Five Games to Watch This Weekend (Jan. 13-15th)

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Lydia Caputi and the Bowdoin College women’s basketball team will look to cap their three-day weekend with a win at Williams College on Sunday. (PHOTO CREDIT: Bowdoin College Athletics/Brian Beard/CIPhotography.com)

By Matt Noonan (@MattNoonan11

Happy Friday the 13th, D3 Hoop Fans!

Let’s kick-start this three-day weekend with five games – and five predictions – to watch this weekend.

QUICK NOTE: Rankings (numbers) next to teams are based on this week’s Noontime Sports Top 10 Poll, which is posted every Monday morning at 9 a.m. (Women’s Basketball) and 9:30 a.m. (Men’s Basketball) on Twitter (@NoontimeSports). 

No. 2 Middlebury at  No. 4 Tufts (MBB), Friday, Jan. 13th at 7 p.m. – This is the only meeting between the Panthers and Jumbos (this season). Yet, don’t be shocked if the two tangle in the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) tournament next month.

Tufts enters the game on a four-game winning streak, while Middlebury has won eight-straight, including a pair of conference tilts against Wesleyan University and Connecticut College. Middlebury’s Matt St. Amour will be one of many to players to watch this evening, but I think the Jumbos defense will find away to slow down the Panthers’ offense and escape with a two (or three or four) point victory. PREDICTION: Tufts 74, Middlebury 72 

Wheaton at No. 1 Babson (MBB), Saturday, January 14th at 2 p.m.: As a Wheaton College alum, I am pretty jacked-up – well, technically excited about their current three-game winning streak. Their win earlier this week over Springfield College was rather impressive. Can Coach Brian Walmsley‘s squad make it four-straight New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) wins tomorrow by squeaking out a dramatic win over number one Babson College? Possibly, but they’ll need their defense to fuel their offense, as well as find a way to prevent transition baskets, too.

The Beavers’ transition game is quite impressive following a defensive carom, so keep an eye on not just Joey Flannery, but Sam Bohmiller, Nick ComenaleCharlie RiceMatthew Droney and Isaiah Nelsen. Prediction: Babson 74, Wheaton 66 

No. 7 Conn. College at No. 2 Amherst (WBB), Saturday, January 14th at 3 p.m.: Slowing down the Amherst College women’s basketball team has been a challenge this season for many squads. The Purple and White are a perfect 13-0, including 1-0 in NESCAC play. This game will be their third conference game of the season – this evening they host Little Three rival Wesleyan University with tip-off scheduled for 7 p.m.

The Camels of Conn. College have enjoyed a successful 2016-17 campaign, capturing some impressive wins over Ithaca College, Roger Williams and Western Connecticut. Against Amherst, the Camels will need everyone, both their starters and reserves to step-up. Expect some big contributions from Mairead HynesPayton Ouimette and Liz MalmanPREDICTION: Amherst 75, Conn. College 65 

No. 6 Eastern Connecticut at UMass Boston (MBB), Saturday, January 14th at 3 p.m.: This has the making of a fast-paced, up-tempo and exciting contest, so if you’re looking for a quality pre-New England Patriots playoff game to watch, head to UMass Boston for a BIG Little East Conference (LEC) clash.

The Warriors of Eastern Connecticut State University have been on a roll since starting 2-4 overall. Currently, they have won four-straight as well as seven of their last eight contests, including an impressive win over Amherst earlier this month. Hugh Lindo and Tarchee Brown are on a mission to extend their season beyond the end of February, but will need to keep playing their best, especially against a solid foe like the Beacons, which have won their last three contests, including a double-overtime win earlier this week at Plymouth State. PREDICTION: Eastern Conn. 75, UMass Boston 73 (OT) 

No. 3 Bowdoin at Williams (WBB), Sunday, January 15th at 3 p.m.: This will be a BIG test for Coach Pat Manning‘s Ephs as they host the third-ranked Polar Bears on Sunday afternoon. Williams enters the weekend 1-1 in NESCAC play – they defeated Trinity College, but fell to second-ranked Amherst College on the road. The Ephs will host the Purple & White later this month – keep an eye on that game.

