Feb. 25, 2010
NORTH DARTMOUTH, MA-After winning their first round game Tuesday evening, the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth's men's basketball team has advanced to the Final Four of the Little East Conference Tournament. The Corsairs will play host Rhode Island College in the semi-finals Friday evening at 5:30 p.m. Western Connecticut State and Eastern Connecticut State will play in the other semi-final at 7:30 p.m. with Saturday's championship game scheduled for 5:00 p.m. The LEC's automatic berth in the NCAA Division III Championships will be awarded to the winner of the tournament.
The Corsairs advanced to the tournament as the fourth-seeded team, and are 18-8 overall after defeating Plymouth State, 77-67 Tuesday evening. The Anchormen, who had a first round bye, are the top-seeded team and are 18-7 overall. The teams split their regular season meetings, with UMD winning, 91-89 at the Murray Center January 26th, and RIC prevailing, 92-78 at the Tripp Athletic Center February 16th.
"We beat them on their home court when they didn't have a couple of their players, and they beat us here with their entire team," said UMass Dartmouth Head Coach Brian Baptiste. "It will be a difficult game, but we're capable of winning. We have to play smart, do a good job of defending them, and do a good job of keeping them off the boards."
Western Connecticut State and Eastern Connecticut State will meet in the other semi-final game, with the winners meeting for the championship Saturday. "Our guys believe that we're as good as anybody," said Baptiste. "It's a matter of going out and executing and playing well for 40 minutes. Those are the things we talk about constantly, and it's psychological more than anything."
While the Corsairs had to come from behind to beat Plymouth State Tuesday evening, Baptiste did not mind the fact that his team played rather than had a bye. "I'm glad we played Tuesday," said Baptiste. "We should be sharper because of the game Tuesday, and I think it helped us. If we hadn't played Tuesday, we probably would have taken two days off, and practicing Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday for a game on Friday is probably overdoing it."
With the top four teams advancing to the semi-finals, and the teams having beaten each other during the regular season, the semi-finals and finals should be extremely competitive. "Whoever comes out on top will be a good representative of our conference," said Baptiste. "The four teams left are all quality teams, and anyone that advances has the opportunity to have a real good showing in the NCAA Tournament."