Texas A&M-Commerce had a big surprise for No. 6 Midwestern State Wednesday night in the Lone Star Conference postseason tournament at the Allen Event Center.
But Michael Loyd and JaMichael Rivers combined for five 3-pointers as the Mustangs came alive in the second half to claim a 64-52 quarterfinal win.
"We didn't handle the zone very well," MSU coach Nelson Haggerty said. "We shot the ball too quickly (in the first half) and got really stagnant."
The Mustangs move on to face Cameron, a 77-68 overtime win over Incarnate Word earlier Wednesday, in Friday night's semifinal round. Tipoff is set for 8:30 p.m.
So stagnant that the Mustangs managed to shoot just 23.3 percent from the field while scoring a season low 19 points before intermission.
That allowed the Lions to push out to a 26-19 lead right before the intermission as they outscored the 13-6 and that could have been worse had A&M-Commerce not missed 5 of its 14 free throw attempts after MSU's Anthony Harris drew a technical foul with the Mustangs lead 15-13 with 8:07 to play.
Midwestern also stayed close by holding LSC Preseason Player of the Year Desmond King to an abysmal 0-7 shooting in the opening half as the Lions managed to shoot just 28 percent in the opening half.
"Our defense carried us," Haggerty said. "Without that, we'd have been done in the first half. The way we were shooting, we knew we weren't going to shoot much worse."
MSU battled its way back into the game on the strength of five-straight treys - three by Rivers - as the Mustangs led 48-41 on Loyd's second triple of the game with 8:35 to play.
"I knew if I could get hot, then I could knock down three or four in a row," Rivers said.
Loyd paced the Mustangs with 16 points, three rebounds and three assists while Rivers added 15 points and seven rebounds.
Senior forward Darrick Thomas and nine points and six rebounds and senior forward David Terrell added eight points and nine rebounds.
Brad Hambrick poured in a game-high 18 points to pace Texas A&M-Commerce which closes the season at 10-17.
Midwestern State remained atop the South Central Region Rankings as released Wednesday afternoon by the NCAA Division II Men's Basketball Committee.
The Mustangs, who clinched a share of their sixth Lone Star Conference championship with a win over Eastern New Mexico last weekend at D.L. Ligon Coliseum, open LSC postseason tournament play against Texas A&M-Commerce Wednesday night at the Allen Events Center. Tipoff is set for 8:30 p.m.
The NCAA Division II tournament selection is set for Sunday night at 9:30 p.m. A watch party is set for Midwestern State at The Parkway Grill in Wichita Falls.
The Mustangs (23-3) topped the rankings for the second straight week followed by Tarleton State, Arkansas Tech, Northwest Missouri State, West Texas A&M, Central Missouri, Texas A&M International and Cameron.
The top eight teams from each of the eight regions advance to the postseason which will be played from March 10-13 at campus sites of the top-ranked team in each region.
Tournament selections will take place via a Web cast selection show on NCAA.com on Sunday, March 4.
The winners of each regional gain a berth into the Elite Eight which is played at the Bank of Kentucky Center from March 21-23 in Highland Heights, Ky.
The South Central Region consists of the Lone Star Conference, Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Association, Great American Conference and Heartland Conference.
The winners of the LSC, MIAA and Heartland conferences postseason tournament earn an automatic bid into the postseason, while five others gain at-large access.
Midwestern State is the two-time South Central Region champion advancing to the Elite Eight in 2010 and 2011. The Mustangs have made six NCAA Division II postseason showings.