KANSAS CITY, Mo. – It took 27 years and a thrilling final 20 minutes of basketball for College of Idaho to earn its second national title. The Yotes held Indiana Tech off just long enough to complete its task and earn a 73-71 victory to hoist the coveted red banner.
College of Idaho did what it has done all season and started off the game red hot. The Yotes took control early and broke-off a 19-4 run to get things started. While the offense was impressive, the defense was just as. One of the top five in average defensive scoring margin in the 2023 NAIA National Championship field, the team from Caldwell, Idaho held the Warriors to six points in the first eight minutes, which set the tone.
The Yotes led by as much as 21 points in the first half as Tyler Robinett led the way. The sophomore was three-for-three from three-point range and led all scorers with nine points. Charles Elzie finished the opening frame with seven as Indiana Tech was able to cut the deficit to 19 before the break. Indiana Tech was held to just over 35 percent from the floor and went 1-7 from the free throw line.
Just 24 hours earlier, Indiana Tech erased a 16-point deficit, 11 at the half on their way to a win over Georgetown. On Saturday night, the Warriors looked to do the same and within minutes, began to cut into the lead.
Down by as many as 23 with just over 16 minutes to play, the Warriors put together a 10-2 run to begin climbing back. By the 12:01 mark, Rog Stein knocked-down a three-ball to put Indiana Tech within 13. Three and a half minutes later, the lead was down to 10 as College of Idaho called a timeout to try to end the momentum.
Indiana Tech climbed all the way back as the time continued to wind down. While College of Idaho was able to keep the Warriors at bay for the most part, they finally began to break through in the closing minutes.
The team from Fort Wayne brought it all the way back to within four, thanks in large part to the 18 points provided by Rog Stein, but came just short of repeating the magic of one night ago in the closing seconds.
Jake O’Neil led the Yotes with 15 points and 12 rebounds. Samaje Morgan added 13 points and Tyler Robinett chipped-in 11. In the end, however, it was Charles Elzie that was named the Chuck Taylor Tournament MVP for his outstanding performance throughout. The junior finished final site play with 67 points.
For Indiana Tech, bot Blake Davidson and Max Perez finished with 12 points while Josh Cline recorded 11 to round out the scorers in double digits, along with Stein’s 18.
College of Idaho finished the season on a 36-game win streak after suffering just one loss in the first game of the season to Arizona Christian.