Royals squash Susquehanna
The men’s basketball team defeated Susquehanna University 71-56 Saturday in the John J. Long Center to win the Landmark Conference Championship.
This is the team’s fifth championship in the seven years of the Landmark Conference and 22nd conference title overall in school history. Winning the conference championship also gives the Royals an automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Tournament. This will be the team’s 25th trip to the national tournament in school history and seventh trip to the national tournament in its 13 seasons under Head Coach Carl Danzig.
The team now improves to 24-3 on the season. In the latest rankings from d3hoops.com, counting games through Sunday, Scranton is ranked 21st in the nation.
Coach Danzig said he celebrated the championship win on the court along with the students and fans who stormed the court as the game ended.
“It was awesome to watch and I enjoyed seeing the joy on the kids’ faces seeing their fellow classmates’ success on the court,” Coach Danzig said. “[The fans] really helped our kids stay energized so it was really neat to watch.”
The Royals played a solid first half and got out to a 38-25 lead at the break.
Sophomore forward Brendan Boken scored 19 first-half points. He led all scorers in the game with 23 points on 11-14 from the field to go along with 11 rebounds. Boken’s performance against Susquehanna and a quality showing Feb. 26 in the semifinals of the tournament against Merchant Marine Academy earned him Landmark Conference Tournament Most Valuable Player.
Boken said he was more concerned with playing tough defense against Susquehanna than scoring points.
“Our main game plan was to shut them down and play great defense and our offense, we knew, would just come with ball movement,” Boken said. “I’m not really concerned about the points, I’m just glad we got the win.”
Scranton extended the lead to 18 points early in the second half before Susquehanna went on a 13-4 run to cut Scranton’s lead to single digits (51-42) with 8:35 remaining. Scranton then made a 12-2 run of its own to extend the lead to 63-44 with 4:16 left capped by a 3-pointer from senior guard Michael Barr. Barr finished with nine points on 3-6 shooting from 3-point range.
Senior guard and team co-captain Tommy Morgan finished with 16 points and seven rebounds and junior guard Ross Danzig had 14 points, 12 rebounds, six assists and two blocks.
The Royals finished the game 26-56 (46.4 percent) from the field including 6-18 (33.3 percent) from 3-point range. For the game, the Royals held Susquehanna to just 18-59 (30.5 percent) shooting from the field and 4-17 (23.5 percent) from 3-point range. Scranton crashed the boards with energy, out-rebounding Susquehanna by a major 49 to 29 margin.
Barr said that moving forward into the NCAA tournament, the team needs to continue to take care of defense and rebounding as it did against Susquehanna.
“This whole season we’ve been playing defense and rebounding and we’ve been winning,” Barr said. “In tournament time, rebounding and defense are the two biggest categories to focus on.”
Coach Danzig’s NCAA record includes advancing to the Sweet 16 in 2003 and advancing to the Elite 8 only two seasons ago in 2012.
Morgan is one of seven current Royals who were on that Elite 8 team in 2012 and said the 2012 team did not take anything for granted in the tournament.
“We took it one game at a time and just had fun along the way too,” Morgan said. “We just didn’t try to put too much pressure on ourselves.”
The team travels to Brockport State College (24-3) to play Hobart College (21-6), winners of the Liberty League, in the first round of the NCAA tournament Friday at 5:30 p.m. The winner of the Scranton-Hobart game will face the winner of the 11th raned Brockport State College-Morrisville State College (19-8) game 7 p.m. Saturday at Brockport State.
When asked how he plans to refocus the team for the NCAA Tournament after such an emotional high of winning the conference championship, Coach Danzig said it will not be difficult to find motivation.
“The NCAA is an actual motivator in itself,” Danzig said. “It’s been my experience over the years that it’s not hard, the kids understand what it’s all about and they’re very excited to play in it.”
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