Francis punches Thunder's ticket with 62

Wheaton celebrates its win. (Wheaton athletics photo by Michael Hudson photography)
Aston Francis, right, and Luke Peters celebrate Wheaton's night for the ages.
Wheaton athletics photo by Michael Hudson photography

Aston Francis set all sorts of school, Division III and Division III NCAA Tournament records on Saturday night, as he scored 62 points to help Wheaton (Ill.) punch a ticket to the Final Four for the first time.

In the first half, Francis scored 35 points. In the second half, Marietta came out all fired up, starting on a 15-3 run to extend its lead out to 60-46. 

Wheaton still trailed by 11 as late as the 10-minute mark of the second half. But Francis got the comeback started with a four-point play. Luke Anthony hit a 3-pointer with 6:29 left to cut the Marietta lead to 73-68 and Francis added a 3 of his own 32 seconds later to make it a one-possession game. The senior scored 19 of his points in those final six minutes, including a deep three that rattled home with 33 seconds left and a fallaway shot from the corner that found the bottom of the net with 11.7 seconds to go, giving the Thunder (23-8) the lead for good at 89-87. Lukas Isaly, who started the second-half run for Marietta (23-7), finished with a team-high 16 points. Francis shot 19-for-37 from the floor, 12-for-27 from 3-point range and 12-for-13 from the line, while adding 12 rebounds.

The records include: most points in a season for a Division III player, at 1,052 and counting; most points in an NCAA Tournament game, with 62; most points in an NCAA Tournament with 180, just four games, and matching the mark for most 3-pointers in an NCAA Tournament game, with 12. 

"They had been trying to force me to the middle all night," Francis said after the game. "We called an (isolation) play the possesion before and went left and stepped back and I thought they would be expecting that.

"Like coach (Mike Schauer) said, Augie at our place, we were down two, I had that same shot going right, stepping back and left it short. And so (fellow senior) Mike Winowiecki actually went with me to the back gym after that game and we worked on that, and made a hundred, so it wouldn't happen again. I knew exactly what I wanted to do. Thanks to coach for calling the play."

Wheaton will face UW-Oshkosh, which held on to defeat Guilford 82-79. The Titans took a 12-point lead early in the second half on a layup by big man Jack Flynn, but Carson Long scored the Quakers' next eight points to cut the lead to six. Guilford cut the lead to one withn an eight-point run to make it 66-65 with 8:54 left, but Connor Duax answered with a jumper and the Titans maintained the lead. Adam Fravert was unstoppable for UW-Oshkosh (27-3), as he shot 10-for-11 from the floor and 6-for-7 from 3-point range en route to a team-high 26 points. Ben Boots, a probable All-America selection, was just 2-for-13 and was held to six points, with seven assists. Kyler Gregory had another big night for the Quakers (24-8), scoring 31 points.

Nichols rallied from a 19-point first half deficit to cut Swarthmore's lead to single digits. An 8-0 burst by the Bison capped off with a triple with 4:41 to play made it a two-possession game and had Swarthmore clinging to a 61-56 lead. Swarthmore ended a three-plus minute scoring drought with a free throw from Nate Shafer with 3:08 to go. The Bison pulled within four points, but the Garnet got some breathing room with three consecutive free throws from Wiley. Wiley, however, was dinged with an offensive foul with 1:16 to go. The foul was his fifth and the Garnet were forced to finish out the game without their senior floor general on the court.

Nichols trimmed Swarthmore's lead down to two, 67-65, with just 38 seconds left. The Garnet milked almost all of the 30-second clock and fired off a 3-pointer to avoid the violation. Tucker's 3-pointer rimmed out but Harkins snagged the rebound and drew the foul with three seconds left. Harkins, who leads the team with an 86.2 percent average from the free-throw line, was just the man the Garnet wanted to go to the stripe with the game on the line. He knocked down both attempts to secure the win for the Garnet and the trip to the Final Four. O'Dell led the way for the Garnet (28-3), scoring a team-high 20 points on 9-for-12 shooting, while George Visconti added 17 in the win. Marcos Echevarria, who surpassed the 2,500-point mark for his career in the round of 16 win against Amherst, was held to 12 points on 4-for-13 shooting. DeAnte Bruton led Nichols (28-3) with 22 points.

Marcus Carter returns to the Final Four, as Christopher Newport defeated Williams 79-70 at Hamilton tonight. Carter was a significant player on CNU's 2015-16 national semifinal squad and his 27 points, five assists, and five rebounds powered the Captains into the final weekend. CNU shot 20-26 from the FT line and forced 17 Williams turnovers. The Ephs were led by Bobby Casey, who had 18 points and played all 40 minutes. CNU faces Swarthmore in the national semifinal Friday night in Fort Wayne.