COLCHESTER, Vt. - The Saint Michael's College men's basketball team opened a five-game homestand on Thursday evening with a 101-80 loss to No. 9 Southern Connecticut State University in the Ross Sports Center. While playing a non-league game against a Northeast-10 Conference counterpart, the Purple Knights moved to 1-7 overall, while the Owls are 7-2. The visitors, whose ranking is according to the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC), advanced to the 2014 NCAA Tournament Elite 8 and last year's Sweet 16.
Junior Matt Bonds (Accokeek, Md./North Point) led the Purple and Gold with 24 points on 7-of-11 shooting, 11 rebounds and three steals while knocking down 10 free throws. It was his sixth double-double, keeping Bonds tied for first in the region and tied for fifth in Division II. First-year Levi Holmes III (East Brunswick, N.J./Rutgers Prep) also shot 7-of-11, netting 16 points in 21 minutes, while senior Morrell Gaskins (Cambria Heights, N.Y./Archbishop Molloy) collected nine points and seven boards, connecting on 4-of-8 shots.
Junior Zaire Williams (Paterson, N.J./Newark Academy) was the high scorer off the bench, with seven points, two assists and two steals in 10 minutes. Sophomore Colin Richey (Upton, Mass./Choate Rosemary Hall) dished out five assists in his first career start, and senior Greg Grippo (Edison, N.J./Rutgers Prep) picked up three helpers and three steals.
Southern Connecticut State, which entered the game leading the East Region in scoring (90.0), took 47 of its 86 shots from three-point range, connecting on 16 triples while also utilizing a 22-5 advantage in second-chance points. First-year Joey Wallace collected 20 points, nine rebounds, six assists and four steals, junior Michael Mallory totaled 16 points and eight assists, while first-year Toby Christensen tacked on 16 points as a reserve. Christensen and Wallace combined to shoot 9-for-20 from deep. Junior Eric Ross pulled 13 rebounds off the bench.
The Owls scored the game's first seven points by the time 1:11 had elapsed, but Gaskins' putback cut the deficit to 9-5 at 17:32 of the opening half, and Holmes drilled a triple and dropped in a lay-up 27 seconds apart, both times keeping his team within four. Bonds' lay-in produced a 19-14 margin with 15:25 to go before the visitors responded with a 16-3 run around a Bonds free throw and bucket. Christensen and Wallace both had six points, and the Owls led 35-17 at 9:49. Gaskins put home a lay-in 44 seconds later to trim the deficit to 13, and Saint Michael's was still down just 41-26 on Williams' jumper at 6:48.
Southern Connecticut State extended its lead to 28 early in the second stanza thanks to a 19-6 run that bridged halftime, with its lead slipping to 22 when Bonds hit a freebie at 17:25 but not falling that low again until first-year Winston Jones II (Valley Stream, N.Y./Valley Stream Central) knocked down a three-pointer with 53 seconds left. Williams accounted for his team's final four points, including making it a 20-point game at 37 seconds, as Saint Michael's ended the game on 16-4 run.
The Purple Knights host Bentley University on Saturday at 3:30 p.m., taking on a squad that's ranked fifth in the D2SIDA East Region Media Poll.