Notre Dame wins eighth-straight, punches ticket to NCAA Tournament Elite Eight

Notre Dame is rolling — right into the history books.

For the first time in 37 years, the Fighting Irish are headed to the Elite Eight after knocking off NCAA Tournament darling Wichita State 91-70.

Led by sophomore guard Demetrius Jackson’s 20 points and senior forward Pat Connaughton’s 16 points and 10 rebounds, three-seed Notre Dame downed the Shockers at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio on Thursday night.

“We really do a great job sharing the ball, finding a great shot every possession,” said Jackson postgame. “The guys step up and make huge shots. It’s a really fun way to play when we play the game that way so we want to continue doing that and continue getting better.”

In a total-team effort, Notre Dame (32-5) proved to be too much for gritty seventh-seeded Wichita State (30-5). The sharpshooting Irish drilled an astounding 75 percent of their shots in the second half (18-of-24).

After winning 11 of their last 12 games, the Shockers found themselves down by as many as 13 in the first half; however, the Shockers responded with a 15-5 run of their own, cutting the Irish lead to 33-30 going into the intermission.

Wichita State junior guard Fred VanVleet’s game-high 25 points and senior forward Darius Carter’s 20 were not enough to allow the Shockers to escape with a victory.

The nation’s most efficient offense in Notre Dame is now 26-2 when leading at halftime and 19-0 when scoring 80 points in a game.

“That was reminiscent of a lot of games we’ve been in, second halfs, it kind of reminded me of the North Carolina game in the ACC championship, we take the lead, call timeout, not a lot of drama, not a lot of strategy, and we come out of that with a great will, continue to defend and then we got into one of our offensive rhythms that nobody else in the country can do,” said Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey.

A mentality shift at halftime proved to be the difference for the Fighting Irish, who scored 40 points in the second half.

Senior guard Jerian Grant added nine points and 11 assists of his own while advancing to the regional final. The Wooden Award and Naismith Trophy finalist has played every minute of Notre Dame’s NCAA tournament run this season.

“Just figuring how they were playing me, it took longer than I would have liked but once I figured out how they were guarding the ball screens and denying me up top, we really got into a rhythm to play our game,” said Grant about his team’s second half success.

In critical moments late in the second half, Connaughton hit a 3-pointer from the corner and sophomore guard Steve Vasturia made a 3-point jumper of his own moments later to seal the victory, stretching Notre Dame’s lead from 11 to 17, 73-56, with 5:18 remining.

The Irish made nine 3-pointers, with Jackson drilling 4-of-5 from downtown.

“Extremely important,” said Connaughton of what that stretch meant to the outcome of the game. “We always talk about not being satisfied, whether it’s with a win or whether it’s just a possession in general.

“For us to not be satisfied with an 11 point lead because there was so much time left, they’re a fabulous team and they make runs and they can score in bunches just like us. We want to make sure that we continue to play our game, and when you have an open shot, you know with these two guys to my left and right, they’re the best at finding you and getting you open shots so you just have to step up and knock them down.”

Connaughton, a pitcher in the Baltimore Orioles minor league system has now played 138 games for the Fighting Irish, setting a school record.

Notre Dame defeated Northeastern and Butler by a combined seven points during the opening weekend of the tournament, where expectations have been high for Coach Brey’s team, even coming off a 15-17 season last year.

The 2014-15 ACC champion Fight Irish will play perennial favorite and unbeaten Kentucky on Saturday night in the regional final.

To beat the powerhouse – a consensus choice as one of the best college teams ever – and move onto their first Final Four appearance since 1978, Brey says he will continue to do what he has done throughout the season.

“One of the biggest qualities is do not overcoach your team when they’re rolling. Don’t call out too many — let them figure it out. This nucleus really knows how to play on the offensive end.”

No.2 Wisconsin survives No. 4 North Carolina to advance to NCAA Tournament Elite Eight

Sam Dekker scored a career-high 23 points and grabbed 10 rebounds as top-seeded Wisconsin defeated fourth-seeded UNC 79-72 Thursday night to head back to the NCAA Tournament’s Elite Eight for the second consecutive year, playing the winner of No. 2 seed Arizona versus sixth-seeded Xavier on Saturday.

