Sophomore Matt Morrow recorded his 17th double-double of the season with 18 points and 17 rebounds to propel No. 14 Nichols College to the 'Sweet 16' for the first time in program history with an 87-79 win over Rowan University in the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament Saturday night at Esbjornson Gymnasium on the campus of Rowan University.
Morrow was 9-of-11 from the field and also collected four assists for the Bison, who increased their win total to a school-record 27 and extended their win streak to a school-record 16. Senior Marcos Echevarria poured in a game-high 21 points to go with five rebounds, three steals, and two assists, and moved into 18th place on the all-time Division III scoring list with 2,485 points.
Nichols junior DeAnte Bruton filled the stat sheet with 15 points, six rebounds, four dimes and two steals while sophomore Nate Tenaglia – who was held to zero points in last night's win over Middlebury – scored 13 of his 19 points in the second half, highlighted by three 3-pointers. Last night's defensive star, junior Jerome Cunningham, picked up 11 points, eight boards, three blocks, two steals, and two assists. He played the final 4:38 minutes with four fouls.
The Bison raced out to a 19-6 lead behind nine points from Cunningham and six from Morrow. Nichols held the lead until senior Nick DePersia knocked down two free throws to tie the game at 37 with 1:13 to go. Three free throws from Bruton in the final minute helped the Bison take a two-point lead (40-38) to the locker room.
Cunningham and Echevarria each scored nine points for NC in in the opening 20 while senior DaRon Curry and sophomore Matt Green paced Rowan with seven apiece. The Profs made 36 percent of their shots while the Bison rattled home 34 percent of theirs – including just two of their 10 three-point attempts. Each team made 10 free throws.
Nichols – which opened the second half of last night's game on a 12-0 run – began the second half of tonight's contest by scoring 16 of the first 22 points to open up a 56-44 lead at the first media timeout. The Owls clawed their way back over the next six minutes and drew even at 62 on a triple by senior Rob DePersia – the 1,000th point of his career.
Echevarria answered with a three of his own to put the Bison ahead 65-62 before Curry's triple with 5:30 on the clock put the Profs in front for the first time (69-68) since the opening minutes of the contest. Bruton then gave the Bison the lead for good with a layup with 4:30 remaining before a three from Tenaglia pushed the lead to four (75-71) with less than three minutes on the clock. Four free throws from Tenaglia and two from Echevarria down the stretch clinch the win, making the men's basketball program the first in school history to win two NCAA Tournament games in the same season.
Senior Ramon Wright led Rowan with 15 points while Curry netted 14. Nick and Rob DePersia each finished with 12 points. Rowan was outrebounded 50-43 and made 14-of-21 from the charity stripe.
Three things you need to know...
-Tonight's contest marked the inaugural meeting between Nichols College and Rowan University. The Bison now lead the series, 1-0.
-Echevarria extended his NCAA record of games with at least one three-pointer to 103.
-With three 3-pointers tonight, Echevarria pulled into a tie with Amir Mazarei (Redlands) for third-place in Division III history with 470.
"This is a fun experience. We're fired up. Guys played hard all weekend. It's nice to take care of business on back-to-back nights and advance to next weekend. For us, it's all about surviving. We played well as a team both days. The guys are excited. We have another big week ahead of us. We can't wait to play next weekend." –Nichols head coach Scott Faucher, on advancing to the Sweet 16
"We had a group that kept battling. Rowan is a good, talented team. They went on some runs and we just needed to weather the storm when they did. We stayed together and took one possession at a time. Whenever we were in a drought offensively, Matt (Morrow) came through with a big bucket or offensive rebound. We played with good energy and defended at a pretty high level. We're really proud." –Faucher, on the key to tonight's win
"It was such a team effort. Guys locked in for 40 minutes, which is something we preached all weekend. We knew it was going to be a loud gym, but we stayed together and didn't let our emotions get the best of us." –Nichols sophomore Matt Morrow
Friday-Saturday, March 8-9, 2019 – NCAA Sweet 16, TBA
Bison dance into Sweet 16 with win over Rowan