Monks Prevail in Low Scoring Opener, 57-47

Zach O'Brien '12
Zach O'Brien '12

FARMINGTON, ME – Saint Joseph's College (1-0) defeated University of Maine-Farmington (0-1), 57-47, in a non-conference men's basketball contest on Wednesday evening. Zach O'Brien '12 (Schenectady, N.Y.) netted a game-high 19 points in what was the 2011-12 season opener for both teams.

The game was originally scheduled to be played at Dearborn Gymnasium on Tuesday evening, but a power outage postponed the inaugural game of the year 24 hours.

The in-state rivals swapped leads on several occasions in the early going, but the Monks managed to rattle off a 9-0 run midway through the first half and held at least a share of the lead for the vast majority of the contest.

O'Brien picked up where he left off a year ago with the game's first bucket off a jumpshot at the 19:16 mark and took advantage of a Julio Vazquez '13 (Waterbury, Conn.) steal to tap in a fastbreak layup less than two minutes later to double the SJC lead.

Knowing the Monks led the nation in three-point success last year, the Beavers came out of the gates slinging shots from beyond the arc as the hosts' first three baskets were made from downtown. The longball kept Farmington in the game, but it was a shot from close range that lifted the Beavers to their first lead of the night as 6'8 center Ben Johnson '14 (Manchester, Maine) grabbed an offensive board and dropped in the rebound at the 14:30 mark to give his team an 11-10 edge.

The teams traded leads two more times before Matthew Medeiros '14 (Westport, Mass.) kicked off the Monks' 9-0 surge with a three-pointer at the 12:14 mark. A Medeiros freebie and an O'Brien layup ensued before Chris Petzy '12 (Kensington, N.H.) hit a three with 10:23 left in the opening stanza to cap the run and put his team up by eight, 21-13.

After a somewhat frenzied start, the game slowed considerably as the teams score just combined eight points after UMF Head Coach Dick Meader called a 30-second timeout following the Petzy trey.

The Beavers scored five of those points as Kevin Leary '12 (Manchester, Maine) drained a three and Noah Burditt '14 (Hampden, Maine) and Nate Carlson '14 (Orrington, Maine) both hit free throws to cut their deficit to three points, 21-18, with 2:02 left in the half.

Vazquez stopped the bleeding with a bucked off an offensive board and O'Brien made a freebie with time expired to help the Royal Blue carry a 24-18 cushion into the break.

O'Brien led all scorers with eight first-half points, while Joe McCloskey '15 (Howland, Maine) paced the hosts with six points in the opening 20 minutes.

In the first half, St. Joe's shot 29.6% (8-27) from the field, 27.3% (3-11) from three-point range and 45.5% (5-11) from the free-throw line while Maine-Farmington countered by shooting 22.2% (6-27) overall, 23.5% (4-17) from downtown, and 50% (2-4) from the stripe. The Monks held a 22-18 advantage in rebounds in the opening period.

Both teams saw their shooting efforts improve in the second stanza, but the Monks seemed to make the most out of their halftime conversation as the visitors secured their first double-digit lead - 35-25 - when O'Brien drained a three-pointer seven minutes into the latter half.

But the cushion dissipated quickly as the Beavers managed to convert traditional three-point plays on back to back trips down the floor to make it a four-point game and Yusuf Iman '14 (Auburn, Maine) hit jumpshots on consecutive UMF possessions to cap a 10-0 run and knot the game at 35-apiece with 12:29 remaining.

The Monks proceeded to net the following five points, as Petzy connected on a pair of free throws, Clark Noonan '14 (Bangor, Maine) hit on one freebie, and O'Brien made a layup to provide Saint Joseph's with a five-point cushion, 40-35, with 8:50 left.

Yet again, the SJC advantage would not stick as the Beavers countered an O'Brien bucket with two Pet Sumner '14 (Cramerton, N.C.) layups and a McCloskey trifecta to manufacture a 42-42 deadlock with 7:34 on the clock.

Petzy, one of the best free-throw shooters in program history, came to the line 24 seconds later and made both attempts, but Sumner drilled a three to lift the Beavers to their first lead, 45-44, of the second half.  

Nicholas Jobin '14 (Westbrook, Maine) came up clutch for the Monks in the closing minutes as the second-year forward netted seven of his nine total points in the closing minutes to help the hosts secure the season-opening victory.

Trailing by one point, Jobin put the Royal Blue on top to stay – as it played out – with a tip-in off an errant O'Brien attempt and connected on one of two FT bids to lift St. Joe's to a 47-45 edge with 4:20 remaining. O'Brien made a jumper on the Monks' following possession and Jobin drove home a dunk off a Vazquez steal and feed to make it a six-point game, 51-45, with 2:46 left.

O'Brien created his own offense when he pilfered a loose ball and converted the layup 35 seconds later and Sumner countered with a lay-in of his own to help his team maintain the six-point deficit. Fortunately, Medeiros and Jobin converted a pair of freebies apiece in the final minute to stave off the hosts' hopes of a late comeback.

Overall, Saint Joseph's shot 36.5% (19-52) from the floor, 22.2% (4-18) from three-point distance, and 65.2% (15-23) from the free throw line. Maine-Farmington shot 32.7% (18-55) from the field, 25% (7-28) from downtown, and 66.7% (4-6) from the charity stripe. Despite a measurable height disadvantage, the Monks held a 38-33 advantage on the glass.

For the Monks, Petzy tallied 13 points and a team-high seven caroms, Jobin and Medeiros both netted nine points, and Vazquez grabbed a career-high five steals.

Sumner led the Beavers with 14 points while McCloskey and Johnson both scored nine and Iman chipped in with seven in a losing effort.

With the victory, Saint Joseph's improves to 51-18 in the history of the series with Farmington and has now defeated the Beavers in three consecutive meetings. The teams' combined point total is the lowest ever scored in an SJC season-opener and the Beavers' tally ranks as the second-fewest the Monks have allowed in an opening contest (Saint Joseph's defeated Maine-Fort Kent, 107-38, in the 1991-92 opener).

Also, the 104 combined points is the fewest scored in a game involving St. Joe's since the Monks defeated UNE, 57-46, on February 9th, 2006. Saint Joseph's is just 8-70 (.103) when scoring fewer than 60 points – but 33-1 (.971) when allowing opponents to net fewer than 50 points. St. Joe's has been victorious in opening-day contests for four consecutive seasons. 

Saint Joseph's will play at Bowdoin College on Tuesday, November 22nd at 7:30 PM while Maine-Farmington will play in the Hampton Inn Classic this Friday and Saturday at UMass.-Dartmouth and will open the tourney by facing Bowdoin at 5:30 PM on Friday.