When and Where: February 18, 2017 – Manchester, N.H. (SNHU Fieldhouse)
Score: Southern New Hampshire University 76, Stonehill College 58
Records: SNHU 19-6 (15-5 Northeast-10), Stonehill 12-14 (10-10 Northeast-10)
Redshirt-junior Chris Walters (Stamford, Conn.) started fast and finished strong with a game-high 24 points to lead the Southern New Hampshire University men's basketball team to a 76-58 victory against Stonehill College on Saturday at the SNHU Fieldhouse to claim the program's second Northeast-10 Regular-Season Championship.
With the win, the Penmen earn the No. 1 seed in the Northeast Division, as well as home court throughout the entire NE10 Championship due to the head-to-head win against Le Moyne College – the Southwest's No. 1 seed – back on Jan. 24. SNHU will have a bye through the Feb. 24 first round and will host a quarterfinal game at the Fieldhouse on Sunday, Feb. 26 against the winner of Friday's matchup between the Southwest No. 4 seed Adelphi University and the Northeast No. 5, which will be Bentley University, Franklin Pierce University or Stonehill. Bentley will earn the final spot with a win Tuesday at Merrimack College and a Franklin Pierce win against Assumption. Franklin Pierce will earn the No. 5 if it loses to Assumption and Bentley beats Merrimack, while a Franklin Pierce win and Bentley loss, coupled with a Stonehill win at home against Saint Michael's College, will give the Skyhawks the fifth seed.
Walters, who scored 15 points and threw down three of his four dunks in the first half, finished 9-for-14 from the floor, 1-for-2 from behind the arc and 5-for-7 from the line, to go along with nine rebounds, three assists, three steals and a pair of blocks. Senior Devin Gilligan (Amherst, N.H.) shook off a slow start to post 14 points (5-11 FG, 4-5 3-FG), eight boards, two assists and two steals, with sophomore Daquaise Andrews (Queens, N.Y.) tallying 13 points (5-9 FG, 1-3 3-FG, 2-3 FT), seven rebounds, three assists, three steals and a block.
Daniel Largey paced the Skyhawks with 17 points.
Leading by one just over two minutes into the contest, Southern New Hampshire ripped off a 16-5 run – with seven points from Walters – to open up a 21-9 advantage midway through the opening stanza. After the teams traded scores, Stonehill responded with a balanced 12-4 run that featured six different scorers and slashed the deficit to 27-23 with 4:21 remaining.
The Penmen hit right back with a 9-0 surge – bookended by a pair of layups from Andrews – to extend their lead to 36-23 with just under two minutes to go. A corner 3-pointer from Gilligan just before the buzzer gave the hosts a 41-27 halftime lead – their largest of the half.
Gilligan opened the second half the way he closed the first to stretch the lead to 17 before back-to-back 3-pointers from Will Moreton and Largey cut it to 11 at 44-33 just over two minutes in. Five points from Andrews led an 8-0 rush that ballooned the lead to 19, but Stonehill answered with an 8-0 run of its own – powered by five points from Joel Berroa – to climb back within 52-41 with 13:41 remaining.
Six straight points from redshirt-sophomore Scott Toresco (Westfield, N.J.) continued the game of runs, but nine straight, including five from Largey, slashed the Stonehill deficit to single digits at 58-50 with 7:17 left. That was as close as the Skyhawks would get as the Penmen scored nine straight as part of a larger 18-6 barrage that featured seven points from Walters and six from Gilligan and gave them a game-high 20-point lead at 76-56 with 1:05 on the clock.
Freshman Ryogo Sumino (Kanagawa, Japan) netted a career-best nine points (4-6 FG, 1-2 3-FG) in 20 minutes off the bench, while junior Dimitri Floras (Merrimack, N.H.) chimed in with seven points (2-12 FG, 2-4 3-FG, 1-3 FT), three helpers and a pair of rebounds. Toresco finished with six points (3-3 FG) on perfect shooting.
-This is the second time under the division format Southern New Hampshire has captured the No. 1 seed and first since 2014-15.
-SNHU improves to a perfect 14-0 at home this season, matching the 2004-05 team for the highest number of home wins since 1994-95, and has won 17 straight at the Fieldhouse dating back to Feb. 17 of last season. The Penmen are 27-3 (.900) at home since the start of the 2015-16 campaign and 39-7 (.848) over the last three seasons.
-Southern New Hampshire outshot Stonehill, 49.2 percent (29-59) to 40.7 percent (22-54), including 50 percent (10-20) to 24 percent (6-25) from downtown and 52.2 percent (12-23) to 38.5 percent (10-26) in the second half.
-The teams were even at the line, while Stonehill shot it better, 72.7 percent (8-11) to 53.3 percent (8-15).
-The Penmen forced a season-high 25 mistakes as they took advantage of a better assist-to-turnover ratio (13/16-11/25) for a 27-19 margin in points off turnovers. The Skyhawks won the glass (38-31) and posted a 12-4 gap in second chance points, while also narrowly taking the paint (30-28).
-Seniors Gilligan, Adrian Oliveira (Pawtucket, R.I.) and Jerome Harris (Hartford, Conn.) were recognized in a ceremony prior to the game.
The Penmen close out the regular season Tuesday, Feb. 21 (7:30 p.m.) when they take on crosstown-rival Saint Anselm College in a game that can be heard live on WGIR 610-AM live from Stoutenburgh Gymnasium.
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