NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. (Jan. 9, 2020) - The Mount St. Mary's men's basketball team dueled with the Merrimack Warriors in a test of wills where neither team could gain a major advantage. In the end, it was the Warriors who kept a late lead, holding off the Mountaineers, 64-61, at Hammel Court Thursday (Jan. 9).
Mount St. Mary's (5-11, 1-2 NEC) was led by Malik Jefferson with 19 points - one of four players in double figures. Nana Opoku recorded the first collegiate double-double with 11 points and a career-high 15 rebounds. Opoku also contributed a season-best three blocks. Vado Morse added 12 points and Damian Chong Qui finished with 11.
A major factor against the Mount was turnovers, with 17 giveaways compared to 11 takeaways. Merrimack out shot the Mount 48.1 to 43.6 percent, but the Mountaineers dominated the glass with a rebound margin of plus 17.
The Warriors (8-8, 2-1 NEC) were led by Idris Joyner, who had 12 points and six rebounds.
The tightly contested game featured 12 ties and 10 lead changes and was a grind from the start. Both teams traded leads for the first eight minutes and there were three ties at the 8-8, 12-12 and 15-15 marks. Neither side could muster a lead greater than four. Morse answered a Warrior triple with one of his own at the 12:00 mark for the 15-15 deadlock, then each side had a run. Merrimack struck first, continuing to hit from outside in an 10-0 stretch. Mount countered with an 8-0 run, bolstered by four points from Jefferson. A Jalen Gibbs-Morse-Jefferson layup fast break play gave the Mountaineers their first lead since the 8-6 mark with 1:15 to go, but Merrimack responded to tie the score at the break.
Merrimack took the early edge in the second half, but the Mount rallied quickly with an Opoku jumper for their first lead. The early moments resembled the first half, with no side building a lead greater than five points. Facing a 45-40 deficit, Naim Miller put home a layup and foul shots by Morse cut Merrimack's lead to one. Following a brief scuffle under the Warrior basket which resulted in a double technical but barely affected the score, Morse fired in a trey with 11:06 left for a 49-47 Mount lead.
Free throws by the Warriors tied the contest again, and both teams struggled to score for two minutes resulting in a 51-51 tie with 8:33 remaining. Merrimack made their move with a 7-0 run, forcing a Mount timeout two minutes later. Methodically the Mountaineers put the score back within a possession thanks to points in the paint from Jefferson and Chong Qui. But the Warriors held on, forcing a turnover and scoring to go up four with three minutes on the clock.
Mount retaliated again, and a Jefferson layup closed the gap to 62-61 with 48 seconds left. Then the Mountaineers drew an offensive foul which set up an opportunity to go ahead for the first time since the midway point of the second half. Chong Qui got a look but the shot rattled out and the Mount had to foul. Merrimack converted their free throws, and Miller's game-tying attempt from the corner clanked off the iron to end it.
The Mount wraps up their road trip against Bryant this Saturday (Jan. 11). Tip-off is 4 p.m. from the Chace Center.