PREVIEW: NCAA Division II East Region Championship - Saint Anselm vs. Le Moyne

PHILADELPHIA - The Saint Anselm College women's basketball, entering play as the seventh seed in the NCAA Division II Women's Basketball East Regional, will battle fourth-seeded Le Moyne College (26-5) on Monday, Mar. 18 at 7 p.m. with the winner claiming its first-ever NCAA Division II East Region Championship.

The game will be played on the campus of the University of the Sciences.

The Hawks have upset two higher-seeded programs to begin its eighth-ever trip to the NCAA postseason, opening the championship with a convincing 59-40 win over nationally-ranked Bentley in the First Round before securing a 59-50 victory over Stonehill in the Second Round. The win over Bentley was Saint Anselm's first NCAA Championship win since Mar. 4, 1999, a 59-51 win over Franklin Pierce on Bentley's campus. The Hawks also defeated Bentley for only the third time in the last 50 meetings between both programs. 

Saint Anselm reached 21 victories on the year for the first time since the 1994-95 season, reaching that milestone with a win over Stonehill in the East Region semifinals. The Hawks will look to beat a Le Moyne program making only its second-ever appearance in the NCAA Championship. Le Moyne has won a program-record 26 games, one of them coming over Bentley in the Northeast-10 Conference Championship.

Saint Anselm has never won a regional championship in women's basketball and the College is one of only three institutions in NCAA Division II with both the men's and women's program still in play. The Division II Women's Elite Eight will be played in Columbus, Ohio beginning on Tuesday, Mar. 26.

LAST TIME OUT: Saint Anselm, the seventh seed, downed No. 6-seeded Stonehill (20-10) in the East Region semifinals by a 59-50 margin on Saturday.

Juniors Shannon Ryan (Plattsburgh, N.Y.) and Sara Messler (Durham, N.H.) tallied 14 points apiece with Ryan adding a game-high 15 rebounds and four blocks. Messler also pulled down four rebounds in the winning effort. Sophomore Peyton Steinman (Pittsfield, Mass.) handed out three assists and struck for 11 points. The Hawks held edges in rebounding (42-to-41) and field goal percentage (34.5%-to-28.8%).

With the score tied at 46 in the game's last 3:38, the Hawks used an 11-0 run to lock down a victory over the Skyhawks. Eight of those points came at the free throw line as Stonehill was whistled for the game's final five fouls. Senior Ashley Briggs (Scarborough, Maine) had four of those made free throws, helping the Hawks to victory.

LAST TIME OUT vs. LE MOYNE: Saint Anselm recorded a 70-53 loss on Saturday, Jan. 26, falling to the Dolphins in Stoutenburgh Gymnasium.

Ryan led the Hawks with 28 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks, making 12-of-29 field goals from the floor. She had recorded a double-digit point scoring total in each of her previous nine games played and had picked up at least 12 rebounds in five-straight contests. Ryan exited the game with exactly 100 career blocks, becoming only the fourth student-athlete in team history to reach that milestone.

Messler had nine points and four rebounds, setting a personal-high mark with 187 points this season, and Steinman chipped in with eight points, six rebounds and two steals. As a team, the Hawks shot under 30% from the floor, which at the time was the lowest in a game since a 60-51 loss to nationally-ranked Bentley on Dec. 8.

The Hawks built up a modest six-point lead only six minutes into the first quarter as Steinman capped the scoring stretch with a fast-break layup that created a 10-4 lead. Saint Anselm closed the opening quarter with a five point advantage, 14-9, and limited the Dolphins to only four made field goals on 17 shots.

Le Moyne countered its first quarter shooting woes by outscoring the Hawks by a 22-11 margin in the second stanza. The Dolphins capitalized on four Hawks turnovers and scored eight second-chance points, including three on the fast-break. McKayla Roberts, who recently reached 1,000 career points in a Le Moyne uniform, struck for 10 points and three assists in only eight minutes of action.

The Hawks offense had only four made baskets in the third quarter and the Le Moyne offense began to take over, shooting north of 61% from the floor (8-for-13). The Dolphins came out of the locker room with 20 of the third quarter's first 28 points, taking complete control the game and elevating its then game-high lead to 18 points with 12:04 left in regulation time.

