RPI men’s basketball earns NCAA tournament bit

Local Sports

TROY, N.Y. – Following a 23-win regular season, the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) men’s basketball team has been selected to participate in the 2020 NCAA Division III Championship Tournament, earning an at-large bid. The Engineers face New England College in a first round matchup on Friday at 3:30pm at Tufts University. The host Jumbos take on Western Connecticut State University in another first round contest at 6pm with the winners meeting on Saturday at 6pm.

Rensselaer, which is 23-4, is the only at-large selection of the four schools as the other three earned automatic bids for winning their conference championships. New England College, which is 21-6, captured the New England Collegiate Conference; Tufts, which is also 21-6, won the New England Small College Athletic Conference; and West. Conn., which is 20-7, won the Little East Conference.

RPI, which has not played any of the other three teams this season, is coming off an 80-69 overtime loss to Ithaca College in the Liberty League Tournament Championship Game. It had won five straight games prior to losing on Sunday.

Under sixth-year head coach Mark Gilbride, the Engineers rank in the top five in the nation in scoring defense, allowing only 60.6 points per game. The opposition manages to shoot 41.2 percent, but are out-rebounded by 6.7 boards per game while turning the ball over 16.7 times per contest. The Engineers average 9.7 steals and 19.0 points off turnovers, which is nearly seven points more than the opposition (12.9). RPI scores 73.1 points per game.

Junior forward Patrick Mahoney (Ossining, NY / Fordham Prep.) is the leading point producer, averaging 15.1 points on 161 of 347 attempts – both team-highs. He pulls down 5.7 rebounds, while having registered 39 assists and 26 steals in 28.3 minutes. A three-time Liberty League Performer of the Week, Mahoney has scored at least 20 points in seven games and has three double-doubles (points and rebounds).

Dom Black (Arlington, MA / Arlington), a sophomore guard, leads the Engineers in minutes (31.0), rebounding (6.2), assists (94) and steals (58) and ranks third in scoring average (11.4) and blocked shots (12). He has had multiple steals in 19 of the 27 games and at least three assists in 20. The ECAC Division III North Player of the Month in January, Black’s hometown is less than five miles from Medford, where Tufts is located.

The ECAC North Player of the Month in December was Mason Memmelaar (Middletown, NY / Pine Bush), a sophomore forward who is second on the team in scoring (13.2) and third in rebounding (5.5) while averaging 24.0 minutes. He has made 54.6 percent of his shot attempts (148 of 271) with 52 assists, 39 steals and a team-best 21 blocks.

This season marks the first since the 2008-09 campaign that Rensselaer has qualified for the NCAA Championship, having done so that year by winning the conference tournament. This is the eighth time in school history, including 1996 when it reached the Sweet 16 – the farthest the program has ever advanced. RPI also qualified for the NCAA Tournament in 1958, 1973, 1975, 1976 and 1991.

RPI, which has played 15 games away from Troy (13-2), had a school record-tying 18-game winning streak from mid-November through early-February. The Engineers have also established the school records for overall wins and conference victories (17-1).

Tickets for the games are $12 for adults and $7 for students / senior citizens. They will go on sale Friday at 2:30 pm and Saturday at 5 pm.

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