Senior Player of the Year candidate Frank Kamisnky added 19 points and eight boards for Wisconsin, making all eight free throws he attempted. The Badgers attempted 23 free throws as a team, making 20 of them and their final eight down the stretch.

With the score 60-56 in favor of the Tar Heels and just seven minutes remaining in the game, Wisconsin went on a 9-0 run to take a lead it would not relinquish the rest of the way.

UNC, however, did not go down quietly as junior Marcus Paige hit back-to-back 3-pointers to cut the lead to 71-70 with 54 seconds left. Paige finished with 12 points, and was one of three Tar Heels to finish the game with double-digits. Forwards Brice Johnson and Justin Jackson each ended the contest with 15.

Head coach Roy Williams said he was “tired of congratulating people” but admired the toughness his team exhibited on this night.

“Well, you have to congratulate Wisconsin. I think the toughness that they showed today was really something,” Williams said regarding his team’s effort. “It’s strange, the difference between winning and losing is so small.

“We had J.P. on the breakaway, not a breakaway, but open court, and we didn’t convert on that one. Then they came back and scored nine in a row.”

Despite drilling 61 percent of their shots from beyond the arc, Williams’ squad could not sustain the pressure from the Badgers, who only shot 33 percent from downtown. Both teams attempted 56 shots total, and each shot 46 percent from the field.

When asked what guard Josh Gasser was doing to limit his offensive opportunities, Paige agreed with his coach and acknowledged Gasser’s competitive edge on the defensive side of the ball.

“Well, like coach said, he was just competing,” Paige said. “Every possession he understood how important it was for him to take that challenge today to guard me. He chased me around every screen. Every time I caught the ball he was right there.”

Going into the second half with a two-point lead, Wisconsin was able to turn it on offensively, led by efforts from Dekker and Kaminsky.

“Our defensive pressure is something we talked about coming into this game. We wanted to pressure them and not allow them to be comfortable, and we did that for the most part,” Paige said.

“The problem was we couldn’t finish our defense on key possessions. You know, they got a tip-out or offensive rebound and that’s how they made us pay today. They would kick it out and make a three, or run another 35 seconds off the clock.”

Jackson, who was tasked with guarding Kaminsky, was able to limit his chances in the opening 20 minutes, but they could not keep Dekker off the scoresheet. Instead, the junior embraced being given many chances, ending with a career-best in points.

“No, not at all. Obviously he’s a great player. We had some lapses in there, but good players are going to get theirs,” Jackson said regarding the play of Dekker.

Despite the trouble that Williams’ team went through off the court, the coach recognized the bond his players had, which helped him make this season an enjoyable one.

“You know, the bond that you have. Coach Alvarez knows this too, the bond that you have with your players is the strongest, stronger than anything there is, I thin,” he said.

“Even when they’re knuckle heads, you still have that bond. And when you coach kids, you give them everything you can give them. Today it wasn’t enough. But I wouldn’t trade my kids for anybody. And Bo’s got a great group, and Bo’s team won the game, but I wouldn’t trade my kids for anybody’s.”

Belmont basketball has a blast in NCAA Tournament

Craig Bradshaw backpedaled down the court, turned towards the sidelines, and bellowed out, “I called that,” with a huge smile sweeping across his face.

Bradshaw had just missed the rim by a solid two feet on a 3-point attempt, only to connect high up on the backboard, with his shot ricocheting perfectly into the bottom of the net, pulling his 15th seeded Bruins to within two of second-seed Virginia, 62-60, with 4:26 remaining in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

And now Bradshaw was having a blast.

Belmont would eventually fall 79-67 as the Cavaliers closed out the game on a 17-7 run, but it didn’t for a second diminish their magical year, capped by an improbable run to the tourney.

“First off, we played a great basketball team. Virginia made the winning plays in the last three minutes that we didn’t make, and they deserve to win. They were the better team,” Belmont coach Rick Byrd said after the game. “That being said, I’m certainly proud of our team’s performance, I’m proud of their fight and grit and determination and the plays that they made, and we played a great team.

“I don’t have the play-by-play but somewhere in the neighborhood of three minutes we had a real, real chance to win that basketball game and just didn’t get it done.”

