March 14, 2009
Men's Basketball Upsets AASU To Open NCAA II Play
AUGUSTA, GA --- The sixth-seeded Catawba Indians pulled off the first upset of the NCAA Southeast Regional men’s basketball tournament with a 74-67 win over the third-seeded Armstrong Atlantic State Pirates on Saturday afternoon at Christenberry Fieldhouse. The Indians, now 22-9, placed four players in double figures and advance to the regional semifinals at 5 p.m. on Sunday against #2-seed USC Aiken. The win is the first in the NCAA Tournament for Catawba since 1998, ending a streak of two consecutive first-round overtime losses in the last two years. AASU, ranked 25th in NCAA II, ends its season at 23-7.
Both teams made an identical 24 field goals and six three-pointers, but Catawba won the game at the free throw line, hitting 20 of 28 (.714) while Armstrong Atlantic State struggled, hitting only 13 of 23 (.565) from the stripe. The Indians also made just eight turnovers to help offset a 47-38 edge by AASU on the boards.
Antonio Houston (Charlotte, NC/E. Mecklenburg HS) led the Indians with 21 points, hitting seven of 15 from the field with three three-pointers. Rob Fields (Orangeburg, SC/Orangeburg-Wilkerson HS) came off the bench to add 17, including a 12-for-12 performance at the free throw line. The perfect afternoon from line was only two short of the school mark of 14 makes without miss which has occurred three times previously.
Also reaching double digits for Catawba was Dominick Reid (Charlotte, NC/Cannon School), with 13, and Cliff Burns (Cooleemee, NC/Davie Co. HS), who had 10 points and five blocked shots. Donald Rutherford (Morganton, NC/Freedom HS) had eight points to go with a game-high 12 rebounds.
T.T. Hall led Armstrong Atlantic State with 18 points and eight rebounds, although the senior hit only two of 13 three-point attempts. Dwight Tolbert added 17, while Brian Moultrie scored 13.
Both teams began the game strong and the score was tied at nine when back-to-back three pointers from Houston and Reid sparked a 10-0 Indians run. Armstrong Atlantic fought back with an 8-0 run of their own highlighted by a three-point play from Calvin Wilson that helped cut the lead to two.
Catawba boosted that lead back to 10 in the waning moments of the first half as Fields drained a three-pointer with 2:01 to play, but the Pirates responded once again with a 7-2 run capped by a three-pointer from Hall with five seconds remaining that cut the Indian lead to 35-30 at the break.
Armstrong Atlantic State took their first lead of the game 45-43 on a Keron McKenzie put back with 14:59 to play and led again 52-49 with 10:27 to go following a Hall layup. Catawba then went on a decisive 13-3 run over the next four minutes, seven of those scored by Fields, to open up a seven-point lead.
A Dwight Tolbert free throw with 2:06 to play cut the Indian lead to four, but Fields answered with a pair of free throws with 1:18 to play that gave Catawba a six-point lead AASU could not overcome. Catawba made 5-6 free throw attempts in the final minute while AASU missed four consecutive three-pointers on the same possession with fewer than 40 seconds to play.