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Men’s basketball advances to host Sweet 16 game

by Panagiotis Argitis – Staff Writer

After earning the title of 2020 SUNYAC champions, The College at Brockport men’s basketball team topped the Coast Guard Academy and Middlebury College on its way to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.

The pair of victories extended Brockport’s winning streak to 19 games, which tied the program’s record for consecutive wins. However, the team looks forward to what lies ahead.

“If I was paying attention to the [records] I would be a hypocrite, because I tell these guys all the time, ‘If you don’t win the one you’re playing in, you can’t play the next one,’” Brockport head coach Greg Dunne said. “It’s about looking forward, that’s really what has propelled us to where we are at.”

Once the Golden Eagles closed out their conference season with the ninth title in program history, the team prepared to face Coast Guard, which it beat in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.

In a closely contested battle, neither side was able to pull away from the other following the game’s tipoff, as the score remained tied at 28 after 13 minutes of play. Despite building a 6-point lead over Brockport in the final moments of the period, Coast Guard’s defense did not hold onto its advantage before the halftime buzzer blew. Instead, it was Brockport’s fifth year guard Tyler Collins who sent the home crowd into a frenzy following a buzzer-beater from behind halfcourt to give Brockport a 47-43 lead at the end of the half.

The green and gold held onto its advantage for the majority of the second half. The Coast Guard Academy fell into foul trouble at the closing stages of the game, which allowed Brockport to go up by 10, gaining its biggest lead of the game with two minutes left in regulation. While the Bears cut their deficit back down to six after a pair of turnovers late in the game, Brockport prevailed and won 92-86 to progress into the round of 32 for the first time since 2007.

The following day, Brockport defeated Middlebury in the second round of the NCAA Tournament to extend its home record to 15—0 and advance to the Sweet 16.

Despite trailing for the opening minutes of the game, Brockport managed to stay ahead of Middlebury for the rest of the period. The Panthers threatened to take the lead before halftime after tying the score at 32, but Brockport’s senior forward Justin Summers put his team back on top at the end of the period thanks to two contested baskets. He led his team in scoring with 12 points in the first half.

Brockport’s lead diminished at the start of the second period as both sides exchanged blows for the opening 15 minutes. Tied at 50 with less than five minutes left in regulation, Brockport was able to edge past Middlebury from the foul line. In the final seconds of the game, Middlebury attempted to tie the game with a 3-pointer but saw its effort rim out, only to be rebounded by Brockport’s senior guard Monte Stroman, who sealed the victory with a free throw. At the end, Brockport beat Middlebury 84-81 and secured its spot in the round of 16.

The team’s victory was dictated by its 42 bench points, compared to Middlebury’s two, while going 26-38 from the foul line. Middlebury only attempted 19 free throws.

The Golden Eagles are yet to lose on their home court this season. As the team prepares to host Tufts University in the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals this upcoming weekend, Brockport’s home advantage will be a key on its road to the semifinals of the competition.

“It’s unreal to have the home crowd on your back all the time,” Collins said. “The atmosphere just isn’t the same without them We cannot thank everyone for providing that; it’s huge.”

Tufts beat Western Connecticut State and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute on its way to the Sweet 16. After defeating Middlebury, Dunne said the matchup between Tufts and Brockport will be difficult to predict the outcome of.

“Tufts plays in Middlebury’s league, so we know we are going to face super high-level guys,” Dunne said. “If you’re in that league, you’re going to be good. They [Tufts] are going to be very good.”

The NCAA Tournament quarterfinal between Brockport and Tufts is scheduled to take place at Jim & John Vlogianitis Gymnasium at 4 p.m. on Saturday, March 14.

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