POINT LOOKOUT, Mo. – The Taylor University men's basketball team will make its fifth appearance in the NAIA National Championship Tournament Round of 16 in program history and the first since 2006, when it squares off with No. 11 and third-seeded Trinity International on Friday, March 10 at 8:30 pm (ET).
The No. 25 and seventh-seeded Trojans (21-11) opened their 15th showing in the NAIA National Tournament on Wednesday with a 73-67 upset of No. 8 and second-seeded Warner. The victory improved TU to 7-14 all-time on the national stage and 3-7 in eight trips to the dance since the NAIA split into the two division model.
Taylor's opening-round win against Warner improved TU to 3-5 against teams in the 32-team field this season and 5-6 against foes ranked or receiving votes inside the NAIA Division II Top-25. The victory was also Taylor's third over a top-10 opponent this season.
The Trojans led throughout the contest with the favored Royals, leading by as many as 21 in the second half before finishing off the biggest upset of the opening day of action. Taylor won the battle of the glass by 10 and turned in a defensive clinic to limit the NAIA's leading scorer to four-of-20 shooting and seven turnovers.
Keaton Hendricks led the way with 15 points and seven rebounds, with Mason Degenkolb adding 13 points and six boards. Tim Fleming anchored the defense and added 11 points, four assists and two steals.
Taylor continues to rank among the top-20 in the NAIA with 9.6 trifectas per contest and by holding foes to 32.7 percent from the perimeter. Hendricks and Evan Crowe have combined for 143 triples at a 39.9-percent clip this season for TU, while Degenkolb has netted 12 games of at least 20 points to lead the squad with 17.4 points per game during his first collegiate campaign.
No. 11 and third-seeded Trinity International (29-5) earned the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference's third automatic bid to the NAIA National Championship Tournament by advancing to the CCAC Tournament Finals. The bid was the program's first in 10 years and its fourth in the NAIA Division II era, where it owns a 2-3 record after its 72-55 first-round win over unranked and sixth-seeded College of the Ozarks on Wednesday.
TIU shot just 38.5 percent in the contest but forced the host squad into 18 turnovers. Sophomore guard Jeremy Carlyle paced the team in scoring for the fourth-straight time with 19 points, while senior forward Zach Kirschbaum turned in his NAIA Division II-leading 23rd double-double of the season with 16 points and 11 boards.
Kirschbaum leads Trinity International with 17.2 points, 11.0 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game this season and ranks No. 1 among all NAIA Division II individuals with 83 blocks and 374 rebounds.
Three other Trojans average over 10 points per game, as TIU has scored 86.7 points per game, while limiting foes to 77.7. The team also ranks No. 2 in the NAIA with 5.4 blocks per game and No. 8 with 8.9 steals per showing.
The Trojans boast a program-record 29 wins to just five defeats and have gone 5-2 against teams in the 32-team field this season, while going 2-3 against teams ranked inside the top-25.
Taylor and Trinity International have faced off six times previously, with TU winning all six. The most recent meeting resulted in a 76-58 win for Taylor at TIU on November 8, 2014. Hendricks and Fleming combined for 17 points in their second collegiate outings to help TU to victory.
The winner of Friday's game will advance into the 2017 NAIA Division II National Championship Tournament Quarterfinals against top-seeded and No. 1 Union (31-3), or No. 16 and fifth-seeded College of Idaho (24-9) on Saturday, March 11.
Taylor will provide a free online audio broadcast of the contest on the Trojan Sports Network, with the NAIA offering free live stats and pay-per-view video. All coverage links are available at Athletics.Taylor.Edu.