MIDDLETOWN, Conn. – The 24th-ranked Wesleyan University men's basketball team earned the No. 4 seed in the NESCAC Championships and will host in-state rival and fifth-seeded Trinity College Saturday, Feb. 18 at 3 p.m. The Cardinals are hosting their first conference tournament game since 2012 after posting a 6-4 league mark during regular season play. Admission for the game will be free to all fans.
NESCAC CHAMPIONSHIP CENTRAL l FULL NESCAC PREVIEW
Saturday's game will feature a live webcast broadcasted by the Northeast Sports Network (NSN), with play-by-play from Gene Gumbs, as well as live stats. (Webcast/Live Stats)
Both teams finished the regular season with a 6-4 NESCAC record, but Wesleyan earned the tie-breaker by defeating the Bantams 65-61 at home on January 14th. Despite a nearly identical stat-line, the Cardinals never trailed in the game and led by as much as 12 points early in the first half. Three players scored in double-figures for Wesleyan as Harry Rafferty '17 posted a game-high 18 points, Joseph Kuo '17 posted a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds, and Salim Green '19 finished with 12 points. Trinity was led by Ed Ogundeko, who scored 17 points and grabbed eight boards, while Chris Turnbull joined him in double-figures with 13 points.
BY THE NUMBERS
Wesleyan posted a 19-5 overall record during the regular season after winning its first 11 games of the year. The 19 victories matched the highest regular season win total in program history, while the 11-straight wins to open the campaign were the best start to a season since 1911-12. The Cardinals ranked as high as No. 9 in the country earlier this year – its first-ever top-10 ranking in the D3hoops.com Poll – and also defeated three top-10 teams this season, including Amherst twice, to claim the Little Three title outright for the first time since 1990-91.
Wesleyan enters Saturday's game having won three straight and eight of its last 10 games, while Trinity is coming off a 97-80 loss at Middlebury last Saturday and is just 2-3 in its last five. The Cardinals, two years removed from their first-ever NESCAC Championship, are 6-9 overall in the conference tournament in 10 appearances. The Bantams have reached the postseason 14 times and are 13-13 overall, with one NESCAC title and two runner-up finishes.
Saturday's game figures to be another defensive battle as Trinity comes in to Silloway Gymnasium ranked first in the league in scoring defense (65.5 points per game) and steals (9.0 per contest), while Wesleyan ranks seconds in scoring defense (66.5 ppg) and second in NCAA Division III in opponent field-goal percentage (35.3). The Cardinals also boast one of the nation's top rebounding teams as they rank sixth in rebounds per game (45.1) and eighth in rebounding margin (9.1). They will have a difficult task on Saturday, however, as Trinity's Ogundeko ranks 16th in the country in rebounding (11.4 rpg) and 20th in double-doubles (13).
Wesleyan averages 76.6 points per game and is 10-1 at home this season, while Trinity averages 72.4 points per game and is just 6-5 in away contests.
2017 NESCAC MEN'S BASKETBALL CHAMPIONSHIP SCHEDULE
Saturday, February 18 at Higher Seeds
No. 8 Hamilton vs. No. 1 Tufts – 2 p.m.
No. 7 Bates vs. No. 2 Middlebury – 2 p.m.
No. 6 Williams vs. No. 3 Amherst – 2 p.m.
No. 5 Trinity vs. No. 4 Wesleyan – 3 p.m.
Saturday, February 25 at Highest Remaining Seed
Semifinal Games – 2 p.m. l 4 p.m.
Highest Remaining Seed vs. Lowest Remaining Seed
Remaining Quarterfinal Winners
Sunday, February 26 at Semifinals Site
Championship Game – 12 p.m.