LAKELAND, Fla. – Barry University men’s basketball team lost to No. 26 Delta State, 82-77, in overtime of the opening round of the NCAA Division II National Tournament Saturday at Florida Southern.
Making their fourth trip to the NCAA Tournament, the sixth-seeded Buccaneers finished the season with a 19-9 record. Third-seeded Delta State (25-6) advances to Sunday’s South Regional semifinals to play second-seeded Saint Leo.
“I’m really proud of our basketball team,” first-year coach Butch Estes said. “I felt like we were in a position numerous times in the last two or three minutes of regulation and even midway through the overtime where we could have (won the game). We had opportunities which might have turned the game in our favor, but unfortunately we didn’t get the break.”
It was Barry’s first trip to the NCAA Tournament in four years. Delta State improved to 15-13 all-time in 15 NCAA Tournament appearances.
This one lived up to the March Madness hoopla as the Buccaneers and Statesmen battled through 15 ties and 19 lead changes in a game where momentum swung back and forth throughout. The Bucs’ largest lead was seven not even four minutes into the game, while the Statesmen built its largest lead of eight in overtime.
Barry junior point guard Deric Hill buried a triple in the closing seconds of the first half as the Buccaneers took a five-point lead into the break. The Bucs shot 44.8 percent from the field in the first half, hitting 13 of 29 shots. Barry connected on 8 of 15 3-point field goals for 53 percent. The Statesmen shot 56.5 percent from the floor, going 13 of 23. Delta State was 3 of 11 from long range.
Delta State opened the second half with a 9-0 run over the first 3:58. Bucs junior forward Savad Garner’s basket with 14:13 remaining tied the game for the eighth time, 45-45. Statesmen guard Jack Madgen’s 3-pointer with 8:08 remaining opened up a 58-53 Delta State lead.
The Buccaneers answered with 12-3 run, triggered by 3-pointers from Juan Ferrales and Yunio Barrueta as Barry reclaimed control, 68-63, at the 3:38 mark. But Delta State tied the game for the 12th time on Michael Weems’ three before seizing the lead again, 70-68, on Madgen’s layup with 1:41 to play. Hill sank two free throws to knot the game at 70-70 with 1:09 left.
Both teams missed scoring opportunities in the ensuing two possessions before Garner forced a Statesmen turnover with 1.8 seconds left underneath Delta State’s basket. That gave Barry a last-second chance in regulation to win it. Senior Garrett Naughton threw a three-quarter court-length pass to Barrueta, who caught the ball in the paint. Barrueta turned to square up, but was falling away from the rim off-balance, and couldn’t get the shot to fall.
Barry hit the first field goal in overtime when senior forward Magne Fivelstad, who finished with 13 points and nine rebounds in his final collegiate game, knocked down a jumper in the paint. Fivelstad was 5 of 9 from the floor and 3 of 5 from the free throw line. He finished his career with a .582 field goal percentage, which ranks third in school history. He shot 80.7 percent from the line in his two years as a Buccaneer, which ranks fourth all-time.
“It was a great experience,” Fivelstad said. “We were picked last in the conference. For us to make it to the NCAA Tournament, I’m proud of the guys. I’m proud of how they played.”
Madgen, who had a career-best 32 points on 11 of 18 shooting, including 7 of 13 from long distance, hit a triple with 1:17 left in overtime to push the Statesmen lead back to four. Willie Readus, who had 24 points and 15 rebounds, sank two free throws with 29 seconds left to extend Delta State’s lead to 81-73.
Ferrales scored with 12 seconds left, and was fouled. After missing the free throw, Barry retained possession. The Buccaneers missed two threes before freshman Adrian Gonzalez scored after grabbing an offensive rebound with four seconds on the clock. But Madgen split a pair at the line on the other end, and Barry couldn’t capitalize on its final possession.
“They were able to execute and make some awfully good plays down the stretch,” Estes said. “Readus and Madgen had, obviously, great games.”
The Bucs outscored the Statesmen, 10-5, in second chance opportunities and 22-17 off turnovers. But Barry was 3 of 16 from the field in overtime, going 0 of 7 from 3-point range. Delta State hit 2 of 3 field goals in overtime, while sinking 7 of 10 free throws.
Hill finished with 23 points and seven assists, going 4 of 8 from long distance, despite tweaking his ankle after Readus came down on his foot in the first half. Hill sat for six minutes in the opening half, but had his ankle re-taped and re-entered the game.
“When I first went out there, it was still hurting,” said Hill, who finished the year as Barry’s single-season leader in assists (215) and steals (70). “I wasn’t as quick, but I really didn’t feel it.”
Readus, an All-American candidate, was 7 of 9 from the field and 10 of 12 from the stripe. Delta State went to him continually with an effective lob over the top to cause problems for the Buccaneers.
“Readus, he’s really strong and physical, and if he gets you pushed off, he gets too much space between him and the basket,” said Fivelstad, who had two assists and a steal. “You’ve got to trust your help, and if your help is just a split second late, he gets the basket.”
The Bucs grabbed 15 offensive rebounds to the Statesmen’s six. Both teams scored 24 points in the paint. Barry outscored Delta State, 6-0, in transition.
Barrueta finished with 12 points, eight rebounds and three assists. He capped the season with 22 straight games in double figures. Ferrales had 16 points, going 5 of 12 from the floor and 4 of 8 from 3-point range. Ferrales finished the season with 83 three-pointers, which ranks second all-time in school single-season history.
“We just have to take this pain, this feeling that we have, and use it as motivation for next season,” Hill said. “When we have recruits coming in, we’ve got to show them the way so we can be prepared for next time.”
Garner had eight points, four rebounds and a steal. His 87 offensive boards rank sixth among school season leaders.
“What these guys have done, Magne being a senior, along with Garrett Naughton, have helped us lay the foundation,” Estes said. “You know, we were preseason picked last in our conference. For us to be in the national tournament is a tremendous tribute to these young guys, and the way they came together as a team. Hopefully, we can build on this. We don’t take coming to the national tournament for granted. We realize there are no guarantees, but hopefully it will help us grow as a basketball team and help our recruiting, and we can continue to put out a competitive team in the future.
“I kid these guys all the time about attitude and gratitude. We’re appreciative of the opportunity to be here. Hopefully we can learn from the experience and continue to get better as a program.”
Fivelstad, last year’s Male Scholar-Athlete of the Year at Barry, said there will be brighter days ahead for the Buccaneers.
“I’m just grateful for the opportunity to play with these guys,” the Bergen, Norway, native said. “I’m sure they will be even better next year. The chemistry is there now, and if they get one or two new players who can help the team, sky’s the limit.”