The Texas Wesleyan University men's basketball team (29-7) delivered a dominant 86-76 victory over Life University (26-11) in the 2017 Buffalo Funds-NAIA Division I Men's Basketball National Championship Game at Municipal Auditorium Tuesday night.
The Running Eagles entered the contest as the hottest team in the country, riding a 16-game winning streak, but the Rams asserted themselves from the start.
Head Coach Brennen Shingleton was proud of his team, and unsurprised by the outcome. "We've got senior leadership," he said. "We're tough. It's almost as if we got in better shape as we went along. We never lost touch with who we are, and we just stayed the course."
The title is the second for the Texas Wesleyan men's basketball program. The Rams also won in 2006. In 15 tournament appearances, the Rams hold an all-time record of 18-13.
Dion Rogers poured in a game-high 28 points and was named the Chuck Taylor Most Valuable Player after averaging 21 points per game in Texas Wesleyan's five tournament wins. "I can't even explain it," Rogers said of his feelings after the win. "I'm just so happy for us. This was our goal going into the year, and it's a long season. You have a lot to accomplish on the way there, a lot of ups and downs, but we got through everything and met our goal."
Ryan Harris and Najeal Young were also named to the All-Tournament team. Harris finished with 21 points in the championship game while Young posted a second consecutive double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds. Smith finished with 17 points, 4 rebounds, and 6 assists.
Two-time Sooner Athletic Conference Coach of the Year, Brennen Shingleton was also named the 2016-17 NAIA Division I Men's Basketball National Coach of the Year following the victory.
Not only the oldest national championship, the NAIA National Championship is often called college basketball toughest tournament. Brennen Shingleton's team exhibited the toughness it takes to win five games in six days against the top competition in the nation.