Turnovers Costly as Merrimack Rallies Past Stonehill, 83-77

Junior Jack Cole scored a career-high 25 points and grabbed a season-best 14 rebounds for his first double-double of the season tonight. (PHOTO BY Richard Orr)

Solano nets 25 second half points as Warriors erase 14 point halftime deficit 

EASTON, Mass. (November 20, 2013) – Merrimack College took advantage of 20 Stonehill College turnovers to erase a 14 point halftime deficit and claim an 83-77 triumph in Northeast-10 Conference men's basketball action at Merkert Gymnasium tonight.

Sophomore Gelvis Solano (New York, N.Y./Health Professions) scored 25 of his game-high 29 points in the second half to fuel the Merrimack comeback effort as he finished shooting 9-for-17 from the field, including 4-for-9 from three-point range, and converted 7-of-8 free-throws to go with six steals, four rebounds and two assists in 25 minutes of play. Classmate JT Strickland (Laurel, Md./Georgetown Prep) scored 16 of his 18 points over the final 20 minutes on 6-of-8 shooting, including 2-for-2 from beyond the arc, and converting all four free-throw attempts to go with five assists. Senior Kevin Regan (Philadelphia, Pa./Roman Catholic) contributed 15 points on 7-of-11 shooting, including 1-of-2 from deep, with a team-high matching eight rebounds.

Merrimack finished shooting 48.4-percent (30-for-62) from the field, including a blistering 61.1% (22-for-36) in the second half in erasing an 18 point lead early in the second half. The Warriors buried 8-of-13 (61.5%) three-pointers over the final 20 minutes after connecting on just 2-of-12 (16.7%) in the opening half and converted 13-of-17 (76.5%) free-throw attempts for the night. Merrimack feasted on Stonehill's 20 turnovers, posting a 26-4 advantage in points off turnovers, including a 22-0 spread on 14 Skyhawk giveaways in the second half.

Junior Jack Cole (New Providence, N.J./New Providence) posted his first double-double of the season (11th career) with a career-high 25 points on 11-of-13 shooting from the field and season-best 14 rebounds (six offensive) with two blocked shots for Stonehill. Sophomore Josh Heyliger (Bronx, N.Y./The Hill School) scored 12 of his 16 points in the second half, shooting 7-for-13 from the field, including 2-for-5 from three-point range, with six assists, a steal and blocked shot off the bench.

Sophomore Josh Heyliger scored 12 of his 16 points in the second half. (PHOTO BY Bert Lane)

Sophomore Pierce Cumpstone (Bainbridge Township, Ohio/Kenston) added 14 points and nine rebounds, while classmate Stuart McEwen (Sydney, Australia/Saint Thomas More (Conn.)) contributed a career-best ten points on 3-of-4 shooting, including all three from long distance, with three rebounds in 17 minutes off the bench.

Stonehill matched Merrimack's overall shooting percentage at 48.5-percent (32-for-66) from the field, including 52.9% (18-34) in the second half, hitting 9-of-22 (40.9%) three-pointers, but was outscored 13-4 at the free-throw line. The Skyhawks dominated the glass at 41-29, resulting in a 19-11 edge in second chance points, but their 20 turnovers proved costly.

Stonehill used a 15-3 run late in the first half to open a 17 point first half lead (36-19) after a McEwen three-pointer with 1:46 before halftime. The Skyhawks carried a 14 point (36-22) cushion into the break and pushed the lead to 18 (42-24) following a Cumpstone layup three minutes into the second half. Merrimack shot just 30.8% (8-for-26) over the opening 20 minutes, including 2-for-12 (16.7%) from long range, and Stonehill enjoyed an 11-4 edge in second chance points as a result of a 26-14 rebounding edge.

Merrimack quickly answered with a 13-2 run to close back within seven (46-39) with 14:22 left after four straight points from Solano, who scored nine points in all during that stretch. Stonehill followed with a McEwen three-pointer to regain its double-digit lead (49-39) and led by 11 (52-41) after a Heyliger three with 12:37 to go.

Solano drilled a three and Regan added a hoop to pull Merrimack within six (52-46) with 11:29 remaining. Stonehill held and owned an eight point advantage (59-51) on a Cole tip-in with 9:17 on the clock. Merrimack drew within three (59-56) after a layup by Travonne Berry-Rogers (Lynn, Mass./Lynn English) with 8:27 still to play.

Stonehill was able to keep Merrimack initially at bay, pushing the lead back to six (66-60) after a Heyliger three-pointer with 6:47 remaining, but a three by junior Ryan Woumn (Lynn, Mass./Lynn English) gave the Warriors their first lead of the night (68-66) with 5:02 to play. The Skyhawks pulled even twice over the next minute after a Cole layup and Cumpstone three-pointer, but Merrimack took the lead for good with layup by Regan and sophomore Anthony Barry (Uxbridge, Mass./Brooks School) with 3:06 on the clock.

Cumpstone scored on a tip for Stonehill to draw within two (75-73) with 1:53 remaining, but would get no closer. Barry answered with a three at the other end and Merrimack made five of six free-throws down the stretch to seal its fourth straight win to open the season.

Stonehill (2-2, 0-1 NE-10) is back in action here at Merkert Gym on Saturday to host rival Bentley University, among teams receiving votes in this week's National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) Division II poll, at 3:30 p.m. Merrimack (4-0, 2-0 NE-10) hosts No. 23 Franklin Pierce University Saturday at 3 p.m.

For the latest on Stonehill Athletics, follow the Skyhawks via social media on Twitter and Facebook. Fans can also download the Stonehill Skyhawks mobile app on iTunes and the Android Market.

Stonehill Stuns Bentley, 97-83
February 22, 2014 Stonehill Stuns Bentley, 97-83