Bradshaw led all scorers with 25 points, going 10-of-19 from the field and 5-of-9 from beyond the arc. The 6-foot-3-inch guard, who appeared to be playing at the ankles of the towering Cavaliers, also racked up nine rebounds.

Photo courtesy of Belmont Athletics
Photo courtesy of Belmont Athletics
“I don’t think you ever think you’re going to win the game against those guys, they string together some stops,” Bradshaw said. “I felt good about how I was shooting. We were running a good offense and they just made some good stops at the end, made more winning plays in the end.”

“When Craig plays like he did today and he’s obviously a first team OVC guy and played like that a lot he makes us a way better team,” Byrd added. “He’s fearless. He loves situations like that, that he’s in. Who he’s playing against and the circumstances in the game matter not to him at all. “

The Cavaliers entered the game leading the nation scoring defense at roughly 50 points allowed per game, but according to Belmont senior Reece Chamberlain, the Bruins handled the high-pressure defense well.

“They’re a great team, we knew that coming in, that the shots we normally get were going to come tough,” he said. “I thought we did a great job, and there’s only one stretch in the first half where we kind of got carried away and didn’t run offense but I think overall we did a pretty good job of moving the ball and working in until we got some good shots.”

For the Cavaliers, four players reached double digits, spearheaded by 22 from junior guard Malcolm Brogdon. Justin Anderson, who missed games from Feb. 11 to March 7, added 15 points and five rebounds in the winning effort.

“Well, I think he’s closer than he was a week ago obviously. He stepped back and made a three tonight and that had to make him all feel good,” Byrd said regarding Anderson’s performance.

“Overall he’s their best offensive player I think,” Byrd added. “But the beauty of their team is that you’ve got guys, Brogdon can do that, Gill can have a great game, what did he get, 16? You’ve got a lot of guys on that team that can score 15 or 16 points in a game and up can’t just focus on any one guy. They’re a better offensive team than they get credit for only because they’re such a great defensive team.”

Despite a sour end to the season, the future is bright for Belmont. Graduating only three seniors, the Bruins will return four of their five starters, and their top three scorers in Bradshaw, and rising juniors Taylor Barnette and Evan Bradds, who each played a staring role in getting the Bruins to the NCAA Tournament.

Both Bradshaw and Bradds exhibited excitement when they were asked whether or not they think they’ll return to the tournament next year.

“I don’t think you can say anything for sure but we have a really young team and Mack (Mercer) played great tonight and I’m really looking forward to his development,” Bradshaw said. “Amanze (Egekeze) is the starter, we’ve got really young guys, and I think we’re going to be really good next year. It’s up to us.

“Like he said we are very young. I’m excited, we all work really hard, so we’re just hoping we can work hard enough to get back here next year,” Bradds said.

Quinton Chievous rocks rims in Hampton’s NCAA Tournament win

Quinton Chievous had to walk along a long and winding road less traveled before he finally found his way into a Hampton Pirates uniform and made it back to the NCAA Tournament.

He wasted no time in making his presence felt once he stepped out onto the grand stage and under the bright lights of the NCAA Tournament, posting a double-double while throwing down a pair of vicious slam-dunks in 16-seed Hampton’s 74-64 First Round win over fellow No. 16 Manhattan.

The son of former NBA player and Missouri all-time leading scorer Derrick Chievous, Quinton began his career at Tennessee, where he redshirted one season, and could never find his way into the rotation, watching from the end of the bench as the Vols’ advanced to the Sweet 16 in 2013. After graduating in three years, Chievous, a 6’6” wing, transferred to Hampton as a graduate student, and emerged as a key player in the Pirates rotation.

On Tuesday night, Chievous messed around and had a double-double by halftime, posting 11 points and 10 rebounds in the games first 20 minutes, before finishing with 15 points and 13 rebounds, while shooting 7-of-12 from the floor.

Chievous threw down a big one-handed dunk in each half, the more earth-shaking of the two coming in the second half when he caught a feed from outside the right low-block, took one hard power-dribble towards the hoop and took off, posterizing 6’9” Manhattan forward Zane Waterman.

