MANCHESTER, N.H. – Sophomore Rodney Sanders (Linden, N.J.) led a balanced Southern New Hampshire University attack as the Penmen overcame a slow start to post a 68-53 win over American International College in the first round of the 2014 Northeast-10 Men's Basketball Championship Friday night at the SNHU Fieldhouse. The Penmen, the No. 4 seed in the NE-10's Northeast Division, won its fifth in a row to improve to 16-10, while the Yellow Jackets, the Southwest Division No. 5 seed, sees its season come to a close at 9-19.
Southern New Hampshire advances to Sunday's quarterfinal round as it travels to face the top seed in the Southwest Division and No. 6 nationally Southern Connecticut State University for a 3:00 tip at Moore Fieldhouse. The Owls stand 24-2 and are winners of 13 straight, but the Penmen dealt them their last loss, a 99-90 setback in New Haven on January 8.
Sanders finished 5-12 from the floor and also grabbed seven rebounds. Aleksandar Dobrovic (Podgorica, Montenegro) recorded 13 points and five steals, while Elijah Bonsignore (Felton, Del.) knocked down a pair of three-pointers and notched 12 points and seven rebounds. Chris Walters (Stamford, Conn.) added 11 points and nine rebounds off the bench for Southern New Hampshire.
AIC was led by Spencer Braithwaite, who totaled 13 points to lead four Yellow Jackets in double figures. Jason Perrier and Janek Schmidkunz each finished with 12 points, with Schmidkunz going 3-7 behind the arc, while Marcus Porter added 11 points and a game-high 13 rebounds.
SNHU trailed 25-20 at halftime and 28-20 following a three by Schmidkunz in the opening moments of the second half, but outscored AIC 19-13 over the first seven minutes of the frame to take a 39-39 lead on a pair of Marriro free throws. Porter had a putback dunk with 12:24 left to put AIC on top, but the Penmen took the lead for good on a putback by Walters with 12:18 left to give the hosts a 41-40 lead. That sparked a 10-2 run capped by a Walters basket that put Southern New Hampshire on top 49-42 with 10:28 left.
Schmidkunz cut the lead to four with a three with 9:38 left, but a 9-1 Penmen spurt capped by a Sanders basket with 6:34 left opened up a 12-point Southern New Hampshire lead, 58-46. The hosts maintained a double-digit advantage the rest of the way.
Southern New Hampshire led 13-6 midway through the first half and held a 17-12 lead with 6:49 left before the Yellow Jackets held the Penmen scoreless for over six minutes, reeling off 13 straight points to open a 25-17 lead with 47 seconds left on a Perrier basket. A Bonsignore trifecta with 30 seconds left stopped the run and the Penmen went into the locker room trailing for the third straight game, 25-20.
The Penmen shot 51.4% (18-35) over the final 20 minutes and shot 38.5% for the game while AIC shot 38.8% for the contest. Both teams were 5-17 behind the arc and SNHU was 13-19 from the free throw line while the Yellow Jackets went 10-17 at the stripe. Southern New Hampshire outrebounded American International 44-34, including a 15-6 edge on the offensive glass that led to a 14-7 Penmen lead in second chance points. The hosts also committed just one second half turnover and eight for the game while forcing 15 Yellow Jacket giveaways, leading to a 16-9 lead in points off turnovers for SNHU.
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