NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. – Despite a career-high 19-point performance from junior Kevin Regan (Philadelphia, Pa.), as well as an impressive 50 percent shooting clip from the floor, the Merrimack men's basketball team could not recover from a game-deciding second-half run from host Southern Connecticut, as the Owls handed the Warriors a 73-69 setback in Northeast-10 Conference action on Saturday afternoon at Moore Field House.
The Warriors (7-9, 4-7 NE-10) charged back into the game by scoring nine of the final 10 points of the contest, but it wouldn't be enough, as the Owls (10-5, 7-4 NE-10) hung on to keep Merrimack winless on the road this season.
"We made some mistakes at a key point of the game," head coach Bert Hammel said afterward. "That wound up being the difference. We dug ourselves to deep of a hole, and Southern Connecticut capitalized."
The loss comes despite Merrimack finishing 28-for-56 (50.0) from the floor, as well as 5-for-15 (33.3) from long range. The Warriors did, however, post only a 50 percent conversion rate (8-for-16) from the free throw line, while four players finished in double figures.
Regan led the team in scoring for the second straight outing, besting his previous career high by two, finishing with 19 points on a 7-for-10 shooting clip. The Philadelphian also tied his personal best in rebounding (9) and went 4-for-6 from the stripe.
Behind him, freshman Gelvis Solano (New York, N.Y.) added 18 points while going 4-for-8 from downtown and 7-for-13 overall. The rookie came away with four steals, tying a career high, and chipped in three boards.
Senior Mike Clifford (Danvers, Mass.) finished in double figures by means of his 12-point afternoon, as the forward went 5-for-8 from the floor and added five rebounds. Finally, freshman Troy Hammel (Valencia, Calif.) contributed 10 points off the bench, hitting 4-of-5 while converting both chances from the charity stripe.
Merrimack held a slim edge in rebounding (33-29), and both sides combined for 31 giveaways (17-14 Merrimack). The Owls posted 19 points off those Warrior giveaways, while Merrimack registered 12 second-chance points.
Both teams went back and forth over an exciting first half of action, as Merrimack finished 15-of-30 from the floor in the opening 20 minutes. Eleven of Regan's 19 points came in the first frame alone, as the junior went a perfect 5-for-5 in the stanza, including a layup before the final buzzer that sent the Warriors into the break tied, 32-32.
But nearly 10 minutes into the second half, the hosts edged their lead into the double-digit range, one that they would maintain through nearly the remainder of regulation. Southern Connecticut padded its advantage to as high as 16 points (67-51) with just 3:50 to go, but Merrimack mounted a furious late charge, closing out the contest by scoring 18 of the final 26 points.
Still, it was too little too late for the visitors, as Merrimack moved to 0-5 in road matches this season. The Warriors have gone 5-4 at home, as well as 2-0 in neutral-site matches, but will still be vying for their first road victory later this week.
Merrimack returns to action on Wednesday (Jan. 23) evening, as the Warriors trek out to Albany, N.Y., to face Saint Rose. Tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m.