Chievous would leave the game in the final minutes after landing awkwardly, but appeared in high spirits after the games final horn, saying he “had to get healthy,” in time for the Pirates Thursday night showdown against undefeated overall No. 1 Kentucky.

Harvard basketball steals Ivy League title, punches ticket to NCAA Tournament

With nine seconds remaining, Javier Duren sprinted up the court, the ball in his left hand, what was left of Yale’s NCAA tournament chances on his back.

They were chances that once seemed so promising — last Friday when the Bulldogs topped Harvard to take a one-game lead in the Ivy League standings, a week back when they led Dartmouth by 5 points with 35 seconds left, even just a few minutes earlier when they held a one-point lead over Harvard with 1:47 to play.

But Yale coughed up its lead at Dartmouth, allowing Harvard basketball to sneak back atop the Ivy League standings. That forced a tiebreaker with the Crimson for the Ivy’s lone bid to the NCAA tournament. And in that one-game playoff, that lead Yale once held was gone now, too, erased by back-to-back Harvard baskets.

Which left Duren — Yale’s All-Ivy point guard — with one last chance to help push the Bulldogs into the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1962.

Duren moved the ball past half court, closely guarded by Harvard wing Wesley Saunders. Five seconds left. Duren crossed from right to left, beating Saunders. Now he barreled toward the hoop.

Harvard forward Steve Moundou-Missi shuffled over to help, but Duren arched a layup at the hoop that kissed off the backboard and seemed headed for the bottom of the net.
“I thought it was in,” Duren said after the game.

It wasn’t. The ball bounced off the rim, and the next thing he knew, Duren was hunched over behind the basket, watching Harvard celebrate at center court.

“It took me a little while to realize what happened because when I let it go it looked so good,” Duren said. “A situation like that, I think it’s hard to get a better look.”

“We got lucky, to be honest,” Moundou-Missi said after the Crimson’s 53-51 win.

Harvard, winners of five straight Ivy League championships, will now head to its fourth straight NCAA tournament.

“Great basketball game,” Yale coach James Jones said. “Harvard was able to make one more play than we did.”

That play came on Harvard’s final possession, when Saunders drove and dished to Moundou-Missi open at the top of the key. Harvard’s 6-foot-7 forward drilled the mid-range jumper with nine seconds left to give the Crimson its final 53-51 lead.

It was a fitting finish, as it was Saunders and Moundou-Missi who carried the Crimson all of Saturday afternoon before a crowd of 5,256 at Philadelphia’s historic Palestra. Moundou-Missi recorded 11 points and 9 rebounds and — more importantly — held Yale’s Ivy League Player of the Year forward Justin Sears to just 5 points in the second half.

Saunders, meanwhile, posted a game-high 22 points on 8-of-15 shooting and added 4 rebounds and 4 assists.

“Wesley Saunders, in particular, made every big play we needed,” Harvard coach Tommy Amaker said.
After a relatively quiet first half, Saunders went off in the second, scoring nine straight points in a stretch of 1:40 to transform a five-point Crimson deficit into a four-point lead.

That lead grew to as many as nine with 6:19 left, but Yale got to the free throw line five times down the stretch to help close the gap to a single point — 48-47 — with 2:48 to go.

And after Sears came up with a steal, Yale’s Makai Mason knocked down a short jumper to give Yale the 49-48 lead.

Saunders answered, though, with an and-one layup to put the Crimson back on top 51-49 with 1:27 left. On the other end, Harvard nearly came up with a stop, but Duren was fouled on the perimeter with just a few ticks left on the shot clock. Duren went two-for-two from the free throw line (his 11th and 12th points on the night) to even the score at 51-51.

On the following possession, Moundou-Missi missed a jumper with 37 seconds to play, but the Crimson recovered the offensive rebound, setting up the Crimson’s game-winning bucket.

“Wes drove and they collapsed — he made the entire play,” Moundou-Missi said. “I was wide-open. All I had to do was make the shot.”

Moundou-Missi and the rest of the Crimson will learn their opening-round NCAA tournament opponent tomorrow — Selection Sunday.

The Bulldogs, meanwhile, will cross their fingers and hope for a bid to the NIT. But Yale senior Javier Duren isn’t bitter.

