Bantams Host Colby In Quarterfinals Saturday
Hartford, Conn. - The Trinity College men's basketball team, coached by James Cosgrove (5th Season), has earned the top seed in the 2015 New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) Men's Basketball Championship Tournament for the third time and will host the No. 8-seeded Colby College White Mules on Saturday, February 21 at 3 p.m. in the quarterfinal round. The Bantams finished the 2014-15 season with a 19-5 overall record, its best since 2006-07, and a best-ever 9-1 mark in the league after winning at Middlebury, 90-85, on February 13 to finish perfect in six road NESCAC games. Tickets for Saturday's game will be $5 for adults and $2 for students and children 12 and under. Trinity students will be admitted at no charge courtesy of the College's athletic department.
Trinity rode an eight-game winning streak into the start of the league schedule before closing out the regular season with six straight victories to host its first home quarterfinal game since 2011. Last year, the Bantams reached the NESCAC Semifinals as the No. 5 seed by outlasting Bowdoin, 71-69, in a triple-overtime thriller. Trinity hosted the NESCAC Championship Final Four as the top seed and reached the finals in its first two seasons of existence in 2001 and 2002, and won the league tournament in 2008, and has reached the NESCAC Semifinals eight times with a 7-3 overall record in quarterfinal games.
The winner of the NESCAC Championship Tournament will determine the league's automatic qualifier for the NCAA Division III Championship Tournament. Trinity earned the top seed by a two-game margin, clinching that title with an 80-68 win at Connecticut College on February 7, while Colby secured a post-season bid with an 84-80 win against Middlebury the previous day. No. 2-seeded Bowdoin (17-7, 7-3) plays No. 7-seeded Williams (15-9, 5-5), No. 3-seeded Bates (19-5, 7-3) hosts No. 6-seeded Wesleyan (16-8, 5-5), and No. 4-seeded Tufts (13-11, 6-4) hosts No. 5-seeded Amherst (18-6, 6-4) in the other first round games on Saturday. The highest remaining seed after the quarterfinal round will host the semifinal and final rounds on February 28 and March 1.
Trinity ranks second in the NESCAC in scoring defense (63.4 ppg), field-goal percentage defense (.386, 16th in nation), and rebounding margin (+8.1 per game, 14th in nation). Bantam junior guard Jaquann Starks (Hartford, Conn.) ranks 10th in the NESCAC in scoring with 13.7 ppg, while sophomore forward Ed Ogundeko (Brooklyn, N.Y.) and junior forward Shay Ajayi (Brooklyn, N.Y.) are seventh and 13th in rebounding, respectively, at 8.3 and 6.2 per game. Starks is tied for second in the league in free-throw percentage at .889 (88-99, 18th in nation) and third in three-point field-goal percentage at .445 (53-119), while senior tri-captain center George Papadeas (Athens, Greece) sits at fifth in field-goal percentage at .566 (69-122). Ajayi is tied for sixth in the conference in steals with 1.5 per game and Ogundeko is tied for sixth in blocked shots with 1.5 per game. At Middlebury on Friday, Starks paced five Bantams in double figures with 16 points and yanked down a team-best nine boards, while Papadeas added 15 points. Junior guard Andrew Hurd (Windsor, Conn.) and Ogundeko each had 13 points and junior guard Rick Naylor (Sudbury, Vt.) ended with 11 points. Starks also scored 25 points in the Colby game during the regular season.
Colby, coached by Damian Strahorn (4th Season), recovered from a 6-6 start to win four straight games with a 3-0 NESCAC record on January 16. The Mules lost four of their next five games, but rallied to down Middlebury on February 6, before dropping their final two games over the weekend at home against Tufts (72-64) and Bates (82-77). Trinity prevailed in the regular-season meeting against Colby by the score of 88-79 on January 31, while the lone post-season match-up between the programs was an 84-81 Trinity triumph in the 2006 quarterfinals. Colby leads the league in field-goal percentage (.469), and junior Chris Hudnut averages 19.7 ppg but has missed several games in a row with an injury. Mule guards Ryan Jann, who had 27 points at Trinity on January 31, and Luke Westman each average 13.3 ppg, while Sam Willson scores 11.4 ppg.