By Jim Fenton, The Enterprise (Brockton)
BRIDGEWATER, Mass. -- For the 11th time in 12 years, Bridgewater State University has reached the semifinal round of the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference men's basketball tournament.
The third-seeded Bears are back in the final four after easily eliminating sixth-seeded Framingham State University, 65-41, Tuesday night at the Tinsley Center.
After turning in its best defensive performance of the season, BSU (15-11) will travel to second-seeded Salem State (15-10) on Thursday at 7 p.m., with the winner advancing to Saturday's title game.
"It speaks well of the program,'' said Bears coach Joe Farroba of advancing so many times. "We sell that on a regular basis. That's been my goal here, to develop a program that getting at least to the semifinals every year is what we do.''
BSU had little trouble moving past the Rams (7-19), never trailing and opening a 15-2 lead in the opening 5:22.
The advantage dipped below double figures only once the rest of the way at 17-10 with the Bears holding a 37-17 halftime lead and being in front by at least 13 points during the second half.
Framingham State struggled offensively from the start, shooting just 25 percent in the opening half and 33 percent from the game as BSU was aggressive early.
"This is the third time we played them, so there are no secrets to what we do,'' said Farroba. "We're all creatures of habit. But I thought defensively from the beginning we were really good.
"We worked on stuff, we watched film and the kids really took it in. We made everything tough on them, and we got off to a nice start offensively.''
Senior Fawaz Mass of Taunton, in perhaps his final home game, had 16 points and eight rebounds to lead the Bears.
The rest of the scoring was balanced with Rocky DeAndrade (six rebounds) and Greg Romanko (five rebounds) chipping in nine points each.
BSU held a 43-29 advantage in rebounds despite not having Joseph Carty, who averages 8.8 rebounds plus 12 points. Carty has missed four games with an ankle injury and it is not known whether he will face Salem State.
"Hopefully he plays,'' said Farroba. "We'll see tomorrow. He's going to do therapies and we'll see.''
The Bears split a pair of regular-season games with Salem State, losing by a point on the road in January.
This marks the fifth time in seven years the two teams have squared off in either the semifinal or final round of the MASCAC tourney.
The Vikings had a bye in this year's tourney and will be idle for a week leading up to the semifinal round.