Men's basketball takes down Merrimack in first-place showdown

MANCHESTER, N.H. – The Saint Anselm College men's basketball team seized sole possession of first place in the Northeast-10 Conference's Northeast Division with a 79-70 victory over Merrimack on Saturday afternoon at Stoutenburgh Gymnasium.

Box Score | Video Highlights

Saint Anselm (17-5, 12-4 NE10) and Merrimack (15-8, 11-5 NE10) entered the game tied atop the Northeast Division standings with identical 11-4 records, but the Hawks got double-doubles from junior Tim Guers and senior Austin Nydegger to win the matchup of the division's top-two teams. Guers approached a triple-double with 20 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists, while Nydegger came off the bench for his first-career double-double of 17 points and a career-high 10 rebounds.

Freshman Chris Paul and junior Cody Ball made it four Hawks in double figures, as Paul contributed 18 points and Ball added 12. Saint Anselm shot just 41.7 percent from the field in the game but went 21-for-23 (91.3 percent) at the free-throw line to earn a split of the regular-season meetings with the Warriors.

Juvaris Hayes scored a game-high 26 points on 10-for-17 shooting and added eight rebounds and seven assists to pace Merrimack, which shot 44.4 percent overall. Ryan Boulter had 19 on 7-for-14 shooting for the Warriors, while Khalief Crawford pitched in with 12 points. Merrimack got just two points from its bench in the loss, compared to 20 from Saint Anselm's thanks largely to Nydegger's 17.

Hayes scored five points in the first three minutes to get the Warriors out to a quick 5-2 lead. Saint Anselm countered with a 14-4 run to go ahead 16-9 with 11:14 to go in the opening half. The Hawks made four-straight shots to take an 11-7 lead and a Ball three-pointer helped stretch the lead to seven.

Down seven, Merrimack responded with a quick 8-2 spurt capped by a three-point play by Kyle Howes, who had five points in the run. Saint Anselm scored 10 of the game's next 12 points to take the largest lead of the game at the time at 28-19 with 5:11 left in the first half. The Hawks' defense spurred the run by forcing four turnovers and Saint Anselm took a 42-35 lead into the locker room after a buzzer-beating three by Nydegger from the left corner.

The Warriors quickly erased the seven-point deficit by scoring the first seven points of the third quarter before eventually taking the lead, 46-44, on a Tawayne Anderson Jr. layup. Guers snapped a two-minute scoreless drought by both teams with a three to give the Hawks the lead back with 14:24 remaining. A Paul jumper with 12:46 to go gave Saint Anselm the lead for good after Boulter's jumper had swung the lead back to Merrimack.

The Hawks' lead grew to eight, 61-53, with 7:06 to play when Guers found Nydegger for a three after a three-point play by Paul. The visitors trimmed the deficit to three only for Guers, Nydegger and Paul to score the next six to get the lead back to nine, matching the largest of the game. Later, a Boulter three got it back down to a four-point game with 2:07 on the clock, but that was as close as the Warriors would get as Paul scored the next four to help the Hawks pull away again.

Saint Anselm, which improved to 11-1 on its home court this season on Saturday, travels to Assumption on Tuesday, Feb. 6 for a 7:30 p.m. tip.