A line wrapped around the Spaulding Gymnasium on March 3, extending to the gym parking lot as hundreds of Keene State men’s basketball fans lined up for the first round of the NCAA March Madness tournament.
As game time approached, students were ultimately turned away due to an oversell of tickets. For the fans that did get in, they were looking forward to an intense matchup with Baruch College, which they received.
This year marked the first time KSC has hosted “March Madness” since 2007 when KSC men’s basketball defeated Rivier in the first round according to the athletic department’s website. Friday’s game saw a similar story — the Owls defeated Baruch College 89-78, advancing to the second round the following day.
Senior captain and forward Jeff Hunter won the tip-off, giving it to junior guard Nate Siow where the owls had first possession. Baruch got the ball, went up for a shot, and missed; underneath the basket Hunter rebounded, moving the ball up to sophomore captain and guard Octavio Brivio and then finally to junior guard Mason Jean Baptise who scored a layup on a fast break and set the theme of the game.
The student section was filled with Keene State students dressed in all black, and the gym buzzed with energy. At 12-minutes the Owls led with 22 points and Baruch trailed behind with 13. The Owls maintained their lead for the rest of the game as Baruch attempted to catch up.
The game ended with a score of 78 points for Baruch and 89 points for Keene. The three top scorers of the game were Jean Baptiste with 12, Hunter with 21, and Britio with 30, who is on track to pass the 1,000-point mark for the season.
Following a victory over Baruch College the night before, Keene State men’s basketball returned to the court to take on Tufts University in the second round of the NCAA March Madness tournament. Compared to Friday’s game that saw Spaulding’s stands packed with students, there was a cease in liveliness for the first half.
Senior captain and forward Jeff Hunter won the tip off, giving the Owls first possession, but quickly lost it, letting Tufts have the first points of the game.
For the first three quarters of the game, the Owls and Tufts played tag, as both teams tried to overthrow one another. Keene kept trailing behind, and struggled to get ahead, as Tufts kept getting open in the paint.
Keene State finished the first half with a score of 35 points to Tufts’ 37, after Junior guard Nate Siow had a little hot streak. Keene State started the second half stronger with a layup by sophomore captain and guard Octavio Brivio to bring the teams tied 37-37 right away.
Not only did the Owls’ playing grow stronger in the second half, the energy from the stands also spiked considerably.
Tufts also had a little energy to tie it up at 48-48, but Hunter broke it with a jumper in the paint. After that, Keene just kept adding distance. The final score was 77-72. The top scorers were Jean Baptiste with 11, Siow with 18 and Hunter with 25.
This weekend, the Owls will travel to Pennsylvania to play in the National Sweet 16 Tournament on March 10. The team is taking on Swarthmore College in a rematch of last year’s first-round NCAA game, which the Owls narrowly won 84-83.
Molly Lu McKellar can be contacted