MANCHESTER, N.H. - The Saint Michael's College men's basketball team trailed by three points in the final minute on Saturday before falling to regionally-ranked Southern New Hampshire University, 70-65, during a nationally-televised contest in SNHU Fieldhouse. The Purple Knights slipped to 5-16 overall and 3-13 in the Northeast-10 Conference, as each of their last four losses was by 10 points or fewer. The Penmen, who are ninth in the latest D2SIDA East Region Media Poll, moved to 15-8 and 11-5.
The Purple Knights, who were taking on a team that has lost only twice in 12 home games, opposed Southern New Hampshire on NESNplus and NESN National for the second straight year. Senior Morrell Gaskins (Cambria Heights, N.Y./Archbishop Molloy) recorded career highs of 28 points and 13 rebounds, shooting 9-of-11 from the floor and 10-of-14 on free throws while snagging six offensive boards and adding three assists.
Senior Greg Grippo (Edison, N.J./Rutgers Prep) had 17 points thanks to 5-of-11 three-point shooting, as he is now within one of Dom Ditlefsen '15 (160) for 10th in program history in career threes. First-year Levi Holmes III (East Brunswick, N.J./Rutgers Prep) added 13 points and six rebounds, and junior Matt Bonds (Accokeek, Md./North Point) hauled in 10 rebounds while dishing out a career-high five assists. During the contest, Bonds moved into a tie with Dick Falkenbush '67 for 13th in program history with 715 career rebounds, as both reached the mark in their 76th game. Bonds passed Mark Fizulich '97 (713) along the way.
Senior Rodney Sanders led Southern New Hampshire with 20 points, six rebounds, five assists and four steals, while junior Chris Walters added 14 points and eight boards. Senior BJ Cardarelli tacked on 11 points, seven caroms and three blocks.
Holmes's lay-up 1:57 into the game accounted for the first scoring, and Grippo buried a three-pointer 49 seconds later to make it 5-0, but the Penmen countered with a 12-3 run to nab their first lead, with Sanders scoring five points. Gaskins' three-point play put Saint Michael's back on top at 13-12. The next four points came from Southern New Hampshire players, but junior Zaire Williams (Paterson, N.J./Newark Academy) knotted the game at 16 on a trey with 8:18 to go. Walters went on a personal 7-2 run to give the Penmen a 23-18 cushion, and the lead slowly increased to 37-24 when Sanders converted back-to-back lay-ups. The hosts led 40-28 just before halftime, as Williams' lay-up in the waning seconds cut the Saint Michael's deficit to 10 by the intermission.
Grippo hit a pair of triples around a Sanders trey in the opening 1:53 of the second half, producing a 43-36 margin, but Cardarelli made three free throws to push the lead back to 10. The Purple Knights rallied to knot the game by using a 13-3 run, as Gaskins and Grippo both scored five points, with Grippo's lay-in tying the contest once again at 51 with 11:39 remaining. The Penmen pulled ahead for good by notching the next 11 points in a matter of 3:24, but one final surge by Saint Michael's made it a one-possession game.
Down 64-55 after a Sanders lay-in at 5:07, the visitors received a pair of free throws and a lay-in from Gaskins and a triple from Grippo while the hosts shot 2-of-6 on free throws, and the Purple Knights trailed 66-62 with 2:33 left. Walters connected on a pair of freebies before Holmes converted a lay-in, but Southern New Hampshire committed a turnover and Gaskins hit a free throw following his offensive rebound. Saint Michael's trailed 68-65 with 1:17 to go. On the ensuing possession, Cardarelli tracked down two offensive rebounds to keep the ball with his team, and with the visitors forced to foul, Sanders iced the game with two freebies at 11 seconds.
Saint Michael's returns home on Tuesday to oppose Franklin Pierce University at 7:30 p.m. The Purple Knights host a Think Pink event that evening.