Saint Michael's locks down defensively, wins at Assumption for first time in 14 years

Saint Michael's locks down defensively, wins at Assumption for first time in 14 years

WORCESTER, Mass. - Spurred by yielding only 11 points during one nearly 19-minute stretch, the regionally-ranked Saint Michael's College men's basketball team pulled away from Assumption College, 73-53, on Wednesday during Northeast-10 Conference play in Laska Gymnasium. Now 18-6 overall and 13-6 in the league, the Purple Knights, who are sixth in this week's NCAA East Region poll, won at Assumption for the first time since Jan. 8, 2000, snapping an eight-game losing streak in Laska Gymnasium. The Greyhounds are now 7-17 and 5-14.

With two regular-season games remaining, Saint Michael's, which allowed a season low for points, stays one game out of second place in the NE-10 Northeast Division and two shy of first. Junior Mike Thompson (Rosedale, N.Y./Christ The King Regional) turned in his third career double-double, posting 14 points and 11 rebounds, shooting 6-of-9, including 2-of-3 from beyond the arc, with two steals. First-year Matt Bonds (Accokeek, Md./North Point) had eight points, a season-high-tying 15 rebounds and three assists in 17 minutes off the bench. Sophomore Morrell Gaskins (Cambria Heights, N.Y./Archbishop Molloy) collected 11 points in 16 reserve minutes, and junior James Cambronne (De Bary, Fla./The Winchendon School) had 10 points and five boards.

Junior Dom Ditlefsen (Portland, Ore./Sunset) shot 3-of-4 from three-point range for nine points while racking up three helpers, and sophomore Greg Grippo (Edison, N.J./Rutgers Prep) posted nine points. Junior Mike Holton Jr. (Portland, Ore./The Winchendon School) notched eight points and four assists, pushing his career scoring total to 1,295 and passing Saint Michael's Athletic Hall of Fame inductee Monroe Blakes '92 M'93 (1,288) for 19th in school history. The Purple Knights rang up a 51-37 advantage on the glass while shooting 46.0 percent, including 9-of-20 (45.0%) from three, and holding Assumption to 27.4 percent while actually attempting 10 fewer shots than the hosts. Josh Meyer became the first first-year Saint Michael's head coach to guide his team to at least 18 wins since Walter Baumann '63 did so in 1972-73, with an 18-9 mark.

Sophomore Chris Fitzgerald (Somerset, Mass./Nothfield Mount Hermon) scored 24 points for Assumption, making six three-pointers on 19 attempts, and first-year Marcus Murray (Silver Spring, Md./John F. Kennedy) added nine points, six rebounds and five assists. Sophomore Tim Kasper (Cologne, Germany/Gymnasium Schloss Hagerhof) collected eight points, 11 boards and three steals, joining Murray in playing all 40 minutes, as only six Greyhounds played as many as four minutes.

Saint Michael's trailed 11-3 after 2:59 before Thompson scored five points during a 9-2 run, with Gaskins hitting two freebies to cut the deficit to 13-12 at 13:59 of the opening half. Assumption responded by bulging its lead to 21-14 at 11:38, but the Purple Knights allowed only 11 points during the ensuing 18:40, which spilled into the second half. Cambronne and Thompson drained three-pointers 46 seconds apart to again bring Saint Michael's within one, and Gaskins converted a three-point play at 2:59 to provide the visitors with their first lead, 27-26.

After Fitzgerald hit a go-ahead triple for the Greyhounds at 1:48, Grippo knocked down a trey 20 seconds later to put Saint Michael's ahead for good, and Cambronne's jumper in the final 10 seconds gave the Purple Knights a 32-29 edge at halftime.

Assumption cut its deficit to one point 12 seconds into the second stanza and was down 34-32 at 18:23 before the visitors slowly pulled away, using a 26-8 run to create a 60-40 lead with 9:28 remaining. Eight different Purple Knights accounted for the 26 points, with Ditlefsen canning a pair of threes. Saint Michael's never led by fewer than 16 points the rest of the way, extending its advantage to as many as 22 points.

The Purple Knights welcome Southern New Hampshire University, the defending NE-10 Championship titlist, to the Ross Sports Center for their regular-season home finale on Saturday at 3:30 p.m.