“I’m just blessed,” Duren said at the postgame press conference, just a few minutes after he missed the biggest shot of his life. “I had my parents come from St. Louis, Missouri…just to see this game, and it’s probably the most fun game I’ve been a part of.

“I’m a competitor like everyone else, but I can’t help be humble and be proud not only of myself but the guys battling and fighting beside me. We represented Yale well.”

Powered by Quincy Ford, Northeastern punches ticket to NCAA Tournament

Northeastern punched its ticket to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1991. Photo Credit: CAA Athletics
Northeastern punched its ticket to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1991. Photo Credit: CAA Athletics

BALTIMORE, MD – It didn’t take long for Quincy Ford to find his mother after winning the CAA championship.

The red-shirt junior weaved through the crowd of championship shirts, finding Denise Ford just in front of a pep band blasting victorious anthems.

As the mother and son embraced, the emotions that come with giving a school that hasn’t been to the NCAA tournament since 1991 a bid finally began to hit.

“All the sacrifices she made, just reminds me of the staff, the teammates and all the sacrifices they made,” Ford said after the 72-61 win over William & Mary on Monday. “It was just a great feeling to see her and celebrate with her, as well as the team.”

Ford recorded 22 points on 8-of-10 shooting and four rebounds and in the process, earned the CAA tournament Most Outstanding Player award.

The forward got off to a great start, scoring 15 points in the first half (including 3 of 3 shooting from beyond) and the Huskies went into the break up by 10.

He picked up right where he left off in the second half, nailing his first long range attempt.
Northeastern led William & Mary by as much as 22 in the second half and weathered a late surge led by Daniel Dixon to hold on to the win.

“The X factor was our energy, our togetherness,” coach Bill Coen said. “These guys were on a mission this week.”

Even though Ford was the game’s most outstanding player, players throughout the roster contributed to the win.

Caleb Donnelly, a former Northeastern club basketball standout, had another fine shooting performance, nailing 4-of-6 three-pointers. The undersized Zach Stahl had 10 rebounds to lead the game. Senior captain Scott Eatherton dominated inside with 15 points.

And then there was David Walker, a CAA all-tournament team member, who needed to play well with his fellow guard TJ Williams slowed down by the stomach flu.

Walker had 15 points and four assists, two years after losing in the CAA championship to James Madison.

“I can’t even put it into words,” Walker said as he reflected on the journey. “The emotions after that game, especially for the seniors there in Jon [Lee] and Joel [Smith], I feel like we let them down the most.

“This just goes down in the history and they’re a part of it.”

In fact, Coen made them a part of it. Leading up to the tournament, Coen reached out to former Northeastern players – Matt Janning, J.J. Barea and Chaisson Allen to name a few – and asked them to record video clips saying what it would take to win a championship.

“It had a huge impact because these guys realize they’re a part of something that’s much bigger than this year, much bigger than this team,” Coen said. “They’re part of a program, they’re a part of an outstanding academic University.”

And now every member of that program – the players, the alumni and parents like Denise Ford – are headed to the NCAA tournament.

“We’re going to be ready,” Eatherton said. “We know the season is not over and we’re obviously not going to be picked to be favorites but we don’t want to the season to end so we’re going to work hard all week.”

Defense proves to be the undoing of Boston University basketball

Boston University freshman Cheddi Mosely defends Lafayette point guard Nick Lindner. OBW Photo / Chris Dela Rosa
Boston University freshman Cheddi Mosely defends Lafayette point guard Nick Lindner. OBW Photo / Chris Dela Rosa

Even after losing the likes of D.J. Irving, Dom Morris and Maurice Watson Jr. over the offseason, with players like Cedric Hankerson, Eric Fanning and Cheddi Mosely, Boston University basketball head coach Joe Jones felt confident his team would be able to score this year. It was a confidence that was validated with the Terriers ranking third in the Patriot League in scoring in conference games (69.5 ppg).

The question was whether the Terriers would be able to stop opponents from doing the same.

Throughout the season, Jones harped on his team’s ability to get stops, and spent extra time in practices working on it, but even at season’s end, it remained very much a work in progress, with the Terriers ranking eighth out of 10 Patriot League teams in scoring defense in conference play (68.6 ppg).

