Bubble gets tight for men on Saturday

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Oswego State had a look at a three-pointer to tie the game in the closing seconds, but was unable to convert and New Paltz survived to steal a bid to the tournament.
Oswego State athletics photo

The bubble got tighter and tighter as the day went on Championship Saturday, a day in which more than three-quarters of the men’s basketball automatic bids to the Division III NCAA Tournament were handed out.

John Carroll and Mount Union played an Ohio Athletic Conference final which will certainly be remembered, as Mount Union rallied from a 25-point deficit and forced overtime before coming up short, 88-86. With the Purple Raiders down by 12 at halftime, Collen Gurley came to life, scoring 23 points in the second half and overtime. That included two foul shots to tie the game with under a minute left in regulation, after which things got a little chaotic.

With eight seconds left, JCU’s Luke Chicone missed a three that set up a two-on-one Purple Raider fast break, but a shot clock malfunction caused the officials to blow the whistle, erasing the fast break and giving Mount Union an out of bounds play with 2.6 seconds left. Elijah Farrington was fouled on the inbounds pass sending him to the line with minimal time remaining.

Farrington sank both, forcing a quick inbounds pass to Chicone, who drove up the left sideline and was fouled with .4 seconds on the clock, still more than 30 feet from the basket, for the second unexpected whistle in the final five seconds of regulation. . In front of a full crowd of anxious fans, he did both, sending the game to overtime. Jerry Higgins hit a big three in the extra session, and the lead held until David Gentry added a pair of free throws. Gurley answered with a three to cut the lead to two with 48 seconds left, but he missed twice in the final eight seconds and JCU escaped.

The loss leaves Mount Union deep on the bubble. See our latest at-large projections in our conference tournament tracker.

Freshman Tommy Scholl scored a career-high 16 points, including going 4-for-4 from three-point range, as Stevens defeated MAC Freedom top seed DeSales 54-53. The Bulldogs hit a three-pointer with just over a minute left to make it a one-point game but missed a go-ahead shot with eight seconds left. School rebounded the missed shot and was fouled, then missed both free throws on the other end, with DeSales garnering the rebound. The Bulldogs then went the length of the floor and got fouled with two seconds left, still trailing by one. Stevens coach Bobby Hurley called a timeout prior to the free throws, potentially “icing” the DeSales shooter. Needing just one of two free throws to extend the game, Mason Barnes missed both, and time expired with Stevens winning by one.

Sam Davies came up huge twice, once at the end of regulation and once at the end of overtime, as Worcester State held off fourth-seeded Bridgewater State to win the MASCAC automatic bid in overtime, 80-79. Davies, a grad transfer from UMass-Lowell, has averaged just 3.6 points per game for the Lancers this season, but he scored 11 off the bench for Worcester on Saturday. That included a deep three-pointer that rattled home with 1.5 seconds left in regulation, just a few seconds after Bridgewater State hit both ends of a one-and-one to take a three-point lead. Then in overtime, Bridgewater had a basket called off because of offensive goaltending, and Ryan Rubenskas found Davies for a driving layup to give Worcester State an 80-79 lead. Bridgewater could not answer. Rubenskas led the way with 22 points and 12 boards for Worcester.

The one automatic bid that comes from regular season conference play belongs to the University Athletic Association, and Case Western Reserve locked down that bid on Saturday as the Spartans survived against archrival Carnegie Mellon by a 76-75 score. CWRU, which ended the regular season 21-4 overall and 10-4 in UAA games, claimed the UAA title for the second-straight season and the second time overall in program history, finishing tied atop the conference standings with co-champion NYU. By virtue of the Spartans’ season split against the next team in the UAA standings, Carnegie Mellon (compared to an 0-2 record against the Tartans by NYU), the Spartans also earned the UAA’s bid to the postseason and will be making their third -straight tournament appearance and third overall in program history.

The teams entered the final three minutes tied at 71 before Umar Rashid gave CWRU the lead back with a free throw with 2:34 remaining and after a Tartans turnover, Kahl was fouled and knocked down a pair of free throws to push the Spartans lead to 74-71 with 1:57 left. Carnegie Mellon’s Justin Allen hit a two with 1:44 left to make it a one-point game, but the Spartans’ defense locked down, holding Carnegie Mellon scoreless over its next two possessions, and two more free throws by Rashid with six seconds left. remaining gave the Spartans a three-point advantage. The Tartans had one final chance to even the score and send the game into overtime, but a three-point attempt by Nolan Casey missed the mark. RJ Holmes was able to tip in the rebound at the buzzer, but it was not enough.

