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Men’s Basketball Faces Bryant in Battle of NEC’s Top Tier

Matchup Merrimack (8-4, 8-4 NEC) vs. Bryant (10-5, 6-4 NEC)
Date/Time Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021 // 4 p.m.

Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021 // 4 p.m.
Venue Saturday: Chase Athletic Center // Smithfield, R.I.

Sunday: Hammel Court // North Andover, Mass.
Links NEC Front Row | Live Stats (Saturday) | Live Stats (Sunday)
Social Twitter // Instagram | Merrimack Game Notes

NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. – The Merrimack College men’s basketball team returns to action this weekend with two games against Bryant University. Saturday’s action will be on the road in Smithfield, R.I. while Sunday’s game will be at home at Hammel Court. Both tilts start at 4 p.m. and can be seen live on NEC Front Row as well as on the NEC On The Run app. Merrimack sits in first place in the NEC with an 8-4 record while Bryant is in third at 6-4.


Merrimack increased its winning streak to four games and have now won seven of its last eight games after two wins last week at Central Connecticut State University. Senior Devin Jensen enjoyed a strong two games, averaging a team-best 13.5 points per game while hitting five 3-pointers. Freshman Malik Edmead scored 11 points in the first game, including a dunk that landed him on SportCenter’s Top Ten Plays.


Bryant’s games against Merrimack against with be the Bulldogs’ first in February and first in 20 days. The team was last in action on January 30-31 against Fairleigh Dickinson. Bryant enjoyed a 9-2 start to the year before dropping three of its last four games. The Bulldogs run the best offense in the NEC, averaging 88.1 points per game. Junior Peter Kiss ranks second in the league in points (17.7ppg) and steals (2.1spg) to along with being in the top 20 in both rebounds and assists per game.

Matchup Comparison:

Category Merrimack (8-4, 8-4 NEC) Bryant (10-5, 6-4 NEC)
Scoring Offense 66.9 88.1
Scoring Defense 64.6 79.0
Field-Goal % 45.4%  46.9%
Field-Goal % Defense 41.0% 41.8%
3-PT Field Goal % 31.7% 39.1%
3-PT Field Goal % Defense 36.0% 29.3%
3-PT Field Goals (Made-Attempts) 85-268 156-399
Free-Throw Percentage 67.0% 76.1%
Winning Percentage 8-4 (.667) 10-5 (.667)
Rebounding Margin -4.7 +0.6
Assists/Game 12.4 16.8
Steals/Game 8.1 7.7
Turnovers/Game 13.3 15.9
Blocks/Game 3.3 3.9

Through 12 games, Merrimack ranks second in the conference in scoring defense (64.6), field goal percentage defense (.410) and steals per game (8.1). Merrimack is also second in the league in turnovers forced (15.3/game) and turnover margin (+2.1). Over their last eight games (a 7-1 record), the Warriors have allowed just 0.88 points per possession and own a 43.3 percent effective field goal percentage defense after that figure stood at 56.2 percent over the first four games.


Merrimack has four straight, giving Joe Gallo‘s team a winning streak of at least four games in all five of his seasons on the Warrior sidelines. The streak has been defined on the defensive end, with Merrimack allowing 53.5 points per game. They have held their opponents to lower than 37 percent shooting in three straight, have allowed 19 or fewer field goals made in three straight and their foes have shot just 27.6 percent from three (21-76) over the four-game winning streak.


The long-time Division II and Northeas-10 Conference rivals will play for the 57th and 58th times this weekend. Merrimack has played Bryant the second most times of any possible Division I foe, trailing only the 60 games that Merrimack and UMass Lowell have played against each other. Last season’s meetings were the first between the programs in 11 years, with the home team winning on each occasion. Merrimack will be looking for its first win in Smithfield since February of 2006, a 77-57 Warriors win.


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 47-15 at Hammel Court (.758). Since February of 2019, Merrimack has won 18 of its last 22 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 3-3 start away from campus.


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 made headlines last Thursday when his dunk at Central Connecticut was No. 9 on SportCenter’s Top Ten Plays. Edmead ranks second on the team with a 51.1 shooting percentage (45-88).


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 (12.9/game) and leads the team in rebounding (8.8/game). He is also third in the conference in rebounding, fourth in offensive rebounds per game 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.

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