Courtesy of Moravian Athletic Communications
CLINTON, N.Y. --- The Moravian College men's basketball team used an 18-0 run early in the second half to break open a close game and earn an 86-65 victory over Keene State (N.H.) College in the first round of the 2019 NCAA Division III National Championship Tournament at Hamilton College Friday evening as the Greyhounds won for the first time in program history in the NCAA Tournament and tied the school record with their 20th win of the season, matching the total from last winter.
"I think the biggest thing going into the game was just being ourselves," noted fourth-year Head Coach Justin Potts, who picked up his 70th career victory. "They are really good team and coach does a really good job with them. Ty Nichols is impressive, and we know we couldn't stop him, we just had to try and slow him down. The most important thing for us is to play Moravian basketball, which is 40 minutes of pressure, and to play with as much tempo and pace as we can. We got here last year but I think the moment got to us a little bit, and I think we were a little bit more prepared this year and a little more comfortable. We talked about just relying on the habits we built all year."
The Greyhounds, now 20-8 overall, advance to the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament and will face the winner of host Hamilton and Penn State-Behrend on Saturday, March 2 at 7:00 p.m. for the right to advance to the sectionals and the final 16 in the nation. The Blue and Grey were playing their fifth NCAA Tournament contest in the program's fourth trip to the dance.
Moravian placed four players in double figures led by senior forward Oneil Holder, who had a team-high 18 points to go with six rebounds, five assists and a pair of blocked shots. Junior guard C.J. Barnes and Elijah Davis were both 3-for-5 beyond the three-point line with Barnes netting 15 points to go with three rebounds and two steals and Davis adding 13 points and a pair of steals. Senior guard Jimmy Murray tossed in 12 points including 10 in the first half when he became the sixth player in school history to reach 1,500 career points, and Murray also had a pair of steals while going 6-for-6 at the foul line.
Senior guard Will Brazukas contributed nine points, six assists, four boards and three steals for the Greyhounds while junior forward Addis Ralph tossed in seven points to go along with three rebounds. Sophomore guard Matt O'Connor hit on a pair of three-pointers for six points to go with two steals while senior guard Nicholas Casazza added five points and three assists. Junior guard Mike Martino also had a point for Moravian.
The Hounds connected on 25-of-55 field goal attempts, 12-of-30 three-pointers and 24-of-27 at the foul line, and Moravian's pressure, up-tempo style forced the Owls into 24 turnovers in the contest. The Greyhounds dished out 16 assists in the game to set a new single season record with 461 assists on the year, and the squad has the chance to set at least four more single season marks on Saturday.
Keene State opened the scoring before Murray hit a lay-up and Barnes followed with a three-pointer for a 5-2 Greyhounds' lead. With the score knotted at 6-6, Davis made a jump shot and Holder added two free throws as the Blue and Grey took a 10-6 edge. Another three-pointer by Barnes had the scored at 13-9 before the Owls scored four straight points to tie the game again. Keene State would eventually pull out to a 20-18 lead with 11:44 remaining in the first half, but lay-ups by Davis and Brazukas had Moravian back in front, 22-20 midway through the half.
The Owls answered with a 7-0 run to build a 27-22 advantage. O'Connor would cut it to a two-point game with a three-pointer before a three-pointer from Holder and a steal and jumper by Murray had Moravian back in front, 30-27. The score remained within three points until the 3:22 mark while O'Connor drained his second three-pointer of the half for a 39-34 edge. Murray stretched the lead to seven points, 43-36, with a lay-up late in the half, and he added two free throws to second the Greyhounds to the locker room with a 45-38 advantage.
Keene State scored the first three points of the second half before Barnes hit a three-pointer and Davis drained back-to-back three-pointers as the edge was in double figures for the first time at 54-41 with 17:20 still remaining. Casazza followed with a lay-up and when Ralph hit a three-pointer to end the 18-0 run, Moravian had a 63-41 lead with 12:21 to play. Keene State would get no closer that 15 points the rest of the while the Hounds had the lead up to 24 points, 86-62, on a free throw from Martino with 1:39 remaining.