March 6, 2009

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Nyere Miller (Washington, DC) hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with 2:03 left and fellow senior Charles Jones (Philadelphia, PA) poured in a career-best 28 points for Widener in a thrilling 74-66 victory over Virginia Wesleyan in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Playing its first NCAA Tournament game at Schwartz Center since 2001, Widener (23-5) advances to host Salem State (22-6) on Saturday at 7:00 pm in the second round.

The Pride trailed by as many as 28-17 with 6:14 left in the first half, but began chipping away. The home team netted eight straight points, keyed by Jones' five points, to close to 28-25 with 3:22 remaining.

Terrell Dixon hit a jumper for the Marlins with eight seconds left, but Jones banked in a 30-footer at the buzzer to bring the Pride within 34-30 and steal the momentum.

The second half was a frenzied atmosphere. It got even more crazy when senior Matt Sosna (Stratford, NJ) stole a pass in the backcourt from Paul Meredith and layed it home with 2:34 to go for a 62-60 Widener lead.

Stephen Fields made a layup with 2:24 left for a 62-62 game, but then it was Miller's time to shine. He took a pass from junior Jamarr Johnson (Pittsgrove, NJ) and buried a 3-pointer from the right wing to give Widener the lead for good, 65-62.

The Marlins missed their next two shots before Sosna drilled 1-of-2 from the line with 44 seconds left for a 66-62 Pride lead. After Fields misfired on a 3-pointer, Johnson canned two from the stripe with 31 seconds to go for a 68-62 game.

Miller nailed two from the line with 20 seconds left and a 70-64 game, helping Widener shoot 9-for-10 from the line in the last 44 seconds and 15-for-18 in the second half.

Jones shot 10-of-19 from the field overall for Widener, which shot 52 percent (13-of-25) in the second half and 45 percent (25-of-56) overall. Johnson and junior Bobby Edmunds (Linwood, NJ) scored 12 points apiece and Miller netted 11. Johnson and freshman Jack Brennan (Stratford, NJ) hauled in seven rebounds apiece.

Fields scored 20 points, Donald Vaughn had 15 and 10 rebounds and Quinton McDuffie netted 11 for the Marlins, who shot 54 percent (28-of-52) overall but were only 2-of-16 from 3-point range.

Widener, champions of the Commonwealth Conference a third straight year, is making its fourth straight NCAA Tournament appearance for the first time since 1975-78 and 17th overall. It now has won a game in this tournament four straight years for the first time in school history.

Salem State advanced to the second round of the NCAA Division III Men's Basketball Tournament on Friday night, with a 83-71 win over the Tigers of the Rochester Institute of Technology at Widener University's Schwartz Athletic Center.

The Vikings, making their 22nd appearance in the tournament, will play the winner of Widener-Virginia Wesleyan on Saturday night at 7.

Trailing by four with 16:16 to go in the second half, the Vikings (22-6) pulled ahead for good with a 12-0 scoring run that spanned 4:12. The end of the run saw the Vikings go up 50-42, and they would never be threatened the rest of the way. The Vikings would build the lead as high as 15 points.

Salem State, who received an at-large bid from the Massachusetts State College Athletic Conference, put five players in double figures, paced by a game-high 22 points from sophomore guard Nick Linear. Senior guard Steve Celestin added in 18, with senior center Dylan Holmes going for 11 points.

For the Tigers, the champions of the Empire 8 Conference, sophomore guard Shawn Roe had a team-high 16 points, with sophomore guard Nate Korinchak scoring 13.

Salem State was able to overcome a cold shooting first half (14-for-37) 37.8 percent and converted on close to 60 percent of its shots (17-for-29, 58.6 percent) in the second stanza on its way to the win.

In the first half, neither team was able to gain much of an advantage, as RIT took a four-point lead 2:17 in at 8-4 on a three-pointer by Roe. The Vikings answered back with a short 5-0 scoring burst to take its first lead of the game at 9-8 on a jumper by junior guard Brennan Bennett.

Salem State would get the lead to four (12-8) before the Tigers battled back to take a one-point lead at 13-12 with 14:30 left via a basket from senior center Mark Carson. The Vikings then darted out to its biggest lead to date at 18-13 with 12:19 left on a foul shot from Holmes.

RIT fought back, taking a three-point lead with just over eight minutes to go, but was never able to pull away. Salem State and RIT traded the lead nine times in the first half, with the Vikings taking a 34-33 lead at intermission.

In the second half, RIT got a four-point advantage twice, the last instance being a 42-38 lead with 16:16 left on a layup by Carson.

The Vikings owned a 40-32 advantage on the glass, with Ogboin grabbing ten rebounds. Carson had ten boards for the Tigers.

Celestin, who was a perfect 4-for-4 on three pointers, also had seven assists for Salem State, with Linear picking up four steals.