Men’s basketball enters NEWMAC play with three dominating wins

The men’s basketball team started the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference regular-season play with wins over the United States Coast Guard Academy, Clark University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a loss against Springfield College.

The men’s basketball team played four games against NEWMAC opponents during the winter break. The Lions’ first game was against Coast Guard on Jan. 2.

Senior guard Geoff Gray and junior guard Jack O’Connor each scored 20 points as the Lions fought back from a seven-point halftime deficit to surge past Coast Guard 84-76.

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The contest remained relatively close as the Coast Guard Bears held an eight-point lead late in the first half. Though the Lions briefly retook the lead towards the end of the half, the Bears led 46-39 at halftime.

Early in the second half, the Bears maintained their advantage over the Lions and led 65-60, but the Lions used a 14-0 run to gain a nine-point advantage. O’Connor hit a crucial three-pointer to increase the lead to five points as the Lions pulled away late to seal the win. 

Freshman center Jarred Houston played a vital role in the game as he finished with a double-double of 17 points and 18 rebounds. Gray also had a complete game, adding 12 rebounds and six assists to go along with his 20 points. The team shot 50.8 percent from the field while limiting Coast Guard to just 35.9 percent. They also out-rebounded Coast Guard 50 to 38.

The Lions defeated Clark 86-81 on Jan. 5 thanks to freshman guard Zach Waterhouse’s 24 points in the second game of the break.

The Cougars raced out to an early 10-point lead, but the Lions quickly erased the deficit and regained control. By halftime, the Lions led 50-44 and later extended their lead to 13 points, but the Cougars slowly cut into the deficit as they trailed 78-82 with under two minutes left. The Lions eventually pulled away as Gray and O’Connor hit late free throws to close the game.  

Waterhouse added eight rebounds to his 24 points while Gray notched another double-double of 23 points and 11 rebounds. Despite giving up 12 three-pointers, the Lions outrebounded the Cougars 48 to 34.  

For his efforts, Gray won the NEWMAC men’s basketball co-offensive athlete of the week with 43 points, 23 rebounds, and 10 assists in the first two conference games of the season. Houston won the NEWMAC men’s basketball defensive athlete of the week after totaling 26 rebounds and 21 points across two games, including his double-double against Coast Guard. 

The Lions then pulled off one of the biggest upsets in program history on Jan. 9 by routing Division III No. 8 ranked Massachusetts Institute of Technology 84-65. 

Though the game remained close in the first half, Gray and O’Connor’s combined 31 points gave the Lions a 46-38 advantage. In the second half, the Lions erupted on a 29-12 run en route to a comfortable 19-point win against the Engineers. Gray and Waterhouse had a combined 22 points in that run alone. 

Gray, O’Connor, and Waterhouse totaled 71 points as the trio drained 13 three-pointers. Gray recorded a third straight double-double by collecting a game-high 13 rebounds to go along with his 30 points. The Lions delivered a strong performance on both offense and defense: shooting 54.9 percent from the field, and shutting down the Engineers in the second half by limiting them to just 27 points. Springfield College snapped the Lions’ three-game winning streak with an 86-79 win on Jan. 12.  

The Pride jumped out early on the Lions as they held an 11-point lead in the first half. The Lions fought back, cutting the deficit to seven, as halftime ended with a 44-37 advantage for the Pride. The Lions never led in the first half. 

In the second half, the Lions continued to cut into the lead and trailed 47-46 after a layup by freshman guard Trevor McLean. The Lions trailed by one point twice in the half, but the Pride pulled the game out of reach by scoring late free throws.

O’Connor led the Lions with a team-high 24 points while Gray and Waterhouse each added 16 points. Springfield’s junior guard Jake Ross tallied a career-high 42 points to guide the Pride to a win. 

The Lions finished the winter break with a 3-1 conference record and hold an overall record of 8-7. They place third out of eight teams in the NEWMAC, trailing Babson College and MIT. 

The men’s basketball team did not respond for comment.

They play their next game on Jan. 16 against conference opponent Worcester Polytechnic Institute, ranked fourth in the NEWMAC, at 8 p.m.  

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