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MBB: Merrimack’s Memorable Ride Ends in Regional Semifinals

Links: Box Score | Interactive Bracket | Postgame Press Conference

SYRACUSE, N.Y. – Graduate forward Anthony Barry (Uxbridge, Mass.) scored 19 points and added eight rebounds while sophomore guard Troy McLaughlin (Old Tappan, N.J.) collected 16 points on 5-of-10 shooting and four 3-pointers, but the eighth-seeded Merrimack College men’s basketball team lost by a 73-70 final to the fifth-seeded Saint Thomas Aquinas Spartans on Sunday night to the East Region Semifinals of the NCAA Tournament. Merrimack rallied from a 10-point deficit with 8:28 to play to take a 69-68 lead, but the Spartans came back to win the game on a Justin Reyes three-point play with 2:02 to go.

The Basics
Score:
Saint Thomas Aquinas 73, Merrimack 70
Records: #8 Merrimack (19-12)
| #5 Saint Thomas Aquinas (27-5)
Location: Ted Grant Court | Syracuse, N.Y.

The Turning Point:
McLaughlin caught fire over the final three minutes, knocking down a triple to tie the game at 66-all to cap off a 10-2 Warriors run to tie the game. McLaughlin then hit a 3-pointer on Merrimack’s next possession to push the Navy and Gold in front, 69-68. Reyes got a post touch on the other end of floor and hit a lay-in followed by a free throw to make it a 71-69 game. Sophomore Ryan Boulter (Mansfield Mass.) was fouled  with 49 seconds remaining, but only hit 1-of-2 as the Spartans held on to advance to the regional final.

NCAA East Regional Schedule
Saturday, March 11 – Quarterfinals

Game #1: No. 3 Saint Rose def. No. 6 Bloomfield, 94-58
Game #2: No. 7 Southern Connecticut def. No. 2  Southern New Hampshire, 109-98
Game #3: No. 8 Merrimack def. No. 1 Le Moyne, 72-68
Game #4: No. 5 Saint Thomas Aquinas def. No. 4 Saint Anselm, 91-72

Sunday, March 12 – Semifinals
Game #5: No. 3 Saint Rose def. No. 7 Southern Connecticut, 67-47
Game #6: No. 5 Saint Thomas Aquinas def. No. 8 Merrimack College, 73-70

Tuesday, March 14 – Championship
Game #7: No. 3 Saint Rose vs. No. 5 Saint Thomas Aquinas – 7 p.m.

How It Happened (First Half)

  • After Saint Thomas Aquinas started the game on a 3-0 spurt, the Warriors surged forward on a 10-2 spurt. Sophomore Troy McLaughlin (Old Tappan, N.J.) drained two 3-pointers during the stretch as the Warriors opened a 12-5 advantage. With the score at 16-7, freshman Jaleel Lord (Jersey City, N.J.) stepped into a jumper to push the lead to 11, 18-7, at the 12:56 mark
  • With the Warriors’ lead at 27-16, the Spartans used a 8-0 run to pull within three keyed by back-to-back 3-pointers with under nine minutes left in the half. Graduate forward Anthony Barry (Uxbridge, Mass.) connected on a deep right-wing triple as the shot clock expired to end the run, and sophomore Ryan Boulter (Mansfield, Mass.) scored five unanswered points to extend Merrimack’s lead to nine, 35-26, with 5:30 left in the half
  • The Spartans ended the half on an 11-4 stretch to pull within two at halftime. Adam Koziol swished a 3-pointer with 2:30 remaining and East Coast Conference Player of the Year Justin Reyes skied for a dunk on STAC’s next possession to make it a 39-35 game. The fifth seed added two more points to trim Merrimack’s led to two, 39-37

How It Happened (Second Half)

  • After extending its lead to 43-39 to start the second stanza, the Warriors endured a scoring drought that lasted nearly three minutes and STAC used a 10-0 run to take a 49-43 lead. Boulter sank a left corner 3-pointer to half the spurt with 14:11 remaining, bringing it back to a one-possession game
  • Boulter hit another three and combined with a layup from Barry, the Warriors cut their deficit down to one with 11:42 to play. The Spartans responded with an 8-0 stretch that caused the Warriors to use a timeout with 9:11 remaining and facing a 62-53 hole
  • With the score at 64-56, the Warriors began to work their way back into it. Freshman Juvaris Hayes (Paterson, N.J.) went coast-to-coast for a layup followed by a three-point play from Barry that made it a 64-61 game. McLaughlin responded with two free throws and it was a one-point game, 64-63, with 4:35 left
  • McLaughlin’s first of two final-three-minutes 3-balls sank with three minutes to play in the game, tying things up at 66-all. His go-ahead triple was short-lived, however, as the ECC Player of the Year led the Spartans to the end, finishing with 24 points and 11 rebounds shooting 10-of-14 from the field

Inside The Numbers

  • The Warriors ended the season by making the program’s ninth NCAA Tournament after beginning the season picked to finish second-to-last in the Northeast Division. Merrimack was the last team still playing in the division through two rounds of the East Regional
  • Barry ended his career with one of his best performances of the season, going toe-to-toe with arguably the region’s top forward. He came off the bench to score 19 points and pulled down eight rebounds, shooting 4-of-8 from the field and 10-of-11 from the free-throw line
  • McLaughlin posted one of his strongest performances of the year in the season’s final game. He finished the night with 16 points and had as many triples (4) on Sunday as he had in the previous six games
  • Hayes finished his superb season with 287 total assists after nine helpers against the Spartans. The NE10 Rookie of the Year will go down in the program record book as the most assists in a single season, and he ends his debut campaign with the third-most dimes in a year in the NE10
  • The 19 wins on the season were the most for the program since back-to-back 21-win seasons from 2008-10

Mike McMahon is in his 12th year covering Merrimack College for The Eagle Tribune and is the founder and managing editor of The Mack Report. Mike also serves on staff as a senior writer at College Hockey News. Follow him on Twitter @MikeMcMahonCHN

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