Benedict Hoops Wins NCAA Tourney Opener In OT

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By Sports Department

LAKELAND, FL (BC SID) -- Benedict College accomplished something it has not done since 2008, as the sixth-seeded Tigers advanced to the second round of the NCAA Division II Men's Basketball Tournament with a 68-65 overtime victory over third-seed Eckerd College on Saturday.

The Tigers needed two free throws from Xavier Collier with three seconds left in regulation to force the extra period, and then the senior guard scored five of Benedict's nine points in overtime, sending Benedict to the second round. Benedict, now 24-6, will face second-seed Alabama-Huntsville at 5 p.m. on Sunday. Alabama-Huntsville edged seventh-seed Christian Brothers 60-58.

Marcus Goode led Benedict with 23 points, 16 coming in the second half, to go along with 17 rebounds and six blocked shots. Collier finished with 15 points and six assists.

“I thought it was a well-played game by both teams. Eckerd is a really good team and they had a good game plan for us and we struggled a little bit early trying to figure out what they were doing against us defensively,” said Benedict coach Fred Watson. “After halftime, we were able to make some adjustments. We got ourselves in overtime and I just got out of the way. I told the guys, 'Let's go win the game.' And I just got out of the way.”

Benedict had to rally after trailing by as many as eight points in the first half, and trailed 40-35 midway through the second half. Goode then stepped up, hitting two free throws and scoring a layup, then made two more free throws to give the Tigers a 41-40 lead, their first lead since early in the first half.

A layup by Lamar Adkins, a pair of free throws by Tydran Beaty and another running jumper by Adkins capped off a 12-0 run to give the Tigers a 47-40 lead with 6:22 left to play.

The Tritons came back and tied the game at 53 with 1:59 left to play on a pair of free throws from their All-American forward Darrien Mack. Mack finished the game with 25 points and 14 rebounds.

A 3-pointer from E.J. Moody put Eckerd ahead 56-55 with 1:11 left, but Goode scored another layup to give Benedict a 57-56 lead with just under a minute to play. Alex Bodney scored a layup to put the Tritons ahead 58-57 with 40 seconds left.

Rickie Jackson missed an open 3-pointer for the Tigers and Eckerd's Walade Wade hit one of two free throws to give Eckerd a 59-57 lead with 18 seconds left.

Collier waited for the clock to wind down and drove to the basket, drawing the foul. He calmly sank both free throws with three seconds left to send the game into overtime.

“Make the free throws and send it into overtime, and we'll handle it from there,” Collier said when asked what he was thinking when he was at the line.

Collier opened the extra period with a three-point play. Another layup by Adkins gave Benedict a 64-61 lead with 2:44 left in overtime, but the Tritons came back on back-to-back baskets by Mack to take a 65-64 lead with 1:29 to play. Adkins put the Tigers ahead with a jumper, and Eckerd turned the ball over on the next trip down as Brennan Reynard stole the ball with eight seconds left. Collier then sank two more clutch free throws with four seconds left to clinch the win.

Both teams struggled with their shooting in the first half, with both teams in the 30 percent range. Benedict started forcing the ball inside more in the second half and shot 48 percent in the second half. The Tigers struggled from long range, making just one of 14 3-point attempts. Eckerd finished the game shooting 36.9 percent.

“We normally couldn't overcome a 1-for-14 night, unless you had a special night from Marcus,” Watson said. “Down the stretch, we had a special night from Marcus. We especially had a special night defensively. We just defended so hard and the guys wanted it so bad, we were able to stay in the game.”

“The big kid was big,” said Eckerd coach Tom Ryan of Goode's play. “When you get to the national tournament, the seedings kind of go out the window. “You've got eight good teams here. I was happy with our team. We played well. It was a great basketball game. That ball bounces once this way or that way, and it changes everything.”

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