NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. – Looking to avoid its first seven-game losing streak in six years, the Merrimack men's basketball team welcomes Saint Michael's College to its home hardwood for a Tuesday night Northeast-10 Conference battle.
Since opening the year with back-to-back victories in the Bentley Tip-Off Tournament, the Warriors have fallen in six straight games, most recently dropping their most lopsided contest of the year on the road, a 100-73 blowout at UMass-Lowell.
The Purple Knights boast just one conference win on the season and enter Tuesday's showdown a game under .500, but the visitors' lone NE-10 victory was against a UMass-Lowell squad that just handed Merrimack a 27-point defeat.
Merrimack and Saint Michael's are meeting for the 71st occasion in all-time history. The Warriors have owned the series as of late with victories in nine straight games against the Purple Knights.
Last season, Merrimack picked up a pair of wins against Saint Michael's during the regular season. Most recently, Merrimack earned a 56-58 win in a low-scoring home tilt back on Feb. 14, 2012. The last time the Warriors lost against the Purple Knights came all the way back in 2006, when Saint Michael's picked up a 67-62 win over Merrimack in Colchester, Vt.
Ironically, despite the recent dominance by Merrimack, the all-time series is tied between the two squads, with the Warriors owning an even 35-35 record against the Purple Knights in a series that dates back to the 1966-67 season, when Merrimack earned a 101-97 win in the first-ever meeting.
In its last outing, Merrimack could not withhold the host UMass-Lowell River Hawks and their lights-out shooting from the floor, as the Warriors fell, 100-73, in Northeast-10 Conference action on Saturday afternoon at the Costello Athletic Center.
Six different River Hawks reached double-digit scoring figures, as the hosts finished shooting well over 50 percent in a thorough victory from beginning to end. Merrimack trailed by 11 at the half, but UMass-Lowell came out of the break on fire en route to taking a lead that, at one point, surpassed 30 points that put the game well in hand before the final buzzer sounded.
Three Warriors surpassed 10 points, as freshman Gelvis Solano garnered a game-best 20 points for the third time this season. The rookie set a new career high with six made 3-pointers and finished with two assists.
Classmate JT Strickland and sophomore Ryan Woumn also added 11 and 12 points, respectively, as the former led all players with nine assists while the latter posted a steal and finished 4-for-8 from the field and 2-for-4 from downtown.
Since beginning the season 2-1, the Purple Knights have dropped back-to-back games by a combined five points.
Most recently, Saint Mike's fell to nationally ranked Stonehil, 51-47, on the road on Saturday. That loss followed a one-point overtime defeat against Bentley back on Nov. 28. But the Purple Knights also boast an impressive 69-60 victory over UMass-Lowell earlier in the year, as well as a 10-point (61-51) win at NYIT.
Three players average double-digit scoring figures for Saint Michael's and five average above eight points, as the Purple Knights boast a balanced offense across the board. Corey Crawford II ranks first in scoring with 11.2 ppg while averaging 3.0 assists per game and 4.4 rpg.
Dom Ditlefsen and James Cambronne both average 10.2 ppg; the former ranks first on the team with a 50.0 percent clip from the field, while the latter averages 6.0 rpg and owns a team-leading eight blocks.
Derek Knutty has nearly averaged a double-double on the year, ranking fifth in scoring with 8.6 ppg and first in rebounding with 9.8 rpg.
As a team, Saint Michael's offense ranks last in the Northeast-10 with an average of just 59.0 ppg. But the team's strength has been its suffocating defense, as the Purple Knights lead the conference allowing just 59.4 ppg through five games.