NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. – The Merrimack College men’s basketball hosts St. Francis Brooklyn on Thursday and Friday in the Warriors’ final two home games of the season. Merrimack enters the week tied for third in the Northeast Conference with an 8-6 record, sitting two games out of first place with four games left in the season. Thursday’s contest begins at 6 p.m. while Friday’s game tips at 4 p.m. Both games will be streamed live on NEC Front Row.
LAST TIME OUT
The Warriors dropped a pair of games over the weekend against Bryant University. In the most recent game on Sunday, Merrimack faced a seven-point deficit with under eight minutes to play before the Bulldogs expanded on their lead to win by 16 points. Saturday’s contest nearly saw Merrimack complete a remarkable comeback, but an attempt to score seven points in 15 seconds fell just short as Merrimack lost, 60-58.
SCOUTING THE TERRIERS
St. Francis Brooklyn had a three-game winning streak snapped in its last game, an 88-82 defeat to Sacred Heart University. The Terriers boast the second best scoring offense in the NEC at 77.9 points per game, but also rank last in scoring defense, allowing over 80.3 points per game. The Terriers are one of two teams in the conference with four players who average at least 10 points per game, led by Chauncey Hawkins at 16.1 points per contest. Hawkins is also third in the NEC in assists and first in assist-to-turnover ratio.
|Category||Merrimack (8-6, 8-6 NEC)||St. Francis Brooklyn (8-9, 8-8 NEC)|
|Field-Goal % Defense||41.9%||46.3%|
|3-PT Field Goal %||30.7%||33.3%|
|3-PT Field Goal % Defense||36.5%||38.8%|
|3-PT Field Goals (Made-Attempts)||99-323||107-321|
|Winning Percentage||8-6 (.444)||8-9 (.471)|
Through 14 games, Merrimack ranks second in the conference in scoring defense (65.1), third in field goal percentage defense (.419) and second in steals per game (8.1). Merrimack is also second in the league in turnovers forced (15.3/game) and turnover margin (+2.3). Merrimack’s defense has really been its calling card during its Division I transition; the team has allowed 60 or fewer points in 22 of 44 games over the last two seasons in DI. The Warriors own a record of 20-2 in those contests.
Merrimack and St. Francis Brooklyn played for the first two times in school history last season, the Warriors’ first in Division I and as members of the Northeast Conference. Merrimack held St. Francis to exactly 50 points in both meetings, winning by 11 at Hammel Court and 10 down in Brooklyn. In the win on campus, the Warriors forced the Terriers into 22 turnovers and to a poor 29.4 percent shooting performance (15-51). In the victory on the road, senior Devin Jensen led the team with 14 points featuring four 3-point field goals.
HOME & ROAD SPLITS
Since Joe Gallo took over as Merrimack head coach in 2016-17, Merrimack has developed a true home court advantage. The Warriors have won at least 10 home games in each of the last four years, posting an overall record of 47-16 at Hammel Court (.746). Since February of 2019, Merrimack has won 18 of its last 23 games at home. The Warriors have not been bad on the road either. Merrimack has finished with a road record of above .500 in each of the program’s first four years with Joe Gallo. The team’s best road record under Gallo came in 2018-19, registering a 10-5 record. Last year, Merrimack went 9-8 on the road in its first Division I season, including a 6-3 mark in NEC. This season, the team is off to a 3-4 start away from campus.
NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK
The Warriors replaced their three lost starters with three true freshman: James Berry III, Malik Edmead and Ryan Isaacson. Additionally, redshirt-freshman Ethan Helwig is in the rotation this season for the Warriors. Edmead has emerged as the most consistent performer of the group. The reserve guard has been the team’s most accurate shooter, leading the Warriors in field goal percentage at a 49.5 percent clip (49-99).
HEAD COACHES AT THEIR ALMA MATER
Head coach Joe Gallo is one of 35 coaches nationwide to currently serve at the head coach at their alma mater. The 2004 graduate joins prominent coaches such as Jim Boeheim (Syracuse), Patrick Ewing (Georgetown), Juwan Howard (Michigan), Matt Painter (Purdue) and Roy Williams (North Carolina) among others on the list. Gallo and Rob Krimmel (Saint Francis U.) are the two current head coaches at the NEC who are coaching at their alma maters.
Merrimack’s four-player sophomore class already have made an immediate impact as they look to make a second-year leap. Jordan Minor currently leads Merrimack in scoring (12.1/game) and leads the team in rebounding (9.1/game). He is also third in the conference in both rebounds per game and offensive rebounds per contest and fifth in blocks per contest. Mykel Derring and Ziggy Reid have joined Minor by starting every game this season while classmate Jordan McKoy is Merrimack’s first option off the bench.