March 1, 2009
PROVIDENCE, RI-The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth's men's basketball team held off a late second half rally and defeated host Rhode Island College, 62-53, in the Little East Conference championship game at the Murray Center Saturday evening.
The Corsairs, who trailed early, 14-6, came back with a 12-4 run to tie the game on back-to-back lay-ups by junior forward Matt Walker (Brockton, MA/.Brockton HS) at 18-18 with 5:20 remaining in the first half. Bobby Bailey's lay-up tied the game for the final time at 24-24 with 10 seconds remaining in the first half, but senior guard Reece Freeman (Cambridge, MA/Rindge & Latin HS) converted a three-point play with two seconds left in the first half, and UMass Dartmouth never trailed again.
A three-pointer and a jump shot by junior forward Brandon Shelton (Cambridge, MA/Rindge & Latin HS/UMass Lowell) ignited a 14-2 run at the start of the second half that gave the Corsairs a 41-29 lead. A lay-up by junior guard Jeff Macchi (Franklin, MA/Franklin HS), made it 54-39 with 8:27 to play.
The Anchormen responded by scoring the next 12 points, with Bailey's lay-up cutting the deficit to 54-51 with 2:10 remaining. Walker's lay-up made it 56-51, but Wil Lyons hit a pair of free throws that made it 56-53 with 1:17 left. Walker then hit a lay-up and added two free throws, and junior guard Tyler Turtoro (Shelton, CT/Shelton HS) scored the final points of the game on another lay-up.
"We got a lead, and they came back, and we just had to withstand their effort," said UMass Dartmouth Head Coach Brian Baptiste. "We made some key shots, we did a great job on defense, and we played intensely for 40 minutes. We had a great effort on the defensive end, and we played smart on offense."
Macchi, who finished with 12 points, seven steals, seven assists and five rebounds, was named the Most Outstanding Player of the tournament. "It was a great team effort, but Jeff was exceptional," said Baptiste. "Jeff did a lot of good things for us."
"We lost to them twice, but this was the big one," said Macchi. "We were a lot more intense on the defensive end; we didn't give them any open threes. It feels good to get back to the NCAAs. We lost in the first round last year, and we want to do some damage this year."
Walker had 16 points for the Corsairs, and Shelton added 11. Antone Gray led RIC with 12 points, Lyons added 10, and Bailey had nine points and 13 rebounds. The Anchormen out rebounded UMass Dartmouth, 49-33, but the Corsairs forced 24 turnovers while committing just eight.
UMass Dartmouth improved to 25-3 with the victory, while RIC dropped to 23-5 with the defeat. The Corsairs earned an automatic berth in the NCAA Division III Championships, while the Anchormen will hope for an at-large bid. The pairings for the tournament will be announced Monday.