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Defense Paves the Way for Men’s Basketball in 59-54 Win vs. Saint Francis Friday

Links: Box Score
Video: Highlights | Postgame Press Conference

NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. – The Merrimack College men’s basketball team allowed a season-low 54 points and held Saint Francis to just 31 percent shooting, another season best, in the Warriors’ 59-54 win over the Red Flash on Friday at Hammel Court. Merrimack has now won five of its last six games, improving to 6-4 in NEC play. Saint Francis fell to 4-9 in the NEC. With the win, the Warriors are now in a three-way tie for first place in the NEC with Bryant and Fairleigh Dickinson

The Warriors took the lead for good with under 10 minutes left in the first half. Merrimack’s lead grew to as many as 15 points in the second, 50-35, after the Warriors’ defense held Saint Francis to just five points over a seven-minute span. The Red Flash were able to mount a late run to climb within five points, but Merrimack was able to hold off the Saint Francis charge to grab the win.

Junior Mikey Watkins starred for Merrimack, scoring a game-high 15 points to go along with career highs of eight rebounds and seven assists. Sophomore Jordan Minor contributed 10 points and eight rebounds, and freshman Malik Edmead added 11 points off the bench.

The Essentials
Score: Merrimack 59, Saint Francis 54
Records: Merrimack (6-4, 6-4 NEC) | Saint Francis (5-12, 4-9 NEC)
Location: North Andover, Mass. | Hammel Court

Rapid Recap

  • After the Warriors started the game with a 6-2 lead, Saint Francis scored 14 of the next 21 points to take a 16-13 edge. A quick 7-0 stretch for Merrimack gave the Warriors the lead back, allowing Merrimack to regain control, 20-16, with under eight minutes remaining
  • Watkins scored seven straight points for Merrimack at one point and Minor added a bucket to stake Merrimack a 27-18 advantage at the 3:21 mark of the opening stanza. Sophomore Mykel Derring hit a triple late in the half to keep the Warriors’ lead at nine, 30-21, and Merrimack was up seven at halftime, 30-23
  • The start of the second half saw Merrimack’s defense stifle Saint Francis. The Red Flash scored just 12 points over the first 13:21 of the second half, which results in the Warriors outscoring the visitors, 20-12, over that span. Edmead scored five straight points during that stretch, while Watkins added a 3-pointer and Derring finished a dunk following an impressive block for junior Justin Connolly
  • With the score at 54-43 with under five minutes to play, Saint Francis used a 6-0 run to make it a five-point game with under a minute to play. Watkins was able to salt the game away at the line, however, making five free throws in the final 47 seconds to secure the victory

Notes and Numbers

  • Friday marked the 19th time in 40 games at the Division I level that the Warriors have allowed fewer than 60 points in a game. Merrimack has an 18-1 record in those contests
  • Saint Francis’ 31.1 field goal percentage (19-61) is the second lowest Merrimack has allowed against a DI foe
  • It was also the seventh time that the Warriors have allowed fewer than 20 field goals made in a game over the last two years
  • Watkins’ career night saw the Warriors’ point guard lead all players in points (15) and assists (7); he tied for the Merrimack team lead with eight caroms
  • Merrimack’s transition offense was pivotal, scoring 16 fast break points compared to zero for SFU

Up Next
Merrimack travels to Central Connecticut State next week, facing the Blue Devils on Thursday at 7 p.m.  

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