Guilford College Men’s Basketball Routs Keene State in Second Half, Advances to National Quarterfinals

Men’s Basketball Routs Keene State in Second Half, Advances to National Quarterfinals
Quakers stifle Owls to season-low in scoring to advance to Elite Eight

from Bryce Johnson, Director of Athletic Communications at Guilford College

GREENSBORO, N.C. – It was indeed a very sweet sixteen for the Guilford College men’s basketball team, breaking away in the second half inside the Ragan-Brown Field House to trounce Keene State University, 82-60 in the third round of the 2024 NCAA Division-III Men’s Basketball Tournament on Friday night.

“Yeah, it was a heck of a game, Keene State is really good, very talented offensively got a bunch of guys who can score,” Head Coach Tom Palombo said. “I’ll tell you what, the first half that was up-and-down, back-and-forth, just a knockdown drag out (type of game) and I thought we hung in there, I thought right before the half was key when at halftime and we got some got some big baskets to stretch out to not a big lead, at least a little bit of a margin.”

With the loss, Keene State’s season comes to a close with a record of 26-4. The Quakers on the other hand, keep on dancing, improving to 25-4, their most wins since 2010, and advancing to the National Quarterfinals where they will meet Christopher Newport University, who beat Williams 60-49 earlier in the evening. That game will be on Saturday at 7:15 PM. (TICKETS)

Guilford was disruptive defensively, holding a top-five scoring offense in KSC to a season-low in scoring with just 60 points, caused 21 turnovers, 13 on steals, and turned that into 26 points, matching their season-high in that statistic.

“Coach said set the tone early defensively and you know we wanted to be aggressive,” Tyler Dearman (Greensboro, N.C.) said. “So really getting in those passing lanes. When they are handling the ball, get after them. That is what we really wanted to do. And 13 steals, I mean, that is just great. It is great to have.”

Dearman and Julius Burch (Greensboro, N.C.) were excellent again for the Quakers. The former poured in a game-high 27 points on 9-of-18 shooting, 3-for-6 from range, and 6-of-7 from the line to go with four assists and four steals. Burch was super-aggressive in this one, recording his second double-double of GC’s NCAA Tournament run, matching his season-high in scoring with 17 to go with ten rebounds, two steals, a block, and a team-leading six assists.

“Offensively, they were really aggressive and they were playing really tight to our guards,” Burch said. “So, I had a lot of space to operate and get downhill and that worked for a lot… If they (Keene State) collapsed. I kicked out we had shots. Just playmaking, being aggressive, being downhill with the space that I had.”

Caleb Farrish (McLeansville, N.C.) joined them in double-figures with ten points while Dawson Edwards (Durham, N.C.) and Gabe Proctor (Apex, N.C.) added nine and seven in reserve respectively, with Edwards adding a trio of steals.

“He is the energy,” Dearman said about Edwards’ performance. “You know, he is that sparkplug that we need off the bench. You know, like you said, we are in the gym with him every day. I mean, we see the hard work he puts in, I mean, he really wants it man. So, I am proud of him.”

Guilford neutralized Keene State All-American center Jeff Hunter, limiting him to just a dozen points before forcing him to foul-out for the first time in nearly three full seasons. Hunter did finish tied for the team lead in scoring and rebounding, with nine.

Octavio Brito matched Hunter’s points and rebounds totals, adding four assists playing all 40 minutes for the Owls. Mason Jean Baptiste scored 11 before he too fouled out before the game’s conclusion.

“They play really fast and they can really shoot,” Palombo said. “They shoot a lot of threes and Hunter is an All-American center so you know they got the inside-outside (with) Brito. (Who is a) really unbelievable one-on-one player… You are not going to stop those guys from scoring. I think you just make it difficult for him or we tried to make it as difficult as possible. And then we wanted them to have to guard us so that you know it is 40 minutes and they are playing a lot… So just trying to wear them down a little bit by having to play defense on us and try to try to slow their offense down a little bit.”

The first half of play was a slugfest both on the scoreboard, and on the court with a chippy, physical brand of basketball being played by both sides, and the officials let them play. The adversaries made statements on their first couple of possessions, collecting a block and a takeaway on the first trips on the defensive end by each. Brito and Burch traded buckets to open the scoring on their next offensive trips a minute and a half in. The next basket from the field would not come until Nate Siow made a layup, and that ignited the fireworks. Four-straight from Dearman and a trey by Gabe Proctor put Guilford in front, but KSC countered with four-straight. Dearman canned one from distance and then that aforementioned edginess boiled over a little as Farrish buried a three in the corner in front of the Owl bench, turned and said something, and got hit with a technical foul. The guests used that to go on a 13-3 run to take the lead.

Jumping ahead a few moments, Keene State had made their lead at five with four-and-a-half left in the frame after a Hunter dunk on the baseline off a slick feed by Siow, but it proved to be a launching point. Four-in-a-row for GC was ended by a Jean Baptiste three, but then a Rob Littlejohn (Columbus, Ohio) triple countered, and Luke Proctor (Apex, N.C.) had a steal-and-score to reclaim the lead for the Quakers. Out of the timeout, Spencer Aronson got what proved to be the final lead the visitors would hold with 2:14 remaining as Littlejohn’s second trey in 90 seconds put GC in front, Edwards got a steal to a bucket, and Burch ended the first half of scoring with a short jumper putting the hosts in front, 40-34 at the break.

The hosts rode 13 points off turnovers to overcome a disadvantage in shooting percentage both overall, 46.4% to 44.1% and from three, 41.7% to 35.7% to hold the edge at halftime.

Guilford pulled away out of the locker room. The Owls stayed within two possessions through the first three minutes, as they trailed by four, but then a layup by Burch, threes by Farrish, and Dearman, then a pair at the charity stripe by Dearman ballooned the lead to double-digits in a hurry and the Quakers would never turn back. Brito, Dearman, Hunter, and Burch swapped layups before an Edwards make from distance ended the pattern and KSC would only get within 14 points once the rest of the way.

A Luke Proctor jumper followed by Edwards ambushing the inbounds pass and laying it in felt like the final straw just under the ten-minute mark and when Hunter fouled out with five-and-a-half ] remaining, Burch took control, scoring four-straight, then Dearman added seven-in-a-row of his own, making the lead 26 and making the already improbable comeback, fully impossible.

The Quakers suffocated the Keene State offense in the second half, holding them to just 26 points on 36.7% shooting. But in a comeback bid, three-point shooting becomes essential, and Guilford only permitted the guests to make one of their 12 attempts from distance in the frame. Meanwhile, they took care of their business, converting on 12-of-14 in the half from the charity stripe.

GC moves on to the National Quarterfinals where they will encounter Christopher Newport on Saturday beginning at 7:15 PM.