STANDISH, ME – Saint Joseph's (12-4, 8-2 GNAC) outscored Mount Ida College (6-10, 3-6 GNAC) by a 40-22 margin in the second half en route to a 69-53 conference victory at the Harold Alfond Center on Thursday evening. Senior swingman Zach O'Brien (Schenectady, N.Y.) scored a game-high 23 points and added five boards and five assists in the triumph.
The Monks trailed by two points, 31-29, at halftime but opened the second stanza on a 16-2 run with O'Brien netting 12 during the game-changing offensive outburst. St. Joe's proceeded to maintain a double-digit cushion for the duration and led by as many as 19 points in the second half.
Mount Ida held a 5-2 lead after senior guard Keith Jones (Boston, Mass.) drained a three-pointer 1:29 into play. St. Joe's countered with a 12-3 run over the subsequent four minutes and led 14-8 when O'Brien capped the run with a layup at the 14:07 mark.
The SJC advantage was short-lived however, as the Mustangs mounted a 13-3 outbreak that resulted in a 21-17 lead for the visitors with 7:53 left in the first half. Saint Joseph's regrouped and went up by one, 24-23, when sophomore forward Nicholas Jobin (Westbrook, Maine) scored on a nice post-up move, but Jones drained a trifecta on the Mustangs' following possession and Mount Ida carried the lead for the remainder of the first period. Monks sophomore guard Matthew Medeiros (Westport, Mass.) netted a three-pointer 1:19 before the break to close out the first half scoring with the Royal Blue trailing 31-29.
In the opening stanza, Saint Joseph's shot 34.4% from the field, 33.3% from three-point range, and 66.7% from the free throw line. Mount Ida shot 39.4% from the floor, 25% from downtown, and 66.7% in the first half.
Jones led all first-half scorers with 11 points while senior guard Chris Petzy (Kensington, N.H.) paced the hosts with nine points in the opening 20 minutes of play.
O'Brien kicked off the second-stanza scoring with a layup to knot the contest at 31-apiece with 18:49 remaining and Mount Ida senior guard Isiah Benjamin (Windsor, Conn.) hit a jumper 20 seconds later to lift the Mustangs to what would be their final lead of the night.
On the Monks' next trip down the court O'Brien drained a wide-open three-pointer from the left wing to put his team on top, 34-33, at the 18:01 mark. Three minutes later the four-year starter closed out a 14-0 SJC run - part of the aforementioned 16-2 outburst - with a layup to push the hosts to a 45-33 lead with 14:59 to go.
Mount Ida fought to remain in the game with jumpshots from senior forward Travis Hillery (Tyngsboro, Mass.) and Benjamin of the next 1:35 of play, but Saint Joseph's answered with a Medeiros trey and a Jobin fastbreak dunk, set up by a Spenser Adams '12 (North Yarmouth, Maine) steal and full court dish, to all but put the game out of reach.
A layup by sophomore center Clark Noonan (Bangor, Maine) propelled the Royal Blue to a game-high 19-point cushion (64-45) with 4:30 remaining in the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) contest.
For the Monks, Medeiros netted 14 points and grabbed seven caroms, Petzy and Jobin both added nine points, Noonan pulled down eight boards, and junior point guard Julio Vazquez (Waterbury, Conn.) chipped in with five points, five dimes, and a pair of steals. Freshman guard Steve Simonds (Steep Falls, Maine) contributed five points in two minutes of mop-up duty.
For the Mustangs, Benjamin registered 15 points and four assists, Jones added 11 points, five boards, four assists and two steals, and Hillery contributed 11 points, four caroms and a pair of blocked shots. Senior center Jeffrey McNair (Brockton, Mass.) chipped in nine rebounds and four rejections – both game-highs – and senior guard Joe Cabral (Walpole, Mass.) tallied nine points and eight boards on the night.
Overall, Saint Joseph's shot 42.9% (27-63) from the floor, 49.9% (9-22) from three-point range, and 75% (6-8) from the FT line. Mount Ida shot 34.9% (22-63) from the field, 22.2% (4-18) from beyond the arc, and 55.6% (5-9) from the charity stripe in a losing effort.
The Monks held advantages in rebounds (43-36), assists (16-15), points in the paint (32-22), points off turnovers (14-5), fast break points (14-4), and bench points (28-2) in the victory. Saint Joseph's committed a 2011-12 season-low seven turnovers on the night.
With the win Saint Joseph's improves to 11-0 in the history of the series with Mount Ida College.
Both teams host GNAC opponents on Saturday afternoon. Saint Joseph's takes on Suffolk University (8-10, 5-6 GNAC) at 3:00 PM while Mount Ida faces Albertus Magnus College (16-1, 11-0 GNAC) at 1:00 PM.
Saint Joseph's College, founded in 1912 by the Sisters of Mercy, celebrates its Centennial year in 2012 with a theme of "Realize the Promise" – honoring our commitment to educating well-rounded graduates who combine career focus with classic liberal arts studies. A Private, Catholic, primarily residential, coeducational liberal arts institution, Saint Joseph's welcomes students of all ages and all faiths. The campus, located 18 miles northwest of Portland and just two hours from Boston, encompasses 350 acres along the shore of beautiful Sebago Lake in Standish, Maine. Enrollment ranges between 1,000 and 1,100 students annually. Saint Joseph's offers challenging academic programs in the liberal arts and sciences, education, nursing and business fields in a value-centered environment.