STANDISH, ME – Albertus Magnus (5-0, 1-0 GNAC) defeated Saint Joseph's (4-1, 0-1 GNAC), 77-72, in what was the 2011-12 Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) opener for both programs at the Harold Alfond Center on Saturday afternoon. Zach O'Brien '12 (Schenectady, N.Y.) led all scorers with 20 points in the hard-fought loss.
In the first half, the visiting Falcons opened up a daunting 15-point cushion with the first of several scoring runs the team would enjoy throughout the conference contest. Unfazed, St. Joe's was able to cut the deficit to five points heading into intermission and held a short-lived lead early in the second stanza.
The Monks battled through some uncharacteristic shooting dry spells and were in position to take control of the game on several occasions in the second half, but the Falcons' ability to score points in bunches held the hosts in check as Albertus Magnus proved to be too much for Saint Joseph's on this day.
O'Brien hit a pair of free throws 31 seconds into the game to put the hosts up by two, but the Falcons rattled off nine straight points as part of a 21-4 run and held a 21-6 lead after Darius Watson '14 (New Britain, Conn.) capped the surge with a fast-break layup at the 11:02 mark.
Trailing by 15 midway through the opening half, the Monks managed to stay in the game with the help of a 15-18 effort from the charity stripe over the first 20 minutes, including a pair hit by Chris Petzy '12 (Kensington, N.H.), 49 seconds before the break, that saw the Royal Blue inch to within five points, 38-33, heading into intermission.
O'Brien and Watson both scored 10 points in the first half while Albertus Magnus junior guard Zach Dugas (Monroe, Conn.) and SJC sophomore forward Nicholas Jobin (Westbrook, Maine) netted nine and eight points, respectively, in the opening period.
St. Joe's shot 39.1% from the floor and 83.3% from the FT line while missing all seven shots from downtown in the first half. Albertus Magnus shot 51.6% from the field and 30.8% from three-point distance and advanced to the free throw line just twice, and made both, in the first stanza.
Halftime adjustments yielded positive results for the Monks as the hosts scored five quick points out of the chute with a Tom Ray '12 (Cape Elizabeth, Maine) layup and a Petzy trifecta to knot the contest at 38-apiece with 18:59 left in the game.
Falcons junior forward Jefferson Lora (Bronx, N.Y.) put his team back on top with a shot from the post 18 seconds later, but the Monks secured their first lead since the opening minutes when sophomore center Clark Noonan (Bangor, Maine) converted a traditional three-point play to make it a 41-40 contest.
AMC senior forward Ray Askew (Hampden, Conn.) proceeded to score four unanswered points with two freebies and a bucket to put the Falcons on top by three with 17:12 remaining, but Jobin retaliated with a three-point play of his own to knot the game at 44-all 30 seconds later.
Unfortunately, the hosts would not taste even a share of the lead for the duration of the conference contest as the Falcons showed the ability to score points in bunches while the Monks, despite a tremendous effort, seemed unable to find an offensive rhythm.
The first Albertus spurt, a 6-0 run, saw the visitors gain a 50-44 cushion with 14:26 left. St. Joe's maintained pace and cut the deficit to one as Ray hit two free throws and Medeiros drained a three on the following SJC possessions. The visitors answered yet again with seven straight points, a run capped by a Watson three-pointer that saw the Falcons take a 57-49 lead with 12 minutes remaining.
Saint Joseph's whittled the Albertus Magnus cushion to just two points, 57-55, with six unanswered points – a surge that included four from O'Brien – over the next 2:10 of play. The Falcons topped the SJC outbreak, however, with an 8-0 burst and held a double-digit lead, 65-55, for the first time in the second stanza when Watson closed the AMC run with a jumper at the 8:09 mark.
Ever-resilient, the Monks were able to stay within striking distance thanks to some good ball movement late in the contest and the fact that the Falcons made just one field goal over the final five minutes of play.
Behind by 10 with 6:29 on the clock, Saint Joseph's mounted an inspiring 14-6 outbreak and had closed the gap down to two points, 74-72, after O'Brien netted consecutive baskets to close the SJC run with 37 seconds left. Forced to foul, St. Joe's twice tagged Arshad Jackson '13 (Hartford, Conn.), who proceeded to make three of four freebie attempts in the closing seconds to effectively put the game out of reach for the Royal Blue.
For the Monks, Petzy added 16 points, Jobin netted 12, and Noonan and Medeiros both contributed seven in the loss.
Four Falcons reached double digits as Watson scored 17, Askew tallied 16, Dugas put up 13, and Chris Cagle '14 (New Haven, Conn.) added 10 coming off the bench. Jackson notched 11 boards, five assists and three steals to go along with his seven points and Spencer Smith '15 (New Haven, Conn.) added three steals for the visitors.
Overall, Saint Joseph's shot 43.8% (21-48) from the field, 20% (3-15) from downtown, and 75% (27-36) from the free throw line. Albertus countered by shooting 48.4% (30-62) from the floor, 27.8% (5-18) from three-point range, and 75% (12-16) from the charity stripe.
The Falcons held advantages in rebounds (31-28), assists (14-13) and second-chance points (15-11), while the Monks outscored Albertus by a 32-20 margin in the paint and held a 25-20 lead in bench points on the afternoon.
With the loss, Saint Joseph's falls to 7-3 in the history of the series with Albertus Magnus – a conference foe the Monks defeated twice last season. Although the conference-opening loss certainly stings, the Monks can take some solace in the fact that they held the Falcons – a team that averaged 93.0 points per game coming into today's action – to a season-low 77 points.
The Monks' effort from the free throw line in today's loss is notable in that the team's FT total is the most by an SJC squad since Saint Joseph's netted 28 against Lincoln on February 24th, 2007. Also, the Monks' FT attempts total in this afternoon's loss is the most since the Royal Blue recorded 40 bids against Rivier College on February 24th, 2009.
Saint Joseph's will host Lasell College in a GNAC rivalry matchup on Thursday at 7:00 PM while Albertus Magnus returns to the court on Tuesday night when the team hosts Medgar Evers at 7:30 PM.