The University of Mary Washington men's basketball team stormed out to a 38-15 halftime advantage and never looked back in a 77-49 victory over DeSales University in the second round of the NCAA Division III Tournament on Saturday in Ashland, Va. The Eagles improve to 24-5 on the season, and advance to the sweet 16 round for the first time ever.
"I'm proud of the way our guys played and handled themselves", said UMW head coach Rod Wood. "They kept their intensity and played to the most of their ability for nearly the whole game."
"It is so rewarding for me as a coach to see our guys come out and give their maximum effort. In all my years in coaching, I've never seen anything like it."
The game began with the lead switching hands twice in the opening two minutes, but then UMW reeled off 15 straight points to take a 21-8 lead with 9:49 left in the first half. The catalyst in the run was senior guard Dom Morra, who hit four first-half three pointers.
After a Bulldog basket with 9:14 to play, the Eagles went on another 12-0 spurt, limiting DeSales to two points in a 15:20 span. Senior guard Bradley Riester connected for nine first half points, including six in the stretch. UMW's lead grew to as many as 26 points in the half, and the Eagles led, 38-15, at halftime.
In the second half, the Eagles continued their defensive intensity, extending the lead to 30 at 61-31 with 7:29 to play, and led by as many as 38 before claiming a 77-49 final.
Mary Washington shot 45.6% from the floor in the game (26-57), making 12-32 three pointers, and finishing 13-20 from the free throw line. DeSales was limited to 27.8% from the field (15-54), making 8-32 three point attempts, and finished 11-18 from the free throw line.
The Eagles led in rebounding, 41-37, and forced 14 Bulldog turnovers, including 10 in the first half.
Junior Taylor Johnson led the Eagles with 22 points and eight rebounds, while Riester scored 19 points and also added eight boards. Morra scored 16 points to go with four assists and two steals.
When asked about the team being fresh after last night's first-round victory over Springfield College, Riester stated, "We aren't fresh. We're all tired... But we will ourselves to be fresh."
Johnson added that the team's "play angry" motto is its model of success. "We feel like it's us against the world. We have so many guys that go out and give everything they have every day... It's contagious."
The eagles will face Virginia Wesleyan College on Friday in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. Game time and location will be determined on Sunday.