Danzig
SC

WAYNE, N.J. -- Things couldn’t be any sweeter for Scranton. A night after an improbable 70-67 victory in overtime against Messiah -- a game in which the Royals overcame an 18-point deficit with 8:02 remaining -- Scranton advanced to the third round of the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2003 with a convincing 69-41 victory against Becker Saturday evening.

The Royals dominated the Hawks from start to finish en route to their fifth consecutive win and 10th in their last 11 games to improve to 22-7. The victory sets up a showdown between Scranton and fourth-ranked Middlebury College next Friday at a site to be determined Sunday or Monday.

Freshman guard Ross Danzig led the Royals with 22 points and junior guard Travis Farrell added 18. Senior guard Terrance Favors, senior forward Rajai Legget, and freshman center Jerome Cohen paced Becker, which had an 18-game winning streak snapped and ends its season with a 24-5 record, with 10 points apiece.

After the game, Royal head coach Carl Danzig singled out his bench, which has struggled recently but came through with flying colors tonight, especially senior center Nick Jaskula, who finished with four points and two rebounds and senior guard Dan Hilferty, who played nine minutes and had an assist and only one turnover against a team noted for its ability to pressure the basketball.

“Our bench guys have been great,” says Danzig, now 4-5 all-time in NCAA tournament games. “They haven’t all played, but they’ve had significant roles and we wouldn’t be where we are without what those guys have done us this year.”

Whether it was the momentum from last night’s dramatic win or a chance to avenge a loss to Becker -- a game in which the Royals held a 14-point second half lead before fading down the stretch -- Scranton left little doubt who was the better team.

The Royals shot nearly 59 percent from the field in the second half after building up a 29-18 halftime lead. Scranton also connected on 45 percent of its 3-point field goal attempts, made nearly 77 percent of its free throws, and out-rebounded the athletic Hawks, 34-32, a far cry from last year’s game when Becker beat Scranton up badly on the boards.

Farrell scored five points, including a 3-pointer with 12:38 left in the first half, as Scranton opened up its first double-digit lead, 18-8, and Danzig finished with first-half 12 points as the Royals had the game where they wanted it. 

The Hawks, on the other hand, appeared to be feeling the effects of playing back-to-back games. After dumping William Paterson on its home court last evening, Becker struggled from the field, connecting on only 8 of 28 attempts (28.6 percent) in the opening 20 minutes of play.

“We knew from the way we lost to them last year -- I wasn’t here -- but we were up big with about 15 minutes to play and they came back,” said Ross Danzig.  “We didn’t want that to happen again.  We knew they would make a surge and we stood up to it.”

Actually, it was the Royals that delivered the key surge. Scranton scored the first 11 points -- on lay-ups by Danzig, sophomore guard Tommy Morgan, Jaskula, and capped off by five consecutive points by Farrell -- of the second half to take a 22-point lead with 17:09 left. 

Becker did manage to cut the lead to 15 but the Royals countered with a 12-2 spurt to end of any hopes of a Hawk comeback.

“We knew that last year they out-rebounded us and it cost us the game,” Farrell said.  “We had to do a good job on the boards and we did.  We knew their guards were going to be coming over the top to try to get offensive rebounds and we were ready for it.”