Written by Jack McCarthy
Wednesday, 20 March 2013 00:00
Remaining unfazed by the bright lights of March, the North Central men's basketball team put together a performance befitting the occasion last Saturday, taking down archrival Illinois Wesleyan University, 83-73, to qualify for the Cardinals' first-ever national quarterfinal.
Third-ranked North Central (27-3) completed a perfect 16-0 run at home this season before a standing-room only Gregory Arena crowd and will make its inaugural trip to Salem, Va., this weekend as the Cardinals look to extend their season even further.
"It's got to be towards the top of the list of wins for this program," said head coach Todd Raridon. "It's probably the biggest for me here at North Central. Each win you get in the NCAA Tournament, it means a great deal for the players, and the alumni who have played here before, for the school in general, and for the students.
"It was a terrific atmosphere tonight, and we hope we can keep some of the people that were here coming back. We're very proud of this team, and we're ready to move forward and keep playing."
Both teams executed at a high level for much of the night, shooting well over 50 percent from the floor throughout the contest. North Central negated a 29-18 rebounding disadvantage by scoring 19 points off of 18 Titan turnovers.
The score was tied six times in the first seven minutes before IWU (23-6) went on a 6-2 mini-run to open up a 20-16 advantage. After closing the gap to 22-21 on two free throws from Derek Raridon, the Cardinals got two three-pointers from Jack Merrithey, along with a steal and layup by Vince Kmiec, to storm to a 29-22 lead with 8:05 left in the opening half.
North Central got a three-pointer from Aaron TIknis to extend the lead to double digits for the first time at 34-24, and the hosts were poised to head into halftime with a 12-point lead before a foul call with 0.5 seconds left gave the Titans an opportunity to sink two charity shots and head into the break with a 46-36 deficit.
The Cardinals led by as many as 13 early in the second half. IWU got its inside game untracked and closed the gap to six points after a series of inside buckets from Kevin Reed, Andrew Ziemnik, VIctor Davis and Eric Dortsch. Dortsch scored five straight to leave the Titans with just a 63-60 disadvantage with 9:09 to play, which Jack Burchett answered with a three-point play of his own. Davis sank a three-pointer for the TItans, but Burchett and Landon Gamble each scored inside to boost North Central's lead back up to 70-63.
Davis' inside jumper with 2:47 remaining left IWU within four points of the lead at 75-71, but the Titans would not score again until less than a minute remained. Pat Rourke knocked down a jumper from just inside the three-point line, then sank three free throws in four attempts to give the Cardinals some breathing room. .
The Cardinals move on to face seventh-ranked Middlebury College (Vt.) in the quarterfinals at the Salem Civic Center on Friday.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 19 March 2013 13:15