EASTON, Mass. – In a matchup of two of the top-10 ranked programs in the NCAA Division II East Regional rankings, the Merrimack College men’s basketball program went on the road and knocked off Stonehill, 85-74, on Wednesday night from Merkert Gymnasium. The victory locked up a top-two finish in the Northeast Division for the Warriors, and a home game in the Northeast-10 Quarterfinals next Sunday at 3 p.m. from Hammel Court.
Score: Merrimack 85, Stonehill 74
Records: Merrimack (17-9, 13-6 NE10) | Stonehill (15-10, 11-8 NE10)
Location: Merkert Gym | Easton, Mass.
NE10 Postseason Outlook:
The top-five programs in the Northeast Division advance to the NE10 Championship. The fourth-place finisher hosts the No. 5 seed from the Southwest Division, while the fifth-place finisher travels to the No. 4 seed out of the Southwest for the First Round. Seeds No. 1-3 earn byes to the Quarterfinals. Merrimack has two games remaining in the regular season
- Saint Anselm (19-6, 14-5)
- Merrimack (17-9, 13-6)
- Stonehill (15-10, 11-8)
- Bentley (13-11, 10-9)
- SNHU (13-11, 9-10)
- Franklin Pierce (14-10, 9-10)
- Assumption (7-18, 3-16)
- Saint Michael’s (6-18, 3-16)
- Stonehill stormed out to a 14-4 lead in the night’s first five minutes, but it proved to be its only extended lead of the night
- The Warriors ended the half on a 44-22 run, which started with 13 unanswered points. Sophomore Juvaris Hayes posted 17 first-half points on 7-of-11 shooting – which included three separate conventional three-point plays. The duo of junior Troy McLaughlin and sophomore Devon Moore shot a combined 6-of-6 off the bench, contributing to a 48-36 halftime advantage
- Stonehill started the night by outscoring Merrimack, 14-3, quickly opening a double-digit advantage. From there, the Warriors scored 13 unanswered points over a span of four minutes to take a 17-14 lead at the midway point of the opening stanza
- The team’s traded threes over the next few possessions, before a 5-0 burst for the visitors gave Merrimack a 28-22 lead. The Skyhawks answered with a 5-0 stretch of their own, only to see the Navy and Gold surge on an 11-2 stretch the put the Warriors up 10, 39-29, late in the opening half
- The final 2:41 of the half saw the Warriors score eight points and increase their lead to 12, 48-36, after 20 minutes of action. Hayes finished the half with 17 points, five assists and four steals on 7-of-11 shooting
- Merrimack continued its hot shooting to start the second half, making 3-of-5 over the first 3:36 to open a 56-42 gap and prompt a Stonehill timeout. Freshman Khalief Crawford and Hayes each had layups immediately out of the stoppage and the Warriors’ lead grew to 18
- Stonehill responded with a 7-0 run, holding the Navy and Gold scoreless until an up-and-under lay-in for Hayes at the 12:02 mark. The Warriors worked their lead back up to 13, 66-53, but Stonehill pulled back to 10 that forced a Merrimack timeout with 8:12 left in regulation
- The Skyhawks pulled within 10 at the 6:48 mark, but the Warriors scored twice in 26 seconds to increase their lead to 14 on buckets for junior Ryan Boulter and Hayes. The waning minutes of the game saw Merrimack’s lead never dip below nine, ensuring a Warriors win
Notes and Notables
- Merrimack came in at No. 10 of the NCAA’s first of three regional polls, with the top-eight qualifying for NCAA Tournament come season’s end. The Warriors now own a season sweep of the Skyhawks, who are the No. 8 team in the region
- The Warriors can finish no worse than second in the division, which will be the highest rank ever since the NE10 moved to a divisional format beginning prior to the 2013-14 season
- Hayes finished the night with seven steals, increasing his career-high total to 100 for the season. He became only the third NE10 student-athlete ever with 100 steals in a single season, and is 15 shy of setting a new conference record
- Crawford poured in 16 points to rank second on the team, including a team-best 14 points in the second half
- As a team, the Warriors shot 54.2 percent from the field, the ninth time this season Merrimack has eclipsed 50 percent shooting.
- Wednesday marked the sixth time the Navy and Gold have scored at least 80 points in a game. The Warriors are 6-0 in those contests
The Warriors play their final regular-season road game on Saturday afternoon when Merrimack heads to the Dana Center in Waltham, Mass. to take on Bentley at 2 p.m.