A win for Williams would provide a boost for the Purple and Yellow heading into their next few conference games, but slowing down a Polar Bears squad that has netted 70, 43, 80 and 87 points over their past four games won’t be easy. Prediction: Bowdoin 68, William 60 

Catching Up With Ben Davis (Mount Ida Basketball HC)

Ben Davis, a former Wheaton College basketball player, was introduced last month as Mount Ida College's men's basketball head coach! (Photo Credit: Wheaton College Athletics)

Ben Davis, a former Wheaton College basketball player, was introduced last month as Mount Ida College’s men’s basketball head coach! (Photo Credit: Wheaton College Athletics)

By NoontimeSports.com 

A few weeks ago, Mount Ida College’s athletic department announced the hiring of Ben Davis, a former Wheaton College basketball player, who’ll be the new head coach of the Mustangs men’s basketball team this season.

“It’s awesome to have this opportunity to be a head coach and build your own program,” said Davis. “It’s exciting because we’ve got guys that are willing to work here and I am looking forward to being able to work with them and just try to build a foundation where we can be competitive in the league.”

Before Davis was hired to coach the Mustangs, the Dudley native spent time as an assistant coach with Sienna College, Stonehill College and Nichols College. And before he traded in his uniform for a jacket and tie, he guided Wheaton to back-to-back ECAC Tournament Championships in 2005 and 2006.

Noontime Sports recently caught up with the new head coach to chat about his new gig, as well as his past experiences on the bench.

On becoming a head coach: “I’ve been fortunate to work for some really good coaches. I broke into the business with Coach (Dave) Sokolnicki at Nichols College who knew me a little bit because I am from Dudley originally, so he knew me from high school and gave me an opportunity to coach. He was such a great mentor to me from the start and then at Stonehill College I worked under Coach (David) McLaughlin who was really tremendous. He gave me a ton of responsibility and really brought me along and helped develop me into what I wanted to be like as a coach. I worked for him for three years, which was awesome. We had a lot of success there each year I was there and then I had an opportunity to go to Sienna and had some positive experiences with each coach. The fans at Sienna were amazing. The amount of attention that surrounds that program is awesome, so again I was lucky to move up in the business and when I started out I knew I wanted to be a Division III head coach, and everything I did in coaching was to get to that point, so I feel fortunate that it worked out for me and that I finally get my chance to be a Division III head coach and I am excited to be here at Mount Ida.”

On coaching Division III basketball: “Anyone that plays Division III basketball or a Division III sport for that matter is doing it because they really love the sport and love to be on a team and compete with their teammates and for their school. You get a scholarship in Division I and II, so the higher up you get the more of a business it becomes, but Division III is just about playing for the guys that you go to class with, so it’s a pure genuine thing for people to compete at that level, but to me that’s really special and I wouldn’t have been in coaching at this level if I didn’t have that experience like I did at Wheaton. There’s really that special bond that is created with everyone you’re playing with in Division III and I knew I wanted to be apart of that by giving back to that experience I had as a player, which is something that I think is very important because that’s what makes it very unique and special.”

On coaching in the GNAC (Great Northeast Athletic Conference): “There’s some excellent coaches in the league and I know some of those coaches and the perfect job they have done with their programs and building what they’ve built. It’s a tough conference, so my expectations is that we’re trying to build a foundation for a program moving forward to eventually have some classes that come through that eventually will be younger now, but hopefully older by the time the junior and seniors fully compete in the league. I don’t think we have specific goals in terms of competing for a championship right away because I don’t think that’s realistic, but down the road that’s what we’re trying to model our program after some of the older and tougher teams like Albertus Magnus and Anna Maria that have paved the way and be successful in the league, and that’s what we are trying to build.”

