WILLIMANTIC, Conn. – For most of the night, the Johnson & Wales University men's basketball team was able to withstand every run made by 10th-ranked Eastern Connecticut State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Unfortunately, the Warriors pulled away in the final 10 minutes to defeat the Wildcats, 75-59, on Friday.
Eastern Connecticut State: 26-3
Johnson & Wales: 19-10
The Warriors jumped out to a quick 13-3 lead just 3:32 into the game. Johnson & Wales worked its way back, taking a 19-17 lead on a Jamari Johnson layup at the 11:49 mark. A Justin Bullock jumper at the with 4:14 left put JWU up 27-25, but the Wildcats would only get one more basket the rest of the half as ECSU took a 37-29 lead into the locker room.
Kendall Marquez made a layup five minutes into the second half to push the ECSU lead back up to 48-38. Randall Ferdinand cut the lead to 52-53 with a layup five minutes later. Cory Muckle answered with a three-pointer to stretch the lead back to four and that's as close as the Wildcats would get the rest of the way.
ECSU's efficiency behind the arc was the difference in the game. The Warriors were 14 of 34 while Wildcats could only manage 4 of 20 from three-point range. JWU did have a slight 38-36 rebounding advantage and scored 23 points off 13 Warrior turnovers.
Playing in his final collegiate game, Jarell Lawson led the Wildcats with 16 points and grabbed seven rebounds. Ferdinand also had 16 points while Johnson tied for the game-high with 11 boards.
Johnson & Wales should be poised for another tournament run next season as Lawson is the only senior on the team.