Now that the postseason has kicked off it’s the return of “About Last Night.” I’ll take a quick look at how the teams in the area and conferences we cover fare in the postseason until they’re all eliminated. And we know at least a few will have some more games!
NIT: Ole Miss 91, Monmouth 83
The Hawks earned an opportunity to host a first round NIT game by winning 27 games and dominating the MAAC until losing in the conference semifinals, but they drew a tough team in Andy Kennedy’s Rebels. There’s a reason that when Illinois St. put out a call for a non-conference game against a major conference opponent it was Ole Miss that responded. Kennedy has built his reputation on playing tough games anywhere, including at mid-majors. (They didn’t go to any this season, but played at both Bradley and Southeast Missouri St. during the 2015-16 season.)
In this one Monmouth led by three at halftime, but couldn’t hang on. Sebastian Saiz was a bear in the paint for the Rebels. The 6-foot-9 senior forward scored 23 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. Part of his scoring was thanks to shooting 10-10 from the free throw line. Justin Robinson scored 23 points in his final game with the Hawks, but it took 25 shots, he was 0-8 inside the arc. Je’lon Hornbeak added 18 points.
It’s crazy to think that this senior class won 55 games the past two seasons and didn’t make an NCAA Tournament. Unfortunately that’s sometimes the life as an elite mid-major. Still, these past two seasons are by far the best seasons in the school’s history in Division I. That’s something King Rice and his players should be incredibly proud of.
NCAA: Mount St. Mary’s 67, New Orleans 66
Despite getting bullied in the paint the Mount was able to hold on and defeat New Orleans in the First Four on Tuesday night at University of Dayton Arena in Dayton, Ohio. UNO shot 62% on two-point attempts, but the Mount countered by shooting 10-19 (53%) from three. The Privateers focused on taking away Elijah Long (who was repeatedly referred to as “Eli” on the broadcast). Foul trouble didn’t help either. Shutting down Long opened up space for Junior Robinson (23 points) and Miles Wilson (17 points and 11 rebounds). UNO was forced to go to zone at points during the second half because of how easily Robinson and Wilson were able to turn the corner against UNO’s man-to-man defense.
The Mount were also helped out by some curious decision-making down the stretch. Trailing by 1 point with 36 seconds remaining UNO decided to play out their defensive possession. The Privateers ended up grabbing the rebound with under 3 seconds remaining on the clock and all they could do was a long inbound. It was certainly a curious decision. Considering the Privateers grabbed 75% of the Mount’s misses during the contest, the worst thing fouling could’ve done was leave UNO down 3 with say 25 seconds remaining. The Privateers aren’t a good three-point shooting team, but that surely would’ve been preferable to a last gasp heave? No matter the circumstances the Mount now advances to take on No. 1 overall seed Villanova on Thursday night.
CIT: Saint Francis U. 78, Jacksonville 76
Saint Francis U. went on the road to Jacksonville and came back with a solid win for the NEC. In an interesting twist, it was the Red Flash’s bench that provided much of the scoring punch. Andre Wolford (13 points), Scott Meredith (12 points) and Georgios Angelou (10 points) each scored in double-figures. NEC Defensive Player of the Year Josh Nebo added 10 points, 13 rebounds and 3 blocks. The Red Flash will now wait and see who else wins their first round games before given another opponent in the CIT, which doesn’t use a set bracket.
CIT: Samford 78, Canisius 74
Reggie Witherspoon’s inaugural season back in Buffalo, NY ended with a 4-point loss at Samford in the first round of the CIT. The Griffs’ 18-16 record and 10-10 conference mark has to be considered a success after Canisius went 14-19 a season ago. And Witherspoon should have a number of his key contributors back next season. One player who won’t be back though is senior forward Phil Valenti. He scored 16 points, grabbed 8 rebounds and dished out 7 assists without a turnover in his final collegiate game. Junior Kassius Robinson led the Griffs with 24 points.
Canisius though, like the rest of the season, was let down by its defense. Samford scored 1.15 points per possession thanks to shooting 68% on twos. Wyatt Walker, a 6-foot-9 sophomore, scored 23 points, including 10-14 shooting inside the arc. He also grabbed 13 rebounds. The defense is definitely something for Witherspoon to work on in year two.