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Morrisville State men looking for “Sweet” finish in Maryland

MORRISVILLE, N.Y. – The Morrisville State College men’s basketball team is continuing their trek into unknown territory, and without hesitation are looking to push forward as they travel to St. Mary’s College in Maryland, for the sectional round of the NCAA Division III Championship Tournament.

Morrisville State (23-5) advanced to the round, better known as the “Sweet 16”, following a 66-61 overtime defeat of nationally ranked #13 Rhode Island College Saturday. St. Mary’s (26-3) upended Alvernia 72-66 to advance.

In a first ever match-up between the two teams, the Mustangs are heading into the game knowing that the week’s practices will take a bit extra preparation as St. Mary’s holds an undefeated record on their own court (14-0), and a #11 national ranking by D3hoops.com. St. Mary’s is also making their fourth straight appearance in the tournament.

Looking at the stats, however, Morrisville State and St. Mary’s are evenly matched. Both are balanced in scoring, each having four or better players who can reach double digits, and both shoot relatively the same from the floor (47%).

Morrisville State, deemed the ‘underdog’ or ‘Cinderella’ team of the tourney, welcomes the challenge that the Seahawks will bring, but will have to step up their own game to get past St. Mary’s.

“Our team is extremely excited and grateful for the opportunity to play in the “Sweet 16,” said head coach Joseph Smith. “The first two rounds have been against quality teams who have brought our squad tough competition. Our strength throughout the season has been our balance and ability to just play the game no matter who the opponent is.”

“Right now we are working on our weaknesses and trying to get better to prepare for an excellent team that has won every game on their home floor.”

The showdown on Saturday will bring a highly contested inside-outside game as both teams have “big men” who can step outside and nail the long ball.

Junior forward Mickey Davis (Syracuse, N.Y. / Jamesville-DeWitt) has proven thus far in the tourney that Morrisville State’s forwards are a threat. Davis, who has led the Mustangs in scoring in both games in the tourney, has drained seven alone from long range, playing the inside-out game with fellow forwards Rhamel Williams (Bronx, N.Y.) and Kucjok Ater (Syracuse, N.Y. / Bishop Grimes).

St. Mary’s has to also keep its eye on the Mustang backcourt, who are quick to transition the ball into fast break scoring opportunities. The Seahawks won’t be able to focus on one single player, though, as Jailaan Kinsey (Syracuse, N.Y. / Jamesville-DeWitt) and Brandon Hanks (Syracuse, N.Y. / Henninger), average a combined 20+ points, 6.6 assists and 8.2 rebounds per game alone. Add in Jordan Prior (Cortland, N.Y. / Cortland), Brandon Henry (Harlem, N.Y.) and Andrew Lucio (Syracuse, N.Y. / Solvay) and Morrisville State becomes a potent offensive threat.

The Mustangs put up on average 78.4 points per game, but will be tested as St. Mary’s uses a combination of defenses to throw off opponents. Part of the battle will be also be in handling the ball, as the Seahawks like to force an average 17.6 turnovers per game and score in transition.

As with any team that has made it this far in the tournament, focus will be key to the Mustangs success on the court Saturday, and despite the hype of the campus environment behind the historical season, the team is learning that their hard work throughout the year is finally starting to pay off.

“We’re playing for respect of our program, our college, and of our conference. We don’t see ourselves as the ‘Cinderella’ team, we have worked hard all season, and our team deserves to win,” said junior guard and co-captain Hanks.

Morrisville State College sets the world in motion for students. Curriculums are enriched with applied learning and pave the way for opportunity at both the Morrisville and Norwich campuses. An action-oriented, interactive learning lab, the college is a national leader in technology. Lauded for its exemplary, innovative and effective community service programs, the college was named to the 2012 President’s Higher Community Service Honor Roll. Visit www.morrisville.edu to experience, Morrisville in motion