WORCESTER, Mass. - The Saint Michael's College men's basketball team held off Assumption College's furious comeback and withstood a missed tying three-pointer before the buzzer to corral an 83-80 victory on Saturday in Laska Gymnasium. The Purple Knights are 6-17 overall and 3-15 in the Northeast-10 Conference after claiming the 90th contest between the teams since the series began in 1959, moving to 7-3 in the last 10 meetings. The Greyhounds are 7-17 and 3-15.
Junior Levi Holmes III (East Brunswick, N.J./Rutgers Prep) struck for his fourth 30-point outing in the last five contests, netting 33 to go along with six rebounds, two assists, two blocks and two steals. He shot 10-of-19 overall, 4-for-9 from three-point range, and 9-of-10 on free throws. Sophomore Eli DiGrande (Essex Junction, Vt./Essex) turned in 15 points on 6-of-10 shooting with eight rebounds and two blocks, classmate Jordan Guzman (Staten Island, N.Y./Xaverian) had 11 points and six assists while going 4-of-5 from the floor, and senior Colin Richey (Upton, Mass./Choate Rosemary Hall) returned after missing six games to register 10 points behind a 4-of-8 effort with three helpers.
Sophomore Thomas Jackson III (Middletown, Conn./Holderness School) turned in nine points and six rebounds, going 3-of-4 from deep, while junior Derek Cheatom (Buffalo, N.Y./The Park School of Buffalo) dished out five assists.
Assumption's entire starting five scored in double digits, led by first-year Matthew Kelly shooting 6-of-10 from beyond the arc to finish with 26 points and six assists. Sophomore Branislav Vujadinovic notched 14 points and three steals, while sophomores Patrick Fleming and Joe Sullivan both scored 11 points. Sullivan grabbed nine rebounds and Fleming had seven assists. First-year Bryan Boehlert scored 10 points.
With the teams tied at five in the opening half, Holmes scored five straight points before Jackson buried his first three to cap an 8-0 run at 15:34. The Purple Knights still led 18-11 on Cheatom's triple with 12:55 to go before four Greyhounds scored in an 11-0 response, with three hitting threes. Down four, Saint Michael's charged back with 19 consecutive points, led by 11 points from Holmes, who at one point netted nine straight. Richey's three-point play at 1:11 pushed the lead to 43-25, and Holmes knocked down two freebies at 45 seconds to keep it an 18-point margin before Boehlert drained a trey of his own on the next possession. Saint Michael's led 45-30 at halftime.
The Purple Knights shot 7-of-13 from deep in the opening half while utilizing an 8-of-11 free throw performance, compared to Assumption making one on its lone try. The visitors benefited from a 14-2 advantage on points off of turnovers despite committing only one fewer (5) than the Greyhounds (6). Holmes had 18 points by the intermission while Jackson was 3-of-3 on threes for nine points.
Holmes' lay-up at 16:47 of the second half still had Saint Michael's up by 18 before Assumption countered with a 19-4 run, as Vujadinovic scored seven points, including bringing the hosts within 59-56 on a lay-up at 12:55. Kelly's three brought the Greyhounds as close as 63-61 with 9:30 to go before Richey responded with a three 17 ticks later, and the visitors continued to have a two-possession advantage until junior Nick Pasquale made two free throws at 4:44 to make it 70-68.
Holmes knocked down a trey at 4:09 to push the lead back to five, and he and Kelly traded lay-ups before Holmes drilled another triple with 1:59 left, extending the lead to 78-70. After Sullivan's lay-up helped Assumption climb to within 80-77 at 46 seconds, DiGrande went 2-of-4 on free throws around a Greyhound three-point miss, but Kelly hit another three at nine seconds to make it 82-80. With 6.8 seconds left, Holmes split two freebies, and a final three right before the buzzer was off the mark, with Cheatom grabbing the rebound to seal the victory.
During the contest, Holmes pushed his career point total to 1,232 while becoming the seventh Purple Knight with 200 career threes, passing Brendan Mullins '07 (200) to take over sixth place with 201 treys. Holmes' 560 points this season are the 11th-most in Saint Michael's history, just four short of former teammate Matt Bonds '17 for a spot in the top 10. With 84 three-pointers, he is tied for fourth in program annals.
The Purple Knights visit Bentley University on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.