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Southland Conference

Privateers Going Dancing

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NEW ORLEANS – It wasn't a matter of if but when as the University of New Orleans men's basketball team gathered to watch the NCAA Selection Show, and the wait did not last long as the Privateers drew a spot in the NCAA First Four and will be matchup with fellow play-in candidate Mount St. Mary's. The game is slated for Tuesday, March 14, in Dayton (Ohio) Arena. It will tipoff at 5:40 p.m. (CDT), and the game will be broadcast live on truTV.

As family, fans, friends and alumni gathered in The Cove At UNO, the Privateers were the second school to pop up on the big screen, which sparked a chorus of cheers from everyone in attendance. New Orleans' First Four matchup with Mount St. Mary's, which will be broadcast by truTV, is slated for Tuesday, March 14, at 5:40 p.m. (CDT) in Dayton, Ohio.

Individual session passes to each day of the NCAA First Four are $65 and Privateer fans can purchase those tickets at the window at UD Arena prior to the game or through the University of New Orleans Athletics Ticket Office. For additional information, please call (504) 280-GAME (4263).

"It came out quick and we were excited about that. What an unbelievable blessing for everybody involved. We're excited for the challenge. Mount St. Mary's is a great team out of the Northeast Conference and we've got our work cut out for us. Our guys are prepared and ready, and they're excited for the challenge. We're looking forward to playing in one of the top college basketball venues in the country in Dayton Arena, and one of the basketball cities in America in Dayton, Ohio."

Winners of the 2016-17 regular-season Southland Conference championship, New Orleans earned the right to play in the Big Dance with a 68-65 overtime victory against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in the SLC Tournament title game on Saturday night in Katy, Texas. The Privateers will be making their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1996, their 11th overall and their fifth as a Division I program.

UNO enters the NCAA First Four 20-11 overall and riding the crest of a three-game winning streak after closing out the regular-season with a 74-64 win at Nicholls on March 4 before rolling past Sam Houston State in the SLC semifinals, 75-63, on March 10 and rallying from a 10-point deficit to outlast the Islanders in the championship game.

As a team, New Orleans is averaging 73.1 points, 35.9 rebounds, 15.8 assists, 7.8 steals and 3.1 blocks per game. Senior forward Erik Thomas leads the Privateers offensively with 19.5 points per game, followed by senior guards Christavious Gill at 11.6 and Nate Frye with a mark of 10.3. Thomas also paces the team with 7.8 rebounds and shared team-high steal honors with Gill and junior forward Travin Thibodeaux at 1.5 thefts per outing apiece. Thibodeaux leads the squad with 3.3 assists per game while junior forward Makur Puou headlines the defense with 1.3 blocked shots per contest.

New Orleans is connecting at a .471 clip from the field, hitting 801-of-1701 shots from the floor and 138-of-429 tries from beyond the 3-point arc (.322), while allowing opponents to shoot .439 overall (767-of-1747) and .310 from 3-point land (199-of-642). Privateer foes are averaging 69.3 points, 32.0 rebounds, 12.6 assists, 8.5 steals and 3.4 blocks heading into postseason play.

"It's a great accomplishment," Slessinger said of earning a spot in the NCAA Tournament. "We're excited for the chance to put our University and our city back on the national stage in the biggest basketball tournament in the world. Our team goal has always been, from day one, to win the Southland Conference, to go to the NCAA Tournament and to win games. Our goal was never just to get in this tournament. Our goal is to win games in this tournament. The guys are all very clear on the expectation level and what we have to do to meet it."

New Orleans is 10-10 all-time in NCAA Tournament play, including a 1-4 showing at the Division I level. The Privateers won their first-ever Division I NCAA Tournament game with an 83-79 victory over BYU on March 12, 1987, before falling to Alabama in the second round, 101-76, two days later. The Privateers also played in the NCAA Tournament as a Division I squad in 1991 and 1993 in addition to the previously mentioned trip in 1996.

Tuesday's showdown with Mount St. Mary's is the first meeting between the two teams on the hardwood, and the Mountaineers are the fifth team the Privateers will play for the first time this season. UNO is 2-1 all-time against current members of the Northeast Conference with 1-0 showings vs St. Francis (Pa.) and Robert Morris and a 0-1 mark vs Farleigh Dickinson.

"We know that they're a very well-coached team," Slessinger said of Mount St. Mary's. "They've been one of the hottest teams in the country and definitely the hottest team in the Northeast Conference. They've been on fire from the time they got to league play. Our styles are different and it's going to be tough to get used to a change of styles like that."

The winner of Tuesday's ballgame between the Privateers and Mountaineers will advance to play top-seeded and defending national champion Villanova on Thursday, March 16, in Buffalo, N.Y. New Orleans is the lone Southland Conference team and the only school from Louisiana chosen to participate in the 2017 NCAA Tournament.


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