A lot of people counted Penn State Harrisburg out of the NCAA Division 3 men’s basketball tournament before it even started. An undersized team out of a lower ranked conference, making its first ever appearance in the Dance with a roster full of sophomores and freshmen, going into Johns Hopkins gym to face the sixth ranked Blue Jays who were fresh off a win over previously unbeaten and number one Swarthmore in the Centennial Conference championship.
The Jays entered the tournament expected to contend for the national title. Most folks thought PSU-Harrisburg was just there for the trip. Spend a night in a hotel at Inner Harbor, eat some crab cakes, enjoy a little reward for a history making season that saw the Lions win their first ever men’s basketball conference championship.
Nobody expected the Lions to pull off a 104-96 double overtime stunner to advance to the second round, where they will meet Yeshiva Saturday night. Nobody, except the Lions and their sixth-year had coach Don Friday. One pundit called it one of the 10 biggest upsets of the decade. It was the equivalent of a No. 15 seed knocking off a No. 2, on teh No. 2’s home court.
“I’m allergic to shellfish,” Friday said, when asked about those crab cakes. He will, however, take all the Donyae Baylor-Carroll he can get.
Baylor-Carroll, a 5-7 sophomore guard out of the Milton Hershey School, was the smallest guy on the court, but nobody came up bigger. The North East Athletic Conference Player of the Year put his team on his back and carried them past Hopkins, pouring in a school-record 45 points, including almost every big bucket of the game.
When Hopkins used a 15-0 run late in the second half to overcome State’s lead and push out to an 8-point lead of its own with just 3:44 to play in regulation, Baylor-Carroll looked over at Friday and told his coach to give him the ball. Friday, who had seen that look before, most recently when Baylor-Carroll almost single-handedly rallied the Lions from 5 points down with 1:33 to play in their overtime win over Lancaster Bible in the NEAC title game.
Trailing by 8 in this one, Baylor-Carroll scored the last 9 points of regulation to spark PSU’s 11-3 end run that sent the game to overtime. In the first extra period, Baylor-Carroll scored 8 of the Lions 10 points and assisted on the other bucket. His three with 5 seconds left in the first OT gave State an 83-80 lead, but Hopkins’ Carson James tied it with a three at the buzzer.
In the second overtime, it was more of the same, with Baylor-Carroll scoring 10 of the Lions’ first 14 points (with an assist on one of the other baskets) as State built the 8-point margin it would win by.
“When this guy looks at me and says give me the ball, it makes me a pretty smart coach,” said Friday, seated next to Baylor-Carroll in the postgame press conference.
Baylor-Carroll was 12-for-27 from the field, including 9 three-pointers. he also knocked down 12 of 13 at the free throw line, including twice making all three after drawing a foul while shooting from the arc.
“(Baylor-Carroll) is a terrific player and he had a terrific performance. He certainly was in the zone,” said Hopkins coach Josh Loeffler. “We tried several different things against him, but sometimes good offense beats good defense.”
Led by Baylor-Carroll, Penn State shot 53.8 percent from the field (35-65) and went 15-32 (46.9 percent) from three-point range as a team. The Lions had 25 assists on their 35 buckets, including 10 from Zegary Scott III, who entered the game ranked sixth in all of Division 3 in assists. Nate Curry (19 points), Pedro Rodriguez (17) and Dylan Daniels (14) also scored in double figures for Penn State. Daniels, the nation’s leading shotblocker, rejected three shots and added 12 rebounds for a double-double.
The game was played in a near empty gym, with no fans allowed in, due to concerns about the spreading the coronavirus. NCAA officials made that decision was made due to a student at Yeshiva, which beat WPI 102-78 in the day’s first game, having tested positive for the virus.
Penn State Harrisburg and Yeshiva will tip off at 8:45 p.m., with the same crowd restrictions in place. The winner will advance to next weekend’s Sweet 16.