Curtis Christian with season-high 16 points in setback
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (March 28, 2013) -- The Franklin Pierce University men's basketball team's remarkable 2012-13 season came to a crushing end on Thursday afternoon in the 2013 NCAA Division II Elite Eight as the Ravens fell to No. 3 nationally ranked Metro State, 78-65, in historic Freedom Hall in Louisville, Ky.
The Ravens (24-9), though, showed tremendous character and resiliency in battling back to take a late lead in the second half despite losing two of their stars to injury at various points of the game.
Franklin Pierce played the final few minutes of the first half without junior forward Ellis Cooper (Northampton, Mass.), who went down with a knee injury, and senior guard Eric Jean-Guillaume (Stamford, Conn.) left for a brief period of time in the second half after rolling an ankle. Both players, however, returned to the lineup and their heroics sparked a surge by the Ravens as they rallied in the second half.
Cooper returned to the court at the start of the second half and came back in the game a few minutes into the period. Franklin Pierce trailed by as many as eight early in the half, but Cooper's return lifted the squad as the Ravens used a 7-2 run over a 90-second span to pull within three at 51-48 with 10:53 remaining. Junior forward Adrianos Vourliotakis Perdikaris (Cholargos, Athens) dropped in a 12-foot jumper to kick-start the rally and classmate Curtis Christian (Harlem, N.Y.) nailed a three-pointer on the next possession.
Christian stepped up huge during the afternoon and provided a lift offensively as he dropped in a team-high 16 points on 6-of-8 shooting from the field, including knocking down four three-balls. His 16 points were a season-high and one shy of his career mark.
The teams traded baskets and Cooper's layup in transition with 9:20 to go pulled the Ravens to within two at 53-51. Cooper finished the game with 12 points and eight rebounds in nearly 30 minutes of action. He tossed in six points and ripped down two rebounds in the second half alone after he was helped off the court without putting any weight on his injured knee late in the first half.
The Ravens continued to push and Christian's trey from the left wing with 6:40 left cut the deficit to one at 59-58. Sophomore forward Ryen Vilmont (Philadelphia, Pa.), who narrowly missed a double-double with 11 points and nine rebounds, dropped in a three of his own moments later and the Ravens had stormed all the way back to take a 63-62 lead with 5:08 remaining.
Metro State, the champions of the South Central Region and the No. 1 seed in that portion of the bracket, responded and reeled off six-straight points, including getting a pair of layups from Nicholas Kay, to take a 68-63 edge with 2:33 remaining.
Playing in his final collegiate game, Jean-Guillaume tried to rally his team and hit a jumper in the lane to make it a one-possession game. However, the Ravens could not get the lead back as the Roadrunners quickly countered with a jumper from Demetrius Miller, and after forcing a Franklin Pierce turnover, Mitch McCarron rained in a triple from the right corner to make it an eight-point game. Metro State scored the final 10 points of the game in pulling off the win.
Jean-Guillaume finished with nine points and five assists in 31 minutes of action. The Ravens shot the ball better than Metro State, but the Roadrunners committed just five turnovers compared to Franklin Pierce's 14, which they were able to score 18 points off of.
Four Roadrunners scored in double-figures, led by Kay's 19 points. He notched a double-double by also collecting 13 rebounds. Brandon Jefferson and Miller went for 16 points apiece, while Jonathan Morse added 10.
Christian came out firing for Franklin Pierce hitting a layup and connecting on a long three-ball to stake the Ravens to an early 9-8 lead five minutes in.
Metro State countered with a quick 6-0 run and continued to hold a lead for the next five minutes before Christian dropped in another trey to knot the score at 22-all with 6:21 to go until halftime.
Following Cooper's injury late in the period, the Ravens scuffled briefly, but junior forward Ant Lessane (Brooklyn, N.Y.) calmed things down with a baseline jumper to keep Franklin Pierce within one at 31-30. Metro State closed the frame with back-to-back baskets to take a 35-30 lead into halftime.
Despite the loss, the Ravens had an amazing season, which saw them claim the first NCAA regional title in program history as they won the East Regional with a 57-52 win over Bridgeport in the championship game back on March 19. Franklin Pierce was the No. 1 seed in the regional for the second-straight season and their 24 wins were the second highest total in a single campaign since the school joined the NCAA in 1988.
Franklin Pierce will lose the services of a pair of seniors in Jean-Guillaume and Josh Jones (Salem, N.H.), but are expected to return three starters and 11 letterwinners for 2013-14.
Jean-Guillaume leaves Franklin Pierce as one of the most decorated players in program history as he ranks seventh in with 1,595 points. The two-time reigning Northeast-10 Conference Player of the Year, Jean-Guillaume was also a pest on the defensive end by ranking third in program history with 241 steals.
For more information on Franklin Pierce men's basketball, please visit the team's page at athletics.franklinpierce.edu(.) To follow the program even further, please visit Franklin Pierce Athletics on YouTube (www.youtube.com/FranklinPierceSports), Twitter (www.twitter.com/FPUathletics) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/FranklinPierceRavens). Fans wishing to purchase Franklin Pierce men's basketball apparel can do so on the athletic department's online store at athletics.franklinpierce.edu/store(.)