In an NCAA East Regional that featured tight games and notable comebacks, the title game ironically offered neither:
ST. ANSELM 74 ST. THOMAS AQUINAS 49
Top-seeded St. Anselm kept St. Thomas Aquinas scoreless over the first 5:20 of the second half and cruised to victory in Manchester for its second NCAA East Regional championship, and first since 2000. The Hawks – who were hosting their first-ever regional at a raucous Stoutenburgh Gym – used a 14-2 run in turning a 9-9 tie into a 23-11 lead and never looked back as they became just the fourth #1 seed in the last 10 seasons to hoist the trophy. A 3-pointer from MOP Tim Guers capped another 12-2 spurt that put St. A’s up 39-20 shortly before halftime. Then, when play resumed, a 17-4 surge - capped by back-to-back Cody Ball triples – put the game way out of reach at 56-26 with 13:06 to play, as the Spartans never came closer than 24 the rest of the night, tallying a season low 49 points, which are the fewest in the regional final since Northeastern nipped Springfield 47-45 in 1963. Chris Paul converted all eight of his field goal attempts for 16 points – a total equaled by Ball and Guers; the latter adding nine rebounds and six assists to his stat line. No STAC player reached double figures as Osbel Caraballo and Jamar Sudan each mustered eight points in defeat. The #20 Hawks were the superior shooters (55%-34%) and made more trips to the foul line (10-16 to 2-3) in the most lopsided regional final since Assumption hammered Central Connecticut 105-77 in 1971. St. Anselm – which had lost title games in 1990, 1996, 2014 and 2016 – will face South Region champion Nova Southeastern (FL) a week from Wednesday in the Elite-8 at the Ford Center in Evansville, IN. In an odd twist, both schools boast both their men’s and women’s teams in this year’s Elite 8s. The last time St. A’s won the crown, the format was different as only six teams represented the region and the four lower seeds were forced to win three straight days. That’s what the Hawks did, knocking off American International, host Southern Connecticut and Adelphi; rallying from 21 points down thanks to MOP Todd Manuel to win 76-72 in the final on March 11, 2000.