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Pressure game for FPC cagers in NCAA Div. II Elite 8
Franklin Pierce's Ellis Cooper (43) is fouled by Bridgeport's Dezmon Hickman, left, as he lays it up during the NCAA Division II regional championship game at the SNHU Fieldhouse. (JOSH GIBNEY/UNION LEADER)
That is the one thing above all that Franklin Pierce University coach David Chadbourne wants his players to remember today when they face Metro State of Denver, Colo., in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Division II men's basketball tournament.
The Ravens (24-8) have made it to the Elite Eight for the first time in program history, but if they expect to stick around they better handle the pressure Chadbourne expects from the Roadrunners (30-2) today at noon in the first of four games at Freedom Hall in Louisville, Ky.
The winner advances to a semifinal game Saturday against the winner of Florida Southern-Western Washington. The championship game will be Sunday, April 7 in Atlanta, Ga.
"They score a lot off the other team's mistakes," Chadbourne said of the Roadrunners. "That's our biggest emphasis. We have to make sure their defense doesn't create offense."
Metro State averaged just under nine steals and forced teams into almost 17 turnovers a game. One thing that works to FPU's advantage is that it just faced a team in the regional finals that plays a similar style.
The University of Bridgeport averaged just over 10 steals and forced almost 18 turnovers a game this year. The Purple Knights put the Ravens to the test in the championship game of the East Regional, holding the Ravens under 60 points for the just the second time all year.
FPU turned the ball over 21 times in that game - seven more than its season average - and needed some second-half heroics from two of its complimentary players, sophomore Ryen Vilmet and junior Andre Blackwood, to pull out a 57-52 win.
"That was a great lesson," Chadbourne said. "I'm not sure Metro is quicker than Bridgeport, but they're bigger."
Chadbourne knows senior guard Eric Jean-Guillaume, the two-time player of the year in the Northeast-10, will need to be better than he was against the Purple Knights, when he scored seven points on 3-for-15 shooting and turned the ball over four times.
"He has to be good with the ball and he has to make good decisions," Chadbourne said.
The Ravens could get a boost if 6-foot-5 junior point guard Georgios Papapetrou is ready to go. Papapetrou suffered muscle spasms in the first round of the regional and hasn't played since.
"If he's playing the way he's capable of playing, he'll make a big difference," Chadbourne said.
While the Ravens are wading in unfamiliar waters, the Roadrunners are in the Elite Eight for the seventh time since 1998 and are 5-1 in tournament games at Freedom Hall, including their national championship victory over Kentucky Wesleyan in 2000.
While Metro State has a roster that includes three players from California, two from Australia and two from Texas, its leading scorer and rebounder is a local product, 6-8 senior center Jonathan Morse of Boulder, who is averaging 14.7 points and 8.6 rebounds. Chadbourne, however, said the team revolves around its backcourt of junior Brandon Jefferson (14.6 points) and senior Demetrius Miller (13.9).
"Those two guards are what make them go," Chadbourne said.