Men's basketball concludes home slate with setback to Merrimack

COLCHESTER, Vt. - The Saint Michael's College men's basketball team completed its home slate on Wednesday evening with a 71-57 setback to Merrimack College in the Ross Sports Center. The Purple Knights slipped to 8-16 overall and 5-15 in the Northeast-10 Conference, while the Warriors are 11-14 and 8-12. After the teams combined for 79 points in Merrimack's 43-36 victory in December, the squads forged 12 lead changes and four ties while each grabbing double-digit advantages on Wednesday.

First-year Greg Grippo (Edison, N.J./Rutgers Prep) came within one point of his season high for Saint Michael's, netting 19 points behind a 5-of-8 showing from beyond the arc. He added three steals and two assists. Sophomore Corey Crawford II (Dover, Del./The Phelps School) added 11 points and three helpers, senior Derek Knutty (Rocklin, Calif./Whitney) turned in 10 points, nine boards and two steals in his final career home game, and sophomore Mike Thompson (Rosedale, N.Y./Christ The King Regional) hauled in nine rebounds.

First-years Gelvis Solano (New York, N.Y./Health Professions) and JT Strickland (Laurel, Md./Georgetown Prep) each had 16 points and four assists for the visitors, and senior Tyler Young (Brooklyn, N.Y./Boys and Girls) recorded a double-double of 10 points and 10 boards. Junior Kevin Regan (Philadelphia, Pa./Roman Catholic) added 11 points.

Grippo twice hit three-pointers in the first 1:58 of the second half, including extending his team's lead to a team-high 10, at 36-26. After his second triple made it 39-30 with 18:02 remaining, Merrimack responded with a 22-4 run, with Strickland scoring nine points himself and Regan adding six. The Warriors led 52-43 with 7:01 to go.

Saint Michael's scored five of the next seven points, with Knutty dropping in a lay-up before Grippo's triple made it 54-48 at 6:13, and another trey from Grippo later brought his team within 58-51 at 4:25. However, Merrimack ended the game on a 13-6 run, with Crawford scoring all six Saint Michael's points.

The teams played through seven lead changes and three ties in the opening 8:01 of the contest, with Crawford burying a tying three at 12:25 before Grippo made it 15-12 just 26 seconds later for the seventh change. After sophomore Dom Ditlefsen (Portland, Ore./Sunset) knocked down two freebies to extend the Saint Michael's lead to four, Young's lay-up capped a 5-0 spurt to put his team back in front. However, sophomore Mauri Boschetti (Miami, Fla./Gulliver Prep) knocked down a triple to spark a 7-0 run, with Thompson dropping in the final four points, and Thompson's offensive board and put-back made it 33-26 just before the halftime buzzer.

The Purple Knights hit the road for their final two contests of the winter, beginning at nationally-ranked Saint Anselm College on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. The Hawks sit 12th in this week's National Association of Basketball Coaches' (NABC) poll and first in the NE-10 standings.