Ogden, UT – The championship game of the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament takes place on Tuesday night, as the Weber State Wildcats welcome the East Carolina Pirates to the Dee Events Center.
ECU hosted each of its first four contests in the CIT, and after squeaking out a 66-65 decision in the first round against Savannah State, it cruised with double-digit victories over Rider (75-54), Loyola-Maryland (70-58) and Evansville (81-58) to earn a berth in the championship round. The Pirates, who had never won a Division I postseason game prior to this season, have pieced together their best campaign in school history at 22-12.
After making easy work of Cal Poly (85-43), Air Force (78-57) and Oral Roberts (83-74) in the first three rounds of the tournament in the comforts of its own building, Weber State hit the road for the semifinals and took down Northern Iowa, 59-56. The Wildcats have won 17 of their last 18 games to improve to 30-6, becoming the first team in Big Sky Conference history with 30 wins in a season.
This championship-bout showdown will be the first-ever meeting between the two programs in men's basketball.
The Pirates put on a show on both ends of the court in their 23-point semifinal-round win, shooting a lofty 55.4 percent from the floor, while holding Evansville to less than 32 percent shooting. Maurice Kemp led the way with 20 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks, while Miguel Paul netted 19 points and dished out 11 assists. Robert Sampson also tallied a double-double with 11 points and 13 rebounds, and Ty Armstrong poured in 17 points on 6-of-7 from the field.
The potent offensive performance was nothing new for ECU, as it puts up 76.5 ppg on nearly 45 percent field goal shooting on the season. Kemp is a beast across the court with 18.8 ppg (on 50.3 percent from the field), 8.1 rpg, 2.5 apg, 1.8 spg and 1.1 bpg. Paul (13.0 ppg) is an outstanding floor general, handing out 230 assists (7.2 pg) compared to just 113 turnovers. Akeem Richmond (11.1 ppg) has drained 103 3-pointers at a 42-percent clip, while Armstrong and Sampson net 9.3 and 9.0 ppg, respectively. Despite their stellar offensive attack, the Pirates are oftentimes vulnerable on the defensive end of the court, surrendering 70.9 ppg to opponents.
Weber State took control of its semifinal matchup against UNI early, running out to a 11-0 lead less than five minutes in, and although the Panthers climbed back in it late, Davion Berry drained what proved to be the game- winning jumper with 4:12 remaining to lift his team to victory. Although Berry struggled from the field on the evening (4-of-15), he still finished with a team-high 15 points to go with seven rebounds. Scott Bamforth was 4-of-7 from 3-point range for 14 points, while Frank Otis logged 13 points and 11 rebounds.
Despite playing second-fiddle to Montana all season in the Big Sky, the Wildcats were far and away the league's best statistical team with the top- ranked offense (75.7 ppg, 50.5 field goal percentage) and defense (61.1, .397). Berry drains greater than 47 percent of his field goal attempts (including 41.1 percent of his 3-point attempts) for 15.2 ppg, while Bamforth (13.8 ppg) is even more deadly from beyond the arc, making 99 long-range buckets at a 45.4-percent clip. Kyle Tresnak rounds out the double-digit scorers with 11.9 ppg, adding 5.5 rpg as well.