NCAA First Round 3:30 PM: Hartford Hawks set to make ‘Big Dance’ debut against mighty Baylor Bears

3/18/2021

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — After claiming an America East Championship for the first time in program history, the Hartford men’s basketball team makes its NCAA Tournament debut on Friday afternoon, when it takes on #1 seeded Baylor. Tipoff from Lucas Oil Stadium is set for 3:30 p.m. on truTV, with Lisa Byington and Steve Smith on the call.

NCAA TOURNAMENT: FIRST ROUND
#16 HARTFORD HAWKS (15-8) vs. #1 BAYLOR BEARS (22-2)

DATE: Friday, March 19 | 3:30 p.m. (ET)
LOCATION: Lucas Oil Stadium, “Unity” Court (Indianapolis, Ind.)
WATCH: truTV (Lisa Byington, Steve Smith, AJ Ross)
LISTEN:Westwood One; Sirius Channel 132; XM Channel 202 (Bill Rosinski, Will Perdue)
LIVE STATS: Stat Broadcast
GAME NOTES:Hartford (PDF) | Baylor (PDF)
TWITTER: @HartfordMBB | #FlyHigh | #MarchMadness | #neighborhood

SCOUTING BAYLOR

  • For the first time in program history, the second-ranked Bears were selected as a No. 1 seed — and No. 2 overall behind top-ranked Gonzaga — in the NCAA Tournament
  • The Bears are 22-2 overall, but lost in the Big 12 Semifinals to #12 Oklahoma State, 83-74
  • Leading the nation in three-point field goal percentage (.418), the Bears’ offense ranks third nationally at 84.4 ppg
  • Jared Butler (17.1 ppg) has lit it up from three this season, as his .429 percentage is the 11th-best clip in the nation

SERIES HISTORY

  • Hartford and Baylor meet for the third time on Friday
  • It is the two teams’ first meeting outside of Waco, Texas
  • The Bears won the previous two meetings, taking a 74-59 decision in 2008 before edging the Hawks by a 71-69 final the following year

LAST TIME THEY MET

  • The Bears fought for a 71-69 win on Nov. 15, 2009, in Waco
  • Ekpe Udoh hit a 20-foot turnaround jump shot at the buzzer to send Baylor to victory
  • Joe Zeglinski scored 23 points for the Hawks, who led most of the way

FIRST TIME FOR EVERYTHING

  • March 13 will be remembered as one of the most significant moments in Hartford men’s basketball history
  • In their first time hosting an America East Championship Game, the Hawks were crowned league champions for the first time in program history
  • With the win, Hartford earned the program’s first-ever NCAA Tournament berth

IT’S ALL BEEN DONE

  • Hartford will look to repeat the feat of fellow conference-mate UMBC when it faces #1 Baylor Friday
  • The Retrievers shocked the world and made NCAA Tournament history in 2018 when they upended #1 Virginia in the First Round
  • The win was a convincing one, as UMBC won by a final score of 74-54 on March 16 

LAST TIME OUT

  • Senior Austin Williams scored 20 points, and grad student added 16 as the fourth-seeded Hawks defeated No. 6 UMass Lowell, 64-50, to claim the program’s first-ever America East Championship
  • Hartford, which shot 50.0 percent in the second half, used a key 10-0 run late in the game to pull away from the River Hawks
  • It marked the first time in America East history that the No. 1 or No. 2 seed did not advance to the Championship Game

TOP MARK

  • Although unconventional in nature, the 2020-21 season has been one of the most successful in program history
  • This season’s .720 winning percentage is the best since Hartford joined the Division I ranks for the 1984-85 campaign
  • The previous Division I program record for best winning percentage was .607, in 1996-97 (17-11)
  • Overall, the Hawks’ top winning percentage came in 1969-70, when they went 19-3 for a .864 mark

ZERO-POINT LINE

  • Baylor enters Friday’s game as the top three-point shooting team in the nation, but Hartford is No. 10 in the nation in protecting the three-point line  
  • The Hawks have held opponents to 28.7 percent shooting from behind the arc this season
  • Opponents have been held below the 30.0 percent threshold 13 times this season
  • UMass Lowell was held to 16.7 percent from long range by Hartford’s defense this past Saturday 
  • Last season, the Hawks held opponents to 27.5 percent shooting from long range, the second-best mark in NCAA Division I