On prior knowledge of Mount Ida basketball: “When I was at Wheaton we played against Mount Ida, so I was familiar with the campus and the school just a little bit from being at a Division III school in the area. We actually played them last year and aren’t playing them next year for non-conference, so we don’t get to play them unfortunately. I’ve learned a lot about the school from obviously going through the interview process and it’s a really exciting time to be here. There’s a new president that has a real vision and direction of the school that is going to be tremendous moving forward and over the summer they’ll be doing renovations to various buildings and they’re adding a new fitness center to our athletic center, which is really going to be helpful, so within the last year or two years they’ve built a new turf field for football and lacrosse and other sports, so I think the president sees athletics as a building block to create the profile of the school and help the school move forward, so I am just learning more and more about it as I get acclimated here, but it’s definitely an exciting time to be apart of it.”

On learning from Coach McLaughlin at Stonehill: “He was tremendous in my development as a coach. I was there for over three years and a day didn’t go by that I wasn’t challenged to be a better coach or be a better recruiter or have my hand in alumni fundraising or something that was going on. He really took the time and I think sometimes it gets lost as a head coach because you’re so concerned about how the team is doing or what your own well being is so sometimes that connection gets lost in terms of helping your assistant coaches, but he did such a great job of challenging me to do more on the court as a coach or recruit better or just my own professional development and I think that really helped me a lot. The reason he has been so successful as a coach is because he takes the time to teach and bring along his assistances, so that really helped the program be successful for a long period of time, and that success helped me with getting a job at Sienna and I wouldn’t have been able to get that job if it wasn’t for the success that we had at Stonehill, so I owe him a ton. I talk to him still on a weekly basis and he was even instrumental at helping me prepare to get the job here in terms of the interview process, so I definitely owe him a ton for the little success I have had as a coach, but he’s been great.”

On playing at Wheaton College: “I think from where Wheaton has come as a program – just bringing it to the point where we were that first class that really made the program successful is special. We ended up graduating with the most wins in a four-year span. We didn’t make the NCAA tournament during those four years, but to have as much success as any other class or team that has ever come through Wheaton was a real true accomplishment for us and playing with guys like Sean Kelly, Josean Vega and Mike Stanton – those kids were just tough players and guys that I really respected and it was a lot of fun to feel like you’re building something to get to that point to have success and where the program and the school never had success before.”

On playing for Coach Brian Walmsley: “I wouldn’t be here today unless it was for Coach Walmsley. He gave me an opportunity to actually be on the team as a freshman because I pretty much talked him in to making the roster as a first-year, but he gave me an opportunity, which he didn’t have to and he really cares about his players and cared about me enough to give me an opportunity to play. I came back the next year and ended up being there all four years, so that’s something I appreciate every day. He definitely cares about his players and I respect him for the way he coaches and the way he cares about the team and I continue to stay in touch with him. I’ll probably be talking to him a lot more moving forward, especially being the head coach at Mount Ida, but he’s terrific and I owe a ton to him for just what he gave us and every other player there in terms of attention and care about what’s going on in our personal lives to how we’re doing in class and obviously on the basketball court, so I don’t think that’s something you find on a lot of basketball courts, but he’s always been terrific with that.”

Mass. College Hoops: Bridgewater State 62, Wheaton College 50

By Brian Willwerth 

NORTON, MA – Bridgewater State is above .500 for the first time since winning its opener. Wheaton College is undefeated no more.

In a defensive battle that was sluggish throughout, the Bears (3-2) defeated the Lyons, 62-50, on Saturday afternoon at Emerson Gymnasium. Michael Lofton led the way offensively with 20 points and 11 rebounds.

“It was a rock fight. It wasn’t aesthetic basketball,” said Bears’ head coach Joe Farroba. “In some cases it was good defense, and it same cases it might have been poor shot selection.”