Both teams scored 19 points in the fourth quarter, but the offensive woes for Saint Anselm in the second and third quarters created an insurmountable hole. Roberts added 13 additional points in the fourth quarter to finish with a team-leading mark of 33 – she made all 12 of her free throw attempts in the win.

SCOUTING SAINT ANSELM

  • In its two East Region postseason games, the Hawks have limited each opponent to under 30% shooting.
  • When playing on the road and including neutral-site games, Saint Anselm is 12-4 after recording wins in each of its nine contests away from Stoutenburgh Gymnasium to begin the season. The Hawks last recorded 10 victories on the road in 2015-16 and have only accomplished that feat in five prior seasons. The all-time record for wins away from home was 12 (1990-91).
  • Saint Anselm allows its opponents to shoot only 25.6% from beyond the arc, ranking first in the NE10 and third in all of NCAA Division II. Saint Anselm limited Bentley to only five made baskets out of 22 attempts from beyond the arc while halting Stonehill's perimeter shooters, yielding only three made treys out of 18 attempts versus the Skyhawks.
  • Saint Anselm is 10th in the country with 31.0 defensive rebounds per game, on average, and ranks 15th nationally in opponent's field goal percentage (.351). The squad's 1,340 rebounds to date is second in the NE10 and 14th nationally and the team's rebound margin of 8.4 caroms per contest is the 15th-best figure in the nation.
  • The Hawks' 44.7 rebounds per contest stands as the second-best mark in program history, trailing the 45.1 rebounds per game accomplished by the 1984-85 program.
  • Ryan ranks second nationally with 22 double-doubles, trailing only Southern Connecticut State's Kiana Steinauer. She averages 12.2 rebounds per game and ranks seventh in NCAA Division II with that figure. She also averages 18.5 points per game to rank third among NE10 scorers. She reached 1,000 career points against Saint Michael's to cap the regular season home schedule, becoming only the 19th in team history to do so.
  • Ryan set two program records in her team's NE10 Semifinals loss to Bentley, recording her 345th rebound of the season to break Andrea Sunday's previous single-season record of 344 in 1994-95. She also posted her 230th field goal, passing Kristen Skoglund and her mark of 229 set in 1995-96. Ryan has 541 points scored this season, the second-best mark in program history, and she needs only three offensive rebounds against Le Moyne to set the single-season record of 127.
  • Ryan currently stands as the program's all-time leading rebounder with 11.6 rebounds per game and ranks fourth among NCAA Division II student-athletes with 10.9 caroms per game (including her games played at Boston College in 2016-17). Her 18.4 points per game in a Hawks uniform is second all-time, trailing only Linda Dunn's mark of 19.2 across 81 games from 1980-84. Her 131 career blocks are the fourth-most all-time and her 682 career rebounds are the 13th most in program history.
  • Against Le Moyne during the regular season, Ryan had a single-game high of 29 field goals attempted.
  • Steinman owns the nation's 14th best free throw percentage (87.9%) entering Monday's game against Le Moyne.  Ranking seventh in the NE10 in minutes played per game (just over 34), she is in the midst of a breakout season, scoring 14.1 points per game while averaging 5.9 rebounds per contest, both career-high marks. She has reached double-digit scoring totals in 17 out of her last 19 appearances for Saint Anselm.
  • Messler has notched 9.4 points per game, a career-best total, and classmate Julia Thissell (Hopkinton, Mass.) has provided a spark off the bench, tallying just shy of five points per game while securing 3.3 caroms, on average.
  • Briggs is in the midst of a stellar fourth season on the Hilltop, setting career-high marks for points per game (4.8), minutes per game (28.2), games started (30), rebounds per game (2.2) and assists per game (2.5). She is joined in the backcourt by classmate Michaela Martin (Haverhill, Mass.) – she has also set career-highs in rebounds per game (2.2).
  • Guards Guachione and Mazur have earned 28 starts between them as Guachione was felled by injury near the midpoint of the season. Guachione has set personal-best marks with 7.5 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.9 assists per contest. As a freshman, Mazur has averaged nearly 20 minutes per game, handing out 2.1 assists per game.

