Guilford College Men’s Basketball Tames Nittany Lions Behind Lobsided First Half, Advance To Second Weekend Of NCAA Tournament

Men’s Basketball Tames Nittany Lions Behind Lobsided First Half, Advance To Second Weekend Of NCAA Tournament
Quakers successfully defend home floor behind 17 each from Dearman, Luke Proctor

from Bryce Johnson, Director of Athletic Communications at Guilford College

GREENSBORO, N.C. – Simply. Dominant. For 40 minutes of action on Saturday night, the Guilford College men’s basketball team was in complete control, dispatching of Penn State- Harrisburg, 76-59, in the second round of the 2024 NCAA Division-III Men’s Basketball Tournament at the Ragan-Brown Field House.

“I thought it was a really good college basketball game, I thought we got off to a really great start, that was really important, something we talked about,” Head Coach Tom Palombo said. “Certainly, in the first half we were really good defensively… we got some steals early, made some shots, and defensively we were pretty sound. Being at home, playing in front of the home crowd. Last night was great, tonight (they) really lifted us when we needed it, got excited. I’m happy for the students, I’m happy for the community that they got to be a part of this.”

Penn. State-Harrisburg sees their season come to a close with a 25-5 record. The Quakers, meanwhile, improve to 24-4 on the season, bringing their win total to the highest it has been since the 2018-19 campaign. GC will now advance to the second weekend for the fifth time in seven trips under Coach Palombo when they will battle Keene State who rolled Eastern to win their opening weekend pod.

Guilford piled up a 24-point lead following a buzzer-beating, step-back trey by Tyler Dearman (Greensboro, N.C.) entering the half, capping a stanza in which they doubled-up the visitors, and posted their top-scoring first half of the season, edging last evening’s total by one. They finished the night with 76 points bringing their weekend point total to 163, their most across any two games this season and it could not have occurred at a better time.

“The last few nights we were very good offensively,” Palombo said. “We were efficient, we shot the ball, we shared the ball really well, and then defensively we were a lot better tonight… I’m really proud of the guys, not surprised, but I’m proud of them.”

Dearman scored 17 on the night, including a dozen in the first half, adding six rebounds, five offensive, a team-high four assists, and three steals. Luke Proctor (Apex, N.C.) matched him with 17 of his own, with the pair finishing tied for the game-high in scoring. Proctor’s point total was just one shy of his career-high as he connected on 6-of-10 from the field, and 2-for-6 from range, adding five rebounds.

Going up against a much taller Penn. State- Harrisburg squad, the Quakers, and specifically Julius Burch (Greensboro, N.C.) were unfazed. As a team, GC nearly secured more offensive rebounds than the Nittany Lions did total, winning the battle of the boards, 44-23. Burch secured a game-best 15 of those despite only scoring six points.

Rob Littlejohn (Columbus, Ohio) netted ten while Luke Proctor (Apex, N.C.) and Dawson Edwards (Durham, N.C.) provided a huge boost in reserve, scoring nine and eight points respectively. Caleb Farrish (McLeansville, N.C.) had a well-rounded evening with seven points to go with eight boards, five offensive, and three steals.

Donyae Baylor-Carroll and Isaiah Milien led the guests with 16 each although the former, PSH’s leading scorer coming in, was held to shooting just 5-for-17 from the field including 1-of-9 from deep.

“The scout was clear that he is their guy,” Dearman, the Quakers’ primary defender on Baylor-Carroll said. “We knew he was going to shoot it, it was just how well contested it was going to be… Make it hard for him all game.”

The Quakers also really contained Nate Curry, Penn. State-Harrisburg’s second-leading scorer, holding him to just six points on three shot attempts although he was tied for the team lead in rebounds with five.

Isaiah Eggleston contributed a dozen off the bench for the Nittany Lions, making 5-of-7.

Guilford set the tone from the opening tip, forcing an offensive foul before Luke Proctor buried a long two to open the scoring. Next possession: Lions turnover, Burch steal-to-score, with the foul, and he converted the three-point play. Next possession: Proctor steal, and Littlejohn got fouled on a third-chance layup attempt, making both from the line and the Quakers had a seven-point edge just a minute and a half in. Eggleston split a pair from the line and Milien made a three to curb the run, before consecutive baskets by Proctor and Dearman’s first points of the evening gave GC a double-digit lead barely over six-minutes in. Baylor-Carroll got a steal, got the hoop and the harm, and converted before Alex Leiba made a second-chance layup, but that was as close as the guests would get the rest of the way. Threes from Littlejohn, Edwards, and Gabe Proctor ballooned the lead to double-digits again and that is where it would remain for the final 29 minutes of game time.

You knew all things were pointing Guilford’s way when at about the four-minute mark, Dearman picked a man’s pocket and took it himself, finishing with a rare dunk on the other end. If that was not evidence enough than perhaps it was Farrish flew in out of nowhere on the baseline to hammer down a put-back jam with 2:24 remaining. Or perhaps it was in the final seconds when Dearman stepped-back, got knocked down, put it off the glass, but still got his three to drop at the first half horn giving GC a 45-21 cushion into the locker room.

“The plan was to come off the screen and try to get downhill,” Dearman said. “But they cut me off, they (my teammates) started counting down, so I just threw it up and it went in.

The Quakers’ 24-point lead at the half was by far their largest of the season, and is their biggest since they held a 26-point edge at the break in another NCAA Tournament contest this one against Sewanee on March 1, 2019.

Tasked with just maintaining their advantage, that is exactly what Guilford did the rest of the way. PSH came out of the locker room and swiftly trimmed the deficit to 17 as Guilford could not manage to get the lid off the basket until nearly four minutes in, but the guests would get no closer. Everytime the Nittany Lions looked to get momentum, it was snuffed out by the Quakers who left no doubt keeping the lead between 23 and 18 the rest of the way until Milien buried a three with 30 seconds left to get it to 17. That would finalize the score with a 76-59 rout to send Guilford to the second weekend.

GC will battle Keene State in that contest, and the game will be on Friday, host site, game times, and other information is to be announced.