WEST HARTFORD, Conn.— Behind a program-record-low seven turnovers, and six players scoring in double figures, the 17th-ranked and first-seeded University of Saint Joseph (USJ) men's basketball team advanced to the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) Semifinals for the second straight season, taking out eighth-seeded Regis College (RC), 97-75, inside a sold out O'Connell Athletic Center Tuesday evening.
The Blue Jays hosted their first playoff game in program history Tuesday night after locking up the one seed in the GNAC Tournament and home court advantage throughout by recording an unblemished 11-0 mark in league play during the regular season. USJ now advances and hosts fourth-seeded Anna Maria, who knocked off fifth-seeded Saint Joseph's College of Maine at home Tuesday evening in other GNAC Quarterfinal action:
Quarterfinals - Tuesday, February 25 (at high seeds)
#8 Regis 75 at #1 St. Joseph (CT) 97
#5 Saint Joseph's Maine 66 at #4 Anna Maria 82
#6 Lasell 98 at #3 Emmanuel 77
#7 Suffolk 79 at #2 Albertus Magnus 82
Semifinals - Thursday, February 27 (at high seeds)
#4 Anna Maria at #1 St. Joseph (CT) – 7:00 p.m.
#6 Lasell at #2 Albertus Magnus – 7:00 p.m.
Championship - Saturday, February 29 (at highest remaining seed)
Sophomore point guard Jaecee Martin (Hartford, Conn.) did a little bit of everything once again, scoring 13 points, grabbing eight rebounds, and dishing out nine assists. He struggled from the field in his first career playoff game (4-14 FG), but controlled the pace with his timing and quickness, setting up his teammates for success. Junior forward Jordan Powell (Middletown, Conn.), who has been on the receiving end of many of 'JC's' passes, was 7-for-9 from the floor, scoring 15 points. He also had six rebounds, five assists, and four steals.
All five starters, along with sixth-man, freshman guard Taelon Martin (Springfield, Mass.) reached double figures. Saint Joseph broke a school record with just seven turnovers in the game, breaking the previous mark of nine set on November 30 against Lesley. Junior forward Marc Trinidad (Bronx, N.Y.) led the way for the Pride with his 11th double-double of the season (18 PTS, 15 REB) on an impressive 8-for-12 shooting, but the Blue Jays were simply too much to handle, holding a double-digit halftime lead. The Pride were without junior forward Juvens Dalger (Oakland Park, Fla.), who scored a game-high 28 points against USJ in their regular season matchup just two weeks ago on February 12.
Score: Saint Joseph 97, Regis 75
Records: USJ (24-2), RC (8-18)
Location: O'Connell Athletic Center | West Hartford, Conn.
PLAYER QUOTE [Jaecee Martin]
"This group is something special. I grew up with most of the players on this team, so for us to play at the college level under Coach Calhoun is even more special. Looking ahead [to Anna Maria], we just need to lock in on defense a little bit more, especially against their big man [Mike Rapoza]. If we do that, I think we should be in pretty good shape."
COACH QUOTE [Jim Calhoun]
"We didn't play particularly well, we got off to a good start early and got a little ahead of ourselves thinking we were just going to go on to Thursday. It doesn't work that way. Give credit to [Regis], they were missing one of their better players, and they really gave us a good go. I thought we got some really good performances by some guys, and now it is on to Thursday and Anna Maria."
- JC scored the first five points of the game to open a 9-2 USJ advantage, but Regis rattled off six straight points, four of them from junior forward Devante Thompson (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.), to close to within one at 11-10. After a three-pointer tied the game at 15, USJ nailed three straight long distance shots from Jaecee Martin, Taelon Martin, and sophomore guard Delshawn Jackson Jr. (Hartford, Conn.) to open a 25-17 lead midway through the first half.
- The Pride closed to within four at 33-29 with 4:44 left in the first half on a layup by Trinidad, but the Blue Jays put together a 15-5 scoring stretch to close out the first frame and took a 48-34 lead into the break.
- 'DJ' scored 12 of his 17 in the second half to put the game away for good, as the Blue Jays, who consistently led by 11 to 17 points in the second half, went on a 12-0 run to make it a 23-point ballgame, 84-61, with 5:38 to go.
NUMBER TO KNOW
23 - The Blue Jays have won 23 straight games, the second longest streak in all of Division III basketball this season (Swarthmore and Yeshiva – 25).
- The Blue Jays ran the ball up and down the floor, outscoring the Pride, 19-0 in fastbreak points.
- USJ handled the points in the paint battle handedly, 52-32.
- The Saint Joseph bench outscored Regis, 28-15.
- Saint Joseph is now 3-0 all-time against Regis.
It's on to the GNAC Semfinals, as the USJ men's basketball team hosts their second playoff game in program history, when they go head-to-head with the four seed, Anna Maria, on Thursday, February 27 at 7:00 p.m. in the O'Connell Center. Tickets can be purchased at http://www.usjbluejays.com/tickets starting on Wednesday, February 26 at 12:00 p.m. Tickets will go fast, so get yours today! The winner earns a right to the GNAC Championship game.
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