By Matt Leon
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – For the 27th time in his Hall of Fame coaching career, Herb Magee is leading the Philadelphia University Rams to the NCAA Tournament.
The champions of the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference, the 25-6 Rams will take on Franklin Pierce in the first round of the Division II tourney on Saturday night in New Haven, Connecticut.
Magee’s 985th career victory as Rams head coach was a hard-fought 42-41 win over Holy Family in the CACC title game. This came after the Rams slipped past the University of the Sciences in the semi-finals, 59-56, when sophomore Derek Johnson hit a three-pointer with under a second to play.
“That’s going to help us down the road, too,” Magee tells KYW Newsradio. “Because both of those games were right down to the last second. We won them both by making clutch plays, good defensive plays throughout the games and it was a great, great victory for us because winning our conference was really one of our goals.”
The Rams start just one senior, guard Nick Christian. He does a little bit of everything for the squad at both ends of the floor. The Bensalem High School product says winning the conference and getting to the NCAA Tournament in his final season is pretty special.
“I’ve been thinking about words for it,” Christian tells KYW Newsradio. “And I can’t really . . . I mean, it’s perfect. You work hard, you approach the game everyday, you approach practice every day the same way. Your attitude and your hard work, that’s the only thing that doesn’t change. It’s been great, your senior year to win a (conference) championship. Especially with this group of guys, because these guys, man, these guys are awesome. After the game (against Holy Family) was over they said, ‘This one’s for you.’ And that meant a lot to me.”
The Rams are led by sophomore big man Peter Alexis and his 18.1 points and 9.6 rebounds a game.
As for the match-up with Franklin Pierce, Magee says they didn’t go 20-7 in the grueling Northeast-10 Conference by accident.
“Good team,” Magee says. “Solid. Balanced scoring. They’ve got a stud in the middle named (Ellis) Cooper. Very good jump shooter named (Ryne) Vilmont. It’s a very well-rounded team and a team that’s going to give us a lot of problems. But we’re in the tournament, anything can happen.”
As far as the keys to victory, Magee keeps things uncomplicated.
“Make shots you win games,” Magee says. “Period.”
Philadelphia University and Franklin Pierce will tip-off at 8:30pm in New Haven. The winner of this game plays the winner of Southern Connecticut and Bridgeport on Sunday night.
You can follow Matt on Twitter @mattleonkyw.