NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. – The Merrimack College men’s basketball team returns home to host Saint Francis University for two games this week. The Warriors meet the Red Flash first on Thursday followed by game two on Friday, with both contests beginning at 4 p.m. at Hammel Court. The Warriors begin the week tied for sixth in the NEC with a 4-4 record, while Saint Francis is tied for eighth at 4-7. The two games can be watched for free on NEC Front Row, or by downloading the NEC On The Run app.
LAST TIME OUT
Merrimack split its second conference series of the year, winning at LIU on Wednesday before falling to the Sharks on Thursday. Wednesday’s game saw Warriors lead for the final 39 minutes of action, aided by sophomore Jordan Minor’s double-double and three additional Warriors scoring in double figures. The Sharks returned the favor on Thursday, however, racing out to an early lead that they never relented. The Warriors’ bench impressed in the game, led by 23 points from freshman Malik Edmead. The team’s reserves scored 34 points overall.
SCOUTING THE RED FLASH
Saint Francis has gone 4-4 over its last eight games after beginning the year with a 1-6 record; the one victory came against ACC foe Pittsburgh. The Red Flash have also split each of their last four NEC series after starting the year with an 0-3 NEC record. Ramiir Dixon-Conover leads the team with 15.3 points per game, which ranks 12th in the NEC. In league play, Saint has been playing high-scoring games. SFU scores 73.5 points per game, but allows 76.2 per contest in NEC action.
|Category||Merrimack (4-4, 4-4 NEC)||SFU (5-10, 4-7 NEC)|
|Field-Goal % Defense||43.2%||45.2%|
|3-PT Field Goal %||28.3%||32.9%|
|3-PT Field Goal % Defense||39.8%||29.2%|
|3-PT Field Goals (Made-Attempts)||51-180||98-298|
|Winning Percentage||4-4 (.500)||5-10 (.333)|
Through eight games, Merrimack ranks third in the NEC in steals per game (8.5) and ranks second in turnover margin (+2.5). Despite only playing six games so far, Merrimack boasts two of the top-seven in the NEC in steals per game in junior Mikey Watkins (2.1) and senior Devin Jensen (1.9). The Warriors’ defense has been their calling card since joining the D1 ranks, holding opponents to 60 points or fewer in 18 of 38 games since last season. Merrimack is 17-1 in those 18 games.
Last season, Merrimack’s visit to Loretto was the first-ever matchup between the Warriors and Red Flash. Merrimack prevailed, 72-55, via a strong second half that saw the Warriors outscore SFU by 17 to break a 34-34 halftime deadlock. Mikey Watkins was one of three players to score in double figures for Merrimack, netting 10 points. Ziggy Reid scored all nine of the Warriors’ bench points while Devin Jensen contributed a pair of 3-pointers. The two games this week will be Saint Francis’ first-ever trip to Hammel Court. Last year, SFU was the lone NEC program to not play at Merrimack.
CAREER MOMENTS ON LONG ISLAND
Despite the result on the scoreboard, Thursday’s game at LIU yielded a pair of impressive individual notes. For sophomore Jordan Minor, he recorded his fourth consecutive double-double – the first Warrior to do so since Justin Leith ’04 accomplished the feat in the early stages of the 2002 season, his junior campaign. Minor enters the week averaging a double-double of 13.9 points and 10.0 rebounds per game. Over the last four games, he’s totaling 15.3 points and 11.8 rebounds per contest. Additionally, freshman Malik Edmead put up a career-high 23 points on Thursday as a reserve. He became the first Merrimack rookie since Juvaris Hayes ’20 to notch a performance of at least 20 points. Hayes put up seven 20-point games in 2016-17.
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. Both Berry III and Helwig joined Edmead with effective efforts in Merrimack’s last game. The former made his collegiate debut, sinking two 3-pointers. The latter made his first career field goals, scoring five points on 2-of-2 shooting including one make from beyond the arc.
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 (13.9/game) and leads the team in rebounding (10.0/game). After hitting 14 3-pointers over his last four games, Derring has the most on the squad with 20 while Ziggy Reid has started every game and is the team’s top free throw shooter (.857). Jordan McKoy continues to lead the team in both field goal percentage (.522) and 3-point percentage (.400).