New Haven, Conn. – The third-seeded Albertus Magnus College men's basketball team knocked off No. 2 seed Lasell, 87-80, on Thursday night to advance to this Saturday's Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) Championship. The Falcons will square off with top-seeded and nationally-ranked Johnson & Wales at 1:00 pm inside the Wildcat Center with the conference crown on the line. The winner of the contest will determine the league's automatic qualifier for the NCAA Division III Championship Tournament.
Albertus Magnus enters the weekend showdown with a 20-5 record and is in the midst of a six-game winning streak. After dropping back-to-drop GNAC clashes in early February, the Falcons have responded by averaging over 93 points per game over the last six contests during the streak. The Falcons are making their 16th overall appearance in the GNAC Tournament, owning a 25-9 overall record in the event. The team has captured four straight conference titles and won 14 GNAC Tournament games in a row. AMC is 4-3 all-time against Johnson & Wales in GNAC Tournament play after topping the Wildcats in last season's conference championship.
JWU earned the top-spot in the league tournament thanks to an impressive 17-1 mark in GNAC action. The lone conference setback for the Wildcats came at Albertus Magnus in mid-February. Johnson & Wales, ranked No. 14 in the nation, is 25-2 on the year and a perfect 13-0 on its home floor. The squad cruised to the GNAC Championship with double-digit victories over Saint Joseph's (Maine) and Emmanuel. JWU leads the GNAC in scoring (90.7 points per game), steals (13.4 thefts per contest) and field goal percentage (49.7 %), while tying for the league-best in blocks (3.7 per tilt) with Albertus Magnus.
The Falcons are second in the league in scoring (87.4 points per game) and field goal percentage (47.5 %), while ranking tops in the GNAC in rebounding (42.0 boards per contest). The squad is also third in conference in assists (15.1 dimes per tilt). AMC has scored over 90 points 11 times this winter, highlighted by a season-high 109-point effort in the GNAC Quarterfinals against Mount Ida. Albertus Magnus is receiving votes and just outside the top-25 in the most recent D3Hoops.com poll.
The two teams split the season series with the home team taking each contest. In mid-January, Johnson & Wales shot the lights out, knocking down 60 percent of their shots from the field, while holding the visiting Falcons to just 36 percent shooting in a 113-58 triumph. The biggest difference in the game was three-point shooting, as JWU hit 11-of-19, while AMC converted just 3-of-14 from beyond the arc. A month later, Albertus Magnus scored a 102-94 win in New Haven. AMC freshman point guard Ryan Pittman (Stratford, Conn.) scored 29 of his 34 points in the second half as AMC broke open a tie game to earn the league triumph. Albertus Magnus never trailed during the final 20 minutes and built its lead to as many as 14 late in the frame. Back-and-forth the two squads went in the first half, as neither team led by more than two possessions.
Johnson & Wales is paced offensively by five-time GNAC Player of the Week Quarry Greenaway. The senior guard leads the conference in scoring (26.0 ppg) and ranks fourth in the league in both rebounding (9.3 rpg) and field goal percentage (54.9%). Classmate Tom Garrick is second in the GNAC in scoring, pouring in over 22 points per game.
The Falcons see four players average in double figures led by freshman forward Shontaey Lovell (Brooklyn, N.Y.) with over 17 points and 11 rebounds per game. Sophomore forward Jaqhawn Walters (Hartford, Conn.) is also averaging a double-double this winter, scoring over 15 per tilt and pulling down 10 boards a contest. Senior wing Marc Wilson (Jersey City, N.J.) has emerged as a scoring threat later in the year and is netting over 14 a game, while newcomer Grant Ellis (Newark, N.J.) is scoring better than 12.
Last time out, Lovell registered his league-leading 16th double-double of the winter courtesy of a 22-point, 12-rebound effort. He knocked down 7-of-9 shots from the field and canned all eight of his free-throw attempts for the guests. Walters played the entire contest for the Falcons against Lasell, scoring 21, grabbing a game-high 18 boards and dishing out six assists. Walters hit eight shots from the field to go along with two steals and a block on the defensive end.