WALTHAM, Mass. – For the second straight night, four players recorded double-digit scoring outputs, including a career-best 11 points off the bench from rookie guard Anthony Barry (Uxbridge, Mass.) and a game-high 19 points from senior forward Mike Clifford (Danvers, Mass.), as the Merrimack men's basketball team built a big first-half lead and never looked back en route to a 75-62 victory over Caldwell in the final game of the Bentley Tip-Off Classic on Saturday night at the Dana Center.
One night after setting new career highs in points and rebounds, Clifford enjoyed another productive night from inside the paint, finishing 8-of-12 from the field to lead the Warriors (2-0) to their second win in as many days, while the Cougars fall to 0-2 on the year.
The Warriors benefitted from a red-hot 50 percent clip (33-of-66) from the field, including 19-of-34 (55.9 percent) in the first half alone. And for the second straight night, Merrimack won the battle down low, holding an extensive 50-32 edge in points in the paint while capitalizing 19 Caldwell giveaways which led to 19 points for the Warriors.
Also posting double-digit point totals were senior forward Tyler Young (Brooklyn, N.Y.), and junior guard Kevin Regan (Philadelphia, Pa.), who chipped in 12 and 17, respectively, over the course of the night. Young also posted a side-high nine boards, while rookie guard JT Strickland (Laurel, Md.) registered a game-best five steals and dished a career-high 11 helpers in only his second career contest.
Caldwell and Merrimack both finished with 34 points apiece in the second half, but Clifford's brilliance kept the Warriors' lead well in hand, as the senior produced 15 points in the final 20 minutes alone while going 6-for-7 from the field.
With the game tied at 14-14 early in the first, the Warriors would reel off 11 uncontested points to take a commanding 23-14 with a bit less than 10 minutes less in the first frame, as a resounding dunk by Clifford sealed off the 11-point run that lasted just over two minutes.
From there on out, Merrimack would completely take control of the stanza, with the Warriors lead reaching as many as 18 points (34-16) at one point, prompting a timeout by the Cougars.
Caldwell would round out the first half with back-to-back 3-pointers to trim the deficit to 13 (41-28) heading into the break.
Both teams would exchange baskets throughout the opening eight minutes of the second stanza before a pair of made free throws by Strickland pushed the Warrior lead to 18 (52-34) with 15:45 remaining in the match. Merrimack would eventually eclipse a 20-point cushion following a made jumper by Regan and a layup from freshman two-guard Gelvis Solano (New York, N.Y.), running up the advantage to 56-34 with an even 15 minutes to play.
Ahead by 20 with just more than 10 to play, Caldwell would close the game on an 11-3 run to close out the contest, but the baskets were few and far between as both teams would commit eight turnovers apiece in the second half while the Warrior defense totaled four of their eight blocks on the day in the second frame, as well.
Next up, the Warriors open up Northeast-10 Conference play on Wednesday, Nov. 14, at preseason favorite Franklin Pierce. Tip-off from Rindge, N.H., is set for 7 p.m.