Owls Advance in NCAA Tournament

'KEENE, N.H. 3/6/04  - The Keene State College men's basketball team made its first trip to the NCAA Division III Tournament memorable with a 79-55 victory over Babson College before a sold out crowd (1,650 attendance) at Spaulding Gym on Saturday night.


With the victory, Keene State (24-5) sets a program record for wins and moves on to the third round of the Tournament.  The Owls will play the University of Rochester at top seed Williams College on Friday night (TBA).  Rochester defeated St. John Fisher 75-66 in its second round game.


"It surprised me that we were able to pull away, I thought it was going to be a tough game," said senior forward, Matt Wheeler (Shrub Oak, N.Y.), who tied Alphonse Michalski (Northampton, Mass.) with a team-high 16 points.  "We probably played our best game of the year."


"The atmosphere was great," added Chris Timson (Beverly, Mass.), who finished with 15 points and team-high 12 rebounds.  "Our fans were behind us, and that had a lot to do with our victory."


"It was a very rewarding experience for our team, the campus, and the Keene Community," said KSC Coach Rob Colbert about the teams' historic win.  "We waited along time for this game and it was a special moment for everybody."


The Owls gradually pulled away from the Beavers in the first half.  Trailing 12-11, KSC went on a 13-2 run to take a 24-14 lead.  Joe Shaw (Concord, N.H.), who had 10 first half points, connected on a couple of three-pointers during the stretch.


A jumper by Timson gave KSC's its biggest lead 16 points (38-22) with 2:32 remaining.  Shaw grabbed a missed three-pointer attempt by Michalski and put in a pop shot at the buzzer to put the Owls up 42-26 at the break. 


Michalski led KSC with 11 first-half points.  The Owls shot a scorching 68 % (17-25) from the field and forced 14 Beaver turnovers.  Luke Weber (Highland Mills, N.Y.) topped Babson with 12 points. 


Babson didn't go down with out a fight in the second half.  A basket by Jeff Hines (Waltham, Mass.) cut the Owls' lead to 10 points (54-44) with 10:48 to play.


But the Owls responded with a 16-3 run over the next four minutes to put the game away.  Timson had six points and Michalski added five points in the uprising that pushed KSC's lead back up to 23 points (70-47).


Babson College Coach Stephen Brennan said the Owls played at a higher level than his team tonight.  "They got great opportunities because they worked for them," he said.  They made plays at both ends of the floor."


Shaw came off the bench to score a season high 14 points for the Owls, who had a decisive 40-19 advantage on the boards and shot 66% (33-50) from the floor. 


Weber finished the game with a team-high 18 points for Babson, which was making its second NCAA appearance in three years.  The Beavers, which had their nine game winning streak snapped, conclude their season at 21-8. Babson defeated KSC in last year's ECAC Championship game.


The Owls, winners of seven straight, are looking forward to its next game.  "There is no tomorrow or next year," said Timson, one of five KSC seniors.  "We're just going to try to go as far as we can."