The Hobart College basketball team rallied from a 13-point deficit to defeat No. 17 Springfield College 62-61 on James Naismith Court in the second round of the NCAA Division III Men’s Basketball Championship tonight. Sophomore Dan Masino’s layup with two seconds remaining gave the Statesmen the lead and senior Tucker Lescoe stole the Pride’s inbounds pass to seal the victory.
Hobart will travel to Christopher Newport University (23-6) in the third round, tipping off at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, March 13. The Captains defeated Nichols 91-82 in the second round.
“I love this group,” Thompson said in the postgame press conference. “I love our resiliency. I love how we continue to battle. And I’m excited to keep advancing.”
Hobart, which is making its fifth NCAA tournament appearance, advances to the round of 16 for the first time in program history. In Head Coach Stefan Thompson’s first season, the Statesmen improved to 23-5, matching the program record for wins in a season set by the 2011-12 Hobart team.
Sophomore Jackson Meshanic led the Statesmen with 22 points and eight rebounds. Lescoe added 15 points and Masino scored 13 points. Hobart outrebounded Springfield 37-27. The Statesmen shot 44% for the game, including 50 percent in the second half. Hobart was 13-of-16 at the free throw line for the game.
For Springfield, senior Jake Ross scored 22 points and pulled down nine rebounds. Senior Heath Post added 11 points, nine rebounds, four blocked shots, and three steals.
The Pride (23-5) jumped out to a 7-0 lead and never trailing in the first half. Hobart struggled to slow down Ross in the first half. He was 7-of-11 shooting in the opening 20 minutes, going into the locker room with 16 points and the distinction of being the first Division III men’s basketball player to score 2,500 career points and grab 1,000 career rebounds. The Pride shot 51.7% from the floor in the first half on the way to a 33-26 lead at the break, but the Statesmen turned up the defensive pressure to hold Springfield to 31 percent shooting in the second half.
Masino was Hobart’s leading scorer at the half with 11 points. During halftime, Thompson assigned Masino the task of slowing Ross down. Masino sacrificed some of his offensive touches to spend extra energy on defense. He managed to hold him to 4-of-9 shooting and 13 second half points. The switch also had the effect of getting Lescoe into a rhythm. After hitting just 1-of-5 in the first half, he was 3-of-5 from beyond the arc in the second half.
A little more than five minutes into the second half, Daryl Costa made a 3-pointer to send heavily Springfield partisan crowd of 1,500 into a frenzy and forcing Hobart to use a timeout to regroup.
The tactic worked. Over the next eight minutes, the Statesmen used a 17-3 run to take their first lead of the night. Lescoe contributed nine points during the run, including his 300th career 3-pointer, and Meshanic scored the other eight points. Meshanic’s layup at the six minute mark put Hobart in front 52-51. On the defensive end, Hobart limited Springfield to 1-for-10 shooting during the comeback.
From that point on, neither side led by more than three points. With 20 seconds to go, senior Sam Allen’s spin move in the post gave him a layup and Hobart a 60-59 lead. After a Springfield timeout, the home team reclaimed the lead on a jumper by Post with 7.2 seconds to go. The Pride called another timeout to set its defense, but the Statesmen had the perfect counter. Allen made a good lead pass to Masino who caught the ball on the run and went the length of the floor. His defender stayed on his hip, but no other defender moved to help as Masino slashed to the basket, kissing a right handed floater off the glass for a 62-61 lead with just 2.0 seconds left.
Allen and Lescoe immediately dropped back into the defensive end, and like an alert safety in football, Lescoe jumped the route, intercepting the inbounds pass near midcourt to send Hobart to the third round.
“I’m honestly at a loss for words I love this game so much,” Masino said in the press conference. “This is the stuff you dream about. We’re such a unified group, such a resilient group. I owe it all to my teammates. We’ve worked so hard for this. The seniors have provided us with such unbelievable leadership, even when we got down we were never in doubt. It’s such a surreal experience and I just couldn’t be happier.”