NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. – Looking to close out the month of December and ring in the New Year on a winning note, the Merrimack men's basketball team returns to action after a three-week hiatus and closes its non-conference (and 2012) schedule against Bloomfield Monday (Dec. 31) afternoon. Tip-off is set for 1 p.m.
The Warriors have won two in a row after going winless in six straight contests. Most recently, Merrimack handed conference foe Southern New Hampshire an 80-58 setback on Dec. 8 at Hammel Court.
Merrimack and Bloomfield are meeting for just the fourth time this afternoon. The Warriors have won all three previous showdowns with relative ease. Last season, the Warriors opened the year with an 87-79 victory over Bloomfield on Nov. 11, 2011.
All three meetings have taken place at Hammel Court, and the Warriors have won those three games by an average margin of victory 15.6 ppg.
In its last contest, after taking an 11-point lead into the locker room, Merrimack pulled away midway through the second half after benefitting from four consecutive technical fouls whistled against Southern New Hampshire, as the Warriors closed out the semester with a 80-58 victory in Northeast-10 Conference action on Dec. 8 at Hammel Court.
A late foul during a 3-point shot after the buzzer sounded at the end of the first gave rookie Troy Hammel a chance to put the Warriors ahead by a double-digit margin heading into the break. The freshman guard calmly sank three consecutive freebies, raising the home side's advantage to 41-30 at the intermission.
Early in the second, both teams went back-and-forth until Rodney Sanders sank a 3-pointer at 13:06 to cut the Warrior lead to single digits (53-44) with plenty of time to go.
But three minutes later, Hammel once again drew a foul to send him back to the line for free throws. That prompted the ire of the Southern New Hampshire bench, and after the dust settled, the Penmen were warranted four technical fouls in a row, resulting to the ejection of their head coach and a player.
Those fouls brought Hammel to the line for eight consecutive free throws, and the Valencia, Calif., native made them all, raising Merrimack's lead to an insurmountable 20 points (66-46), one that would not fall below 20 the rest of the way.
The Deacons began the season with three straight losses before rolling off five consecutive victories.
Three players average in double figures for the Deacons, led by sophomore guard Marvin Williams. The 6-foot shooter leads the way with 14.4 ppg with a 42.2 percent clip from the floor and an even 40.0 percent conversion rate from downtown.
Classmate Matt Hall has shot a team-high 50.7 percent from the floor heading into the weekend, and ranks second on the squad in scoring (12.2 ppg). Finally, sophomore Stacey Upshaw-Goree's 10.0 ppg is third best for Bloomfield. Junior forward Kevin Udo has been a force on the glass, leading the Deacons with 10.6 rpg, as well as a 1.8 blocks-per-game average.
As a team, Bloomfield has averaged 72.3 ppg, the fifth-best average in the CACC. The Deacons have shot 41.6 percent as a team from the field and 33.2 percent from long range. Bloomfield has excelled in the paint, averaging a league-best 40.3 boards per contest.
Merrimack has gone 2-1 on the season against the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference, featuring season-opening victories against Dominican and Caldwell before dropping a three-point decision to Concordia. NE-10 schools have gone 22-4 combined against the CACC this year.