NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. – After falling behind by 13 points midway through the first half, the Merrimack men's basketball team mounted a furious comeback that saw them take the lead with about 10 minutes to play, but visiting New Haven pulled away in the closing minutes en route to handing the Warriors' their second straight loss, 65-57, in Northeast-10 Conference action on Saturday afternoon at Hammel Court.
Losers of back-to-back games, Merrimack (6-8, 3-6 NE-10) will look to regroup on Tuesday night when they play host to Le Moyne for a 7:30 p.m. league tilt. The Chargers (8-5, 5-4 NE-10), meanwhile, claimed victory for the seventh straight contest to remain in the thick of the conference race.
Only two players reached double figures for the home side, led by senior forward Mike Clifford (Danvers, Mass.), who paced the Warriors with a 16-point, 13-rebound performance on a 5-of-12 clip from the field. Fellow starter and classmate Tyler Young (Brooklyn, N.Y.) also hit double-digits with a 10-point outing while finishing 4-for-5 from the stripe.
Merrimack, however, was doomed by one of its poorer 3- and free-throw shooting performances of the season, as the home side hauled up 11 treys and converted just two of them (18.2 percent). And after going four straight games with a free throw percentage over 70 percent, the Warriors registered their second consecutive game in the 60-percent range, finishing 13-for-21 (61.9 percent) from the stripe.
New Haven was bolstered by four double-digit point getters, including a game-high 18-point afternoon from starter Jeffery Adkins, who finished 6-for-14 from the floor and 6-for-8 from the stripe. Fellow starter Justin Exum made all of the visitors' long-range shots, finishing 4-for-10 from downtown and 6-for-15 overall to total 17 points.
Also reaching double figures for the Chargers were starters Eric Anderson (13) and Ashanti DePass (10), as the former posted a 4-for-7 clip and notched a double-double with 11 boards and added four stuffs, while the latter finished 6-for-7 from the line.
Overall, the Warriors shot an even 35 percent (21-for-60) from the floor, compared to a marginally better 37.5 percent rate (21-for-56) from the visitors. New Haven went just 4-for-25 from long range (16 percent), but notched key free throws down the stretch, as the Chargers posted a 79.2 percent clip (19-for-24) from the line.
Merrimack won the rebounding battle, 40-38, while both sides finished with 14 turnovers apiece. Both sides registered 32 points in the paint, as well.
New Haven opened the game by reeling off five straight points on a game-opening 3-pointer from Exum followed by a layup from DePass, as the visitors slowly but surely built their early advantage to double figures, taking a 10-point lead (23-13) on another trey from Exum at the 8:54 mark of the first stanza.
But down by 15, Merrimack clawed back by means of an 11-2 run to close out the half over the final 5:38, as Clifford, Young and freshman JT Strickland (Laurel, Md.) all found the basket in the last minute of the frame to enter halftime down by just six, 32-26.
Merrimack began the second half with that same intensity, and after falling behind by eight, the Warriors finally tied the game at 41-41 with an even 13:00 remaining in the contest. The Warriors took their first lead of the game on a nifty reverse layup from Strickland with 12:05 to go, as both sides exchanged the lead over the ensuing three minutes.
But New Haven would take the lead for good on back-to-back free throws from Adkins with just under 10 minutes to go, and the Chargers would fend off the home side from there on out. Merrimack trimmed the deficit down to three (55-52) with 4:50 to play, but missed opportunities off a plethora of New Haven turnovers sealed the Warriors' fate.
The Warriors return to action on Tuesday (Jan. 15), welcoming Le Moyne for a 7:30 p.m. league tilt.