February 4, 2012

Men’s Basketball Staves Off Stonehill to Claim a 51-43 Victory at Hammel Court

NORTH ANDOVER, MA- Four players provided all the offense needed as the Merrimack men's basketball team silenced Stonehill to claim a 51-43 win Saturday afternoon at Hammel Court. The Warriors rise to 11-10 on the season and 8-9 in the Northeast-10 Conference. The Skyhawks descend to 14-7 overall and 11-6 in league games.

With the victory, Merrimack moves into a three-way tie for eighth-place in the conference standings. The Warriors' 8-9 league mark brings them level with Saint Anselm and Southern Connecticut.

Mike Clifford (Danvers, MA) recorded his sixth double-double of the year, scoring 14 points and pulling down a career-best 17 boards. Clifford's 17 rebounds are the most in a game since Kenny Jones reeled in 17 against Assumption February 15, 2007.

Aaron Strothers (Wareham, MA) and Wayne Mack (Paterson, NJ) each deposited 17 points and grabbed six rebounds in the win. Roland Davis (Deer Park, NY) added four rebounds and a game-high four assists.

Strothers netted the first six points of the contest for the Warriors to draw the hosts even after five minutes had elapsed.

Merrimack claimed its first lead of the afternoon on an uncontested three by Wilfredo Pagan (Lawrence, MA), 11-9, with 12 minutes to play in the opening frame.

Mack extended the home team's advantage to five points as he nailed a trey to push the score to 14-9 with 10:14 remaining.

The Warriors used a 17-0 run to increase their lead to double-digits, 23-9, with 7:13 left in the first half.

Merrimack stymied the Skyhawks for a span of 9:23 as Adam Fazzini scored the visitors' first points since 13:43 in the opening stanza.

Clifford threw down an emphatic dunk to restore the Warriors' lead to 12 points. After a missed Merrimack free throw, Pagan hauled in the offensive board and dished the ball to Mack outside the arc. The senior captain zipped a precise pass to Clifford under the hoop to set up the easy jam.

Merrimack led the Skyhawks 25-17 at the midway point of the contest.

Strothers led the home team at the halftime break with 14 points on 7-of-8 shooting from the floor. Clifford added five points and grabbed six boards in the first 20 minutes of play.

The Warriors shot 47.8% from the field and 40.0% from downtown in the first half. Stonehill headed into the second half owning a field goal percentage of 28.6.

The Skyhawks began the second period with a 9-4 clip to cut the deficit to three, 29-26.

With 11 minutes remaining in regulation, Stonehill's Patrick Lee sliced Merrimack's lead to one with a put-back layup.

Fazzini gave the visiting side a two-point advantage with a three-pointer with 10:19 to go in the game, 34-32.

The Warriors reclaimed the lead as Strothers converted the front-end of a pair of free throws with 6:32 on the clock.

Merrimack reestablished a four-point edge with less than five minutes left to play as Clifford netted a lay-in.

The Warriors expanded the margin to eight with 1:41 remaining in the second half on a pair of good free throw attempts by Mack.

The home team's final 10 points came from the charity stripe as Merrimack drained 10-of-12 shots.

The Warriors finished the game with a field-goal percentage of 41.9 from the court and 42.9 from long-range. The Skyhawks were confined to 26.7% shooting from the field on the day after connecting on just 25.0% in the second stanza.

Merrimack won the rebounding battle, snagging 41 boards in the win while the visitors grabbed 34.

The Warriors' 51 points Saturday was the lowest scoring-output since February 3, 2011, a 68-44 loss to Bentley. The 43 points allowed in the victory is the fewest amount conceded since December 30, 2003, a 52-43 win at Barry.

"We played very well defensively today and we did a good job rebounding," said head coach Bert Hammel. "We have an important stretch of games ahead of us so we'll need to play with the same focus and intensity from here on out."

Merrimack continues the home-stand February 8 as it welcomes Saint Anselm to Hammel Court at 7:30 pm in a key matchup as both squads enter the game with an 8-9 record in the Northeast-10.