Defense would prove to be the Terriers undoing and achilles heel to close out the season, as BU allowed Holy Cross to drill 9-of-10 second half 3-pointers in a 77-70 home loss to Holy Cross to close out the regular season, following by a 89-64 annihilation at the hands of Lafayette in the Patriot League Tournament quarterfinals.

“That’s all we talked about,” he said. “It wouldn’t of looked like it tonight, but that’s all we talked about.”

Last season, BU was able to sweep the Leopards, defeating them three times, including a massive victory during the 2014 quarterfinals, in which the Terriers scored 91 points and broke the tournament record for best field goal percentage, shooting 66.1-percent from the field.

On Thursday night, the roles were reversed as Lafayette was the team breaking a record and having a near triple-digit performance, defeating BU 89-64 and setting the record for most 3-point field goals in a tournament game, with 16.

“They were great tonight, Franny had them ready, that shows what kind of coach he is, he had his team ready to go, “ said Jones.

With 13:14 to go in the first half, the game was all BU, with the Terriers up 14-4 after a 3-pointer from Eric Fanning. But then Lafayette’s Seth Hinrichs hit a jumper , starting a torrential downpour of buckets and a 20-5 run by the Leopards, and by halftime, the dam had burst on the Terriers’ defense.

“I just think it was more of a mental thing, they started hitting a lot of shots, they came one after another, they just had the momentum for most of the game,” said Hankerson. “I think it was just a mental thing and then we got down on ourselves and it was just like a flood.”

Lafayette shot an impressive 59-percent (16-for-27) from the field and 57-percent (8-for-14) from 3-point range to tally 40 points in the first half.

“We were a step behind everything,” said Jones. “I know when our guys are ready to go, we looked tired, we looked mentally tired. It was strange for a team that I thought we had a pretty good feel for what they like to do, and what they do.”

Lafayette’s offensive eruption came from their ability to use screens to gain separation from Terrier defenders and knock down open shots.

“You can kind of see the possessions happening, and you know what your guys should be doing and you know where they should be, but we were just nowhere to be found, we were just lost,” said Jones. ”Any time they can get the open looks that they got, you’re not beating them. This is on me, I didn’t have my team ready to go, we just weren’t ready to play, which is unbelievable.”

Jones could tell as early as the day before the game that his team was lacking the energy necessary to win even from his team’s effort in practice the day before.

“If you can’t get excited about this, I don’t know,” he said. “We were just not ready to go, and to be honest with you in practice yesterday we weren’t ready in practice yesterday, we didn’t practice well, it was a shame.”

Jones took the blame for the deflating end to the Terriers season, but didn’t let his players off the hook either.

“It’s leadership from me, from our captains, from our upperclassmen, from our assistants; it’s our program not being ready to play, not being committed to understand what it takes to play in a game like this,” he said. “Not just those guys being young, you got to be ready, there’s absolutely no excuse, none.”

With the loss, the Terriers ended their season with a 13-17 record. With no shot of any other post-season tournaments, Jones is already looking towards the 2015-2016 season.

“We got to look at ourselves in the mirror and we got to be able to understand what we need to do night in and night out, day in and day out to be a better basketball program,” he said.

Quincy Ford puts on show to power Northeastern into semifinals

Quincy Ford
Quincy Ford. OBW Photo / Sam Perkins

BALTIMORE, MD – A year prior to Northeastern’s 67-64 win over Delaware in the quarterfinals of the 2015 CAA tournament, Quincy Ford was sidelined in a state of “hopelessness.”

Ford, recovering from season-ending back surgery, had to watch his Huskies get beat by the Blue Hens in the semi-final round of the 2014 tournament from the bench.

“It was extremely frustrating to me. I just kind of felt hopeless not being able to help my teammates out,” said Ford, reflecting after his team’s win on Saturday. “But all the more motivation for this year to come out stronger and better for this team.”
It was worth the wait.

Ford put on an all-around show in Baltimore, scoring 16 points on 6 of 10 shooting, including 3 of 5 shooting from behind the arc. The forward only took three minutes to get on the board with an old-fashion 3-point play, giving Northeastern an 8-2 lead.

