVILLE, Ind. — Ryan Hawkins scored 14 of his 31 points in a back-breaking second-half run as Northwest Missouri State capped a dominating season with an 80-54 defeat of top-seeded West Texas A&M on Saturday, repeating as Division II national champions.

Second seed Northwest Missouri State (28-2), which first won the title in 2017, became the first team to win back-to-back NCAA Division II championships since Cal State Bakersfield in 1993-94.

The repeat championship win was also No. 300 for Bearcats coach Ben Collins.

Hawkins scored his 31 points on 10 of 16 shooting, made 9 of 10 free throws and pulled down 18 rebounds. Wes Dreamer added a double-double with 19 points and 11 rebounds. Trevor Hudgins scored 15 points with five assists and Luke Waters scored 13.

Qua Grant led West Texas A&M (19-3) with 20 points but was 7-for-17 shooting, making just 1 of 5 from 3-point range. Joel Murray added 12 points. The Buffs were held to 31% shooting (20 of 64).

Throughout the game, Northwest Missouri State scored in bunches while West Texas A&M was unable to put together any sustained runs. Early on the Bearcats passed inside to the 6-foot-7 Hawkins, taking advantage of the height mismatch with the shorter Buffs. With his back to the basket, Hawkins scored with easy spins to the baseline as West Texas A&M was slow to double-team him.

The Bearcats put West Texas A&M away with a dispiriting 19-2 run over six minutes in the middle of the second half. Hawkins scored seven points in 58 seconds, twice on layups and then buried a 3 off a turnover. He capped the drive with three free throws and a layup to give Northwest Missouri State a 35-point lead with 7:32 remaining.

In their run through the tournament, the Bearcats posted wins of 41, 21, 31 and 26 points in four of their final five wins. Northwest Missouri State set a tournament record outscoring its Elite Eight opponents by 78 points. The previous record of 75 had stood since 1970 (Jefferson).

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