NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. – The Merrimack College men’s basketball team shot less than 15 percent in the second half as a suffocating University of New Haven defense contributed to a losing effort for the Warriors, 60-39, on Saturday afternoon from Hammel Court
Score: Merrimack 39 | New Haven 60
Records: Merrimack (10-8, 5-8 NE-10) | New Haven (11-8, 7-7 NE-10)
Location: Hammel Court | North Andover, Mass.
What They Said
Head coach Bert Hammel: “That was a well-coached and talented New Haven team that we played this afternoon. We obviously struggled offensively, but we need to continue making improvements on the defensive end of the floor. If we’re going to win games down the stretch, we did to do it with our defense leading the way.”
How It Happened
It was a defensive battle throughout the game on Saturday afternoon, as New Haven arrived in North Andover owning one of the five best scoring defenses in the Northeast-10 Conference.
The first half saw both teams struggle from the field, as neither team shot better than 33.3 percent from the field. It took until the 10:15 mark of the first half for someone to reach double digits as Gelvis Solano (Harlem, N.Y.) hit a jumper to make it 10-8 Merrimack.
New Haven scored six of the next eight points to take the lead back, but Troy Hammel (Valencia, Calif.) connected on a shot to tie the game 14-14 with 7:47 to play. Hammel, the nation’s top free-throw shooter, make a couple from the line with 4:24 to go to extend Merrimack’s lead to three points, 20-17. New Haven was able to score eight of the final 11 points of the half though, taking a 25-23 lead into the halftime break.
The second half actually began well for Merrimack, as Hammel swished a three-pointer to give the Warriors a one-point lead. With 16:04 to go, Solano collected a steal and converted the ensuing slam dunk to make it 32-30 in favor of the Chargers. After that, New Haven scored eight unanswered to lead 40-30 with less than 12 minutes to play, the first time either team held a double-digit lead.
Merrimack would cut it to single digits, but Chargers guard Tommy Hunt made a three with exactly nine minutes left to push the UNH lead back to 11 points, 44-33.
From that point on the lead never dipped below 11 points for New Haven. Merrimack scored just six points over the final nine minutes of the game, as both Solano and forward James Kennedy (Dorchester, Mass.) fouled out of the game. The Warriors would shoot just five-for-34 from the field over the final 20 minutes, including one-of-12 from beyond the arc.
The loss should not overshadow a very successful month for Merrimack, with the Warriors winning five of seven games in January, and seven of its last nine contests overall. The Warriors are 5-8 in the Northeast Division, with a return to divisional play coming this week.
Inside The Numbers
Hammel lead the Warriors in scoring with 13 points in 34 minutes. Senior guard Travonne Berry-Rogers (Lynn, Mass.) provided a physical presence off the bench, while contributing 11 points in 24 minutes
Despite the presence of Eric Anderson, who leads the nation in rebounding with an average of over 13 per game, Kennedy totaled nine caroms, while junior Tyler Hunt (Oswego, N.Y.) contributed eight boards off the bench. Anderson did have his fill, finishing with 14 rebounds and seven points
Senior Jonny Ocasio and sophomore Jemal Mosley gave the Chargers quality perimeter play, combining for 37 points and seven three-pointers
New Haven outrebounded Merrimack by 10 boards. The Chargers shot just 36 percent for the field, but their defense limited Merrimack to connect on just 14-of-61 from the field (23 percent)
Solano finished with just seven points, snapping a streak of 26 consecutive games in which he scored in double figures. It is the first time this year that Solano has not scored at least 10 points
Weather permitting the Warriors will take on regionally ranked Southern Connecticut, the reigning conference champions, on Monday at 7:30 p.m. The Owls advanced to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament last year, and the two squads were supposed to play last Tuesday, but the game was postponed due to the snowstorm that hit the Northeast.
Mike McMahon covers Merrimack College for The Eagle Tribune and is the founder and managing editor of The Mack Report as well as on staff as a senior writer at College Hockey News. Follow him on Twitter @MikeMcMahonCHN