Hartford, Conn. - The Trinity College men's basketball team, coached by James Cosgrove (6th Season), has earned the top seed in the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) Men's Basketball Championship Tournament for the fourth time and the second year in a row, and will host the No. 8-seeded Colby College White Mules, also for the second time in a row, on Saturday, February 20 at 3 p.m. in the quarterfinal round. The Bantams, ranked No. 25 in the nation, finished the 2015-16 season with an 18-6 overall record and repeated its 9-1 mark in the league of a year ago after winning against Middlebury, 97-86, on February 13. Admission to Saturday's game is free.
Trinity was 7-4 on January 4 before rattling off seven straight wins including five league victories from January 7 to 23. After two losses in four days to close out the month, the Bantams have won games in a row. Of Trinity's six losses, four have come against teams ranked regionally by the NCAA, and the Bantams boast a triumph at No. 19-ranked Tufts and double-digit wins against regionally-ranked Delaware Valley and Wesleyan this winter. Trinity is 18-2 in the NESCAC over the last two regular seasons, four games better than Amherst's second-best record over the same span at 14-6.
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 one-game margin, clinching that title on Saturday, while Colby secured a post-season bid with a 73-64 win against Wesleyan the same day. No. 2-seeded Amherst (20-4, 8-2) plays No. 7-seeded Bowdoin (12-10, 4-6), No. 3-seeded Tufts (19-5, 7-3) hosts No. 6-seeded Williams (15-9, 5-5), and No. 4-seeded Middlebury (14-10, 6-4) hosts No. 5-seeded Wesleyan (18-6, 5-5) 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 27 and 28.
Trinity is second in the NESCAC in scoring defense at 67.5 ppg, field-goal percentage defense at .382 (5th in nation), and first in rebounding margin at +7.3 (21st in nation). Junior center Ed Ogundeko (Brooklyn, N.Y.) leads the conference and ranks 24th nationally averaging 10.7 boards per contest, while senior forward Shay Ajayi (Brooklyn, N.Y.) is seventh in the NESCAC with 7.5 boards per contest. The Bantams are averaging 78.5 points per contest, up from 69.6 points per game last season. Ajayi leads the squad with 13.8 ppg (13th in NESCAC) followed by Ogundeko (13.3 ppg, 14th in NESCAC) and senior captain guard Jaquann Starks (Hartford, Conn.) who is 22nd in the conference averaging 11.9 ppg. Senior guard Andrew Hurd (Windsor, Conn.) is second amongst NESCAC leaders with 5.0 assists per game and third in three-point shooting at .490. He also is seventh nationally in assists-to-turnover ratio at 3.43. Sophomore swingman Eric Gendron (Merrimack, N.H.) ranks fourth in three-point shooting at .464 and is also 23rd in the league blocks with 0.5 per contest. Against Hamilton last Friday, Ajayi led the team with a career-high of 29 points to go along with 10 rebounds and four steals in the 96-86 victory. Starks also tied the College's all-time three-pointer record with the 208th of his career en route to 10 points in the game. Starks followed up that performance with a game-high 20 points the following day in the team's 97-86 win over Middlebury while Ogundeko added 16 points and 11 boards.
Colby, coached by Damian Strahorn (5th Season), started the season 10-1 before losing its next three games, all on the road to conference opponents. The Mules have closed out the regular season with three straight victories, at Hamilton (99-95), against Conn College (83-73), and against Wesleyan (73-64). Trinity prevailed in the regular-season meeting against Colby by the score of 62-60 on January 22, behind 16 points from Gendron. Trinity is 2-0 against the Mules in the postseason as they defeated Colby, 84-81, in the 2006 quarterfinals, and 66-63 in last season's quarterfinals. Colby leads the league in field-goal percentage (.468) and assists (17.1 per game), and boast four players, all seniors, who average double-figures. Chris Hudnut (Chevy Chase, Md.) leads the team with 15.7 ppg followed by Ryan Jann (Westford, Mass.) who averages 14.9 ppg, Patrick Stewart (Bangor, Maine) with 12.6 ppg, and Sam Wilson (Watertown, Conn.) with 11.5 ppg. The four seniors also combine to average 23.6 rebounds per game between them.