UMass Dartmouth Faces RIC In Little East Semifinals
NORTH DARTMOUTH, Mass. — The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth will be making its first appearance in the semifinals of the Little East Men's Basketball Championship tournament since 2010, when the Corsairs face rival Rhode Island College at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, February 28 at the Francis E. Geissler Gymnasium on the campus of Eastern Connecticut State University.
Top-seeded Eastern Connecticut State University (21-5) will host fourth-seeded Western Connecticut State University (17-8) in the first semifinal at 5:30 p.m., while the second-seeded Anchormen and third-seeded Corsairs tip-off approximately two hours later. The two semifinal winners will meet at 5 p.m. the following evening in the 2014 Little East Men's Basketball Championship Game with the champion earning automatic qualification into the 2014 NCAA Division III tournament.
UMass Dartmouth and Rhode Island College are meeting for the ninth time in conference tournament history with each team splitting the previous eight contests. The Corsairs held the early advantage in the series, winning the first three meetings between 1988 and 2000. The Anchormen have won four of the past five contests, including a 62-58 win last season in the quarterfinal round. General admission is free to the public.
UMass Dartmouth is seeded third in the latest installment of the conference championship tournament. The Corsairs advanced to the semifinals with an 81-68 victory over sixth-seeded Keene State College on Tuesday night at the Tripp Athletic Center. Sophomore Wale Abraham (Lynn, Mass.) produced a double-double with 11 points and a season-high 18 rebounds to pace the hosts. Freshman Ryan Walsh (North Dighton, Mass.) and sophomore Abi Akanni (Fitchburg, Mass.) each scored a team-best 18 points to lead four student-athletes in double digits in scoring. UMass Dartmouth held a decisive 56-42 advantage on the glass, including pulling in 17 offensive rebounds that led to 14 second-chance points.
Under the direction of Head Coach Brian Baptiste, UMass Dartmouth leads the Little East in scoring offense (79.2 ppg), free throw percentage (74.5), and assist-to-turnover ratio (1.0). The Corsairs feature a well-balanced scoring attack with four players averaging at least 10 points per game. Freshman Tucker Bouchard (Kingston, Mass.) has been the offensive catalyst for UMD this past winter, averaging 15.5 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 3.3 assists per game. He is fourth in the conference circuit in scoring, while fifth in assists and free throw percentage (82.4). Junior captain Jake Laga (Northampton, Mass.) is ranked eighth among Little East leaders in scoring (13.7 ppg), while Walsh is averaging 13.2 points per game. Walsh is atop the conference leaderboard in free throw percentage (88.7), while ranking second in 3-point field goals made (2.2 per game) and third in 3-point percentage (42.2).
Bob Walsh has directed Rhode Island College to a berth into the national tournament in seven straight seasons, including representing the Little East Conference as its automatic qualifier in 2013. The second-seeded Anchormen reached the semifinals with a 74-66 victory over seventh-seeded University of Southern Maine on Tuesday night. Junior Chris Burton (New Rochelle, N.Y.) led RIC with 14 points, while junior Victor Smith (Providence, R.I.) hauled in eight rebounds. The Anchormen have utilized Walsh's trademark defensive intensity to post an overall record of 18-8. Rhode Island College is ranked first in the Little East in turnover margin (+2.46), while ranking second in field goal defense (40.4%) and third in scoring defense (68.4 ppg). The Anchormen boast a 13-1 record, when limiting their opponents to 69 or fewer points.
Fans unable to make the trip to Williamantic, Conn. can follow all the action on the UMass Dartmouth athletics Website. The Little East Conference office will be providing a free video broadcast on LittleEast.tv, while Eastern Connecticut will offer real-time statistics.