NEAC SEMIFINAL PREVIEW: Men's Basketball vs. Penn St.-Berks

NEAC SEMIFINAL PREVIEW: Men's Basketball vs. Penn St.-Berks

For the fifth time in as many years, the Wells College men's basketball team has qualified for the North Eastern Athletic Conference playoffs and will face-off against the Nittany Lions of Penn St.-Berks at Morrisville State College in Morrisville, N.Y. on Saturday, Feb. 23 at 4:00 p.m. In three out of the past four seasons, the Express have advanced to the championship game – most recently, the Express claimed a NEAC title in the 2010-11 season, edging out the Nittany Lions of Penn St.-Harrisburg on Feb. 27, 2011. In all-time NEAC postseason play, the Express boast a 7-3 record.

CLINCHING A BERTH: Junior E.J. Taylor (Tampa Bay, Fla.) posted 18 total points for the Express as the Wells College men's basketball team secured a postseason berth with a 74-64 victory over the Storm of Keuka College this past Saturday afternoon at the Frances Tarlton Farenthold Athletic Wing. With the Mustangs of Morrisville State College securing a 96-75 victory over the Wildcats of SUNY Institute of Technology, the Express locked up the second seed in the North Division heading into the playoffs.

In 40 minutes of play, Taylor poured home 6-of-10 shots from the floor to lead the team with 18 points. Sophomore Ryan Hood (Massillon, Ohio) set a career-high mark with 17 total points, hammering home 3-of-5 shots from beyond the arc. Sophomore J.J. Walton (Ocala, Fla.) poured in 16 total points and was 6-for-8 from the field cumulatively.

LAST TIME OUT vs. PENN ST.-BERKS: Without top scorers Al Paul (Elmont, N.Y.) and Jonathan Hurtado (Brooklyn, N.Y.) due to injury, the Wells College men's basketball team posted a 77-64 loss to the Nittany Lions of Penn St.-Berks on Friday, Jan. 4 of this year. The Express jumped out to a 12-6 lead with only 13:41 remaining in the first half following layups by Hood and senior Kenneth Boddie (Syracuse, N.Y.).

However, consecutive layups by Darren Major cut the score to 14 apiece with 11 minutes remaining in the stanza. From there, the Express and Nittany Lions traded ties two additional times before Penn St.-Berks captured the lead once again following a Dontez Reid three point basket with 5:09 remaining in the first half.

Trailing by a 36-32 margin entering the second half, the Express were outscored by a 41-32 margin in the second half en route to their second NEAC loss of the season. Despite tying the game following a Walton layup with 16:48 remaining, the Express let the lead slip away. A Jordan Bishop (Arlington, Texas) jumper with 9:21 remaining cut the home team's lead to one, but Wells would not see a smaller deficit for the remainder of the contest.

Cumulatively for the Express, Taylor posted 18 points to lead the team. Bishop trailed Taylor with 13 total points while Hood posted 11 points via a 5-for-10 performance from the field. Taylor was 3-for-6 from three point range and also posted a team-leading six boards. Junior Jonathan Bonds (Chicago, Ill.) led the team with seven rebounds.

SCOUTING WELLS: E.J. Taylor was the lone Wells student-athlete named to NEAC All-Conference as the junior drew Second Team merits following a poll of the conference coaches…Taylor is currently ranked third in the NEAC with 16.3 points per game…Paul and Taylor rank third and fourth, respectively, with free throw percentages of 80.8% and 79.1%...Against conference opponents, Paul is shooting 83.8% from the charity stripe, ranking him second overall…Taylor's 35.4 minutes per game rank him fifth in the conference in that category…Against conference opponents, Taylor averages 37.2 minutes per game…Bonds leads the team in rebounds with 185 to his credit, averaging 7.4 per game…Taylor leads the squad in takeaways (43) while Walton leads the way with 57 assists…Behind Taylor (16.3), Hurtado (14.7) and Paul (10.0) are the only other double-digit point per game scorers on the team…The Express are 4-2 across their last six road games after opening the year 0-6…Entering this game, the Express are 5-1 dating back to an 87-77 victory over SUNYIT on Jan. 27.

SCOUTING PENN ST.-BERKS: Tom Smith leads all NEAC players in field goal percentage against conference opponents (62%)…Penn St.-Berks ranks third overall in the conference, scoring 77.2 points per game on average…The Nittany Lions also average 16.4 assists per game, a league-leading mark…Penn St.-Berks also is shooting a conference-best 46.6% mark from the field...The Nittany Lions possess the 47th best scoring offense across all NCAA Division III programs, averaging 77.2 points per game as of Feb. 17…Their 46.6% shooting percentage ranks them 66th across all qualifying programs…They are 20th in the nation in assists per game (16.4) and 91st overall in assist turnover ratio (1.07)…As an individual, Smith ranks 41st in the country with a 57% field goal percentage…Scott Yarnell, the Head Coach of the Nittany Lions, was named NEAC Coach of the Year following a vote of his peers.

HEAD-TO-HEAD: The Express and Nittany Lions have played in eight career games and the Express have claimed victory in six of them. Penn St.-Berks is currently riding a two game winning streak over the Express dating back to Jan. 7, 2012. The two teams have never met in the NEAC postseason.

WHAT'S NEXT?: The winner of Saturday's game between the Express and Nittany Lions will face-off against the winner of the Penn St.-Harrisburg/Morrisville State contest at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 24.

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