By PETE DIVITO
DUDLEY, Mass.—The Nichols College men’s basketball team has qualified for the NCAA Division III Tournament for the third-consecutive season and will head to Glassboro, N.J. to face Middlebury College this Friday, March 1, 2019, at Esbjornson Gymnasium on the campus of Rowan University in Glassboro, N.J.
The Bison (25-2)—who began the week No. 15 in the D3hoops.com poll—won the Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC) Championship for the third-straight season with a 105-90 win over Gordon College Saturday, Feb. 24, at the College of the Holy Cross’ Hart Center in Worcester.
Senior Marcos Echevarria and junior DeAnte Bruton combined to score 63 points as the Bison reached the 25-win mark for just the third time in program history (20-15-16, 2017-18).
Echevarria drained seven three-pointers against the Fighting Scots and finished with 31 points, nine dimes, and five rebounds. In the process, he became the CCC’s all-time leading scorer and climbed into 21st place on the all-time scoring list at the Division III level with 2,440 points. Bruton, meanwhile, knocked down five 3-pointers, went 5-of-5 from the line, and closed the game with 32 points, five assists, five rebounds, and four steals.
The Bison are 1-2 all-time in the NCAA Tournament, having defeated No. 11 Neumann in their first-ever NCAA Tournament contest by a score of 96-93 on March 3, 2017. In that contest, Bruton led all student-athletes with 28 points (10-of-21 FG) while Echevarria chipped in with 18 points (10-of-10 FT) and junior Jerome Cunningham filled the stat sheet with 15 points, five rebounds, and four blocked shots. Last season, the Bison were ousted in the first round by No. 16 Plattsburgh State 103-86 as Bruton scored 32 points and Echevarria netted 20.
This season, Ecveharria leads Nichols and ranks sixth in the CCC in scoring at 20.4 ppg while Bruton is not far behind in seventh at 19.4 ppg. A two-time CCC Player of the Year (2017, 2018), Echevarria has 464 career three-pointers, which is No. 4 all-time in Division III history and six shy of No. 3 Amir Mazarei (Redlands ’07) with 470. Concurrently, Bruton has scored in double-figures in all but one game this season – including 12 games with 20+ points – and has climbed into eighth-place on the college’s all-time scoring list with 1,592 points.
Sophomore Matt Morrow is averaging a double-double at 13.1 ppg and 10.5 rpg; he registered 16 double-doubles during the season, including a 16-point, 12-rebound effort in the CCC Championship on Saturday. Cunningham is second in the CCC in blocks/game (1.9) and is three shy of the all-time record of 153, held by Joe Gallant ’15. The fifth Nichols starter, Nate Tenaglia, is averaging 7.9 ppg and 1.6 steals/game, which is tied for fourth in the CCC.
Scott Faucher is in his first season as the head coach of Nichols and will finish the season with the highest winning percentage in program history regardless of the team’s outcome in the NCAA Tournament.
Currently, the Bison have the second-highest winning pct. in the country (92.3), trailing only Whitman and Neb. Wesleyan (96.3). Nichols is also No. 15 in scoring offense (89.2 ppg), No. 19 in scoring margin (+15.1), No. 23 in turnover margin (4.0), No. 25 in rebounds/game (42.4), No. 35 in total steals (243), and No. 42 in steals/game (9.0).
This will mark the fifth all-time meeting with Middlebury and the first since 1979, when the Bison scored a 91-84 win in Dudley.
The Panthers boast an 18-7 record and were eliminated in the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) Quarterfinal round by Tufts, 85-76. The Panthers are led in scoring by sophomore Jack Farrell (16.2 ppg) with sophomore Max Bosco (15.2 ppg) and junior Matt Folger (15.0 ppg) right behind him. Senior Eric McCord pulls down a team-leading 9.9 rpg while Folger averages 8.9 rpg.
Game time and ticket information will follow.
Pete DiVito is sports information director at Nichols College in Dudley, Mass.