He won’t get any argument there. Bridgewater State shot just 28% from the field. Wheaton was just 36%. The teams combined to go 6-for-29 from three-point range. But one area where Bridgewater State had a big advantage was on the offensive glass. The Bears had 17 offensive rebounds to eight for the Lyons. They also got to the line three times as often, too. Farroba said both of those were keys.

Once the Bears took the lead 18-16 with about eight minutes remaining in the first half, they never trailed the rest of the way. They jumped out to an eight-point advantage early in the second half, but the Lyons were able to cut the margin to two, as they switched to a zone defense that started to cause problems for the visitors. But the Bears never did relinquish the lead.

“The kid I brought off the bench, [Diijon Reid] hit those 3’s, and that helped,” said Farroba of Wheaton’s zone defense. “That made them blink in terms of what they’re going to do strategy-wise.”

Ryan Clinesmith led Wheaton with 18 points.

I thought he [Clinesmith] really stood out in the second half,” said Wheaton head coach Brian Walmsley, whose team dropped to 5-1.

“Unfortunately he got two quick fouls in the first half and we sat him, [but] then he came back with a lot of energy [and] that was a big difference in the game, having him sit 15 minutes worth.”

Bridgewater State travels to Anna Maria on Tuesday night, while Wheaton will host Gordon, also on Tuesday.

Mass. College Hoops: Div. III Weekend Predictions

By Matt Noonan 

The college basketball season is officially in full swing and with numerous teams playing this weekend, here are some Div. III games to watch.

Men’s Basketball:

* Lesley University at MIT (Saturday) – The Engineers dropped their first game of the season last night to Rhode Island College, but can they rebound against a fast paced Lesley squad? Prediction: MIT 77, Lesley 56

* WPI at Husson (Saturday) – The Engineers are 6-0. The Eagles are 1-1. Will Chris Bartley be giving out free food at this one? Prediction: WPI 80, Husson 60

* Amherst College vs. Springfield College (Saturday) – Great matchup, two great teams and two great coaches. Charlie Brock and his Pride are off to a great start, but the Lord Jeffs maybe too much for the men sporting Springfield on their chest. Prediction: Amherst 68, Springfield 63

* Stevens at Williams College (Saturday) – Two undefeated squads walk into a gym in Williamstown and one departs with their perfect mark intact. Which one will that be? Prediction: Williams 64, Stevens 59

* Bridgewater State at Wheaton College (Saturday) – Brian Walmsley’s unit is off to a fast start, but can they keep the ball moving against the Bears? Prediction: Wheaton 68, Bridgewater 64

Women’s Basketball:

* Regis College at Tufts University (Saturday) – Both squads made it to the NCAA tournament last year, which is great. However, that won’t dictate the outcome of this contest. The Jumbos are on a roll, and I don’t know if the Pride can stop Hannah Foley or Kate Barnosky. Prediction: Tufts 70, Regis 49

* Middlebury College at Emmanuel College (Saturday) – Can a Saint beat a Panther? It’s possible, right? Prediction: Middlebury 60, Emmanuel 58 (UPSET)

* RPI at Williams College (Saturday) – The Ephs have earned some impressive early season wins against Salve Regina, Springfield College and University of New England. The Hawks enter the game having won four of their last five. Prediction: Williams 63, RPI 52

* Clark University at Coast Guard (Saturday) – The Cougars won the Worcester City Tournament against WPI. They’ve also won four games to start the season, too. Against the Bears, they’ll snag rebounds and score points. Prediction: Clark 66, Coast Guard 42

* Wheaton College at Smith College (Saturday) – The Pioneers only setback came against RPI. However, they did defeat Middlebury, 80-47, which is impressive, eh? Prediction: Smith 59, Wheaton 53    

Mass College Hoops Recap: Babson 62, Wheaton 58

By Matt Noonan 

BABSON PARK, MA – With 6.4 seconds remaining in the second half, as well as a two-point advantage, Babson College junior Alex Rudolph marched to the free throw line, and sank two of the biggest shots in his collegiate career, which helped the Beavers prevail against Wheaton College in the NEWMAC quarterfinals, 62-58.

