NCAA Tournament First Round Geneseo vs. Ithaca - Preview

GENESEO, N.Y. - SUNY Geneseo takes on Ithaca in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday, March 2 at Tufts University in Medford, Mass. After a win over New Paltz, 63-57, in the SUNYAC semifinals, the host Knights earned a SUNYAC Championship with a 58-52 victory over Oneonta. Ithaca finished the regular season tied atop the Liberty League standings with a 14-4 mark in conference play, but fell to the third seed in the conference tournament on tiebreakers. The Bombers defeated William Smith, 80-63, in the Liberty League quarterfinals, but fell to RIT, 68-61, in the semifinal. Ithaca received an at-large bid, finishing the season at 20-7, to become the third member of the Liberty League in the NCAA Tournament field. 
SUNY Geneseo junior guard Kelsey Poplawski scored 20 points as the Knights used a late rally to defeat Oneonta, 58-52, and win the 2018 State University of New York Athletic Conference (SUNYAC) Championship, Saturday, Feb. 24, at Schrader Gymnasium. Junior forward McKenna Brooks finished with 11 points and seven rebounds while first-year guard Lindsay Halpin added nine points and five assists.
Geneseo holds a 13-9 record in nine appearances in the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament. Last year, the host Knights overcame a nine-point halftime deficit to earn a comeback victory over Muhlenberg, 65-53, in the NCAA Tournament First Round and earned a victory over Rochester in the second round, 78-72, to set the program mark for wins in a season (28) before falling at Ohio Northern in the Sweet 16. The team has advanced as far as the sectional finals on two occasions, falling to Salem State, 76-65, in 1995, and to Scranton, 79-70, in 1993. Geneseo has reached the Round of 16 three times prior, with wins in 1993 (Moravian, 80-57) and 1995 (Wheaton [Mass.], 69-66) and a loss to FDU-Florham in 2015 (68-54).
Head coach Scott Hemer was named the SUNYAC Women's Basketball Coach of the Year for the fourth-straight season after guiding the Knights to a 23-2 regular season record, including an 18-0 mark against conference opponents, their second SUNYAC Championship in the past four years and fourth-straight NCAA Tournament appearance. Honored for the fifth time overall, Hemer enters the weekend with a 216-87 mark at the helm. He led the Knights to their seventh 20-win season in the last eight years while junior forward McKenna Brooks and first-year guards Natalie Alfieri and Lindsay Halpin were named All-Conference.
For the second-consecutive season, the Knights rank among the nation's top 25 stingiest defenses. After finishing last season ranked sixth in the nation  in scoring defense (48.7), the Knights ranks 24th in NCAA Division III, holding opponents to 51.1 points per game.
Geneseo ranks sixth in the nation committing just 12.7 personal fouls per game. The only other NCAA Tournament team with fewer fouls per game is Wartburg, ranked fourth in NCAA Division III with 12.3 fouls per game. 
Geneseo has earned at least 20 wins in each of the last six seasons and seven of its last eight. Since the 2012-13 season, Geneseo has posted a 140-30 record and an .824 winning percentage. The current streak of 20-win seasons is the second-longest in program history (1991-99).
Junior forward McKenna Brooks was named SUNYAC Player of the Year, while first-year guard Natalie Alfieri was named SUNYAC Rookie of the Year and first-year guard Lindsay Halpin was named to the All-Conference Second Team. Brooks averages 12.0 points per game on a SUNYAC-leading 49.8 shooting percentage along with 7.9 rebounds per game and a league-best 2.3 steals per game.  Alfieri scores 8.9 points per game, including a career-high 19 points in an 82-56 home win over Brockport (Feb. 3). She also averages 4.8 rebounds per game and ranks fourth in the league with a 39.3 three-point shooting percentage. Halpin averages 9.7 points per game, including a career-high 21 points in a 75-58 victory over visiting Oneonta (Feb. 10). She ranks second in the conference in assists (3.5) and steals (2.1) per game and sits seventh in three-point shooting percentage (36.2).
Nine of the student-athletes on Geneseo's 14-member roster have traveled to the NCAA Tournament at least once before. Geneseo has played in eight NCAA Tournament games over the past three years, reaching the Sweet 16 in 2017 and 2015 while reaching the second round in 2016. The Knights boast a 7-1 record in NCAA Tournament First Round games,
Geneseo has shot the ball significantly better at home this season than they have on the road. In Schrader Gymnasium, the Knights own a 44.3 field goal percentage, including a 36.3 three-point percentage. Away from Schrader, those numbers dip to a 40.7 field goal percentage and a 32.5 three-point percentage. However, in the team's only neutral game of the season, a victory over Waynesburg, 73-59, at Messiah, the Knights shot 26-for-53 (49.1%) from the floor and went 6-for-11 (54.5%) from three.
Geneseo and Ithaca have faced off eight times in program history, with the Knights owning a 5-3 record against their Finger Lakes Region foe. The two teams have not met since Jan. 4, 2005, when Ithaca came away with a 68-47 road victory.  
- Improve the team's NCAA Tournament First Round record to 8-1
- Advance the Knights to the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the fourth-consecutive season
- Improve the team's record to 6-3 all-time against Ithaca
The Ithaca College women's basketball team was selected as one of the 21 at-large bids in Monday's NCAA Division III Women's Basketball Selection Show. The berth marks the Bombers' 14th NCAA Tournament appearance, and their fifth in the last six seasons. Ithaca defeated RIT in the first round of the 2017 tournament, 65-62, but were knocked off by New Paltz, 83-80 in the second round. The Bombers reached the NCAA Regional Finals in 2015, their deepest NCAA Tournament run in program history, but fell to Tufts, 61-59. Sophomore forward Cassidy O'Malley leads the team with 17.7 points per game and ranks 29th in NCAA Division III with 60 blocked shots. Senior forward Julie Yacovoni averages 10.8 points per game while junior guard Meghan Pickell averages 9.3 points per game. Ithaca leads the Liberty League in steals (356) and turnover margin (+9.22) and force 23.74 turnovers per game.