BABSON PARK, Mass.--Tough. Resilient. And now, elite. The Keene State College men's basketball team continued its run in the NCAA tournament with a 68-64 win over No. 2 Christopher Newport University at Staake Gym on the campus of Babson College on Friday night.
- Keene State: 22-9
- Christopher Newport: 27-3
"After last year's game, I said to my staff, 'we're going to see those guys again'. For it to come full circle the way that it did, and for us to battle the way that we battled, speaks to the character of these guys. These guys don't stop fighting; the love and belief that we have for each other is something that I've never been a part of before."--Head Coach Ryan Cain
"All we needed was a little spark; the type of guys we have, it's all we need to get going." -- Senior Matt Ozzella
"Coach said to start the game we were going to pound it inside and be patient, and that's why I tried to do, facilitate when I could and take the layups when they were there." -- Senior Jeff Lunn
How It Happened
Jeff Lunn led all players with 20 points, and pulled down eight rebounds. Matt Ozzella had 14 points and nine boards, Lucas Hammel had 15 points, and Ty Nichols added 11.
Keene State fell behind early, as Marcus Carter, the junior All-American who went for 22 points and 12 rebounds in last year's NCAA tournament meeting between the two schools, sank a three for a 9-3 lead. Aaron McFarland was fouled on another three point attempt and made all three shots for a 14-7 lead.
Keene State hung around, getting to within 16-12 when Ozzella converted a three point play with 10 minutes remaining, but the Captains came back to a 21-12 lead when Carter hit a three from the top of the key that beat the shot clock, then scored down low on the next possession.
Ozzella clawed the Owls back in, making a pair of threes in a two minute span, with a knifing layup in between as the Owls tied the score at 24.
A 12-4 run over the rest of the half gave CNU an eight point lead at the break. As time wore down at the end of the first half, Daly hit a fadeaway three to beat the shot clock again, and Justin Hampton swatted away Nichols' layup at the buzzer as the Captains went into the break up 36-28.
Nichols converted a three point play with 18 minutes left as the Owls drew within 39-33, but baskets from Carter, Daly, and Gibbs moved the lead to 45-33.
KSC chipped away, getting to within five on Jimmy Layman's jumper, and after McFarland was whistled for an offensive foul, Hammel made both ends of a 1-and-1 to make it a three point game (48-45). Edwards' basket with 10:43 left made it a one point game, igniting the KSC crowd and forcing a Captains' timeout.
Lunn's two free throws with 9:46 left gave KSC its first lead of the game, but the Owls and Captains went cold after that, with neither team scoring until the 7:29 mark, including six straight missed free throws by Christopher Newport. Lunn made two more from the charity stripe with 4:49 left, but Kevin Regimbal knocked down a three from the right corner that tied the game at 58 with 4:30 left.
Back and forth they went, with Rayshard Brown putting CNU up 61-60 with a three from the left wing, but Lunn barrelled down the paint for a 62-61 lead with 1:12 left. Nichols, who had struggled from the field for much of the game, made a critical basket with 31 seconds left for a 64-61 lead, and Hammel sank a pair of free throws to put KSC up five.
McFarland missed a three, but Carter grabbed the rebound and hit a fadeaway triple from the right corner that cut it to 66-64 with six seconds left, but Nichols calmly hit two free throws, and Brown's heave was well off at the final horn.
Carter finished with 16 points to lead CNU, but only McFarland joined him in double-figures, scoring 12. Tim Daly, who averaged 12.3 points coming in, finished with one field goal attempt and three points.
In the Paint
- The Captains were plagued by poor free throw shooting, making just nine of 23 attempts from the charity stripe. Keene State knocked down 29 of 35 shots from the line. Lunn was a perfect 8-for-8, while Lucas Hammel made 12 of 16 attempts. Nichols was 5-for-5 and Ozzella 4-for-6.
- Keene State is in the national quarterfinals for the second time in school history. In 2004, the Owls beat Babson and No. 3 Rochester before falling to Williams College at this stage.
- If they reach the Final Four, they would be the first team in KSC history to do since since the College's move to NCAA Division III in the 1997-98 school year. The 1989 and 1990 women's soccer teams, led by current head coach Denise Lyons, reached the Division II national championship game, and the 1999 and 2000 cross country teams both finished as national runner-up.
- The Owls will face their third top 5 opponent in a row, when they take on No. 3 Babson with a trip to the Final Four on the line.
- The Captains, in the Final Four last season, see their season come to a close.