SIOUX FALLS, S.D. -- Second-seeded Moriningside made it 3-for-3 for the Siouxland Great Plains Athletic Conference in the first round of the NAIA Division II Men's Basketball Championship Thursday.
Following wins by Briar Cliff and Northwestern on Wednesday, the Mustangs used a big run in the first half and a fast start in the second to cruise past seventh-seeded Trinity International (Ill.) 87-69.
"It is just part of the learning process," said Morningside Coach Jim Sykes. "You want to continue to grow with each game. I thought we did a good job of figuring out today on the run."
Morningside dominated the paint with a 52-29 rebounding edge that led to a 28-5 advantage in second-chance points. The Mustangs proved more than up to the task of tournament play despite not having a player with national experience on its roster.
"I thought our size definitely was an advantage for us today," Sykes said. "Tyler (Borchers) got in foul trouble but Trey (Brown) came in and did some very nice things and our guards did a nice job of rebounding the basketball as well."
Morningside turned a seven-point deficit into a nine-point halftime lead against Trinity International.
The Trojans had a 25-18 lead on a Donald Watkins Jr. bucket with 9:37 to go in the half, but Morningside scored 16 of the next 24 points to take a 34-33 lead on Ben Hoskins' 3-pointer with 4:20 to go. Trystan Cummins and Brown added buckets before Zach Imig splashed a 3-pointer to increase the lead to 41-34.
Brown would add another hoop and Imig hit another shot with six seconds to go in the half to put Morningside up 45-36 at the break.
"We were just figuring things out and calming down a little bit," said Sykes of the run. "Watching every one of these games up here the first 10 minutes, even the first half of most games, isn't real pretty because it is a different environment, there is nerves involved. They are allowing more hands and it is a much more physical game than we are used to in the GPAC.
"We were able to figure it out and go with the flow and we made some shots at the end of the first half. We forced some stops and they were making some shots that were crazy there is no doubt about that."
Morningside shot 53 percent from the floor in the opening half and dominated the glass with 28 rebounds, including nine offensive. That led to 13 second-chance points as the Mustangs outscored the Trojans 34-20 in the paint.
The second half started with Morningside going on an 8-0 run to increase its advantage to 53-36 and the Mustangs were on their way to the win.
"We wanted to continue to guard and if we are guarding the way we are capable of guarding, that team averages 90 points a game and we hold them to 69. I will take that performance."
Imig, a freshman led the way for Moriningside with 17 points and added six rebounds, Brown came up with 16 points on 8 of 9 shooting.
"Both of our freshmen from Gretna (Neb.) ... played valuable minutes and that is pretty impressive for freshmen to come in in their first national tournament experience and have a performance like they both did."
Borchers had a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds for Morningside, the GPAC regular season and tournament champions.
Trinity International (21-11) hit 10 3-pointers and was led by Greg Carlyle's 18 points. Nate Schmidt added 13 and O'Shae Williams added 10 in the first meeting between the two schools.
The Mustangs (27-6) will take on third-seeded Warner Pacific (Ore) at 5:45 p.m. on Friday.