The Maryville College Scots' 20th NCAA Tournament faced a packed house against the Marietta College Pioneers, as the host squad used a key first half for a 101-77 final score.
Marietta – a team that outsized the Scots by 4 inches in the post – crashed the boards on the night for a key advantage. The Pioneers used that height to outrebound Maryville, 52-27, as they managed 23 second-chance points on 20 offensive rebounds.
"In my book, there were two statistics that were just glaring," Lambert said. "One is the rebound differential. I don't know if I've ever had a team get outrebounded by 25. That's just amazing. Then, the other was the difference in the bench. I knew their depth would have been an issue, but a 44-point difference? That's strong…Marietta had been out of sync the last week or two. Something was up. I don't know what it was…I thought we might have had a chance because of that. They showed up tonight. They were very good, and they brought their A game."
Maryville's bench was outscored 54-10 in the loud Van Johnson Arena.
Marietta College – ranked third nationally for attendance – packed the house during Friday's first-round bout.
Senior Calvin Songster said it wasn't long into the game that the crowd started to play a role.
"It was about 8-2, and you could feel the crowd and the momentum already building," he said. "We knew to come into a place like this that we needed to have a good start. They came out right away, and they were ready. It was very early on into the game that we realized they were ready to play. I remember telling my guys at a break that we can beat this team. I truly felt that, but their rebounding and their size was a big problem for us. We played hard, and I know we gave it everything we got. That's all I can ask for."
The loss ends the Scots season with a 21-8 record, as it also ranks as the last game of the Lambert career.
The 39-year head coach ends his storied career with a 722-325 record. He's amassed 20 seasons with 20-plus wins, 20 NCAA berths and a dozen conference championships in his legendary tenure.
For this season's class of seniors, it was good to get Lambert back to the national stage.
"I don't think there's anything to hang our heads about," senior Dante Hoppa said. "You go way back to when we first started playing together, and all I can do is smile. As soon as we first stepped on the court together…it's kind of been success ever since then along with the rest of the seniors on our team. I can definitely, proudly say that I've enjoyed my career at Maryville College. As Coach Lambert eluded to, we have three 20-win seasons, two conference tournament championships, two rings that I can happily show around when I go back to Florida. Even during this game, even though it didn't pan out the way we wanted to, I was enjoying every minute of it. You don't get to play in a venue like this. Not many venues around the country bring the type of intensity they brought. They were a good team, as well. No matter what, I enjoyed the run with my guys. I wouldn't trade anything else for it."
Marietta jumped to an early 12-4 lead, as Hoppa and Emier Bowman bucketed early lay-ups. However, the Pioneers rallied for a 21-12 score. Hoppa and Emanuelle Garcia found treys, as a Bowman dunk closed the gap.
Marietta went on a 15-0 run fueled four 3-pointers that included a pair from Lukas Isaly. Tim Kreeger and Mel Shuler each added one of their own for a 36-12 advantage at the 7:50 mark.
Songster cut into the lead with a driving lay-in, as he assisted on a Kaleb Estes trey, 38-17.
The Pioneers bucketed five different 3-pointers in the first half, using their post play as well to take a 51-30 lead to the locker room.
"It seemed like anytime we made a run, they had an answer," Lambert said. "They responded. They hit a big three, or they got an offensive rebound and a stick back. It just seemed like they always responded. That's a sign of a good team. We tried to do some things to speed up the tempo in the second half, but they just always responded with a big play."
Maryville shot 11-of-29 (37.9 percent), while bucketing four 3-pointers at a 33.3 percent clip.
Marietta battled on the boards, however, outrebounding the Scots 30-12. The Pioneers blazed a trail for a 14-2 advantage on the offensive glass.
The host outscored MC 18-5 on second chance points while going 19-of-43 (44.2 percent) from the floor with five treys.
The two squads went bucket-for-bucket in the second half – the Pioneers keeping the lead at 20. Maryville cut it to 18 with 5:45 left in the game on a Songster trey from Estes.
A pair of Hoppa free throws at 5:16 cut the Scots' deficit to 17, 85-68, but a Jason Ellis 3-pointer from Keith Richardson at 4:47 would extend Marietta's advantage back to 20.
Another Songster three from Hoppa and a pair of Songster free-throws cut into Marietta's lead late, but it wouldn't be enough, 101-77.
Hoppa led MC with 30 points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals. The senior had a 15-of-17 night at the free-throw line, while bucketing a trio of 3-pointers. Songster had 14 points with a pair of treys, while Bowman added 14 points, five rebounds, three steals and two blocks.
Maryville shot 22-of-59 (37.3 percent), while tallying nine treys.
Marietta (21-6) shot 48.0 percent from the floor (36-of-75), while basketing 13 3-pointers at a 40.6-percent rate.
The Pioneers had five players in double figures, as Islay and Kyle Matoszkia had 14 each. Tim Kreeger had a double-double of 12 points and 12 rebounds, as Caleb Hoyng added a dozen points. Keith Richardson also had 11 points.