Benedictine advances to third round of NCAA Tournament
The Benedictine University men's basketball team picked right up where it left off.
Winners of all 27 games during the regular season and the Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference Tournament, the Eagles stormed through the second round of the Division III NCAA Tournament with an 85-64 win over Hardin-Simmons on Saturday night.
Playing in front of a large home crowd in Lisle, Benedictine (28-0) advances to take on Ohio Wesleyan on Friday.
"I have to give a shoutout to our fans," said Naperville Central graduate and junior guard Michael Blaszczyk, who led all scorers with 31 points. "They were unbelievable and that really helps us. We feed off them."
An 18-2 run after an early 4-0 deficit put the Eagles in control and they never looked back, taking a 38-21 advantage into halftime. Lucas Johnson had 13 points and 8 rebounds over the first 20 minutes, including an alley-oop dunk off an inbounds pass, while Blaszczyk chipped in with 12.
"I thought we moved the ball very well," Blaszczyk said. "We didn't settle for quick shots. We made the extra pass and turned a good shot into a great shot."
Hardin-Simmons nearly got the deficit into single digits in the second half, pulling to within 59-48, before Benedictine responded with an 11-2 spurt, capped off by 3-pointers from Shawn Soelter and John Dodson.
Johnson finished with 20 points, 12 rebounds and 4 blocked shots.
"He is big and extremely athletic," Hardin-Simmons coach Craig Carse said of the 6-9 Johnson. "He is not your typical Division III student-athlete."
Benedictine outrebounded their opponent by a wide margin.
"That is always huge," said Johnson, a Wheaton Academy graduate. "Something we always stress is rebounding. Anytime you can have more offensive rebounds then the other team, that is a benefit."
Tim Reamer had 10 points and 9 rebounds and Adam Reynolds added 9 points and 5 rebounds for the Eagles, who were making their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2011.
"We've got something on our board, unselfish equals undefeated," Benedictine coach Keith Bunkenburg said. "We have talent and I'm very lucky to be in the position I am in. It's a very good group, a talented group, but we've had good teams before. The difference is, they don't care about individual stats. We have five guys averaging double-figures and the sixth guy is close."