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“I love the big games. I love the moment, and I love the crowds. The bigger the game, the better.”
St. Mary’s College of Maryland Seahawks junior guard Kyle Wise was not lying when he said that during an off day for the men’s basketball team Monday afternoon.
Wise scored a career-high 18 points in the biggest game to date for the Seahawks, a 72-66 win at Alvernia University (Pa.) on Saturday in the second round of the NCAA Division III Men’s Basketball National Championship Tournament.
The win advanced the Seahawks (26-3 overall) to the Sweet 16 round of the tournament, which St. Mary’s will host. Morrisville State College (N.Y.) visits the St. Mary’s campus at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
That, too, will be a big game for Wise, with the Seahawks vying for a trip to the school’s second-ever Elite Eight, its first in 2011, under current head coach Chris Harney.
“The entire team is so together right now,” Wise said. “Every game on this ride, we keep getting closer and to help us out like that just feels really special.”
Wise has been special for Harney and the Seahawks during the postseason run. After not scoring in double digits once through 25 regular season games, he has scored in double digits in each of the four postseason contests, which includes 14 in the Capital Athletic Conference semifinal victory over Mary Washington (Va.), 15 in the CAC championship game win over Wesley, 11 against Massachusetts Institute of Technology in an NCAA tournament first-round victory and 18 on Saturday.
“It comes from experience,” Wise said of his current streak. “It comes from trusting in my team and trusting in the coach, trusting in the game plan and trusting in myself.”
In Saturday’s win, Wise not only led with a team-high 18 points, but dished out a team-high six assists.
“When scouting other teams, we always say that good teams have two players,” Harney said. “They have a heart guy, and they have a star player. The star players gets points. ... The heart guy is there for when things get down and things aren’t going the team’s way; he’s the guy that steps up and makes the big play or pulls everyone in and calms everyone down. Kyle does both of those every time for us.”
It has been Wise and a host of Seahawks players filling in for missing injured guard Devin Spencer. It was no different Saturday. Wise led the team off the bench, and Troy Spurrier, James Davenport and Brendan McFall each poured in 11 points, Spurrier’s 11 off the bench. Nick LaGuerre added 16 points in the win.
“It’s been a committee effort,” Harney said. “James isn’t really getting the numbers offensively, but his defense and his rebounding have been huge. He and Kyle, and I would even go so far as to mention Troy who has stepped it up as far as his scoring.”
With St. Mary’s now in its fourth Sweet 16 appearance in program history — all under Harney — the goal is to get back to the Elite Eight and further.
“I really believe that this year, we can go all the way,” Wise said.
Saturday’s win gave the Seahawks 26 victories overall, tying a school record for most wins in one season from the 2009-10 season.