Guilford Plays at Wisconsin-Oshkosh in NCAA Division III Tournament Quarterfinal

Guilford downed St. Thomas, 80-73, March 8 in an NCAA Division III playoff game. (Steve Frommell, d3photography.com)
Guilford downed St. Thomas, 80-73, March 8 in an NCAA Division III playoff game. (Steve Frommell, d3photography.com)

NCAA Division III Tournament Quarterfinal

Guilford (24-7) at Wisconsin-Oshkosh (26-3), 8:00 pm (EST), March 9, 2019

 

WATCH THE LIVE VIDEO STREAM OF THE GAME HERE

 
 
Guilford in the NCAA Tournament
The Quakers are making their sixth NCAA playoff appearance and their first since 2017. Guilford owns a 17-5 record in NCAA Tournament games. In 2009 and 2010, the Quakers reached the national semifinals. Guilford also played in the NCAA Tournament in 2007 and 2008.
 
Guilford is back in the tourney's sectional round for third time, the first since 2010. The Quakers are 2-1 in sectional finals.
 
Before joining NCAA Division III in 1991, Guilford competed in the NAIA and posted an 8-8 mark in seven national tournament appearances. Led by future NBA players M.L. Carr '73, World B. Free '76 and Greg Jackson '74, the Quakers won the 1973 NAIA men's basketball title. 
 
Guilford-Wisconsin-Oshkosh Series
When the NCAA Division III schools are separated some 900 miles, it's safe to assume they won't compete against each other on a regular basis. The Quakers and Titans have met just once in the teams' recorded histories and that contest was also a postseason competition. Wisconsin-Oshkosh defeated Guilford, 80-78, in a first-round National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Tournament game. The Titans upset the top-seeded Quakers despite 23 points and 17 rebounds by Guilford All-American Bob Kauffman '68, who was later selected with the third overall pick in the 1968 NBA Draft by Seattle. The contest marked the final college game in Kauffman's illustrious career in which he totaled 2,570 points and 1,801 rebounds in 113 games. Led by Second Team NAIA All-American Tom Witasek and tournament scoring leader Ron Hayek, the Titans placed third in the 32-team tournament.
 
Last year the Titans advanced to the NCAA Division III title game before falling to Nebraska Wesleyan University, 78-72. This year's Wisconsin-Oshkosh team is ranked fourth in the latest D3hoops.com Top 25 Poll. It was ranked second to start the year and enjoyed a 21-game winning streak. The Titans are led by senior Ben Boots (16.0 ppg., 4.0 apg.), this year's Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) Player of the Year and a finalist for the 2019 Jostens Trophy, given to NCAA Division III's top men's basketball student-athlete. Classmate Brett Wittchow (13.9 ppg., 4.8 rpg.) and junior Jack Flynn (14.8 ppg., 8.0 rpg.) joined Boots on the first-team all-conference unit. Interim head coach Matt Lewis was named WIAC Coach of the Year. He spent six years as a Titans' assistant to Pat Juckem, who was named head coach at Washington University-St. Louis last May. He worked at Tulane University with Guilford Director of Athletics Sue Bower from 2010-12.
 
Last Time Out
Guilford reached the sectional finals for the first time since 2010 with an 80-73 victory over the 13th-ranked University of St. Thomas. Kyler Gregory led the way with a career-high 25 points and 11 rebounds for his team-leading 10th double-double of the season. He scored 17 second-half points, which helped Guilford overcome a 39-30 halftime deficit. Marcus Curry added 15 points, 11 in the first half, plus eight rebounds. Jaylen Gore added 14 points and Carson Long scored 13. Guilford controlled the paint and enjoyed a 42-27 edge in rebounds. The Quakers outscored the Tommies 13-3 in second-chance points and had a 34-18 edge in interior scoring.
 
Guilford scored the first seven points of the second half to get back into the game. The lead changed hands eight times over the middle portion of the second half before Guilford put the clamps down defensively. St. Thomas made just three of its final 14 shots in the last six minutes and the Quakers closed on a 16-9 run in the final seven minutes. The victory marked Guilford's sixth in a row and its sixth-straight win over a nationally ranked opponent this season. 
 
Scouting the Quakers
Now in his 16th season, Guilford head coach Tom Palombo has his club peaking at the right time. There was some doubt in the Quakers' camp after Thanksgiving when the team sat with a 3-4 record with all four losses by five or fewer points. Guilford had problems closing out early season games, but turned its fortune around with an 82-78 win December 5 over the University of Lynchburg. The Quakers overcame a 12-point first-half deficit to knock off the 22nd-ranked Hornets in both teams' Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) opener. Perhaps more importantly, Guilford executed down the stretch and won the game late.
 
The Lynchburg win triggered a seven-game winning streak, Guilford's longest since a nine-game skein in 2016-17. A January 9 home loss to Roanoke snapped the winning streak, but the Quakers have since won 20 of their last 23 games. The stretch includes three ODAC Tournament wins that clinched Guilford's fourth league title and its first since 2017. The Quakers pulled out a 67-65 win over regionally ranked Roanoke College in the semifinals before defeating fifth-ranked and top-seeded Randolph-Macon College, 70-59, in the final.
 
Defense and rebounding are the Quakers' strengths. Guilford leads the ODAC and ranks third in NCAA Division III through games of March 3 with a .375 field-goal percentage defense. The team's perimeter defense, a past problem, ranks fourth nationally as opponents shoot just 28.9 percent from 3-point range. Guilford averages a league-best 11.0 more rebounds per game than its opponent, Division III's fifth-best margin. The Quakers place 11th nationally with 44.43 boards per game and first in total rebounds with 1,333 caroms, the seventh-highest total in the school's storied hoops history.
 
Guilford's offense relies on the scoring of forwards Marcus Curry, Kyler Gregory, and Carson Long. A versatile scorer, Curry ranks among the ODAC leaders with 15.4 points per game and shoots better than 48 percent from the floor. Curry can drive the lane and has improved his outside shooting to become the team's go-to scorer in late-game situations. Gregory, a junior, is enjoying a breakout season with 13.0 points and a team-leading 8.2 rebounds per game. While he has some range (8-20 3-pt FG), most of Gregory's points are in the paint, which contributes to his team-high .527 field-goal percentage. He earned the ODAC Tournament's Most Outstanding Player Award and has posted double-doubles in five straight games. Long was mired in a bit of a holiday slump until back-to-back 17-point outings in mid-January. The two-time All-ODAC performer averages 12.6 points and 6.1 boards per outing. Like Curry, he's a threat on the wing and in the paint.
 
Redshirt-sophomore point guard Jaylen Gore has overcome a serious hip injury that limited him to four games last season. He's returned on top of his game and his contributions on both ends give Guilford a substantial boost. He scored in double figures in four straight games after Christmas, including an 18-point showing in the Quakers' January 2 win over Randolph. Gore scores just over 10 points per game and ranks among the league leaders in minutes and assists per game. He earned All-ODAC Tournament honors and led the Quakers with a career-high 22 points in the final, which helped Guilford past fifth-ranked Randolph-Macon College. In Guilford's six postseason contests, Gore averages 13.8 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.8 assists, and 1.5 steals per game.
With balanced offensive contributions and excellent team defense, Guilford won its fourth ODAC Tournament and earned its sixth NCAA Tournament appearance. Despite bowing out in the quarterfinals of the 2018 ODAC tourney, the Quakers' upperclassmen played meaningful minutes for the 2017 ODAC champions that reached the NCAA Tournament second round. After a sluggish start, Palombo now praises his squad for its toughness. He suggests this year's club has improved more during the season than any of his 15 previous Guilford teams.