GARDEN CITY, N.Y. – Down by 10 at the break, the Merrimack men's basketball team nearly completed a furious rally and cut the deficit to one (65-64), but host Adelphi responded with a late run to close out the contest, as the Warriors saw a season-high four-game winning streak come to a close in an 85-74 defeat to the Panthers on Wednesday night at the Center for Recreation and Sport.
Suffering its first loss since a Dec. 1 setback on the road at UMass-Lowell, Merrimack (6-7, 3-5 Northeast-10 Conference) saw its road record slip to 0-4 on the year, as the Panthers improved to 6-8 overall with an identical 3-5 mark in league play.
In a game that saw Adelphi convert its chances early and often, Merrimack's defense – which had been so strong in holding opponents below 40 percent shooting during that four-game unbeaten stretch – allowed the Panthers to go 30-for-51 (58.8 percent) from the floor and 8-for-12 (66. percent) from long range to secure the win.
"We dug ourselves in an early hole tonight," head coach Bert Hammel said afterward. "I liked how we fought back in the second half, but if we're going to be competitive in this league this year, it has to be a 40-minute effort."
The Warriors wound up shooting 43.5 percent (27-for-62) from the floor over the course of the night while chipping in 10 triples on 20 attempts and finishing 10-for-16 (62.5 percent) from the free throw line. Adelphi also edged Merrimack in the rebounding battle, 32-30.
Freshman guard Gelvis Solano (New York, N.Y.) led all players with a 25-point performance, finishing three points shy of his personal best. The rookie went 9-for-17 from the field and set a new career-high in triples, going 8-for-12 from downtown.
Seniors Mike Clifford (Danvers, Mass.) and Tyler Young (Brooklyn, N.Y.) also finished in double figures at 12 and 10, respectively, while rookie Troy Hammel (Valencia, Calif.) contributed 10 points from the bench.
The home side was led by starter John Calarco, who posted a side-high 24 points for the Panthers on an 8-for-12 performance from the floor. Behind him, fellow starters Anthony Libroia (17) and Bradley Simpson (12) each reached double-digit scoring figures, as the former finished 3-for-4 from long range.
Both sides went back and forth in the opening 10 minutes before Adelphi settled for a seven-point lead (21-14) on a Libroia jumper at the midway point of the first stanza. The Panthers built their lead to as many as 13 (37-24) with 4:31 to go, but the Warriors would trim the deficit to 10 before heading into the locker room down by a 47-37 margin.
Slowly but surely, Merrimack emerged from the locker room looking to get back in the game, and before long its 10-point deficit was sliced down to one, as Solano and Hammel connected from downtown on back-to-back attempts to make it a 65-64 ballgame with 7:38 to play.
That, unfortunately, would be the closest the Warriors would pull to within, as Adelphi immediately responded with a 7-0 run to go ahead by eight (72-64) with 4:24 to go.
From there on out, Merrimack would only get to within six points, as the hosts ended the contest on a 13-10 run to settle for the final margin of 85-74 at the final buzzer.
Merrimack returns home on Saturday, Jan. 12, when it welcomes New Haven for another NE-10 showdown at Hammel Court. Tip-off is set for 3 p.m.