March 7, 2009

Courtesy John Carroll Athletics

John Carroll junior Chris Zajac drilled a contested long jumper with .03 of a second left in the contest to deliver a 76-74 victory over Carnegie Mellon Saturday night in an NCAA Division III Men's Basketball Championship second round game played at the DeCarlo Varsity Center.

The victory sends the Blue Streaks into the round of 16 to play Guilford College at a site to be determined on Friday, March 13.

Carnegie Mellon had tied the game  at 74-74 on a pair of free throws by Corey O'Rourke with 15 seconds left, but Zajac would untie it with his game winning shot. With four seconds on the clock, Zajac took off with the ball from the top of the key to his right, split two defenders and launched a high-arcing shot that swished through the net.

The Tartans had one last chance, but a length of the floor pass was batted away as the buzzer sounded.

John carroll raced out to a 12-6 lead over the first four-plus minutes of the game, but the Tartans would respond with a 12-0 run. John Duhring's jumper with 12:09 gave Carnegie mellon what would be its largest lead of the game at 18-12. Zajac ended the run with a three-pointer nine seconds later.

The lead changed hands five more times before the end of the half, at which time John carroll held a 37-35 advantage.

The Blue Streaks never trailed at any point in the second half, but also could not extend its lead beyond single digits with one exception. At the 10:04 mark of the second period, a Rudy Kirbus three-pointer put the Blue Streaks ahead 65-55.

Once John Carroll went ahead by ten, the Blue Streaks suddenly struggled to score. Over the final ten minutes of the game, JCU managed just 11 points.

In the meantime, the Tartans would chip away at the hosts lead. When Ryan Einwag dropped in a lay-up with 3:57 left in regulation, he tied the score at 68-68.

John Carroll had opportunities to seal the win, but Kirbus missed the front end of a one-and-one with 23 seconds left and his team ahead 74-72. The Tartans drove down the floor and O'Rourke was fouled, setting up the seventh and final tie of the contest.

In winning its school record 21st consecutive game, John Carroll (25-4) had three players score in double figures. Kirbus led the bunch with 16, while Zajac and Maurice Haynes added 15 apiece. 

Carnegie Mellon (20-7), which tied a school record with 21 wins, was paced by a game-high 20 points from Einwag. Shane Rife tallied 15 and Terrance Bouldin-Johnson tallied ten.