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Men’s Basketball Wins a Tough-and-Tumble Contest over Clark, 68-64

Springfield, Mass. — February 7, 2009 — Behind a career-high 26 points from Pat Crean, the Springfield College men’s basketball team defeated Clark University, 68-64, this afternoon in a New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference match-up at SC’s Blake Arena. With the win, Springfield is now 10-11 overall, and 2-6 in the NEWMAC. With the loss, Clark is also 10-11 overall, and 4-5 in league play.

It was a tale of two halves if ever there was one, with Springfield leading by 23 points at the half, 43-20, only to see Clark come all the way back in the second half to actually take a two-point lead, 53-51, with 5:38 left. With 17:58 left, the Pride led by 24 points, 47-23, following a lay-up by freshman center Ryan Coburn (West Warwck, R.I.). But when junior forward Mark Alexander (Providence, R.I.) made a short jumper with 6:23 to go, Clark had erased all of that 24-point lead and then some. In that stretch of 11:35, the Cougars had outscored the Pride, 29-4.

Crean, a junior forward from Sleepy Hollow, N.Y., led Springfield with his career-high total of 26 points. He also added 4 assists, 1 block, and 1 steal. He was 9-of-19 from the floor, and 7-of-11 from the free throw line, making some big hoops down the stretch for the Pride. Crean’s previous high of 24 points came at Eastern Connecticut this past Nov. 22 in a 75-71 victory over the host school in the finals of their own invitational.

Behind Crean was sophomore forward Matt Cavalieri (West Warwick, R.I.) with 15 points and 5 rebounds. Cavalieri was 6-of-6 from the field, and 3-of-3 from the free throw line. Junior guard Ryan Blackmon (Stamford, Conn.) added 12 points, including back-to-back 3-pointers to start the game off for Springfield. Blackmon was 4-of-8 from the field, 4-of-7 from 3-point range. Freshman forward Anthony Epps (Norwalk, Conn.) added 6 points, including two big free throws with 1:27 left when SC was leading by just one point at the time.

Clark was led by senior guard Byron Roberts (New Haven, Conn.) with 17 points (14 in the second half). He was 6-of-12 from the field, including 5-of-10 from 3-point range. Alexander added 14 points and 5 rebounds. Freshman forward Bryan Vayda (Sturbridge, Mass.) added 12 points and a game-high 9 rebounds.

The first half was all Springfield. The Pride jumped out to a 19-4 lead following a lay-up by Crean with 11:42 to go. Clark had cut it to 31-20 with 2:49 left. But SC then scored the last 10 points before the intermission, including a jumper by Epps at the buzzer. Crean scored 14 of his 26 in that first stanza.

After Clark had made its remarkable comeback in the second half, the last several minutes turned into a dogfight. With 6:53 left, Blackmon committed his fifth personal foul, and then was assessed a technical foul as well. The score was tied at 53-all, 56-all, and 58-all, the latter with 3:04 left on a jumper by Alexander. Vayda then made one of two free throws with 2:30 left to give Clark a 1-point lead, 59-58. That was Clark’s last lead.

A short jumper by Crean in the paint with 2:15 left gave SC the lead for good. Epps’s two free throws with 1:27 remaining put SC up by three, 62-59. Another short jumper by Crean in the paint with 1:05 left gave SC a 5-point edge, 64-59.

Some extra drama was thrown in when the big men from both squads — senior center John Strawson (Torrington, Conn.) from Springfield and senior center Peter Normandin (Westminster, Mass.) from Clark — were caught shoving each other, and both were ejected with flagrant personals with 54 seconds left.

A Roberts’ 3-pointer with 45 ticks left cut it to three once again, 64-61. Crean was immediately fouled and made one of two free throws with 43 seconds left. Cavalieri made two more free throws with 21 seconds left to up the Springfield edge to six points, 67-61. But a good 3-pointer from the left baseline by Roberts gave Clark hope with 8 seconds left, 67-64. Coburn then made the second of his two free throws with 7 seconds left to make it a 68-64 final.

Springfield shot .463 from the field (25-of-54) for the game. Clark, meanwhile, shot just .392 (20-of-51). From 3-point range, Clark was .333 (8-of-24). That included six three’s in the second half. SC was also .333 (5-of-15) from behind the arc for the game. Springfield outrebounded the Cougars, 37-32.

Springfield will host WPI next Wednesday (Feb. 11) at 7:30 pm. Clark hosts Trinity on Monday (Feb. 9) at 7 pm.