Junior DeAnte Bruton scored a game-high 22 points in No. 14 Nichols College's 69-65 loss to No. 6 Swarthmore in the NCAA Division III Men's Basketball Elite Eight Saturday night at LaFrek Gymnasium on the campus of Amherst College.
The three-time Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC) First Team pick went 9-of-20 from the field and also collected nine rebounds in 40 minutes of action. Senior Marcos Echevarria gutted out an early injury and finished with 12 points – including three 3-pointers in the second half. Junior Jerome Cunningham blocked five shots – including two during a crucial stretch late in the second half – and finished the night with 14 points, eight rebounds, and four dimes.
Junior Zac O'Dell scored a team-high 20 points for the Garnet (28-3), who outrebounded the Bison 40-35, led by junior Nate Shafer's 12 boards (10 defensive). Freshman George Visconti knocked down three triples and closed the night with 17 points while sophomore Conor Harkins picked up 10 points.
Nichols opened the game by making just four of its first 23 field goal attempts and found itself behind by 19 points (29-10) late in the first half. Following a timeout by head coach Scott Faucher, the Bison closed the half on a 13-3 run to cut their halftime deficit to nine at 32-23. Bruton scored seven of his nine points during the run while sophomore Matt Morrow – who also scored nine in the half – converted a pair of layups.
Swarthmore shot 39 percent in the first half and outrebounded the Bison 23-20. O'Dell led all student-athletes with 12 points (5-of-7 FG) to go with five boards and a pair of blocks. Cunningham pulled down five rebounds for the Bison and also blocked a pair of shots in 15 first-half minutes.
Back-to-back layups by O'Dell, followed by three-pointers from Harkins and Visconti, helped the Garnet open up a 46-31 lead at the first media timeout of the second half. Cunningham, meanwhile, kept the Bison in the game by scoring 10 points in the opening seven minutes of the stanza.
The Bison made one final surge down 61-48 and 6:49 to go, ripping off a 12-3 run to get to within four at 64-60 with 2:12 on the scoreboard. Bruton sank a three-pointer and made a pair of jumpers in the paint while Echevarria knocked down a three and sophomore Nate Tenaglia converted a layup.
Later, down by seven at 67-60, Echevarria sank a long three to bring the home team to within four, and a pair of free throws from Tenaglia with 38 second to go made it 67-65. The Garnet missed a jumper at the other end of the floor, however they were able to secure the rebound, which forced Morrow to commit a foul to stop the clock. Harkins then knocked down both to make it a four-point lead (69-65) with three seconds remaining.
Three things you need to know...
-The Bison finished the 2018-19 campaign with a program-record 28 wins and a .903 winning percentage.
-Echevarria extended his NCAA record of games with at least one three-pointer to 105. He finished his career with 2,519 points – good for 16th place in Division III history – and 479 career three-pointers, which is No. 3 all-time.
-Cunningham finished the season with a program-record 65 blocks and extended his career record to 163.
"This is a special group and this was a special season. Even though we didn't come out on top, guys showed who we are as a team. We fought together right until the end. We didn't have a lot of energy early, but guys battled through it and made it a one possession game down the stretch. I'm proud of our guys. I loved coaching them and I can't thank them enough" –Nichols head coach Scott Faucher