The Cavaliers men’s basketball team defeated the Castleton State College (Vt.) Spartans by a score of 104-87 in the opening round of the NCAA Division III Tournament at the Nerney Field House on Friday, March 2.
The next step for the Cavaliers will be a matchup against the Hobart College (N.Y.) Statesmen, a team that defeated Ohio Wesleyan University 64-60 several hours earlier at the Nerney Field House. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Saturday, March 3.
“We knew if we attacked and we played hard, we would score,” head coach Marcus Kahn said in a post-game press conference.
Castleton State came into Radnor as representatives of the North Atlantic Conference, with a highly explosive offense. In nine of the 28 games that the Spartans played, they scored at least 100 points, scoring as many as 122. Many of those points came from their reliance on the three-point field goal, which the Cavs tried to restrict as much as possible.
“Our defensive philosophy is to guard the arc,” senior guard Cory Lemons said.
The Spartans connected on nine of 28 attempts from the three-point line, for a 32.1% percentage overall.
“They took 28 threes and that seems like an enormous amount but they average 43 a game,” Kahn said.
Castleton State took a quick three-point lead to open the game up but quickly watched it slip away courtesy of five Cavalier points. A 22-point scoring frenzy over the next six minutes helped the Cavs pull ahead to a semi-comfortable margin in the first half. They never allowed a lead change and even expanded upon the lead by as many as 24 points.
With several seconds remaining in the first half, many thought halftime would end with a 19-point Cavalier lead. However, junior guard Abraham Bah connected on a three-pointer to beat the buzzer and expand the Cavalier lead to 22 points.
The Cavaliers have proven all season long how dominant of a team they are in the second half and Castleton State had the unfortunate experience of dealing with it first-hand. However, the Spartans were not willing to go down without a fight first.
Castleton State took advantage of turnovers in the latter stages of the game, intercepting long Cavalier passes and picking off several Cavalier in-bound attempts. They cut the lead down to 13 points. Despite their turnovers, the Cavaliers were still able to hold on to a 17-point victory and will live to fight another day.
“With the way they shot, up 21, 22, they’re not that far out of it,” Kahn said. “They hit guarded threes even in the last minute and we turned it over a couple times in the last minute. We had to fight for 40 minutes.”
Freshman guard Aaron Walton-Moss led the Cavaliers in points with 23, which is his career-high. Walton-Moss also led the team in rebounds with 14, and was six assists short of a triple-double. Lemons’ 6 assists led the team.
“We pushed the tempo and slowed it down at times and it worked for us,” sophomore forward Fran Rafferty said.
As previously mentioned, the next step for the Cavs is through the Hobart Statesmen. Considering that both teams are facing each other with less than 24 hours of rest between them, it should be a highly entertaining battle to watch.
“If we get the pace where we want it and make it into our game, we’ll be alright,” Kahn said.
The little preparation time may not be an obstacle for the Cavaliers, at least in the eyes of their coach.
“The good thing about our team is that they’re very coachable and they’re very mature,” Kahn said. “They’ll handle it.”