Merrimack wins first basketball game inside Lawler Arena

NORTH ANDOVER — Behind 15 points from Malik Edmead, Merrimack defeated Lehigh, 55-45, on Friday night at Lawler Arena in the first basketball game ever played inside the building in its nearly 50-year history.

The Warriors improved to 3-2 on the season.

“We've been defending all year,” said Merrimack head coach Joe Gallo. “That's what we’ve hung our hat on. At halftime it’s the same story, the ball isn't going in as much as we'd like, but you know we're comfortable in those types of games.

“We just needed to keep getting stops. We call three stops in a row a turkey, and at some point in one of our turkeys is going to lead to an 8-0 run. Mikey (Watkins) and Malik were able to get going, we kept defending to the end, and come out with a 10-point victory.”

Takeaways and observations

(1) Basketball inside Lawler Arena works well. The way the building is set up the fans are close to the action. The setup is similar to that of a traditional gym. The sections at the extreme ends might make for a tough seat, because the seats aren’t angled towards the floor in any way, but most of the seating sections are right on top of the floor and looking straight on.

(2) The atmosphere was great and the stands were packed. Surely, some of that was due to the novelty of it being the first basketball game inside Lawler Arena. But the crowd was big and loud all night. Helped by the fact that it was a close game, everyone stayed until the final buzzer.

(3) There was a second video board installed at Lawler, which wasn’t up the last time I was here for a men’s hockey game on Nov. 5. Both video boards were next to each other at the far end of the building with one serving as the scoreboard. Remember, Lawler Arena doesn’t have a permanent basketball scoreboard. There were also additional lights installed.

(4) The crew changing the building back over to hockey will be tested. The Merrimack women’s hockey team hosts Vermont on Saturday night at 7 p.m.

(5) Guard Mikey Watkins appeared to be injured just two minutes into the game. He was down on the floor for several minutes and clutched his left knee. After being helped back to the bench, Watkins’ knee was wrapped in ice but he returned about midway through the first half and finished with 10 points, four steals, and seven assists.

(6) Merrimack won the turnover battle 19-6.

“It’s hard to lose when you end up with 13 extra possessions,” Gallo said.

Merrimack scored 20 points off of turnovers and had 21 points from the bench, spearheaded by Edmead’s 15 points.

NEXT: The Warriors will get back on the floor Sunday afternoon (4 p.m.) when they visit Virginia Tech. The Hokies were only one spot outside of the AP’s Top-25 Poll this past week.

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