Two quick spurts not enough for Saint Michael's in 43-36 loss to Merrimack

NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. - The Saint Michael's College men's basketball team fell to Merrimack College, 43-36, in a low-scoring Northeast-10 Conference affair on Tuesday evening at Hammel Court. The Purple Knights slipped to 2-4 overall and 1-4 in the league, while the Warriors are 3-6 and 1-4.

First-year Greg Grippo (Edison, N.J./Rutgers Prep) became the sixth different leading scorer in as many games this year for the Purple and Gold, netting a season-high 13 points thanks to 3-of-6 three-point shooting. He added three steals. Classmate Will Davis (Valley Stream, N.Y./Holy Cross) had a personal best with eight points, sophomore Dom Ditlefsen (Portland, Ore./Sunset) had six points and three steals, and classmate James Cambronne (De Bary, Fla./The Winchendon School) notched five points to go along with three blocks.

Senior Derek Knutty (Rocklin, Calif./Whitney) collected 11 rebounds, including seven offensive, sophomore Mike Thompson (Rosedale, N.Y./Christ The King Regional) totaled nine boards, and classmate Corey Crawford II (Dover, Del./The Phelps School) collected seven rebounds, four assists and two blocks. The Purple Knights improved their league-leading defensive scoring average (59.4), while the teams combined to shoot 10-of-47 from three-point range.

First-year Gelvis Solano (New York, N.Y./Health Professions) had nine points and eight rebounds for Merrimack, and classmate Troy Hammel (Valencia, Calif./Valencia) added nine points. Senior Mike Clifford (Danvers, Mass./Bishop Fenwick) turned in eight points and rebounds, and classmate Tyler Young (Brooklyn, N.Y./Boys & Girls) had nine boards.

After being held scoreless for nearly six minutes and falling behind by a 34-27 count with fewer than five minutes remaining in the game, the Purple Knights went on a quick 9-5 run in 1:19 to creep within three. Cambronne, Davis and Grippo each buried a three-pointer in that stretch, with Cambronne connecting at 3:00 to make it 39-36. However, the teams combined to shoot 0-for-10 with three turnovers in the final three minutes, and Merrimack went 4-for-5 on freebies.

Grippo's bucket at 18:37 of the opening half produced a 5-2 edge for the visitors, and neither team scored again until 14:15, when Merrimack dropped in the first of consecutive hoops. Davis' pair of freebies at 12:43 put the Purple Knights back ahead, but Clifford netted four points during a 7-0 run, and the Warriors led 13-7. Ditlefsen canned a triple at 10:07 to snap his team's stretch of 8:28 without a hoop, and Grippo knocked down two threes in the final 10 minutes, each of which brought the Purple Knights within two points, including at 1:18 to make it 18-16, which also stood as the halftime score.

Saint Michael's scored only two points in the opening 7:47 of the second half, falling behind by a 26-18 count, before recording a 9-0 run during a matter of 1:37. Davis drained a three, and Cambronne grabbed an offensive board before dishing to Crawford for a bucket. Crawford returned the favor on the next hoop, finding Cambronne for two following a Cambronne rejection at the other end. Grippo's put-back made it 27-26 with 10:35 remaining, but Merrimack scored eight straight points for a 34-27 lead at 5:09.

The Purple Knights return home on Thursday to oppose Saint Anselm College at 7:30 p.m.