EVANSTON, Ill. – Behind a career performance from junior Devin Jensen and a superb effort from senior point guard Juvaris Hayes, the Merrimack College men’s basketball program went on the road and defeated Northwestern University, 71-61, on Friday evening to record the program’s first-ever Division I victory.
Merrimack went into halftime at the Welsh-Ryan Arena ahead, 36-35, after a career performance for Jensen who had a career high in scoring just nine minutes into the game. Trailing 55-50 with time winding down in the second half, Hayes sank a contested left-wing trey that sparked a 21-6 run to close that night, catapulting the Warriors to victory.
The triumph gave Merrimack the first victory of its Division I era as the Warriors begin their tenure as members of the Northeast Conference (NEC), and first against a Power Five opponent as well as the first against a member of the Big Ten Conference.
Score: Merrimack 71, Northwestern 61
Records: Merrimack (1-1) | Northwestern (0-1)
Location: Welsh-Ryan Arena | Evanston, Ill.
- Merrimack answered an 8-0 Northwestern run to start the game behind the play of Jensen. The third-year wing scored nine points as part of an 11-6 run for the Warriors that trimmed their deficit down to three, 14-11, with 14:31 on the clock
- Freshmen Jordan McKoy and Ziggy Reid hit buckets to bring Merrimack within two, 23-21, at the midway point of the opening stanza. Reid then drilled a 3-point from the left wing that gave Merrimack a 26-24 lead with 8:21 left in the half
- The proceeded to change hands seven times over the remainder of the half; after a brief momentum-changing trey by the Wildcats made it 33-31 in favor of the hosts, sophomore Mikey Watkins converted a driving layup to tie the game, 33-33. Jensen had the last laugh as well, sinking his career-high fifth trey of the opening stanza to give the Warriors a 36-35 edge at the break
- Jensen’s hot shooting continued in the second half, hitting two more 3-pointers in the half’s first eight minutes to keep things even at 48 points apiece. From there, however, Northwestern scored five straight to take a 53-48 lead with under 10 minutes to play
- Northwestern led, 55-50, with 9:28 to play as the Wildcats crept ahead. On the defensive end, Minor notched a pivotal block, that turned into Hayes’ triple that brought Merrimack within two, 55-53. From there, Minor and Reid converted consecutive buckets that brought Merrimack back in front, 57-55
- Merrimack’s defense took over from there. The Warriors allowed just one made basket over the final 5:42 in the game, enabling the 15-point disparity. Merrimack hit 10-of-11 at the line down the stretch to prevent a Northwestern rally, putting the game away. Hayes his all but one of his attempts in the final two minutes
Notes and Numbers
- Fourth-year head coach Joe Gallo registered his first career win at the Division I level after 61 victories and three straight NCAA Tournament bids at the Division II level.
- Jensen’s career night featured career highs in points (23), field goals made (8), 3-point field goals made (7) and minutes played (35). Entering the night, his previous career high in points was 10 and in field goals made was four
- Hayes notched a 19-point effort with 10 free throws made. He added a team-best nine rebounds and seven assists while swiping three steals
- Minor and Reid combined for 17 points while Minor added six boards and two blocks
- Merrimack held Northwestern to 2-of-16 shooting from beyond the arc. The Warriors forced 13 turnovers, scoring 19 points off the miscues
Merrimack will play three games at the River Hawk Invitational next weekend beginning on Friday afternoon against Dartmouth University. Tip-off at the Costello Athletic Center is set for 4:30 p.m.