STANDISH, ME – Saint Joseph's College (4-2, 1-1 GNAC) defeated Rivier University (4-3, 0-2 GNAC), 69-50, in Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) action at the Harold Alfond Center on Thursday night. Sophomore guard Steve Simonds (Steep Falls, Maine) went 5-7 from three-point distance and netted a game-high 17 points in the victory.
Entering the contest having lost two straight games, the Monks returned to the win column with the help of stout defensive play and excellent shooting from beyond the arc. Saint Joseph's scored 21 points off 16 Rivier turnovers with 12 steals in the first half and headed into intermission with a 33-20 lead.
The Raiders employed a pesky full-court press in the second stanza and the effort yielded 10 SJC turnovers, but the visitors managed to score only 10 points off the Monks' miscues in the closing 20 minutes. The second half also featured contrasting efforts from beyond the arc, as the hosts went 6-7 from three-point distance while the Raiders made just one trifecta in 12 attempts from downtown in the final half. Overall, Saint Joseph's shot 47.8% (11-23) from three-point land while Rivier countered with a 13.6% (3-22) effort on three-point bids.
Leading 13-10 midway through the first half, Saint Joseph's opened up the game with a 15-4 run and would own a comfortable lead for the vast majority of the contest thereafter. Freshman guard Craig Luschenat (Boston, Mass.) capped the Monks' burst with a three-pointer with 4:28 remaining in the first frame.
Rivier, trailing by 13 following the break, cut the SJC lead to single digits with a 10-4 surge in the opening minutes of the second period as the Raiders trailed 40-32 after Garon Whitney (Dover, N.H.) made a three with 15:43 remaining. The Monks countered with a Nicholas Jobin (Westbrook, Maine) freebie and a Matthew Medeiros (Westport, Mass.) trey over the following two minutes to regain the double-digit cushion and led by at least 12 for the remainder of the evening.
The Monks went on to notch a game-high 21-point lead, 69-48, when freshman guard Jerome Diggs (Centreville, Va.) drained a pair of free throws with 30 seconds left in the contest.
For the Monks, Jobin produced 16 points, four rebounds, four assists and two steals, Medeiros tallied 12 points, six boards and four dimes and Zach Blodgett (Glenburn, Maine) added seven points, four caroms and three assists. Senior point guard Julio Vazquez (Waterbury, Conn.) grabbed four steals and collected three boards in the victory.
Diggs, making his first collegiate appearance, came off the bench to record eight points, five steals, two assists and one blocked shot in 20 minutes of playing time. The rookie electrified the building on several occasions, including a pair of fast-break dunks in the first half, during his time on the court.
For the Raiders, junior guard Nick Walch (Dedham, Mass.) netted a team-high 12 points while senior guard Brian Troy (Keene, N.H.) and junior forward Tom Poitras (Bow, N.H.) contributed 11 points apiece in a losing effort. Whitney added five points, eight rebounds and three assists for the visitors.
Overall, Saint Joseph's shot 49.1% (26-53) from the field, 47.8% (11-23) from downtown and 85.7% (6-7) from the free throw line while Rivier shot 43.4% (23-53) from the floor, 13.6% (3-22) from three-point distance and 50% (1-2) from the charity stripe.
The Monks held advantages in rebounds (30-28), assists (18-8), steals (15-10), points off turnovers (30-15) and bench points (15-8) in the conference win. The Raiders outscored the Monks by a 36-26 margin in the paint.
With the victory, Saint Joseph's improves to 9-3 in the history of the series with Rivier University. The Monks have now defeated the Raiders in nine straight meetings dating back to the 2008-09 season.
Both programs resume play on Saturday with GNAC contests on the road, as Saint Joseph's travels to Boston to face Emerson College while Rivier plays at Mount Ida College that same afternoon. Both games are slated to start 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.