SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – Despite a 17-4 run that put the Merrimack College men’s basketball team up seven with less than four minutes to go in regulation, the host American International Yellow Jackets closed regulation on an 8-1 spurt to tie the game, 66-66, and force overtime in a non-conference contest on Tuesday evening at Butova Gymnasium. The visiting Warriors proceeded to dominate the extra session, outscoring the Yellow Jackets by 10 (14-4) to emerge with an 80-70 victory.
Junior Ryan Boulter posted a game-high 24 points over 40 minutes, returning to the lineup after missing the previous two games. FreshmanMikey Watkins contributed a career-best 18 points off the bench, shooting 8-of-13 from the field. Merrimack’s win brings its overall record to 7-5 at the end of the fall semester; the Warriors will now have 19 days between games before returning to action on Sunday, Dec. 30, at Goldey-Beacom.
Score (OT): Merrimack 80, American International 70
Records: Merrimack (7-5) | American International (3-7)
Location: Butova Gymnasium | Springfield, Mass.
- After digging an early 11-3 hole, Merrimack ripped off an 8-0 run spurned by four points off the bench by Watkins to create an 11-11 deadlock at the 13:48 mark of the first half, prompting an AIC timeout. The hosts took a brief 15-14 lead, but Boulter netted five straight points to give Merrimack control at the midway point of the half
- Boulter sank his third 3-pointer of the half to push Merrimack’s lead to six, 26-20, with 5:49 left in the half. Neither team scored for a near four-minute span, but the Yellow Jackets scored six straight to tie the game. Watkins ended the stanza with a personal 5-0 run to give Merrimack the lead back at the half
- AIC controlled the first 12 minutes of the second. The hosts outscored the Warriors, 28-17, to build a six-point edge (54-48) at the 8:41 mark. The Yellow Jackets took the first lead of the half with 14:06 on the clock, and would not relinquish it for the next seven minutes of game time
- Merrimack’s 17-4 stretch started with 10 unanswered points that turned the six-point deficit into a four-point lead. Junior Juvaris Hayes put Merrimack in front, while Boulter brought the run into double figures with another trey. Merrimack’s lead grew to seven, 65-58, following an old-fashioned three-point play by Watkins
- AIC’s defense swarmed in the final 3:34, holding Merrimack without a field goal. Six of the Yellow Jacket’s eight points during an 8-1 regulation-closing run came at the free-throw line to tie the game. The hosts had a chance to win at the buzzer, but Merrimack forced a missed shot while junior Jaleel Lord prevented a second-chance bucket with a steal in the waning seconds
- Each team scored in the opening minute of overtime, but Merrimack closed the final 3:09 of the game on a 12-2 run. Hayes scored nine of Merrimack’s 14 points in the final five minutes, and the Warriors shot 4-of-4 overall from the field. Merrimack’s defense also limited AIC to 1-of-7 shooting in overtime
Notes and Numbers
- Boulter’s return to the lineup featured a season-high 19 shot attempts and a career-high tying 16 3-point shots. He set season highs in minutes (40), field goals (9), 3-pointers (6), rebounds (5) and steals (3)
- Watkins’ offensive game continued to flourish. He scored in double figures for the third straight game, doing so efficiently (18 points on 13 shots). The reserve guard shot 61.5 percent in the game (8-13), increasing his season shooting percentage to 53.6 (37-69)
- Hayes tied Boulter for the game high in scoring (24), shooting 9-of-13 from the field. Hayes also joined Boulter and Lord with three steals apiece
- Merrimack forced AIC into 29 turnovers, the most the Warriors have forced into a game in nearly 10 years (Feb. 2009). Over the last two games, the defense have forced 57 turnovers combined
- AIC owned a 21-8 edge on the offensive glass, but that only resulted in an 8-4 margin in second-chance points
The Warriors will have a 19-day layoff before returning to action on Sunday, Dec. 30, when Merrimack travels to Wilmington, Del. to face Goldey-Beacom in a 3:30 p.m. non-conference tilt.