Sean O'Brien '06
Photo byErik Andrews'09
Senior Sean O'Brien had 15 points and 10 assists in the victory.

St. John Fisher Advances to NCAA Men's Basketball National Quarterfinals with 94-78 Win Over Utica

March 10, 2006

by Dan Fisher, Asst. Dir. NESCAC

AMHERST, MA - Cardinals' senior guard Sean O'Brien (Orchard Park, N.Y.) scored 15 points and handed out 10 assists as St. John Fisher defeated Utica College 94-78 Friday evening in NCAA Division III Men's Basketball Tournament action at LeFrak Gymnasium in Amherst, Mass.

With the win, St. John Fisher moves to 26-3 on the season and will play the winner of the Tufts/Amherst contest scheduled for later this evening tomorrow in Amherst, Mass., at 7:00 p.m. Utica ends its season at 23-7. Four of the Pioneers seven losses this season came at the hands of the Cardinals.

St. John Fisher opened the contest with a stellar showing from the floor, putting together a 12-3 run that was capped with a lay-up by junior center Dan McSweeney (Marcellus, N.Y.) at 16:36. Mistakes by the Cardinals kept the Pioneers in the game in the early moments though, as a fast break bucket by rookie guard Doug Herring (Newburgh, N.Y.) pulled Utica within two at 12:14.

Utica would tie the contest at 19 moments later thanks to a lay-up by senior forward Shawn Brown (Brooklyn, N.Y.) off of a Herring steal. St. John Fisher regained the lead on the next trip down the floor thanks to a three-pointer by senior guard Raymie Auman (Angelica, N.Y.), however the Cardinals were unable to pull away from the Pioneers.

Early foul trouble caught up with St. John Fisher with 9:24 to go, as Utica was in the bonus for the remainder of the first half. Utica claimed its first lead of the contest with 6:24 remaining on a pull up jumper by junior forward Ray Bryant (Utica, N.Y.) from 15 feet.

The two teams traded the lead before Utica went into the locker room at the half up one, 44-43. The first half proved to be a shooting galley statistically, as Utica was an impressive 60.7 percent from the floor, while St. John Fisher was an equally-impressive 61.5 percent, going 6-for-10 from behind the arc.

Both teams struggled for control of the contest in the early moments of the second half. Utica went up by four at 16:46 with a lay-up from Bryant, however a basket on the next trip down the court by sophomore forward Isaiah Smalt (Savona, N.Y.) at 16:30 sparked a 24-5 run for the Cardinals over the next six minutes. Senior guard Nick Bennett (Binghamton, N.Y.) ended the run with his third three-point basket of the night at 10:25, giving St. John Fisher a 69-54 advantage.

St. John Fisher increased its lead to as much as 21 with 5:54 remaining in the second half on a pair of free throws by O'Brien before Utica mounted a serious challenge to the Cardinal lead. The Pioneers proceeded to score 10 points over the next minute, pulling within 11 at 4:47 on a shot by Herring from behind the arc. Utica whittled the deficit down to eight points with 2:37 to play, however a magnificent series by St. John Fisher the next trip down the floor was capped by an O'Brien lay-up with time winding down on the shot clock to make it 84-74 Cardinals with 2:02 to play.

Utica could not pull any closer than eight in the final two minutes, as St. John Fisher went on to win, 94-78. Auman and sophomore Mike McGee (Batavia, N.Y.) each finished with 16 points for the Cardinals, while Pioneer senior guard Justin Cichon (New Hartford, N.Y.) led all scores with 25 points. Bryant poured in 19 points and added a team-high eight rebounds for Utica.

On the evening, St. John Fisher went a solid 64 percent from the field, posting a 60 percent (9-for-15) average from behind the arc and 84 percent (21-for-25) from the free throw line. Utica finished the game shooting 49.1 percent overall on the evening (28-for-57), going 62.5 percent from the line (15-for-24).

BOX SCORE/PLAY-BY-PLAY