Harrison Cleary grabbed the rebound, pushed up the court and added to the unthinkable.
Cleary's 3-pointer put Minnesota Crookston up, 18-10, on Northwest Missouri State midway through the first quarter. No Division II team had beaten the Bearcats in over a year and a half. The Golden Eagles weren't just doing that, they were in total control.
Then the No. 1 team in the nation began to look like it. The eight-point lead quickly evaporated. Five points. Three points. 26-25 at halftime.
On its first possession out of the break, Northwest Missouri State took the lead. It wouldn't lose it.
Minnesota Crookston held its own the rest of the way, but the Bearcats were too much, stifling the Golden Eagles in the second half to win a hard-fought defensive battle, 60-52 in St. Joseph, Mo. in the Hillyard Tip-Off Classic.
The game was Minnesota Crookston's first of the regular season. One week prior, it beat Division III Bethel, 85-77 in an exhibition at home.
After a season in which they set a program record for wins, the Golden Eagles had an opportunity to make an even greater statement on Friday. They came shockingly close.
Ryan Hawkins, Northwest Missouri's leading scorer, scored just 16 points, half of his season average, and missed all six of his 3-pointers. Diego Bernard, their third-leading scorer, shot just 3-of-14.
However, Trevor Hudgins was there to pick up the slack with 28 points on 13 shots. Seventeen of those points came after intermission.
The real star of the game, though, was the Bearcats' defense, which smothered Minnesota Crookston to the tune of 28 percent shooting in the second half. Northwest Missouri, which came into the game hitting over 50 percent from downtown, hit just two of 17 threes, but thanks to its defense, it didn't matter.
Cleary scored 18 points, but Minnesota Crookston's star was uncharacteristically inefficient from the field, missing 10 of 14 shots. Brian Sitzmann, who dropped 15, was the only other Golden Eagle in double digits.
Minnesota Crookston plays Saturday evening against Missouri Western (1-2) in St. Joseph. The Griffons beat the Golden Eagles' NSIC rival, MSU-Moorhead, 70-55 in Friday's nightcap.