SCOUTING LE MOYNE

  • Le Moyne ranks 10th in NCAA Division II in scoring defense (54.3), leading the NE10 entering Monday's game. The Dolphins also kept opponents to a .372 three-point field goal percentage, tops in the league.
  • The Dolphins are in the midst of a record-setting season, reaching a program-best 22 wins with an NE10 quarterfinals win over Merrimack on Mar. 3. The previous single-season wins record of 21 was set by the 1994-95 team. 
  • Le Moyne won the Southwest Division for the first time this year and were the top seed in the Northeast-10 Conference Championships, posting a program-best 15-5 in conference action.
  • The Dolphins have won eight of their last nine games, including a 67-45 victory over Bentley in the NE10 title game on Mar 10. Le Moyne opened the NCAA Championship with a 55-43 win over Saint Thomas Aquinas on Friday before moving past the host University of the Sciences, the No. 6-ranked team in NCAA Division II, by a 63-56 margin.
  • Le Moyne is a perfect 4-0 against nationally-ranked opponents in 2018-19. This record reflects two victories against Bentley.
  • Roberts, a junior sensation for the Dolphins, ranks among the national leaders in many statistics, including free throw percentage (92.6 - third in NCAA Division II), three-point field goal percentage (43.3 - ninth in NCAA Division II) and assists per game (5.6 - 14th in NCAA Division II). She also leads all NE10 student-athletes in minutes played (1,109) and earned First Team All-Conference honors following the regular season.
  • Roberts made 15 free throws against the sixth-ranked University of the Sciences in an upset victory during the East Region semifinals, the most by a Dolphins student-athlete since 1989. She also became the second student-athlete in team history to record at least 28 points four times in a single season and moved into second place on Le Moyne's single-season scoring list with 525 points on the year.
  • Jenna Zimmerman, a freshman named to the conference's All-Rookie Team, ranks third in the NE10 in blocked shots (62) and fourth in blocked shots per game (2.00). Corinne Poitevien, an Honorable Mention pick by the NE10, is fourth in the conference with four offensive rebounds per game.

NCAA POSTSEASON ALL-TIME

  • Across all eight appearances at the NCAA Division II Championship, the Hawks own an overall record of 6-7. Saint Anselm has made a trip to the regional finals on three occasions, losing to Bentley twice and the most recent trip to Stonehill in 1995.
  • Against Mass.-Lowell in the First Round of the 1991 East Regional, the Hawks made seven of their nine attempts from beyond the arc to set the NCAA Championship record at the time. It has since been equaled on two occasions.
  • The Dolphins are making their first NCAA Division II postseason appearance since 2002. Le Moyne won the 2019 NE10 Championship, defeating Bentley in the title game. The Falcons handed Le Moyne a 65-54 defeat in the First Round of the 2002 East Region Championship.
  • Saint Anselm and Le Moyne have not met in an NCAA Championship.

HEAD COACHES

  • Saint Anselm head coach Corey Boilard has registered a 38-21 (.644) record since joining the Hawks prior to the 2017-18 season. After a 17-win campaign in his first season, the Hawks have lost only nine of their 30 games in 2018-19.
  • Boilard owns a 122-74 overall record between his time with the Hawks and NCAA Division III Johnson & Wales (R.I.). With the Wildcats, Boilard's teams went 62-22 (.738) overall in his last three seasons, making two NCAA Tournament appearances overall.
  • Le Moyne bench boss Gina Castelli was named NE10 Co-Coach of the Year following the season. In her sixth year at the helm of the Dolphins program, she was the program's first-ever Coach of the Year but had previously won the award from the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference on five occasions for guiding the Siena women's basketball program.

ALL-TIME vs. LE MOYNE

  • Le Moyne leads the all-time series over Saint Anselm, 20-19.
  • The Hawks have been on the losing end of 10 of the last 12 games against Le Moyne dating back to Jan. 5, 2011.
  • Saint Anselm has not fared well on the trip to Syracuse in its history, losing 13 of the 20 all-time meetings following a lengthy bus ride. On the same side of the coin, Le Moyne has struggled away from central New York, winning seven of the 19 contests played in Stoutenburgh Gymnasium.