SYRACUSE, N.Y. — The Merrimack College men’s basketball team entered the NCAA Tournament on Saturday with something to prove. After a eye-opening regular season, the Warriors had lost five of their last six games down the stretch, including a nearly 30-point defeat in the NE10 Quarterfinals.
The Warriors backed into the NCAA Tournament as the last seed in the East Regional. But despite the doubts lining the road to Syracuse this week, as the Warriors traveled to play top-seeded Le Moyne in the opening round, the Warriors proved they were for real after coming away with a 72-68 overtime victory to open the tournament.
Essentially playing a road game — the regional was being hosted by the Dolphins — Merrimack allowed the No. 1 seed to send the game to overtime with 8.3 seconds left on the clock, when Stan Buczek hit a three-pointer from the left wing. The Warriors then fell behind in overtime when Buczek converted on a layup. But undeterred, the Warriors took the lead back on a Ryan Boulter three-pointer shortly thereafter and held on down the stretch, with Anthony Barry hitting a jump shot, Troy McLaughlin converting on a put-back with 36 seconds left to give the Warriors a three-point cushion and then Boulter iced the game in the final seconds, hitting a pair of shots from the charity stripe.
Merrimack now takes over the No. 1 side of the bracket, and will face either No. 4 Saint Anselm or No. 5 Saint Thomas Aquinas in the East Regional semifinals tomorrow at 7:30.
Inside The Numbers
- The contest featured 19 lead changes and was tied on eight occasions. The Warriors’ victory marked the program’s first on the road in nearly six weeks, when the Warriors knocked off Saint Michael’s to begin February.
- Playing in the program’s ninth NCAA Tournament, the Warriors picked up their seventh NCAA win. The Warriors advance to the regional semifinals with a chance to reach the school’s first-ever regional final
- Hayes led the Warriors in scoring (21), assists (7) and steals (4), marking his seventh 20-point game of the season. He finished 8-of-14 from the floor, and tied a season high with his trio of 3-pointers.
- Boulter came on strong after starting the game cold from the field. The all-league third-team selection finished the night with 20 points and nine rebounds, nearly collecting his first-ever double-double. He was a perfect 7-of-7 from the free-throw line, as well.
- Defensively, the Warriors held an opponent to below 80 points for the 16th time this season. The Warriors are 16-0 in those games.
- After not scoring in the first half, Barry picked up a crucial 12 points spanning the final 25 minutes, shooting 6-of-11 from the field.
NCAA East Regional Schedule
Saturday, March 11 – Quarterfinals
Game #1: No. 3 Saint Rose def. No. 6 Bloomfield, 94-58
Game #2: No. 7 Southern Connecticut def. No. 2 Southern New Hampshire, 109-98
Game #3: No. 8 Merrimack def. No. 1 Le Moyne, 72-68
Game #4: No. 4 Saint Anselm vs. No. 5 Saint Thomas Aquinas – 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, March 12 – Semifinals
Game #5: No. 3 Saint Rose vs. No. 7 Southern Connecticut – 5 p.m.
Game #6: No. 5 St. Thomas Aquinas vs. No. 8 Merrimack College – 7:30 p.m.
Tuesday, March 14 – Championship
Game #7: Winner Game #5 vs. Winner Game #6 – 7 p.m.