A men's championship promising to deliver excitement wasted little time as Kennesaw State, playing in its first postseason game ever as a Division I school, upset the top seeded Lipscomb Bisons, 72-69.
The men's championship had turned predictable recently as the top two seeds had faced off in each of the last six title games. A one seed had not dropped its first game since 2000 and no second seed has been bitten by the upset bug of the seventh seed since 2003. Now with the Owls' defeat of the Bisons, the draw that already features four co-champions truly opened up to the field.
Do not confuse this win with one of the all-timers. In December, the Owls hit on 19 3-point fields in scoring a 97-91 win at home against the Bisons. While they did not need 19 3-pointers, the shot played a key role in the victory as Kurtis Woods and Kelvin McConnell combined to hit 9-of-11 on their 3-point tries. The rest of the team combined to shoot just 2-for-16 from beyond the arc.
The outside game served as the perfect answer to the question, how does one offset the production of Lipscomb's Adnan Hodzic and Josh Slater? The only squad to boast a pair of First-Team All-Atlantic Sun performers and the Player of the Year in Hodzic did not disappoint as Hodzic controlled every inch of the paint, scoring 29 points and grabbing 16 rebounds - both schools records for a Championship single game and Slater deftly weaved through the Owl defense for 15 points - until a costly turnover inside the final 10 seconds denied Lipscomb a shot when trailing by a point.
The only disappointment appeared in facial expressions of the pair of juniors when they sat down in the postgame interview - both clearly unable to grasp the realization that their stay in Macon would be just one night.
Not surprisingly, the attitude of the victorious Owls' press conference stood in direct contrast to that of the Bisons. They entered the season, their first as a full-fledged Division I member, predicted not to even make the field of eight - as they were picked 11th in the preseason polls. However, an infusion of talent - Markeith Cummings, LaDaris Green and Matt Heramb chief among them - helped the Owls double their win total from last season, six, with the 12th they earned on Wednesday afternoon.
If knocking out No. 1 wasn't enough for Kennesaw State, up next awaits either the reigning champs, ETSU, or another one of this year's co-champs, Campbell. Either way, the odyssey continues Friday at 2:30.