COLCHESTER, Vt. - The nationally-regarded Saint Michael's College men's basketball team erased an eight-point deficit in the final three-plus minutes before yielding the go-ahead hoop with fewer than 30 seconds left during a back-and-forth 86-85 loss to Saint Anselm College on Tuesday in the Ross Sports Center.
The Purple Knights, who had two late winning attempts go off the mark, are 16-6 overall and 11-6 in the Northeast-10 Conference, and received a vote toward this week's National Association of Basketball Coaches' (NABC) national poll. The Hawks are 15-6 and 13-4 while staying tied for first place in the Northeast Division.
Junior Mike Holton Jr. (Portland, Ore./The Winchendon School) notched 27 points for the Purple Knights, shooting 3-of-4 from beyond the arc and snagging seven rebounds. During the game, he improved his career point total to 1,279, passing Brendan Mullins '07 (1,263) for 21st in program history and closing in on Bob Toner '74 (1,282) and Monroe Blakes '92 M'93 (1,288) for the next two spots. Junior Corey Crawford II (Dover, Del./The Phelps School) had 19 points behind 5-of-6 three-point shooting in addition to 10 rebounds and six assists, and classmate James Cambronne (De Bary, Fla./The Winchendon School) notched 15 points and seven boards. First-year Matt Bonds (Accokeek, Md./North Point) tacked on 11 points.
Against the top three-point shooting team in the league, Saint Michael's knocked down 10-of-18 (55.6%) from beyond the arc while keeping the Hawks near their average (40.8%), as the visitors were 13-of-32 (40.6%). The Purple Knights held the 13th-ranked scoring offense in Division II (87.9) a little lower than their average.
Junior Roy Mabrey (Belmar, N.J./Saint Thomas More) totaled 27 points for Saint Anselm, shooting 5-of-10 from deep and handing out four assists, while sophomore Mike McCahey (Clarkstown, N.Y./Clarkstown South) had 19 points and nine boards. Senior John Nielsen (Port Jefferson, N.Y./Loomis Chaffee) shot 6-of-10 from deep for 18 points while picking up seven rebounds, and junior Chris Santo (Cherry Hill, N.J./Cherry Hill East/Vermont) had 13 points and four steals.
The teams exchanged the lead 16 times during the contest, including on four occasions in the final 1:25 alone. Down 82-74 with a little more than three minutes left, the Purple Knights scored nine straight points in a matter of 1:37, with Crawford netting the middle five and Cambronne providing four, including the go-ahead jumper at 1:25. After Santo's lay-up gave the Hawks an 84-83 edge at 43 seconds, Holton's difficult lay-up put Saint Michael's back on top 13 ticks later. However, the ball found a wide open Santo under the hoop at 27 seconds for the winning bucket. The Purple Knights had two shot in the final three seconds, but a jumper in the paint hit back rim, and an ensuing tip-in attempt hit front rim and bounced away as time expired.
On the strength of five three-pointers, Saint Anselm led 15-7 by the 14:51 mark of the first half before extending its lead to 25-15 on its seventh triple, at 11:33. After a Cambronne jumper trimmed the deficit to 31-28, Nielsen finished his perfect 6-of-6 start from beyond the arc 53 seconds later, immediately preceding a 10-0 Saint Michael's run during which four different players scored. The hosts carried a 42-40 edge into halftime.
Eleven lead changes occurred in the second half alone, with neither team leading by more than five points until 12:36 remained, when Bonds made it 63-56 with a lay-up. The Purple Knights continued to lead by six with less than 10 minutes to go before Saint Anselm used an 8-0 run to jump in front on a Santo bucket at 7:24, which kicked off a 19-3 run that put the visitors ahead 82-74 with 3:15 left, leading to the wild finish.
The Purple Knights host Bentley University on Saturday at 3:30 p.m.