NEWPORT NEWS, VA – Rowan made a comeback attempt in the second half, but it fell short as the Profs were defeated by Susquehanna, 94-84, in the NCAA Division III Men’s Basketball Championship at Christopher Newport University’s Freeman Center. Marcellus Ross scored a career-high 34 points for Rowan with 25 in the second half to pace the Profs.
Rowan (23-6) faced a 26-point deficit in the first half, and closed to eight points with under four minutes to play, but Susquehanna was able to hold off the Profs.
Ross, who had nine points in the first half, made 9-of-10 field goals in the second half and 7-of-8 from three-point range to reach his new personal best. Senior Arian Azemi scored 15 points, Hafeez Melvin tallied 12 and Andrew Seager notched a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds.
Susquehanna (24-4) held a 52-30 halftime lead but the Profs reversed the roles at the start of the second half. Rowan’s defense picked up the intensity and Susquehanna committed four turnovers in the first four minutes, while the Profs connected on 5-of-10 shots to go on a 17-8 run and close the gap to 60-47.
Ross scored eight straight points to bring Rowan within 62-52 with 12:54 to play. Susquehanna rattled off a quick 8-2 run to build up a 70-54 cushion.
The Profs weren’t done yet and cut it to an eight-point deficit, 78-70, with 4:05 to play, for the smallest margin since the first half. Susquehanna got four points on consecutive baskets by Dominic Dunn and Jay Martin to again go up by double-digits, 84-72, with just 2:54 remaining. Another three by Ross gave the Profs life, 84-75, but the Rivers Hawks were able to ice the win by going 10-for-12 from the line in the final minutes, and move on to the second round to play the winner of the Christopher Newport-Baruch game.
“They were better than us tonight. I give them credit. They had a good game plan and they hit some good shots in the first half. I think it’s just disappointing for our guys because they we just didn’t play our best,” said Rowan head coach Joe Crispin. “I thought we battled well in the second half to give ourselves a chance. We had a couple of possessions where we just messed up and I give them (Susquehanna) credit – they finished the game. They work well together, are a senior-laden group. The first half just wasn’t us. We didn’t have our pace and our confidence and we were turning the ball over.”
Marko Pantovic joins Azemi as the Profs’ lone seniors who played their final games.
This was Rowan’s second appearance in the NCAA Tournament in the past three seasons played, and marked the most victories under head coach Joe Crispin and the most since the Profs went 25-2 in 1998-99.