When and Where: March 11, 2017 – Syracuse, N.Y. (Henninger Athletic Center)
Score: Southern Connecticut State University 109, Southern New Hampshire University 98
Records: SCSU 18-12, SNHU 21-9
Senior Devin Gilligan (Amherst, N.H.) matched his career high with 31 points, but the Southern New Hampshire University men's basketball team saw its season draw to a close with a 109-98 loss to Southern Connecticut State University on Saturday in the NCAA East Regional first round at Ted Grant Court.
The second-seeded Penmen see their season come to an end after capturing their second NE10 Regular-Season Championship, securing a spot in the NE10 Championship final and earning their fourth straight NCAA Tournament bid. The seventh-seeded Owls advance to Sunday's (5:30 p.m.) East Regional semifinal against the third-seeded College of Saint Rose.
Gilligan was 9-for-13 from the field, including 2-for-4 from beyond the arc, while hitting 11 of 12 free throws. In the final game of his Penmen career, Gilligan also grabbed seven rebounds, tied his career best with five assists and made a pair of steals in 39 minutes. Junior Chris Walters (Stamford, Conn.) posted 21 points (6-10 FG, 9-10 FT), including 16 in the second half, seven board and three assists, while classmate Dimitri Floras (Merrimack, N.H.) also netted 21 points (7-14 FG, 2-5 3-FG, 5-6 FT).
Michael Mallory became the Northeast-10 Conference's all-time leading scorer with 2,504 points as he dropped a game-high 42, which is just six points shy of the NCAA Division II Tournament first round record of 48. Jerry Luckett added 30 for the Owls and Isaiah McLeod kicked in 19.
A Floras 3-pointer put the Penmen ahead, 6-5, just 1:45 into the contest, but they would never lead again as Southern Connecticut snapped an 8-8 deadlock with a 7-2 spurt that put the Owls ahead, 15-10, with 15:25 remaining in the opening half.
Southern New Hampshire would forge ties at 15-15 and 17-17 before a 15-7 stretch – powered by nine points from Luckett – opened a 32-24 advantage for Southern Connecticut with 8:36 on the clock. The Penmen answered with a balanced 13-5 rush that was contributed to by five different scorers and capped by a 3-pointer from sophomore Charlie Russo (Syracuse, N.Y.) that left the game tied at 37-all with 4:53 to go.
A pair of free throws from Mallory just 12 seconds later gave the Owls the lead for good and sparked a 14-5 run – with Mallory scoring the first 11 – to seize a 51-42 advantage at the 2:06 mark. A 6-2 spurt would make it a five-point game before Mallory capped the scoring with his fourth trey of the half to send Southern Connecticut to the locker room with a 56-48 lead.
Mallory opened the second-half scoring with a 3-pointer and then added a second triple to claim the NE10 scoring record and widen the Southern Connecticut lead to 65-55 less than two-and-a-half minutes in. After a 3-pointer from senior Jerome Harris (Hartford, Conn.) trimmed the Penmen deficit to seven, eight points from Mallory and five from McLeod carried a 17-6 flurry that stretched the Owls' lead to a game-high 18 at 82-64 with 11:56 remaining.
Floras then snapped Southern New Hampshire out of its daze, connecting on a 3-pointer and then immediately picking Mallory's pocket and throwing down a thunderous one-handed dunk, while getting fouled, to spark a 9-1 run that was part of a larger 21-9 blitz, which slashed the SNHU deficit to just six at 91-85 with 5:05 left. Floras led the way with seven points, while Walters added six and sophomore Jon Martin (Manchester, N.H.) drilled a pair of huge 3-pointers.
That was as close as the Penmen would get, however, as four straight McLeod pointers buoyed a 9-3 run that made it 102-90 with under two minutes to play. A personal 7-1 stretch from Walters brought Southern New Hampshire within 103-96 with 1:05 on the clock, but Southern Connecticut scored six straight from the free throw line to seal it.
Martin finished with eight points (3-4 FG, 2-3 3-FG) and two assists, while sophomore Daquaise Andrews (Queens, N.Y.) also chimed in with eight points (3-5 FG, 2-8 FT), three rebounds and a pair of helpers. Harris chipped in six points (2-6 FG, 2-5 3-FG).
-Southern New Hampshire is now 27-20 (.574) all-time in 20 NCAA Tournament appearances. This is just the fourth time ever the Penmen have been one-and-done.
-SNHU is now 1-2 against Southern Connecticut in the Big Dance, but leads the all-time series, 52-22.
-The game featured 57 combined fouls, which is the second most ever in an NCAA Division II Tournament game – just four shy of the record set in 1983 by the University of the District of Columbia and Wright State University.
-The 109 points are the most the Penmen have given up in a regulation game since March 24, 1994, when they fell to the University Southern Indiana, 111-89, in the Final Four.
-Southern Connecticut narrowly outshot Southern New Hampshire, 54.5 percent (36-66) to 54.4 percent (31-57), including 47.6 percent (10-21) to 37.5 percent (9-24) from behind the arc.
-The two teams went to the line a combined 73 times, with Southern Connecticut holding a slight 75 percent (27-36) to 73 percent (27-37) edge.
-The Owls dominated the glass, 45-24, including 15-4 on the offensive end for a 14-4 advantage in second chance points, and won the paint, 48-38. The Penmen turned in a better assist-to-turnover ratio (13/10-12/13) for a 16-9 edge in points off mistakes.
-This marked the final career games for Gilligan, Harris and senior Adrian Oliveira (Pawtucket, R.I.).
-Gilligan finishes his career with 1,433 points, including 1,256 with SNHU. The 1,433 puts him 20th all-time among anyone that has played for the program, while the 1,256 places him 32nd for most points scored in a Penmen uniform.
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