For the first time since the 2001-2002 campaign, the men’s basketball team has advanced to the “Sweet Sixteen” (third) round of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) tournament after defeating both New Jersey City University and SUNY-Purchase in the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament, which were held at the Nerney Field House on Friday, March 4 and Saturday, March 5.
In the opening game against New Jersey City, senior forward Dom Farrello led all scorers with 28 points and added eight rebounds and three steals. Junior guard Cory Lemons also added 19 points, four rebounds and two steals for the Cavs.
Throughout the entire game, the Cavs were down and did not obtain their first lead until Farrello netted a three-point shot with only 4:52 remaining in the game.
“Big time players make big time shots,” head coach Marcus Kahn said, “and Dom hitting that three, which gave us our first lead, that was huge, that was big.”
Once Farrello netted that three point shot, making the score 70-68, there was no turning back from there for the Cavs.
“Goran Dulac made some big plays down the stretch and made free throws,” Kahn said.
“We didn’t in the first half and that worried me, we made free throws in the second half and that’s it, kinda the way it’s been all year. Not pretty, but our guys work hard and we get the job done.”
The Cavs shot 32 for 41 from the foul line and 45.6 percent overall against New Jersey City and scored 48 of their 85 points in the second half.
“It was a hard fought game,” New Jersey City head coach Marc Brown said.
“We didn’t make enough plays, both offensively and defensively, especially in the second half. They’re a good team, they have some good shooters, good players and we just didn’t execute well enough.”
This win for the Cavs marked their 27th-consecutive win when playing at home.
“Home court was big,” senior guard Lamar Fisher said. “We’re so comfortable here when we play and our fans make us feel at home, just the atmosphere is great, I love playing here.”
Home court advantage served the Cavaliers well again the following night when they defeated SUNY-Purchase 91-84 in the second round of the NCAA tournament.In the game, Lemons led all scorers with 29 points and Farrello captured his seventh double-double of the season with 18 points and 13 rebounds.
Also leading contributors for the Cavs were junior guard John Boyd who scored 16 points and freshman forward Fran Rafferty who notched 10 points.Just like Friday night, the Cavs trailed at halftime but ultimately overcame Purchase to advance to the “Sweet 16.”
This season, Cabrini is a perfect 7-0 when trailing at halftime.
“Surviving and advancing, it’s what we’ve been talking about and we did,” Kahn said. “It’s a credit to our guys to do whatever it takes. It would have been very, very easy for a group of guys to hang their heads at half time and go home, but they responded and I couldn’t be more proud to be here.”
“We just need to refocus our energy now,” Farrello said. “Come back at the beginning of the week on Monday and get to it. I’m happy we won. There’s just 16 teams left and we’re one of them.”
This win against Purchase marked the Cavs 28th straight win at home since the start of last season, and under Kahn the Cavs are an outstanding 44-2 when playing at the Nerney Field House.
In just his third season, Kahn is only the second coach in the program’s history to bring a team to the “Sweet 16” round of the NCAA tournament.
“When we left the floor last year, after getting it handed to us pretty good, I made a pact with myself, my family that this would never happen again. We’re going to make winners out of ourselves, and we did.”
Cabrini is set to take on the College of Wooster (28-2) on Friday, March 11 in Wooster, Ohio.