Saturday, March 09, 2013

Belmont: 2012-13 Ohio Valley Champions



The Belmont Bruins clinched an automatic bid in the NCAA Tournament, beating the Murray State Racers 70-68 in overtime to clinch the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament championship.
Belmont led 22-21 at half, but Murray State caught fire in the second half. The Racers shot 81 percent form the field over the last 25 minutes, including 7 of their 10 shots from behind the arc. Murray State led by as many as 10 in the second half, but Belmont fought their way back into the game. The Bruins forced 26 Racers turnovers, and dominated in the lane, scoring 48 points in the paint.
Murray State clung to a two-point lead with 20 seconds left, but forward Ed Daniel missed two free throws, giving Belmont the chance to tie the game. Bruins guard Kerron Johnson hit a turnaround jumper with nine seconds left on the clock to tie the game. After a lengthy delay to determine the correct time on the clock, Murray State missed a desperate three-point attempt and the game went to overtime.
Both teams traded points in overtime, with neither team able to pull away from the other. Murray State turned the ball over with 25 seconds left, and Johnson responded with another dagger, sinking a clutch shot with 1.2 seconds left in the game to win the game for the Bruins.
J.J. Mann led Belmont with 18 points and seven rebounds, while Johnson finished with 12 points. Stacy Wilson scored 23 points in a losing effort, while Isaiah Canaan added 22.

Harvard: 2012-13 Ivy League Champions



BACK TO THE NCAA TOURNAMENT

Men's basketball is headed back to the NCAA Tournament after a victory of Cornell, coupled with Princeton's loss to Brown


Though the Harvard men’s basketball game was long over, a sizable crowd lingered at Lavietes Pavilion on Saturday night, huddled around various computer screens, eagerly awaiting updates on made and missed free throws taken 60 miles away. The Crimson had just closed out a victory over Cornell, 65-56, and with that, captured a share of the Ivy crown.
But a bigger story was in the works in Providence, R.I. Princeton—the lone team that held complete control over its Ancient Eight championship chances at the start of the weekend—was trailing a Brown team with a sub-.500 conference record and just a few minutes left to play.
Despite getting within five with as few as 40 seconds remaining after two free throws from guard TJ Bray, the Tigers were unable to close the gap any further, eventually falling to the Bears, 80-67.
And with that, less than an hour after securing at least a share of its third straight Ivy title, the Crimson became the second squad in the country to punch a ticket to the 2013 NCAA Tournament.
“I just feel like the basketball gods have been on our sides the entire way,” co-captain Christian Webster said. “To know that we had two home games down the stretch and Princeton had three road games, as Coach said, we would have killed to get in this position, so we are so grateful.”
After an audible yell from the hallway, Harvard coach Tommy Amaker reentered the conference room on the second floor, beaming as he addressed his co-captains and then the press for the second time that evening.
“We’re thrilled about the fact that we are Ivy League champions outright,” Amaker said. “This obviously is a tough league, as anyone who has been a part of it will tell you. As challenging as this 14-game tournament really is, we talk about how challenging it is to win on the road.”
Amaker’s squad will play on college basketball’s biggest stage for the second time in as many years and the third time in program history. Last season, Harvard fell to Vanderbilt, 79-70, in the second round of tournament play at The Pit in Albuquerque, N.M. Two years ago, the Crimson narrowly missed out on NCAA Tournament play, as then-junior Doug Davis beat the buzzer with a jumper to push Princeton past the Crimson in a one-game playoff for the automatic bid.
After co-captains Kyle Casey and Brandyn Curry withdrew from school before the start of the 2012-13 campaign, the preseason media poll tabbed Princeton as the favorite to claim this year’s Ivy title. But Harvard, despite dropping two games last weekend, was able to successfully defend its second championship in school history.
“We always talk about standards, and that is what we live by, not focusing on what other people say about us,” Webster said. “That’s something that we have done all season.... We lost those great guys and those great players but we came here for a reason and that’s to win Ivy League championships.”
Heading into the final weekend of Ancient Eight play, the Crimson sat half a game behind Princeton after suffering two consecutive road losses at the hands of the Tigers and Penn, respectively, to fall out of first place in the conference standings.
“We lost to a [Penn] team [and] we feel we could have won that game if we had played better," Rivard said. "We worked hard all [this] week like we worked hard all season and we had to take care of our business.”
With two games left to play, Harvard needed to sweep Cornell and Columbia this weekend and hope that the Tigers lost at least one game of their remaining three. Two Harvard wins paired with a single Princeton loss would have set the stage for a playoff to determine which team would claim the Ivy League’s automatic bid to the Big Dance.
But Yale and Brown did one better, as Princeton lost both of its games this weekend, handing the Crimson the outright title and opportunity to dance. After closing out the regular season with two wins at home, the Crimson awaits news of its next opponent on Selection Sunday.
“It’s an incredible testament to these two young men who were able to make this happen for our program,” Amaker said of Rivard and Webster. “We are thrilled to be playing in the NCAA Tournament.”
—Staff writer Catherine E. Coppinger can be reached at ccoppinger@college.harvard.edu. Follow her on Twitter @catcopp.

Florida Gulf Coast: 2012-13 Atlantic Sun Champions




First team in: Florida Gulf Coast beats Mercer to win Atlantic Sun bid

ATLANTIC SUN CONFERENCE
After months of bracket projections, we finally have our first piece of concrete information. Florida Gulf Coast will be in the field of 68 that’s announced next Sunday, having nabbed the nation’s initial dance ticket via a 88-75 win over Mercer in the Atlantic Sun final. This is the Eagles’ first-ever trip to the NCAAs, who just finished a transition from Division II in 2011.
Florida Gulf Coast has been a bit of a talking point nationally this season thanks to their early-season home win (yes, home) over Miami (by 12!) when the Hurricanes were without point guard Durand Scott. Now the nation will get to see that this is a pretty solid, defensive-oriented team that won’t be a pushover in its first-round game in a little under two weeks. The Eagles also played at VCU and Duke early in the season, so they won’t see a more hostile situation in the NCAAs, even if they land in a 2-15 game.
Good for head coach Andy Enfield (who was a senior at Johns Hopkins when I spent my freshman year there before transferring) and for a university that was only established in 1991. This is the type of payoff universities are looking for when they invest in a move into major-college athletics. A lot more people are going to know about the school and this team now, with a virtual freeroll to make even more of a name for themselves and their university.