WALLA WALLA, Wash. – The Claremont-Mudd-Scripps men's basketball team needed to play great team basketball to advance in the NCAA Tournament, and they did. The Stags (23-4) beat Whitworth University (23-5) in the First Round 78-73 in a back and forth affair.
Junior Jack Ely (CMC) stepped up in a big way for CMS when the Pirates defended junior Michael Scarlett (CMC) well. Ely put up 17 points – the most since scoring 21 against Occidental on Jan. 17 – including a career-high of three 3-pointers. Junior Kendrick Morris (CMC) dominated in the paint and led the Stags with 24 points.
CMS came out of the gates hot as Ely drained a three and Morris deftly put in a pair of layups to take a quick 9-4 lead. The Stags had success getting Morris the ball in the post and then he out-played the 7-0 Drew Sears to go 12-for-18 on the night.
The CMS defense held the Pirates to just a pair of free throws during a period of four minutes in the first half. Morris made back-to-back layups again to take the commanding 21-13 lead before Whitworth put together a run. While the Stags made a few layups, WU's Kenny Love hit an unassisted 3-point shot to pull the Pirates within three points at 26-23.
With four minutes to go in the half, head coach Ken Scalmanini called a timeout. In the final possessions of the half, the Stags' upperclassmen had the ball in their hands. Senior Riley Hall (CMC) hit a three, assisted by Ely. Then the pair reversed as Hall assisted Ely's triple on the next possession.
Morris closed out the half with two jumpers after grabbing an offensive board. Whitworth's Love drained a 3-pointer at the buzzer, but CMS still had the 42-37 advantage going into halftime.
In the second half, each team put up 36 points for the Stags to win by the same margin they had created at the half.
Whitworth started the second half by making up the distance that had separated the teams at the break. Ben College and Love were each good for a triple and then the game was tied for the first time of the night at 51-51.
But the Stags kept shooting. Morris continued to work in the paint and quietly add to the Stags' total. Ely ended up taking 11 shots from the field in the game including going 3-for-6 from beyond the arc. Despite being heavily guarded throughout the game, Ely found Scarlett twice for baskets midway through the second period as CMS built a small lead.
The game knotted up at 65, 67, and 71 before freshman Miles President (HMC) converted on an and-one free throw for a three-point play. From that point on, the Stags did not relinquish the lead again.
Whitworth came within one point with a driving layup by Kyle Roach but Scarlett answered with a midrange jumper that was well defended. He weaved through traffic and then stepped back out of reach of his defender to give CMS some breathing room with 22 seconds to go.
President closed out the game with a big block on the Pirates' final possession that he came down with and then was fouled. Two made free throws from the freshman later, the Stags were up 78-73 and no time on the clock for Whitworth to retaliate.
Scalmanini noted, "This group of guys has excellent chemistry on the court. They all feed off each other and pick each other up. I'm so proud of how they played as a team tonight." Nineteen of the Stags' 30 baskets were assisted, led by Scarlett and Ely each at seven.
With the win, CMS advances to play Whitman (28-0) in tomorrow's Second Round game at 7 p.m. CT. The Blues beat Rhodes College 111-98 in Friday's First Round matchup to advance to the Round of 32.
By Emily Nordhoff
Sports Information Director
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