Tre' Ford had things under control and, therefore, so did Virginia Wesleyan.
The senior point guard scored 20 points, had four assists and just one turnover Saturday night as the Marlins advanced to the second round of the NCAA Division III tournament with a 76-61 win over Delaware Valley College.
"He's our playmaker," coach Dave Macedo said. "When he goes, we can look pretty good. He's playing with a real high level of confidence right now."
Wesleyan (22-7) will face rival Christopher Newport next Saturday, most likely at home. The Marlins are the higher seed and have bid to host. The site will be announced today.
"Climbing the ladder" is how the Marlins refer to their NCAA hopes. Wesleyan's senior class advanced to the second round of the tourney as freshmen, the Sweet 16 as sophomores and the Elite Eight last season.
Their experience showed Saturday. Ford conducted the offense with just the right touch. Senior Chris Teasley also had a sense of when to distribute and when to score. After going scoreless in the first half - but handing out three assists - he scored 11 points in the second.
"I never try to press," he said. "I saw my teammates were carrying the load. If that's the case, I have all the confidence in the world in them."
Teasley credited the attention paid Ford, who had 12 first-half points, for getting him some open shots in the second.
The 5-foot-10 Ford himself took advantage of a sagging Delaware Valley defense to hit a pair of early 3-pointers. His second gave the Marlins a 15-14 edge after a slow start.
Wesleyan stretched the margin to nine at half, and kept a double-digit lead throughout the second. Delaware Valley (19-9) got within 12 with about eight minutes left, and began pressing full-court. The Marlins knifed through it.
It was one of several defenses the Aggies tried in the second half.
"I thought they were trying to find a solution," Macedo said.
None came. After shooting mostly jumpers in the first half, the Marlins got just enough of an inside presence in the second to keep Delaware Valley honest. They also got 10 second-half points from junior DJ Woodmore, who was playing for the first time since missing two games with a sprained ankle. The Landstown grad had 15 points and five rebounds in 24 minutes.
"He's not 100 percent but he gutted it out," Macedo said. "Fifteen and five for somebody who's been out about a week and a half - he impacted the game, and that was our goal, to have him impact the game."
No one affected it as much as Ford, who played 32 minutes, made 4 of 6 3-pointers and added four rebounds and two blocks to a stat line that was already bursting.
"I just wanted to stay aggressive," he said. "The entire game."
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