“There was some jitters in the beginning but by attacking the basket, once the first shot went in, it was game on,” Ford said.

After a Delaware score, Ford came back and nailed a 3-pointer from the right wing. After a Delaware three, Ford hit his second 3-pointer in less than a minute to give the Huskies a 14-7 lead.
By the way Ford balanced scoring and defending Delaware’s best player, freshman guard Kory Holden, it was as if the injury had never happened.

“Quincy’s got the ability to keep guys in front of him and use his length,” Coen said on the forward-guard matchup.

However, Holden kept the game close going into halftime. He had 16 points and Delaware was only down by four going into the break.

Ford, who had 11 at the break, picked up where he left off hitting a 3-pointer less than a minute into the second half. The red-shirt junior was then held without a bucket until the 1:45 mark, when he pushed the lead to 63-60.

But the Florida-native didn’t falter. After all, he got used to relying on his teammates last year.
“Second half, there was a little bit more pressure,” Ford said. “David, who’s a great player stepped up, Zach stepped up, Reggie stepped up, all my teammates stepped up and made plays.

“…I’m a 100 percent team player, all I care about is winning and it was an example tonight,”
David Walker led the Huskies with 17 points, including four late game free throws and a big time rebound, sealing the win.

Walker, a junior, and Ford still have one more year of college eligibility.

But Ford, who entered Northeastern with senior Reggie Spencer, feels the sense of urgency that was missing in 2013.

“This is something we’ve all dreamed of, this is something we’ve worked hard for all summer and the time is now,” Ford said. “We need to get it done.”

Omar Prewitt dunks William & Mary into CAA semifinals

Omar Prewitt powered top-seed William & Mary past Elon and into the CAA Tournament semifinals. Photo Credit: William & Mary athletics
Omar Prewitt powered top-seed William & Mary past Elon and into the CAA Tournament semifinals. Photo Credit: William & Mary athletics

Omar Prewitt says the heartbreak of William & Mary’s loss to Delaware in last year’s CAA championship did not hit him initially.

The sophomore says he looked at the Tribe’s distraught seniors in the locker room after the loss and didn’t understand how much the win would have meant to the only CAA program to never make the NCAA tournament.

After scoring 16 points on 6 of 11 shooting in the Tribe’s 72-59 win over Elon in the second round of the CAA tournament on Saturday, it’s clear he now gets it.

“We can’t be a great team unless Omar plays well,” coach Tony Shaver said. “He’s that important to us.”

Prewitt wasn’t the only member of the Tribe who came to play.

CAA Player of the Year Marcus Thornton led the team in scoring with 17 points and Daniel Dixon contributed 12 points on 4 of 9 shooting from behind the arc.

Defensive Player of the Year Terry Tarpey had another great all around game with eight points, nine rebounds, five assists and three steals.

“We got Terry, we got the MVP on our team but Omar takes us to a new level if he’s playing well,” Shaver said.

Prewitt had struggled at the tail-end of the regular season with a shooting percentage of just 26 percent in the Tribe’s last three games. The last of those three was the 80-66 loss to the Damion Lee-less Drexel Dragons.

“If one of us is off, it really hurts,” Prewitt said. “I wouldn’t say I’m the key factor but if I’m not playing as well, it really hurts our team a lot.”

However, during a stretch in the second half on Saturday, Prewitt was they key for the Tribe.
Elon, down by 13 with just over 14 minutes to play in the half, went with a zone defense in an attempt to stop the hot-shooting Tribe.

Seconds later, Prewitt put his head down and earned a bucket on a hard drive to push the lead to 50-35.

After an Elon score, Prewitt again drove to the basket and scored.

“He was the one player during that stretch when they went zone, who really drove for us and got a couple easy baskets,” Shaver said.

At the nine minute mark, Omar turned a Sean Sheldon steal into a dunk that would have made Avon Barksdale, Stringer Bell and all of the Low Rises shake and crumble.

He’s improved that physical side of his game since his Rookie of the Year campaign last year.
According to his teammates, Prewitt hit the gym this off-season with a determination to get stronger and expand his skill set.

