WSU rolls in ECAC tourney opener, 71-52

Grant Cooper powers to the basket for two of his 18 points. (Photo by Mickey Curtis)

WESTFIELD – The Big Three of Lee Vazquez (games highs 21 points/4 steals), Matt Devine (12 points, games highs 12 rebounds/6 blocks) and Grant Cooper (18 points, 9 rebounds) powered Westfield State University to a 71-52 victory over Emerson College in the quarterfinals of the 2013 ECAC New England Division III men’s basketball tournament on Wednesday.
Westfield, the No. 1 seed, will host the ECAC Tournament semi-finals and championship games this weekend at the

Lee Vazquez nails a 3-point basket late in the first half. Vazquez now has 1542 career points and needs nine points to move into fourth place on the Owls’ all-time list. Matt Devine has 1,250 points and needs 10 to move into the eighth spot. (Photo by Mickey Curtis)

Woodward Center. On Saturday, March 2, Westfield plays No. 4 seed Castleton State College at 1:00 p.m., followed by the other semi-final game between No. 2 Anna Maria College and No. 3 seed Eastern Connecticut State University at 3:00 p.m.
In Wednesday’s other quarterfinal games, the top seeds prevailed as Castleton edged Wentworth, 80-79, Anna Maria handled Southern Maine, 76-62, and Eastern Connecticut bounced Johnson & Wales, 85-64.
Westfield, the MASCAC regular season championship, tied the school record for victories in a season. The Owls are 22-5 heading into Saturday’s semi-final game. Westfield’s 1992-93 NCAA Tournament team finished 22-6.
“Tonight’s win felt good,” said the 5-6 Vazquez, the MASCAC player of the year who ranks fifth on the Owls’ career scoring charts with 1,542 points. “We have to stay focused…I want the seniors to leave on a winning note and I’m also hoping we can get the school record for wins.”
“We’re in good shape, we’re healthy,” said Westfield head coach Rich Sutter. “We need to keep our focus and I think we’ll be successful.”
Emerson, 15-12, led Westfield 16-12 midway thru the first half, then the athletic and quick Owls begin cranking up their patented full-court press trapping defense.
Westfield outscored Emerson, 23-5, in the final 10 minutes of the first half. Leading 22-19 with 5:15 remaining, the Owls went on a 13-2 run for a 35-21 halftime lead.
Vazquez and Cooper both nailed a 3-point basket in the final minute and led the first-half scoring with 13 and 11 points, respectively.

Westfield coach Rich Sutter shakes hands with his mentor and good friend, Emerson second-year coach Jim O’Brien, the former head coach at Saint Bonaventure, Boston College and Ohio State. Sutter was a student assistant coach for O’Brien at Saint Bonventure in the early 1980s. “You couldn’t find a better person than Jim O’Brien,” said Sutter. (Photo by Mickey Curtis)

The Owls continued to increase the lead over the scrappy but outmanned Lions. Westfield led 49-24 on reserve forward Dan Tessier’s 3-point basket with 13:49 remaining.
Westfield maintained its 20-plus points lead for the remainder of the season half until Emerson’s Eric Wahl hit a trey at the buzzer. Both coaches cleared their benches and all 28 players who suited up saw action.
Twenty-eight was Emerson’s unlucky number. The Lions shot 28 percent in both halves and committed 28 turnovers. Reserve guard Bilali Mack was the only player in double figures with 11 points.
Westfield shot 43 percent from the field, including 6 for 13 behind the 3-point line.
The 6-7 Devine, the NCAA Division III national leader in blocked shots for the second straight year, recorded all six of his rejections in the second half.

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