Amherst, MA --- Cortland used a stingy defense to hold WPI to a season low in points and connected on 16-of-20 2-point field goal attempts as the Red Dragons defeated the Engineers 69-50 in a NCAA Division III Tournament first round contest played Friday at Amherst's LeFrak Gymnasium.
Cortland moves to 21-7 on the season and will advance to Saturday's second round where they will meet the winner of Friday's second game between host Amherst and Husson. WPI, who was making its 10th NCAA Tournament appearance in the last 12 years and 11th overall, sees its season come to a close with a 20-7 mark.
The first half was a game of runs. With WPI sporting a 6-5 advantage at the first media time out four minutes in, Cortland rattled off 13 straight points, starting with 3-pointers by JP Reagan (Cortland, NY) and T.J. Hefele (Greenlawn, NY) and ending on a Hefele trifecta to give the Red Dragons a 18-6 edge. WPI then went to its inside game of Obi Obiora (Boston, MA) and Ian Converse (Woodstock, CT) to score 11 of the game's next 15 points capped by a conventional 3-point play from Converse to get within 3 at 20-7 with 7:52 left before intermission.
Cortland then scored the next seven to gain control back and used that to take a 33-22 lead into the locker room at the half. The Red Dragons shot 48.3% from the floor, including a jaw-dropping 10-11 on two-point attempts in the opening 20 minutes while WPI was just 10-of-30 (33.3%) and 1-of-8 (12.5%) from behind the 3-point line.
The Red Dragons continued the stellar defensive effort in the second half, limited the Crimson and Gray to just two points in the opening 7:14 of the second stanza and never seeing it advantage shrink to single digits.
Reagan paced all-scorers off the bench with 18 points for Cortland. The senior shot 7-of-10 from the floor, including a pair of 3-pointers and stuffed the stat sheets with five rebounds, all on the defensive glass, two assists and two blocks. Hefele and James Morales (Mount Kisko, NY) each ended with 12 points with Morales and Reagan accounting for 30 of the Red Dragons 34 bench points on the night. Hefele gobbled up a team-best six boards.
Clyde Niba (Atlanta, GA) collected team-highs of 15 points and eight rebounds for the Engineers. The senior, who played his final two seasons at WPI after transferring in, ends his outstanding four-year collegiate career with 1,267 points. Converse was WPI's other double figure scored board while Sean Doncaster (Medford, MA) chipped in with six points. Converse led all players with three assists on the night while Aaron Todd (York, ME) added four points and five boards, all in the second half.
As a team, Cortland enjoyed a slight 34-31 bulge in rebounding but proved opportunistic on the offensive glass, parlaying six offensive boards into 10 second chance points.
Click HERE if the video does not appear below (courtesy Amherst Athletics)