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Upstart Clarkson men open Liberty League playoffs at Hobart tonight

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POTSDAM - It took three straight victories in the final five days of the regular season to clinch the final playoff spot in the Liberty League, but the Clarkson University men’s basketball team reached the post-season for the first time since the 2008-09 season with a flawless 3-0 week against St. Lawrence, Bard and Vassar.

The next challenge will be at Liberty League regular-season and defending playoff champion Hobart College this evening when the fourth-seeded Golden Knights take on the top-seeded Statesmen in the conference semifinals. The two teams have split the last two seasons, with Clarkson causing two of Hobart’s four league defeats in that time. The Knights have won on their home floor each time, so heading to Geneva, to take down Hobart will be a tall task, one that the Green and Gold will relish.

Hobart is 19-6 overall and 13-3 in the Liberty League this season, including a 9-1 home record, while the Knights are 8-8 away from Alumni Gymnasium this season, having gone 16-9 overall and 10-6 in conference games. Clarkson won the first meeting in Potsdam, 77-68, while Hobart won the rematch 69-50 on its home court.

For the third time this season, six of the top 13 scorers in the conference will meet up. From Hobart, Richie Bonney is the second-leading scorer in the conference at 20.0 points per game while Connor Rehbaum (15.0 ppg) and Joe Gibbons (13.9 ppg) rank ninth and 12th, respectively in the league. For Clarkson, junior John Coleman (Potsdam, NY) is third in the Liberty League in points at 19.7 ppg, while Marques Charlton (Deer Park, NY) is fifth at 17.1 ppg and Felix Abongo (Beacon, NY) is 12th (tied with Gibbons) at 13.9 ppg. The names aren’t limited to just the scoring leaderboard in the conference, as Gibbons also shoots 51.7 percent (fourth in the league) from the floor, and Charlton ranks in the top three in the league in 3-pointers made (68), free throw percentage (84.6%) and assists (3.5 apg). Abongo is also fourth in the league in rebounding (7.2 rpg) and ninth in field goal percentage (45.1%).

Bonney and Coleman are two of the front-runners for Liberty League Player of the Year honors, with Bonney ranking second in scoring, first in rebounding (11.3 rpg) and second in field goal percentage (57.8%) and Coleman placing third in scoring, sixth in rebounding (7.1 rp), first in field goal percentage (58.6%) and first in steals per game (2.6 spg) by a wide margin. Coleman has been on a scoring run as of late, shooting 64.9 percent and averaging 23.1 points per game over the last seven contests, with only one of those games seeing him score less than 23 points, but it happened to be a six-point effort against the Statesmen. In the prior meeting against Hobart, Coleman had 24 points.

The two teams are the best in the conference at taking care of the basketball, with Clarkson averaging only 11 turnovers per game and Hobart averaging 11.2 miscues per contest. Clarkson also leads the league in assists (17.4 apg) and is ahead of the Statesmen (16.9 apg) in that category. The Knights have the second-best scoring defense in the conference at 67.3 ppg, allowing more than 80 points only three times this season, with two of those outputs coming in overtime contests.

Hobart is excellent at putting teams away, shooting 73.6 percent from the free throw line and getting rebounds when necessary with a league-leading plus-5.6 rebounds per game.

Skidmore and Vassar square off in the other first round game slated for tonight. The winners meet in the championship game on Saturday at the home of the higher remaining seed.

COLEMAN HONORED

Three straight 20-point games from Coleman highlighted a 3-0 week for the Golden Knights and the former Potsdam Central standout was rewarded when he was picked as the Liberty League Performer of the Week.

The honor was Coleman’s second Performer of the Week nod and ninth selection overall, including honor roll. The junior guard/forward averaged 26.0 points per game, shooting 64.2 percent from the floor (34-53). He also chipped in 6.7 rebounds and 4.0 steals per game, including 11 rebounds against Vassar and seven thefts against Bard.

Coleman also broke two records over the weekend, including most field goals in a season (219) and most field goals in a career (546), an impressive feat since this is only his third season as a collegian. For the season, he is averaging 19.7 points per game (third in the Liberty League), 7.1 rebounds (sixth in the Liberty League) and 2.6 steals (first in the conference).

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