HOW WE GOT HERE

  • Williams poured in a career-high 29 points as fourth-seeded Hartford ran out to a 21-11 lead and never looked back in a 77-60 defeat of No. 9 Binghamton (Feb. 27)
  • Less than 24 hours later, the Hawks pushed past No. 5 UAlbany, 83-77, behind five double-figure scorers (Feb. 28)
  • Led by a combined 47 points from Williams and Carter, Hartford pulled off the semifinal upset against a dominant Vermont squad, taking down the No. 2 seed by a 71-65 final (March 6)
  • One week later, the Hawks claimed the America East Championship on their home court with a 64-50 win over No. 6 UMass Lowell
  • Hartford became the first team in America East history to win four games on its way to capturing the league title

POSTSEASON PUSH

  • The Hawks saved their best basketball for when it matters most: the postseason
  • Hartford posted an average margin of victory of +10.8 throughout the America East Playoffs, including a 17-point win in the opening round victory against Binghamton (Feb. 27) 
  • The Hawks scored at least 70 points in three of their four wins, including a season-best 83 in the quarterfinal victory vs. UAlbany (Feb. 28), and averaged 73.8 points through the postseason
  • The Hawks have also put on a shooting clinic, going .488 from the field and .373 from long range

MR. POSTSEASON

  • Named the America East Championship’s Most Outstanding Player, Williams has been a key factor in Hartford’s current postseason run
  • He scored 20+ points in three of four Hawks’ wins 
  • Williams averaged 21.3 points in the postseason, after averaging 12.3 ppg in 19 regular-season games
  • Most impressively, Williams has been virtually unstoppable from the field, going 61 percent (27-of-44), including 57 percent from long range
  • Typically known for his ability to penetrate to the rim, eight of his 22 makes from three have come during the postseason

A FULL CIRCLE

  • Hartford advanced to the Championship Game for the second time in program history in 2019-20, after defeating No. 6 UMass Lowell in the quarterfinals and No. 2 Stony Brook in the semifinals
  • The Hawks’ postseason run came to a tragic end, though, as hours before loading the bus to head to top-seeded Vermont, the title game was abruptly canceled due to COVID-19
  • Three-hundred and sixty-six days later, the Hawks found themselves right where they started from just over a year ago, with a chance to play for their first-ever America East Championship and ticket to the Big Dance 

CHECK OUT THESE NUMBERS 

  • A workhorse on the court, Carter’s numbers have been impressive on both ends of the court in 2020-21
  • Recording 2.6 steals and 11.7 points per game, he is the first player in 31 years to average 2.5+ steals and 10.0+ points in the same season
  • The only other player to have put up similar numbers was Lamont Middleton, who averaged 2.5 steals and 18.9 points in 28 games in 1989-90

STARTED FROM THE BOTTOM…

  • Hartford has proven everyone wrong after a preseason projection that landed the Hawks in the bottom half of the America East Coaches’ Poll (6th) 
  • The Hawks were also picked to finish sixth in the 2019-20 preseason poll, but made it to the Championship Game as the No. 3 seed in the tournament

DEE-FENCE

  • The Hawks have held opponents to 63.3 points per game, making them the top defensive team in the America East
  • That mark is the 24th-best in the nation 
  • They were even stingier in conference play, holding league foes to just 61.9 ppg
  • They have buckled down to hold six opponents to 59 points or fewer this season
  • UMass Lowell recently fell victim to Hartford’s stifling defense, as it was held to just 50 points in the America East Championship Game 

MAGNIFICENT MIRO

  • Sophomore Miroslav Stafl has been big since making his season debut for the Maine series on Dec. 19 and Dec. 20
  • He averaged 11.0 points and 8.0 rebounds off the bench in the two-game set with the Black Bears, including a season-best 17 points in the series finale
  • Stafl has netted double figures in more than half (10) of his 17 appearances, including four of his past five games 
  • He is averaging career-best numbers in scoring (10.4 ppg) and rebounds (5.6 rpg)

D.J. FOR THREE

  • Junior D.J. Mitchell has emerged as one of the league’s top three-point threats
  • He has knocked down a team-best 42 threes this season, and is the league’s most efficient shooter from long range with a .420 clip
  • 71.5 percent of Mitchell’s scoring is done from behind the arc, with all but 46 of his 176 points coming from three-pointers
  • He caught fire earlier this month against Maine (Dec. 20), knocking down the most threes in a game (6) since Jason Dunne had six against Binghamton on Jan. 30, 2019

SWIPE SPECIALISTS 

  • Hartford is known to pick a few pockets, as it leads the league in steals per game with 7.0
  • This is not a new trend as a year ago, Hartford finished as the America East’s leader in total steals (241) and steals per game (7.3)

NEXT ON TAP

  • The winner of Friday’s game advances to the Second Round to face either No. 8 North Carolina or No. 9 Wisconsin
  • The Second Round begins on Sunday, March 21

For an inside look at Hartford men’s basketball, stay with HartfordHawks.com for updates and follow the team on social media: Twitter | Instagram

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