Salzillo's three-pointer in double overtime lifts Eastern Connecticut
OSWEGO, N.Y. -- Eastern Connecticut State University sophomore guard Brian Salzillo (North Haven) didn't miss a shot all night, but none were bigger than his final three-point basket with 2.5 seconds left in the second overtime which gave the Warriors a thrilling 70-69 double overtime victory over SUNY Oswego in the second round of the NCAA Division III men's basketball tournament Saturday night at Max Ziel Gymnasium.
Salzillo drilled his third three-pointer of the game from the top of the key to vault the Warriors into the NCAA Sweet 16 next weekend at Pepin Gymnasium on the Middlebury College campus.
At 5:30 p.m. Friday, March 9, the Warriors (24-5) will face Cabrini College (28-1), which went overtime Saturday night to eliminate Hobart College, 90-88.. In the other sectional opener Friday at 7:30 p.m., host Middlebury College (26-3) faces the University of Scranton (22-7).
All four sectional champions advance to the NCAA Division III Final Four Friday/Saturday, March 16/17 at the Salem Civic Center in Salem, VA.
After giving away a five-point lead with one minute left in the first overtime, Eastern erased a three-point deficit with 31.8 seconds left in the second overtime to hand Oswego (26-4) its first loss after 17 straight wins and its only loss in 18 home games this year.
Oswego's Sean Michele, the nation's leading free throw shooter, missed the second of two free throws with 12.1 seconds left that kept Eastern within two points, 69-67. Eastern then went the length of the floor and got the ball in the hands of Salzillo, who swished the game-winning three-pointer from the top of the key with 2.5 seconds left. After a timeout, Oswego quickly got the ball in the front court and got a good look from the right side, but a potential game-winning three-pointer fell short of the iron.
Salzillo led Eastern with 15 points, going 5-for-5 from the floor (3-for-3 from three-point range) and 2-for-2 from the line. Senior guard Nick Nedwick (Irvington, NY) and junior forward Chris Robitaille (Canton) each had 14 points and senior forward Hamilton Levy (Woodbury) added ten. Robitaille had ten rebounds and Nedwick five assists
Nedwick had nine points in the first half and tossed in a long off-balance three-pointer at the horn that gave the Warriors their largest lead of the game, 36-26 at halftime. The hosts chipped away before finally taking their first lead on three free throws by Hayden Ward with just under six minutes left in regulation. Nedwick was held scoreless in the second half before contributing three huge points on a baseline drive and free throw that put the Warriors back in front, 54-52,with 1:33 left. After Ward sank two tying free throws with 32.2 seconds left, Nedwick's potential game-winning three-point scoring bid rattled in and out of the basket and Eastern was unable to put in the offensive rebound in a scramble as regulation time ran out.
The first overtime session was a nightmare for Eastern at the free throw line and for Oswego from three-poinr range. The Warriors led by five with one minute left but clanged three free throws in the final 41 seconds that would have sealed the win. Oswego, for its part, failed on nine straight three-pointers before breaking through on Michele's longball (which followed two Oswego offensive rebounds that pulled the Lakers to within two 60-58, with 15 seconds left and set up Chris Gilkes' buzzer-beating layup on a pass from Michele that forced a second OT.
It marks Eastern's second double-overtime win in this year's post-season. In the Little East Conference semifinals eight days ago at Geissler Gym, the top-seeded Warriors slipped by No. 4 Keene State College, 81-76.
Eastern had moved into Saturday final by ending Medaille College's 13-game winning streak, 66-51, in Friday's first semifinal. In Friday's second game, Oswego posted a come-from-behind 72-71 overtime win over Endicott College.
Eastern has advanced to the NCAA sectionals for the third time, first time in 19 years. In 1993, the Warriors eliminated New York University in double overtime, 78-73 before losing to Massachusetts Dartmouth in the final by 11. The previous year, the Warriors dropped their sectional opener, by six points to New Jersey City University.