LORETTO, PA. – Behind a career-best 28-point performance from senior Idris Joyner and a suffocating second-half defensive effort that allowed just 21 points, the Merrimack College men’s basketball defeated Saint Francis University, 72-55, on Saturday afternoon at DeGol Arena. Merrimack broke free of its tie with Saint Francis atop the NEC standings, moving into first place in the conference with a 6-1 record through seven games.
Tied at 34 at halftime, Merrimack used a 10-0 run to start the second half that created a lead that the Warriors never saw dip below six over the remainder of the game. The Warriors’ league-leading defense forced Saint Francis into 13 missed shots and 10 turnovers – seven of which were Merrimack steals – to create a final 20 minutes that saw the Warriors outscore the Red Flash, 38-21
Merrimack held the NEC’s top-ranked offense to season lows in points scored (55) and 3-pointers made (2) while forcing the Red Flash into 21 turnovers, their second most on the season. The Warriors’ 15 steals were the most an opponent has had against Saint Francis this season, which helped Merrimack to a 26-14 advantage in points off turnovers.
Joyner scored the most points of any Warriors this season on Monday, starting the day 4-of-4 from the field, finishing the first half 8-of-9 shooting and ending the game with only one missed attempt (11-12). Senior Jaleel Lord (13) and sophomore Mikey Watkins (10) also scored in double figures while senior Juvaris Hayes finished with a stat line of six points, nine assists and six steals.
Score: Merrimack 72, Saint Francis 55
Records: Merrimack (12-8, 6-1 NEC) | Saint Francis (12-6, 5-2 NEC)
Location: Degol Arena | Loretto, Pa.
- Merrimack raced out to a 10-2 lead over the first three minutes with Joyner netting half of the Warriors’ output. The Red Flash recovered with an 8-0 run, but Joyner responded with back-to-back made shots to give Merrimack a 15-12 edge at the 13:52 mark. The senior center made his first four attempts of the game
- The Red Flash controlled the next eight minutes of the half, outscoring Merrimack, 15-6, to build a 27-21 edge with under six minutes until halftime. Trailing 32-24 with 3:48 remaining, the Warriors closed the half on a 10-2 spurt to tie the game at 34-all heading to the locker room. Joyner carried the Warriors in the stanza, totaling a career-high 18 points and beating the halftime buzzer to bring the contest even
- Hayes and Watkins scored eight of 10 points as part of a 10-0 run to start the half for the Warriors, creating a 44-34 advantage. With the lead hanging at seven, Lord stepped back to hit a left-wing triple bringing the edge to double figures, 51-41, at the 13:19 mark
- As the minutes ticked by, Saint Francis climbed within six twice, but the Warriors answered each time. Lord hit consecutive attempts – including one from deep – to make it a 56-47 game, and Joyner added to his total on possession later, keeping the advantage at nine (58-49) with under eight minutes to play
- Junior Devin Jensen hit a crucial three that put Merrimack up 12 (61-49) with six minutes left, and created a margin that never dipped below double figures the rest of the game. Freshman Ziggy Reid provided the dagger, drilling a left-corner triple as the shot clock expired, scoring the night’s final points with just 1:25 to play
Notes and Numbers
- Merrimack moved into sole possession of first place in the NEC with the victory, while also joined Saint Francis with the most overall wins in the conference to date (12)
- The Warriors increased their winning streak to five games, moving within one triumph of tying the longest during fourth-year head coach Joe Gallo‘s tenure. Merrimack is one of 20 teams nationally with an active winning streak of at least five games
- The Warriors improved to 8-1 this season when creating at least 10 steals
- Joyner shattered his previous career high of 16 points, and joined Jensen as the only Warriors this season with 20-point games. He also set career highs in field goals made (11) and attempts (12)
- They became the first NEC team to sweep the “Western Pennsylvania” road trip since Wagner did it in 2017-18
- Monday marked the first-ever meeting between Saint Francis and Merrimack. It also is the only meeting this season between the two foes
Merrimack returns home to host Fairleigh Dickinson on campus on Thursday evening. Tip-off at Hammel Court is set for 7 p.m. and tickets are available for purchase here.