Utica made the job of our prognosticators a little easier, as the Pioneers held off Nazareth 97-90 to win the Empire 8 final. Each of the last two years, Utica has been on the bubble and on the table when our team makes its tournament projections on Sunday night, and we’ve missed on Utica both times, once projecting the Pioneers in when they should have been out, and once out when they should have been in. Justice Brantley scored a game-high 28 and Damien Call added 20 on 9-for-14 shooting in the win. Nazareth trailed by 11 with 45 seconds left before Naz scored the next eight points in just 18 seconds of game time. But Utica was able to right the ship and finish it off with the win.

Luke Ogle was one of four Mary Baldwin players in double digits, finishing with team highs of 15 points and eight rebounds, to earn USA South playoff MVP and lead the Fighting Squirrels to a 72-62 victory over Greensboro in the 2024 USA South Men’s Basketball final. Jaden Ignacio, Zach Sloan and Quentin Hart each added 13 scores for the winners, who earned an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament in just the third year in the history of the program.

We knew there would be a near-.500 team advancing out of the Commonwealth Coast Conference, and in the end, it was fifth seed Roger Williams, at just 14-14 overall, which won the conference title by edging Suffolk (15-12 ) by a 79-76 score. The Hawks tied it up at 72 with about three minutes left before the Rams answered with a jumper by Danny Yardemian to take a two-point lead with 2:28 remaining. Roger Williams came out of a timeout with Finn Miller draining a three with 2:07 on the clock to retake the lead, and the Hawks iced the game with 11 seconds remaining with a layup by Will MacDonald to seal the win. John Ah Kao had 17 points to lead the victors. Roger Williams had upset No. 1 seed Nichols in the conference semifinals on Thursday.

Steph Baxter scored 18 of his game-high 26 points in the first half and fourth-seeded Babson built an 18-point lead on the way to defeating second-seeded Clark 73-64 in the NEWMAC tournament final. It’s the second consecutive NEWMAC tournament crown for Babson (15-13) and clinches the Beavers’ fourth consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament. Clark made one push, getting a three-point play from Bruce Saintilus and a layup from Reid Neumann following a steal to trim Babson’s lead to 65-59 with 55.8 seconds remaining. They would get no closer though, as Baxter canned four straight free throws and Babson went 8-of-10 at the charity stripe over the final 51 seconds to finish off the win.

The NJAC’s fifth-seeded team advanced to the NCAA Tournament, as The College of New Jersey won 75-62 in front of a raucous crowd at Stockton on Saturday. TCNJ improved to 20-8, reaching the 20-win mark for just the second time since 1998. The Lions survived a scoring drought of nearly seven minutes and a Stockton 13-0 run in the second half and finished the game on an 11- 3 run themselves to put the game away.

Gustavus Adolphus booked a ticket to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2012, surviving a last-second shot from MIAC semifinal hero Bradley Cimperman to defeat Hamline 72-71. Gustavus had missed four shots in the final minute of play, including an airballed three with eight seconds to play which gave Hamline one final opportunity. But Hamline could not get a good look at the basket as Cimperman, who drained a three at the buzzer to give the six seed a win at St. John’s, was tightly guarded. Spencer Swanson led four Gusties in double figures, scoring a team-high 17 points and pulling down 10 rebounds, seven of them offensive.

Elmhurst claimed its third CCIW tournament title since 2020, and have earned their third NCAA Tournament appearance in the past five seasons as well, winning 68-64 at Illinois Wesleyan. John Ittounas and Ocean Johnson powered the Elmhurst offense, with both scoring 16 points while Ittounas added eight rebounds and Johnson grabbed nine rebounds. Johnson was particularly clutch in the second half, with all his points coming after intermission.

Playing in their third conference championship game in the last five years, Eastern used a dominating second half to run to a 98-69 win over top-seeded Widener in the MAC Commonwealth. Tournament MVP Zubair Lee led six Eagles in double figures with 25 points. The win is the first conference championship in the NCAA era for the program. The Pride got back-to-back baskets from Dominic Dunn and Anthony DiCaro to close to within four with 14 minutes left, but they picked up some fouls and Dunn, who had scored more than 100 points in his first four games against the Eagles, was forced to the bench with foul trouble. The Eastern defense then kicked in. moving between man and zones, the Eagles kept Widener off balance and held the Pride to 4-of-22 over the final 14 and a half minutes. Eljay Morris made a pair of 3-pointers and after Davin Hernandez hit his final 3-pointer of the game, Fairweather capped the game with a tremendous dunk in traffic to put the Eagles up 97-67.

Penn State-Harrisburg won its third conference championship in four seasons and tied a program record with its 24th win of the season as the Lions cruised past St. Elizabeth 84-61. The Lions hail from the old NEAC side of the conference, which defeated the old CSAC side of the conference which combined to become the new United East this season. Donyae Baylor-Carroll was named the UEC tournament MVP after recording his second straight double-double with 19 points and a career-high 10 steals to go along with seven assists.

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