NCAA Championship First Round Clash With No. 2 Ferris State Ahead For Men’s Basketball

Photo credit to Kyle Niermann, University of Findlay
Photo credit to Kyle Niermann, University of Findlay



COLUMBUS, Ohio — In its first NCAA Championship appearance in program history, Ohio Dominican's men's basketball team will take on top-seeded Ferris State in the first round of the 2018 NCAA Midwest Regional inside Jim Wink Arena in Big Rapids, Michigan.

Game time is set for 6 p.m. on Saturday, March 10, with tickets available for purchase through Star Tickets. Additional ticket information is available through the Ferris State Athletics Ticket Office at (231) 591-2888.

The contest marks the second meeting in the last two seasons between the two teams in their eighth match-up all-time. In the last clash, Ferris State came away with a 70-68 win over Ohio Dominican on a buzzer-beating tip-in at Big Rapids High School on December 1, 2016. The Panthers scored 26 points off 17 FSU turnovers and led for over 26 minutes of the contest.

Having won its last eight games and 12 of its last 13, Ohio Dominican (20-10, 12-8) enters the Big Dance as one of the hottest teams in the NCAA's Midwest Region. In their last 12 wins, the Panthers have defeated their opponents by an average of 11.1 points per game and are holding the opposition to an average of just 66 points per contest.

Saturday's game marks uncharted waters for the ODU men's basketball program. A remarkable three-game stretch in the Great Midwest Athletic Conference Tournament propelled the Panthers to their first conference title in their first trip to the postseason since joining Division II. ODU's 20 victories mark the first 20-win season for the program since 2001-02, and a win over the Bulldogs would give Ohio Dominican its second-most victories for a season all-time. The 2017-18 campaign marks just the fourth season of 20 wins or more in Panther program history.

As a team, ODU topped the Great Midwest this season in field goal percentage defense (41.1 percent), three-point field goal percentage defense (30.3 percent) and defensive rebounds per contest (29.2), ranking third in the nation in defending shots behind the arc. Key to the Panthers' success all season long has been their balance, with four players averaging in double figures. Leading the way is second team All-Great Midwest selection Hasan Varence (Queens, New York), who averages 14.1 points and 9.8 rebounds per game. Varence has posted 13 double-doubles this season and was named G-MAC athlete of the week after averaging 15 points and 10 rebounds over the course of the conference tournament. The sophomore forward boasts 769 career points already and with 294 rebounds this season, needs just 23 more to move into second place in program history and 44 to move into first place all-time in boards for a season.

Sophomore Sam Hickey (Toledo, Ohio) comes in at second on the squad in scoring at 12.5 points per game and shoots a red-hot 40.2 percent from three-point range. Also lethal from behind the arc is senior Ronnie Williams (Columbus, Ohio), who's shooting 42 percent from long range and ranks third all-time in program history for made three-pointers at 248. Senior point guard Shemar Waugh (Columbus, Ohio) also averages in double figures, scoring 10.2 points per contest while dishing out 3.6 assists per game. Contributing off the bench is senior Mike DeLeon (Powell, Ohio), who averages 6.7 points and 5.1 rebounds per game. DeLeon scored a career-high 21 points and pulled down nine rebounds to lead Ohio Dominican in its 71-53 G-MAC Championship win over Hillsdale.

About Ferris State

Ranked second in the nation in the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) Poll and entering the NCAA Championship as the Midwest Region's top seed, Ferris State (32-1, 19-1 GLIAC) boasts the best record in the country and has won 25 games in a row in Jim Wink Arena dating back to last season. The Bulldogs captured the 2018 GLIAC regular season and tournament championships and enter Saturday's clash with the Panthers having won 20-straight overall.

Leading the way for FSU is the GLIAC Player of the Year, junior center Zach Hankins. The junior big man was also named to the GLIAC All-Defensive team and boasts averages of 15 points, 9.5 rebounds and 3.4 blocks per game, third-most in NCAA Division II.

Also garnering first team All-GLIAC honors were seniors Drew Cushingberry and Noah King. Cushingberry averages 13.5 points and 5.8 assists per game, while King scores 12.4 points on 43.3 percent shooting from downtown.

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Contact: Aaron McPherson