2017-03-10 / Sports

March Madness

Limestone College men’s basketball returns to NCAA after 3-year absence
By SCOTT POWELL
Ledger Assistant Sports Editor

After winning the conference tournament, Limestone men’s basketball team is happily spending their spring break preparing for March Madness.

Limestone won an automatic bid into the NCAA Division II tournament last weekend with a 76-70 win over King University in the Conference Carolinas Tournament. Now the No. 6 seed Saints will begin first round action Saturday against UNC-Pembroke at 12 p.m. in Charlotte.

Coming off a 12-18 record last season, Limestone rebounded to have one of its best seasons in program history. Limestone currently has a 26-5 record, shared the regular season championship title, and won its third conference tournament.

This is the Limestone men’s basketball team’s third appearance in the NCAA tournament. Their last appearance was in 2014.

The road to the NCAA elite eight will go through Charlotte as Queens University earned the No. 1 seed in the Southeast and will host the first three rounds at the Levine Center.

“Obviously, we are really excited to be able to make it to the NCAA tournament again,” Limestone men’s basketball coach Brandon Scott said. “When we took over the program, we wanted to compete for championships.”

Scott is in his 10th season as the Limestone basketball coach. The Saints have won more than 24 games for the first time since 1987.

“We have played really good on offense and defense,” Scott said. “With the talent we had coming back, I knew our team had a chance to have a good season. I don’t know that I thought we would win 26 games. Our guys have really good chemistry.”

Limestone has been led this season by first team all-conference players Shaq Dance and Shaun Stuart.

Stuart is the team’s leading scorer with 21.7 points per game. The senior guard has five of Limestone’s all-time single game scoring marks this season, topping 40 points on two occasions.

Dance was recently named the conference defensive player of the year and was the tournament MVP. He averages 19.7 points per game with a team leading 7.1 rebounds, 57 steals and 40 blocks.

Limestone will attempt to advance past the first round in the NCAA tournament for the first time.

UNC-Pembroke (24-7) overall) won the program’s first Peach Belt Conference Tournament championship March 5 with an 89-77 victory over Lander for its 10th straight win.

The Braves average 7.7 steals per game and feature a balanced scoring attack with five players averaging more than 10 points per game.

Leading scorer Nigel Grant has 14.3 points while Brandon Watts has 13.5 points per game.

UNC-Pembroke outrebounds its opponents by eight rebounds a game.

“UNC-Pembroke is probably the best team we have played all year,” Scott said. “We are going to have to win the matchup of the forwards. We will have to guard and rebound really well. We will have to be very deliberate on offense.”

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