NORTH ANDOVER, MA- The Merrimack men's basketball team engineered a second-half comeback to secure its fourth-straight victory Tuesday evening, topping Saint Michael's 56-48 at Bert Hammel Court. The Warriors elevate to 14-10 on the season and 11-9 in the Northeast-10 Conference. The Purple Knights drop to 9-15 overall and 8-12 in league play.
Mike Clifford (Danvers, MA) led the way with his team-leading eighth double-double, scoring 15 points and hauling in 10 rebounds. Wayne Mack (Paterson, NJ) contributed 13 points while Aaron Strothers (Wareham, MA) added nine. Wilfredo Pagan (Lawrence, MA) poured in nine points in the game while grabbing six boards and dishing out five assists. Roland Davis (Deer Park, NY) deposited eight points, racked up seven rebounds and registered four helpers.
With the win, the Warriors vault into a three-way tie for fifth in the conference standings with Bentley and Pace.
A dunk by Strothers gave Merrimack its first lead of the game, 4-2, early on in the contest.
The Purple Knights answered with eight-straight points to claim a 10-4 advantage with 15:33 remaining.
The Warriors cut the deficit to two as Strothers converted the front-end of a pair of free throws with 9:14 on the clock.
Saint Michael's extended its margin to 11 points with 4:04 left to play in the first half.
Merrimack trimmed the visitors' lead to three with 1:09 remaining as Mack drained a trey, 27-24.
Corey Crawford banked in a leaner to give Saint Michael's a 29-24 lead at the halftime break.
Clifford and Pagan each poured in six first-half points for the Warriors. Davis scored five points and grabbed six rebounds in the opening frame.
The visitors shot 40% from the field in the first half while the hosts connected on 34.6% of their field goal attempts.
Merrimack opened the second stanza with an 8-3 clip to knot the score at 32-32. Strothers leveled the game with a pair of made free throws.
The Purple Knights netted four points to go ahead 36-32.
The Warriors seized a one-point lead with 3:33 remaining in regulation as Davis sank a three-pointer, 46-45.
After Strothers rolled in a lay-up to expand Merrimack's edge to three, Saint Michael's hit a trey to even the score at 48-48.
Strothers sank a jumper with 1:04 showing on the clock to restore the home team's lead to two, 50-48.
Mack sealed the win with flawless free-throw shooting in the final 34 seconds, converting 6-of-6 from the charity stripe.
The Warriors outscored the Purple Knights in the second period 32-19 to claim their fourth win in the month of February.
Merrimack finished the game with 39 rebounds while Saint Michael's grabbed 31.
The Warriors shot 36.0% from the field on the night and 54.5% from long distance. The Purple Knights ended the contest with a field-goal percentage of 35.2% after connecting on just 29.2% of their second-half shots.
"It was a gritty, team win tonight as we were able to make some plays down the stretch and hold them in check," said head coach Bert Hammel. "We did a good job of making our free throws tonight, especially in the end to seal it."
Merrimack will host Southern New Hampshire in the final regular season home game of the season February 18.