COLCHESTER, Vt. - The regionally-ranked Saint Michael's College men's basketball team knocked off Franklin Pierce University, 76-64, on Wednesday evening in the Ross Sports Center during Northeast-10 Conference play. The Purple Knights, who are ninth in this week's D2SIDA East Region Media Poll, improved to 14-6 overall and 10-5 in the league, while the Ravens, who qualified for the past three NCAA Tournaments, are 12-9 and 7-7.
Saint Michael's, which is 5-1 in its last six games, avenged a 34-point loss suffered to Franklin Pierce last month by claiming a 54-25 rebounding advantage, including 23-6 in offensive boards, which led to a 19-2 margin in second-chance points. The Purple Knights shot 12-of-15 on free throws, while the Ravens were 3-for-6.
Two Purple and Gold players had double-doubles, while two others narrowly missed the feat just one game after three Purple Knights posted double-doubles. Senior Mike Thompson (Rosedale, N.Y./Christ The King Regional) shot 7-of-9 while collecting game highs of 16 points and 13 rebounds, including seven offensive, to go along with three assists, and classmate James Cambronne (De Bary, Fla./The Winchendon School) totaled 13 points and 10 boards, seven of which came on the offensive end. Senior Corey Crawford II (Dover, Del./The Phelps School) and sophomore Matt Bonds (Accokeek, Md./North Point) both turned in 13 points and nine caroms.
Senior Dom Ditlefsen (Portland, Ore./Sunset) canned three three-pointers on his way to 11 points, a career-high five steals and four assists. He also had the assignment of covering Franklin Pierce senior Ryen Vilmont (Philadelphia, Pa./Hamden), who entered the game leading Division II in three-pointers made (4.5) and attempted (10.1) per game while standing second in the league in scoring (20.8). Ditlefsen helped hold Vilmont to 12 points and just a 2-of-4 long-range effort. Purple Knight senior Mike Holton Jr. (Portland, Ore./The Winchendon School) scored seven points and handed out three assists while cracking the 1,600-point plateau, improving his total to 1,606.
Junior Tyler Iacuone (Mahopac, N.Y./Archbishop Stepinac) scored 13 points and had three assists while hitting a trio of threes for Franklin Pierce, and senior Paul Becklens (Boston, Mass./Roxbury CC) finished with 12 points, seven assists, five rebounds and two steals. Vilmont netted his 12 points, while senior Aboubacar Casse (Thies, Senegal/Saint Andrew's School) came off the bench to knock down three triples and notch nine points to go along with two blocks.
All nine lead changes in the game occurred during the opening half, as neither team led by more than three points until Thompson's put-back at 10:21 gave his squad a 17-12 edge, with 10 of those points coming during second-chance opportunities or off of turnovers. After being limited to 12 points in the opening 9:54, Franklin Pierce scored the next nine points in a matter of 61 seconds, as Casse drained two threes and Iacuone hit a third, and the visitors led 21-17.
Two Ditlefsen treys 37 ticks apart swung the lead back to the hosts, and Saint Michael's led by as many as five, at 30-25, on Bonds' bucket following a Thompson offensive board before Casse and first-year Dustin Cole (Standish, Maine/Bonny Eagle) nailed threes 57 seconds apart to put their team in front at 3:02. Junior Greg Grippo (Edison, N.J./Rutgers Prep) responded with a go-ahead three-pointer at 2:35 that created a 33-31 contest for what proved to be the final points of the half, and he came up with two steals in the closing 1:37, including one with one second left, to help prevent the Ravens from scoring. Saint Michael's led for the remainder of the contest following Grippo's triple.
Nineteen of the first 26 second-half points came off the hands of Purple Knights, with Thompson providing seven, and the hosts still led 54-43 at 11:26 on a Bonds lay-in. Franklin Pierce, which was held to 12 points in the first 8:58 of the half, scored eight straight points in a matter of 2:09, with Becklens' second bucket in the run cutting hit team's deficit to 54-51 with 8:52 left. Saint Michael's countered with a 10-2 charge, with Ditlefsen's offensive board leading to a Bonds hoop at 5:27 that created a 64-53 gap. The Ravens trimmed the hole to six points on four occasions, including when Cole canned a three at 1:22, but Crawford and Holton combined to go 6-of-6 on free throws in the final 1:16.
The Purple Knights host regionally-ranked Stonehill College on Saturday for Senior Day at 3:30 p.m. The Skyhawks are sixth in the latest D2SIDA East Region Media Poll.