“I’m not going to lie to you and say there wasn’t pressure, but you fight your whole life, your whole career, you work to get to moments like that and I’m just glad I hit them,” said Rudolph, who turned in 19 points, and six rebounds.

Babson College head coach Stephen Brennan, who’s patrolled the Beavers sideline for the past 17 years, was quite shocked that this particular contest was won by Rudolph’s two free throws, especially since his squad struggled from the charity stripe, and connected on 11-of-24 attempts.

“We didn’t really talk much about the free throws, but [Alex] has been playing with great confidence. He was player of the week [in] the NEWMAC last week, and he’s just stepped up his competitive level to a new one,” said Brennan.

Brennan continued by saying, “It was great that he was willing to step up and make those because we had some other guys who didn’t.”

Rudolph jumpstarted Babson’s offense with a jump shot before sophomore Matt Palazini sank a three-pointer, and freshman David Mack recorded a layup to give the Beavers a comfortable, 8-0 advantage.

Wheaton junior Cliften Desravines, (14 points, nine rebounds, four blocks) eventually got the Lyons on the board with two made free throws at 13:16, which ended a scoring drought of seven consecutive missed shots. Desravines then added a layup before senior Brendan Degnan, (13 points) sank two back-to-back free throws, which cut the deficit to 12-6.

“I just thought that at least at that point, we could have very easily been down 13 or 14 or 15 [points], so our defense really helped us stay close, and I thought Cliff gave us a big lift off the bench to get us some baskets, to get us going a little bit midway in the first half,” said Wheaton head coach Brian Walmsley.

“I thought Desravines played much better than he’s ever played against us,” said Brennan. “He did a good job spinning and finishing over our big guys.”

The Lyons then added a few more points from the free throw line before freshman John Wickey and Randolph sank back-to-back trifectas late in the first frame, which gave Babson a 30-24 lead at intermission.

“We just came out with a lot of intensity [in the first half],” said Rudolph. “Coach was preaching ‘energy’ before the game, and we just tried to come out, play as hard as we could on defense.”

Wickey and junior Marcus McDermott ballooned Babson’s lead to 34-26 before Wheaton’s defense ramped up its pressure and helped the offense come within three-points of the Beavers, as freshman Eddie Capstick connected from beyond the arc at 13:30, which made the score, 41-38.

Babson’s offense then exploded with a triple and two layups from sophomore Connor Boyen before Wheaton senior Anthony Weeks, (12 points) responded with two critical free throws that started a rally for the Lyons.

Degnan added a pair at the free throw line before Desravines and sophomore Will Bayliss made a few layups, which was followed by an enormous three-pointer from Weeks, as well as few free throws, too.

“We know Babson is a tremendous defensive team, and it was going to be a struggle to score against them, but our guys kept fighting and fighting,” said Walmsley, who was proud of his team’s second half play.

McDermott halted the Lyons comeback with a three-pointer, which was followed up with two made free throws by Mack to make it 60-53.

Babson’s lead was soon erased by a trifecta and two free throws from Degnan, which brought Wheaton within two-points. Yet, Weeks fouled Rudolph on the ensuing possession to stop the clock, but that didn’t stop Rudolph from making two free throws that secured the win for the Green and White.

“It got a little close for my liking, but it was a good team effort, [and] we had a lot of guys step up off the bench,” said Brennan.

The Beavers will look to keep their March Madness hopes alive when they travel to Cambridge on Saturday to face the top-ranked MIT Engineers at 1:00pm.

“MIT’s obviously a great team, but we thought we really had them in our last game at MIT, and we’re excited to get another shot at them,” said Rudolph