NCAA TOURNAMENT: Late Burst Lifts Southern N.H. Past Stonehill, 71-59

Junior Carter Smith led the Skyhawks with 14 points in his first career NCAA Tournament game. (PHOTO BY Bob Blanchard/RJB Photography)

Second-seeded Penmen outscore seventh-seeded Skyhawks 17-1 over final 4:41 

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (March 14, 2015) –  Second-seeded Southern New Hampshire University pulled away in the final five minutes to claim a 71-59 victory over seventh-seeded Stonehill College in quarterfinal round action of the 2015 NCAA Division II Men's Basketball Tournament East Regional, hosted by top-seeded American International College, at Henry A. Butova Gymnasium this afternoon.

Southern New Hampshire (22-7, 17-4 NE-10) advances to tomorrow's regional semifinal round where it will face sixth-seeded University of the Sciences in Philadelphia (25-5, 17-2 CACC) here at Butova Gym at 5 p.m. The Devils advanced with a 73-57 triumph over third-seeded Saint Anselm College (19-10, 14-7 NE-10) in this afternoon's opening game behind 40 points and 14 rebounds from East Region Player of the Year Garret Kerr. Stonehill, which was making its first NCAA Tournament appearance since its national semifinal run 2012 and 13th in program history overall finishes its season with a 19-10 record overall, including a 14-7 mark in the Northeast-10.

Southern New Hampshire placed four players in double-figures, led by sophomore Devin Gilligan (Amherst, New Hampshire/Kimball Union) with a game-high 17 points on 6-of-9 shooting from the field, including 2-for-3 from three-point range, and converting 3-of-4 free-throws  off the bench, grabbing a game-high nine rebounds and adding two assists and a steal. Junior BJ Cardarelli (Manchester, Connecticut/East Catholic) added 15 points on 6-of-10 shooting, including 3-for-5 from downtown, with two offensive rebounds, while senior Aleksandar Dobrovic (Podgorica, Montenegro) contributed 12 points and two assists.

SNHU's All-Northeast-10 duo of senior Elijah Bonsignore (Felton, Delaware/Kingsway) and junior Rodney Sanders (Linden, New Jersey/Linden) both chipped in with 11 points apiece to round out the double-figure scorers for the Penmen. Bonsignore was 4-for-7 from the floor with five rebounds and three assists, while Sanders finished 4-for-12, but registered five boards and five assists.

Junior Carter Smith (Columbus, Ohio/Upper Arlington) led Stonehill with 14 points (nine first half) on 6-of-13 shooting with two assists and two rebounds. Classmate Pierce Cumpstone (Bainbridge Township, Ohio/Kenston) added ten points and three rebounds off the bench, while sophomore Ryan Logan (Fredericktown, Ohio/Fredericktown) contributed ten points on 4-of-9 shooting with a team-high six boards and two assists. Junior Daniel Brix (Monroe Township, New Jersey/Saint Joseph) chipped in nine points and two assists.

Southern New Hampshire outscored Stonehill 18-9 in points off turnovers and 13-4 for second chance points as the Penmen held a 33-22 rebounding advantage, including 10-4 on the offensive glass. The Penmen shot 46.2-percent (24-for-52) from the field, including 48.1% (13-27) in the second half, connecting on 88.9% (16-18) of their free-throws. Stonehill finished shooting 46.7% (21-45) from the floor, including 50% (11-22) in the opening frame, going 7-for-16 (43.8%) from beyond the arc and converting 10-of-16 free-throws (62.5%).

Neither team led by more than five in the second half of a contest that featured seven ties and 11 lead changes throughout, with Stonehill holding a four point edge (58-54) after a Logan layup with 4:41 remaining. Following an SNHU 30-second timeout, Cardarelli and Bonsignore buried back to back three-pointers in a one minute span wrapped around the final media timeout of the contest that sparked the closing 17-1 run for the Penmen.

Logan followed the burst by making one of two at the free-throw line with 2:46 to play, but Stonehill wouldn't score again, missing its final five shots from the floor and turning the ball over twice to seal its fate. Gilligan scored a tip-in to push the SNHU lead to three (62-59) with two minutes to go and then the Penmen drained their next six free-throws and 7-of-8 overall in the closing 95-seconds to go with another Gilligan layup as the Penmen's winning margin was its largest lead of the night.

Stonehill came out strong and took an eight point lead (14-6) after Cumpstone followed a three-pointer from freshman Isaiah Bess (LaGrange, Maine/Hampden Academy) with a layup 5:29 into the game. Sanders pulled SNHU back within five with a three-point play before freshman Ryan Roach (Weymouth, Massachusetts/Cardinal Spellman) buried a triple to restore the Skyhawks eight point margin (17-9) with 11-minutes to go in the half.

Coach Kraus postgame media

Cumpstone followed up a Bonsignore basket with back to back layups to stretch Stonehill's lead to a game-high ten points (21-11) with nine minutes remaining in the half. SNHU took a timeout and responded with a seven straight points, sparked by a Cardarelli three-pointer, to pull back within three (21-18) with 7:14 remaining. The Penmen trimmed the lead to a point (26-25) after a Sanders layup with 4:40 left in the half and then after Brix split two free-throw tries knotted the score (27-27) when Gilligan buried two free-throws with 3:37 left.

The teams went into halftime deadlocked (31-31) and then Stonehill started the second half hot again with junior Adam Bramanti (Middleton, Massachusetts/Masconomet Regional) opening the frame with a three-pointer. The Skyhawks took a five point lead (43-38) when Logan made one of two at the line with 15:46 to play, but SNHU scored six straight to take the lead (44-43) after a basket by Dobrovic with 13:47 remaining.

Smith answered that run with a triple to put Stonehill back on top, and the lead went back and forth before the Skyhawks were able to take the late four point lead with under five minutes to play leading up to SNHU's deciding run.

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