STANDISH, ME – Tyler Kelley '11 (Saco, ME) poured in 27 points and made six three pointers to help lift Saint Joseph's (15-5, 12-1 GNAC) past Suffolk University (5-13, 3-8 GNAC), 80-75, in a Great Northeast Athletic Conference Men's Basketball contest at the Alfond Center on Thursday night.
The game stood at a 33-33 deadlock after the first half, but the second stanza proved even more interesting as the conference-rivals combined to shoot 53.1% from downtown with 17 three-pointers made in the latter period. The Monks managed to pull away in the closing minutes with several key defensive stops and flawless free-throw shooting.
Saint Joseph's held a 54-45 advantage with 12:28 remaining, but the Rams made eight three pointers over the following 10 minutes and gained a 75-74 lead when Mike Fleming '11 (Exeter, NH) drained a trifecta at the 2:36 mark.
Fortunately for the Royal Blue, the Fleming hoop was the Rams' last basket of the contest as the visitors went 0-4 from the floor in the closing minutes while the Monks rattled off six unanswered points, including four free throws by Chris Petzy '12 (Kensington, NH), to seal the victory.
Suffolk outshot St. Joe's from the field and from beyond the arc, but the Monks made 16 freebies on 23 attempts while the Rams made it to the stripe just four times with three conversions in a losing effort. Saint Joseph's also forced 14 Suffolk turnovers while committing nine miscues in the triumph.
Petzy added 20 points and six boards while shooting 4-7 from downtown and 6-8 from the FT line in the win. Zach O'Brien '12 (Schenectady, NY) tallied 11 points – all in the second stanza – with six boards and five assists and Julio Vazquez '13 (Waterbury, CT) chipped in with seven points, six caroms and three helpers for St. Joe's.
For the Rams, Matt Pepdjonovic '13 (Quincy, MA) registered a double-double with 18 points and 16 rebounds and Fleming netted 15 off a 5-9 performance from beyond the arc. Colin Halpin '13 (Melrose, MA) added 13 points in the loss.
The Monks came out of the gates cold, as the SJC offense failed to click and shot just 36.3% (5-19) in the first 10 minutes of the game. As a result, the Rams maintained a lead for the better part of the half and held a team-high seven-point advantage – 19-12 – after Pepdjonovic scored a bucket in the paint at the 9:26 mark.
Saint Joseph's fired back with a 12-2 run over the subsequent three minutes to gain their first lead of the game. Kelley went off during the run by nailing three pointers on three consecutive trips down the floor, the last of which lifting the Royal Blue to a 24-21 edge with 6:29 left in the first.
Five unanswered points by Kelley lifted St. Joe's to a 33-27 lead with 1:19 remaining in the half, but the Rams netted six straight points of their own to knot the contest at 33-apiece heading into the break.
The Rams shot a solid 51.7% from the field in the first stanza while the Monks posted a better mark from beyond the arc (35.7%) than the floor (35.5%) in the first 20 minutes of play.
Kelley paced all first-half scorers with 16 points, while Pepdjonovic registered 14 in the opening period.
Allan Ray '11 (Lynn, MA) collected a loose ball and finished with a layup to put the Rams up by two to start the second stanza, but the Monks proceeded to gain the lead and held on to it until Halpin tied the game once again – 43-43 - with a three pointer at the 15:38 mark.
O'Brien, the Monks' leading scorer who was held scoreless in the first half, took over and scored seven straight points as part of an 11-2 run for the hosts, who had secured a 54-45 cushion after Nicholas Jobin '14 (Westbrook, ME) netted a freebie with 12:28 remaining.
It seemed that neither team was able to make a stop, as the clubs combined to score 56 points during the remainder of the contest. The Monks held at least a two-point lead until Mike Gibbons '12 (Ringwood, NJ) made a three for the Rams to tie the game – 72-72 – with 4:25 left.
St. Joe's responded with a pair of freebies from Vazquez to regain the lead, but the slim cushion was short-lived as Fleming connected for his fifth trifecta of the night to put his team up 75-74 with 2:36 on the game clock.
Kelley scored a layup on the next SJC drive to put his team back on top with 1:48 to go and O'Brien swatted a shot by Pepdjonovic a minute later to preserve the lead. The Rams, forced to foul after missing several shots with the time dwindling, twice tapped Petzy, who made all four of his attempts to clinch the win.
Saint Joseph's shot 41.9% (26-62) overall, 42.9% (12-28) from beyond the arc, and 69.6% (16-23) from the FT line. Suffolk shot an even 50% (30-60) from the field, 46.2% (12-26) from three-point distance, and 75% (3-4) from the stripe.
The Monks held a slim 36-35 advantage on the glass and registered 19 assists on 26 field goals. The Rams recorded 23 assists on 30 buckets.
With six threes in the win, Kelley surpassed his single-season high for trifectas. The senior guard made 54 as a sophomore and has drained 56 this year with five regular season games remaining.
With 20 points tonight, Petzy eclipsed the 800-point plateau for his career. The junior guard has scored 812 points in 73 career games for an 11.1 PPG average in three-plus seasons.
Saint Joseph's improves to 7-1 in the history of the series with Suffolk with the victory. The Monks have now won six straight and 10 of their last 11 games.
St. Joe's will play at Norwich on Saturday at 3:00 PM, while Suffolk is set to host Emmanuel on Saturday at 2:00 PM.
Postgame interview with Tyler Kelley:
Postgame interview with Assistant Coach Chris Willer: