NEW HAVEN, Conn. -- Franklin Pierce advanced to the second round of the 2014 NCAA Division II tournament East Regional on Saturday night with a 66-65 first round win against Philadelphia at the Moore Fieldhouse.
The fourth-seeded Ravens improved to 21-7, and will take on top-seeded Southern Connecticut State in the second round at 7:30 p.m. Sunday night. Fifth-seeded PhilaU closed out its season with a 26-6 record.
Senior forward Ellis Cooper led the Franklin Pierce attack with a game-high 24 points, including hitting the two game-winning free throws with :17 remaining to lift the Ravens to victory. Cooper was 7-of-11 from the floor, including a 10-of-12 effort from the free throw line. He had 12 points in the second half, and swiped a pair of steals, as the Ravens totaled four thefts in the final stanza.
Freshman guard Donte Gittens had one of those steals in the second half, and it came at a crucial time with just :10 remaining as he stole an inbounds attempt, and was fouled, thus giving the Ravens an opportunity to pad their lead with a couple foul shots.
Gittens, however, missed the front end of a 1-and-1, and PhilaU had two cracks at a game-winning basket in the closing seconds, but could not come up with the winner.
It marked the second time in the last three seasons Franklin Pierce sent the Rams packing in the NCAA first round, as the Ravens also picked up a 59-58 triumph in the 2012 tournament.
Senior forward Adrianos Vourliotakis Perdikaris notched a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds, while junior Ryen Vilmont dropped in 14, including knocking down seven-straight points during a three-minute late in the game to help the Ravens rally from a three-point deficit to take a 62-58 lead with 2:23 to go.
The teams traded baskets and foul shots down the stretch before Cooper iced it with his foul shots.
Peter Alexis led four Rams that scored in double-figures, as he poured in 21 points. Derek Johnson followed with 15 points.
An Alexis tip-in with 12:18 remaining in the first half staked the Rams to a 17-10 advantage. However, Franklin Pierce mounted a rally by scoring 10 of the next 12 points, including four points from Gittens and a pair free throws from Cooper, to take a 20-19 edge.
The lead changed hands the rest of the half with neither side being able to take full advantage. Philadelphia eventually took a 32-31 lead into the locker room at halftime.
Franklin Pierce improved to 8-6 all-time in the NCAA tournament with the win, and 2-0 versus Philadelphia. Saturday’s first round contest marked the Ravens’ third-consecutive trip tok the national event, as they have posted at least one win in each of the last three seasons.