Steven Weidlich scored a game-high 25 points including 15 in the second half leading the Susquehanna University Men's Basketball team to a 72-67 victory over Eastern Connecticut State Saturday night to advance to the next round of the NCAA Division III Tournament in O.W. Houts Gymnasium in Selinsgrove, Pa.
Susquehanna (23-5) will play Williams College in the Sweet 16 round. The date and location of the next round will be announced Monday. The other two teams on the other have of the bracket in the next round are Middlebury and Endicott. Williams advanced with an 80-53 win over Scranton while Middlebury beat Lycoming, 95-76 and Endicott pounded Nichols, 111-75.
Against Eastern Connecticut (21-9), the River Hawks opened up an eight-point lead late in the first half but the Warriors battled back and trailed by five at 31-26 at halftime. Eastern Connecticut struggled shooting in the first 20 minutes hitting just 30 percent from the field but connected on five 3-pointers and forced nine turnovers to stay close.
"One of the things we wanted to do was to try to work them a bit to get them tired after a tough game Friday," said Head Coach Frank Marcinek. "We forced them to shoot from outside and that helped to limit their shooting percentage. It's very tough to play back-to-back games."
In the second half, Susquehanna used a 10-2 run midway through the half to open up a 10-point lead at 56-46 with 6:44 left to play. It was still a 10-point lead with five minutes to play when Eastern Connecticut started to trim the lead and make it interesting down the stretch.
An 8-3 run for the Warriors made it a five-point lead with 1:28 left. Weidlich converted a pair of free throws but Eastern Connecticut answered with a 3-pointer and called a quick timeout.
The teams traded free throws over the next 20 seconds and the River Hawks held a four-point lead at 68-64, Eastern Connecticut had the ball and a chance to trim the lead to a point but Dalton Reichard intercepted a pass inside and was immediately fouled. He hit both free throws for the six-point cushion.
Another 3-pointer by the Warriors cut the lead in half before Weidlich sealed the victory with two free throws.
Weidlich finished with 25 points and eight rebounds while Ryan Traub finished with a double-double scoring 18 points and grabbing 13 rebounds.
"Ryan had a great game," said Weidlich. "When Ryan is going like that we are going too. We want to get the ball inside to him because he makes so much happen inside."
"It works both ways," said Traub. "I don't get good looks if they aren't making the shots from outside. It's a good balance we have right now."
Tyler Hoagland finished with eight assists and nine points including a series of driving lay ups.
"We call him Houdini," said Weidlich. "He is just so quick. He can be one place and a second later he is past you and driving for the basket."
The River Hawks advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1986 when Susquehanna defeated Washington College and Franklin and Marshall before falling in the quarterfinal round to eventual National Champion Potsdam State.