STANDISH, ME – Saint Joseph's (11-5, 8-1 GNAC) defeated Rivier College (9-6, 4-4 GNAC), 77-57, in a conference men's basketball contest at the Harold Alfond Center on Tuesday night. Zach O'Brien '12 (Schenectady, NY) netted a game-high 20 points and added four assists and three steals in the SJC victory.
The Monks held a lead for the vast majority of the contest, as the Raiders' only advantages of the night came in the opening minutes. The game was closely contested during the opening 10 minutes, but St. Joe's pulled away with an 18-9 surge during the final nine minutes of the opening stanza and managed to hold on to the double-digit cushion for most of the second frame.
Tyler Kelley '11 (Saco, ME) added 16 points and four steals and Matthew Medeiros '14 (Westport, MA) netted a career-best 15 points in the SJC win. Chris Petzy '12 (Kensington, NH) scored seven, Clark Noonan '14 (Bangor, ME) chipped in with five points, and Nicholas Jobin '14 (Westbrook, ME) contributed five caroms on the night.
The Raiders were led offensively by Nick Bean '11 (East Longmeadow, MA), who put up 13 points but shot just 6-19 from the floor in the loss. Don Poitras '11 (Bow, NH) tallied 10 points and eight caroms, Jake Nelson '14 (Nashua, NH) scored nine points, and Tom Poitras '14 (Bow, NH) added eight in a losing effort.
For the Monks, the win is the team's first of the season when shooting less than 40% from downtown. Saint Joseph's shot 30.8% (8-26) from beyond the arc in tonight's win against Rivier.
Despite the subpar long-range shooting effort, this game may have featured the Monks' most complete all-around effort of the year. Saint Joseph's played suffocating defense all night and forced 13 Rivier turnovers while grabbing 11 steals. St. Joe's also out-rebounded the Raiders by a 34-32 margin and the perimeter defense yielded a paltry 16.7% (3-18) Rivier three-point success rate.
Saint Joseph's had built a seven-point lead, 18-11, after O'Brien made a layup at the 12:06 mark, but Nelson netted five unanswered points to cut the Raiders' deficit down to two points with 10:12 remaining in the first half.
The two-point edge remained after O'Brien nailed a trifecta and Don Poitras converted a traditional three-point play over the following minute of play. Kelley proceeded to score five points and Julio Vazquez '13 (Waterbury, CT) added a pair of freebies over the next three minutes to account for a 7-0 surge that resulted in the hosts gaining a 28-19 lead with 6:15 left in the half.
The Raiders were able to stop the bleeding and trailed by seven, 33-26, after Snider netted a layup at the 3:39 mark, but the Monks went on a 6-2 burst in the closing minutes and carried a 39-28 lead into the break.
Saint Joseph's shot 45.2% from the field, 35.7% from three-point range, and 85.7% from the stripe in the first half. Rivier countered by shooting 41.4% from the floor and 30% from beyond the arc and went 1-1 from the FT line over the first 20 minutes.
O'Brien netted 14 points to lead all first-half scorers while Bean paced the Raiders with seven points.
The Monks' first bucket of the second stanza, a layup by O'Brien, was set up by a nifty no-look pass from a streaking Vazquez to preserve the 11-point lead, but Rivier put up a fight in the opening minutes of the second stanza and cut the SJC lead to seven, 41-34, when Tom Poitras scored in the paint at the 16:40 mark.
But Saint Joseph's quelled any thoughts of a Rivier comeback with a 12-4 run over the next three minutes. Medeiros capped the outbreak with a three-point play at the 13:47 mark to propel the Royal Blue to a 53-38 advantage.
The Monks secured their largest lead of the evening, 21 points, when Petzy drained a three to put his team up 73-52 with 5:31 on the clock.
Overall, St. Joe's shot 46.6% (27-58) from the field, 30.8% (8-26) from three-point range, and 83.3% (15-18) from the FT line. Rivier shot 40.4% (23-57) from the floor, 16.7% (3-18) from beyond the arc, and 80% (8-10) from the stripe.
With the win, Saint Joseph's improves to 5-3 in the history of the series with Rivier. The Monks have now defeated the Raiders in four consecutive meetings.
Both teams will be on the road for conference contests on Thursday evening, as Saint Joseph's will play at Emerson at 7:00 PM and Rivier will travel to Norwich for a 7:00 PM tip-off.
Postgame interview with Julio Vazquez: