March 6, 2009
WORCESTER, MA-The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth's men's basketball team scored the final 10 points of the game to break a 72-72 tie and went on to defeat Baruch College of New York, 82-72, in the first round of the NCAA Division III Tournament at Harrington Auditorium on the campus of Worcester Polytechnic Institute Friday evening. The win was the first victory in the NCAA Tournament in seven years for UMass Dartmouth.
The Bearcats' Stephen Bader was whistled for his fifth and final foul moments after he had tied the score for the final time with a lay-up to make it 72-72. Sophomore forward Brandon Stephens (Dorchester, MA/Newton North HS) broke the tie with a pair of free throws with 2:32 remaining to give the Corsairs the lead for good. Senior guard Reece Freeman (Cambridge, MA/Rindge & Latin HS) followed with a steal and fed junior forward Matt Walker (Brockton, MA/.Brockton HS) for a lay-up, then junior guard Jeff Macchi (Franklin, MA/Franklin HS) hit three of four free throws as the Bearcats were forced to commit fouls down the stretch. Walker scored on a dunk with 48 seconds left, and Macchi capped the scoring with a free throw as UMass Dartmouth converted six of eight free throws in the final two and a half minutes of play.
Baruch led by as many as seven points during the first half and used a 10-1 run at the end of the first half to take a 40-35 lead, scoring the final five points on a three-pointer by Lionel Hilaire and a lay-up by Sean Loftus. But the Corsairs used a 15-2 run at the outset of the second half to erase the lead and grab a 50-42 advantage, getting five points from Walker on two lay-ups and a free throw, and seven points from junior forward Brandon Shelton (Cambridge, MA/Rindge & Latin HS/UMass Lowell), who capped the run with a three-point play. Baruch battled back, using a 20-12 run and tying the game at 62-62 on a pair of free throws by George Kunkel with 5:13 remaining, and the teams battled back and forth until UMD's decisive run at the end of the game.
"We're excited to win it, and we're excited to move on," said UMass Dartmouth Head Coach Brian Baptiste. "We did a better job of challenging their shots in the second half. At halftime, we knew we had to play better half court defense. We were lax in the first half, and they were getting open, and we talked to our team about doing a better job of challenging their shots. Their center (Bader) was a beast; he was making every shot he took. Baruch is a good team, and we're glad to be able to move on."
Walker led UMD, making nine of 14 shots from the field for 19 points and grabbing seven rebounds. Shelton added 15 points, Stephens scored 14, and Freeman had 10 points, four steals and six assists. Macchi also had four steals as the Corsairs forced 25 turnovers while committing 15. Farid led the Bearcats with 22 points, Bader had 19 points and 10 rebounds, Kunkel had 12 points and 14 rebounds, and Hilaire added 10 points. Baruch out rebounded UMD, 37-32, and finished at eight of 18 from three-point range after making seven of 11 shots from beyond the arc in the first half. The Corsairs made 15 of 19 shots from the free throw line in the second half after converting one of two before the intermission, finishing with 16 of 21 shots from the line to Baruch's 10 of 15.
UMass Dartmouth improved to 26-3 with the victory, while Baruch dropped to 23-6 with the defeat. The Corsairs will play WPI, an 86-57 victor over Husson in the first game of the doubleheader, in the regional championship game Saturday evening. Baruch ended their season with the loss.