NORTH ANDOVER, MASS. – Trailing by seven points, 57-50, with 8:12 remaining in Wednesday night’s game, the Merrimack College men’s basketball team closed the evening on a 21-10 stretch to rally and defeat Bryant University, 71-67, in Northeast Conference (NEC) play from Hammel Court. Freshman Mykel Derring sank a 3-pointer from right in front of the Merrimack bench that gave Merrimack the lead for good with four minutes to play, completing the night’s seventh and final lead change.
The Warriors improved to 10-8 (4-1 NEC) with the victory while the Bulldogs fell to 9-8 (1-3 NEC) with the defeat. The contest marked the first game between Merrimack and Bryant in nearly a dozen years, and the first game between the two at the Division I level. The two programs last played in 2008 as Division II rivals in the Northeast-10 Conference.
Trailing by six to start the second half, Merrimack made it a one-possession game on six separate occasions and tied the game once over the first 10 minutes, but never were able to regain the lead. Derring’s 3-pointer was part of a 13-2 stretch for the Warriors that lasted until there was only 3:03 to play, and gave the hosts a lead that they never relinquished. In addition to Derring, four other Warriors scored in double figures led by 16 points from senior Idris Joyner and a 12-point, eight-assist effort for senior Juvaris Hayes
Merrimack dominated the paint, outscoring Bryant by nearly half (32-18) inside. The Warriors also turned 15 Bulldog turnovers into 18 points. After the Bulldogs were shooting around 50 percent through 32 minutes of play, the Warriors defense clamped down over the final eight minutes to hold Bryant to 33.3 percent shooting (3-9) and three turnovers during the team’s 21-10 game-closing run.
Score: Merrimack 71, Bryant 67
Records: Merrimack (10-8, 4-1 NEC) | Bryant (9-8, 1-3 NEC)
Location: Hammel Court | North Andover, Mass.
- Bryant grabbed a 7-2 lead after the first two minutes of play, but the Warriors used a 5-0 spurt sparked by junior Devin Jensen and Derring to cap a 12-3 run. Merrimack led, 14-10, with 13:49 left in the opening stanza
- The visitors responded with an 8-0 run, however, to take the lead back. The Warriors then tied the game at 20-20 before the Bulldogs netted five points in row to build their lead back to five with 7:34 on the clock
- Facing a game-high nine-point deficit, the Warriors held Bryant scoreless over the half’s final 2:54 to prevent the hole reaching double figures. Jensen hit a triple with under a minute to play that made it a 36-30 contest going to the locker room
- Early in the second half, Bryant and Merrimack scored on six straight possessions combined. The shot-making created a see-saw atmosphere, leaving the Bulldogs ahead by three, 43-40, with 15:34 remaining
- Later in the half, freshman Ziggy Reid and Derring connected on consecutive treys that knotted the score at 48-all, only to see Bryant score nine of the next 11 points to take a 57-50 edge approaching the eight-minute mark of the final half
- The first seven points of Merrimack’s game-changing 13-2 run came at the free throw line as the Warriors turned defensive stops into points. Derring’s lead-changing 3-pointer dropped in with just 4:07 to play, and created the night’s seventh and final lead change.
- Senior Juvaris Hayes took over down the stretch, scoring the team’s final 10 points to allow Merrimack to prevail. Bryant had a chance to tie in the final seconds and force overtime, but saw a straightaway 3-pointer miss with four seconds left
Notes and Numbers
- Merrimack now sits a half game out of first in the conference, setting up a clash with league-leading Robert Morris on Saturday
- The Warriors became the second team in the NEC with double-digit wins, registering their 10th of the year. Sacred Heart also posted its 10th win after Wednesday’s action
- Joyner increased his double-figure scoring streak to four games. He tied his career high in points with 16 while grabbing a team-best six rebounds
- Hayes nearly added a double-double with 12 points and eight assists
- Both Hayes and Joyner tied for the team lead with three steals
- Derring notched his third straight game with at least 10 points, and sank four triples for the second straight contest. In league play, Derring has made a team-high 12 3-pointers
- Merrimack’s defense held Adam Grant – the NEC’s second leading scorer entering the night – to season lows in points (4) and shot attempts (5). The Warriors also snapped his 16-game streak of hitting at least one 3-pointer
- Wednesday’s game was the first between Merrimack and Bryant since 2008; the Warriors improved to 20-35 all-time against the Bulldogs
Merrimack travels to Pennsylvania for a pair of games over the long weekend beginning on Saturday afternoon when the Warriors visit Robert Morris University. Tip-off in Moon Township, Pa. is set for 4 p.m.