“That helped improve his overall game and his decision making is getting better,” said Tarpey. “It’s just great to have a player like him on your team.”

It is that mental strength that has impressed Thornton the most.

“Each year the game kind of slows down for you a little bit,” Thornton said. “He sees the floor better, sees certain things he wouldn’t of seen last year.

“Just his overall improvement as a player, I’m really proud of him and it’s great to see the way he played today.”

Javier Duren leads Yale basketball through Harvard and to the doorstep of the NCAAs

The last player to leave the floor, Javier Duren jogged off the court at Lavietes Pavilion, his index finger pointed in the air.

Yale basketball’s 6-foot-4 point guard entered Friday night’s matchup with Harvard as a sidekick — the No. 2 option on the league’s No. 2 team. But as he passed by a cheering visitor’s section toward the locker room, Duren had accomplished what no player or team had been able to for so long: knock the Crimson from the top of the Ivy League.

Javier Duren scored 22 points to lead Yale past Harvard and into the Ivy League driver's seat with one game left to play. Photo Credit: Steve Musco / Yale Athletics
Javier Duren scored 22 points to lead Yale past Harvard and into the Ivy League driver’s seat with one game left to play. Photo Credit: Steve Musco / Yale Athletics

The Bulldogs senior scored a game-high 22 points, and Yale beat Harvard 62-52 to clinch at least a share of the Ivy League title. A win tonight or a Crimson loss will give the Bulldogs the outright championship and the team’s first NCAA tournament berth since 1962.

Harvard, meanwhile, had its hopes of scoring unprecedented fifth straight Ivy championship and fourth consecutive tournament berth seriously damaged.

The Crimson, which has struggled all season on offense, once again failed to establish a rhythm.

Harvard missed 15 of its 17 three-point attempts and shot just 32.7 percent from the field.
Corbin Miller, the team’s top three-point shooter, went 0-of-8 from deep.

“I thought we had a ton of shots,” Harvard coach Tommy Amaker said. “We just didn’t make them. I don’t know what else to say.”

But even despite the team’s offensive struggles, it looked like Harvard might find a way to win.

After trailing by as many as 12 in the second half, the Crimson took the momentum on a Steve Moundou-Missi alley-oop dunk with 5:25 to play and, less than two minutes later, cut the deficit to two on a pair of Siyani Chambers’ free throws.

As the second attempt passed through the net, it seemed as if the back-to-back-to-back-to-back Ivy League champs would make another slow start irrelevant.

But on Yale’s next trip down the court, Duren nailed a stepback jumper from right elbow to put the Bulldogs back up by four with 3:10 to go.

The Crimson missed on the other end, and Yale once again put the ball in Duren’s hands. This time the point guard zipped a pass to Matt Townsend who drilled an open jumper.

Moundou-Missi answered with two free throws, and the Crimson was back within striking distance, 47-43, with 1:59 left.

This was the bend-but-don’t-break moment. The point where past Crimson teams have buckled down, gotten stops and closed out big conference games. But this time, Javier Duren spotted up on the left wing, caught a pass on the perimeter and, before his defender could close out, let a three-pointer fly.

It was good, and the Harvard side went silent as the seriousness of the situation registered.

Of course, Harvard fans should have known that the Crimson’s inconsistent shooting and offensive misdirection would eventually catch up with the team, but until Duren hit that three-pointer it always seemed like a just a possibility.

But that bucket put the Bulldogs up by 7 with 88 ticks remaining, and that was too much for the Crimson to overcome.

“I thought Duren was outstanding tonight,” Amaker said. “I thought his poise and his toughness and his confidence, it can be very contagious for their ballclub. He was the best player on the floor.”

That’s saying something considering Friday’s matchup featured the two frontrunners for Ivy League Player of the Year: Yale’s Justin Sears and Harvard’s Wesley Saunders.

But Sears was hampered by foul trouble and finished with just 10 points and 7 rebounds. Saunders had a solid first half — 8 points — but finished with just 11 points. Moundou-Missi finished with a team-high 21 for the Crimson.

Yale will attempt to punch its ticket to the NCAA tournament tonight at Dartmouth. The Crimson, meanwhile, will look to bounce back at home against Brown.