Lunar Eclipse Spectacular but Not Scots – Game #24

(Biddeford, Maine) – There was a rumor floating around after this game that at some point in the second half the referees decided to leave and go outside to look at the lunar eclipse.  They apparently were so impressed with the lunar eclipse (and it was spectacular) that they sent Gordon Coach Mike Schauer outside to look when they came back.

Okay, that’s not exactly what happened.  But a hard-fought game between the University of New England and Gordon turned nasty in the second half leading to a number of unbecoming technical fouls and ejections on both sides.  In my opinion a lot more whistle blowing early in the second half might well have prevented what developed later.

One thing that will not change is the final score: UNE 72 Gordon 59.  Trust me, the Nor’Easters are for real.  They have players that can beat a team one-on-one and they can force turnovers with their aggressive trapping and pressing.

All that didn’t seem to faze the Scots in the first half, however, and they were up 39-37.  “Gordon had everything scouted,” said UNE Coach Jason Mulligan.  “We were taken out of our game by their preparation.”

Nothing seemed to change early in the second half, in fact, a Brady Bajema (sophomore-6′2″-Whitinsville MA) three at 16:15 on a feed from Justin Kaufman (senior-5′11″-Redding CT) gave the Scots their largest lead of the game, 44-39. 

The next 7 ½ minutes?  A disaster for Gordon and the segment in which UNE caught up and took the game over.  “In the second half we got back in our groove in the full-court pressure and it got loud,” recalled Coach Mulligan.  “That loudness is something that wasn’t happening here much in the past.  Obviously winning brings people out and the noise the crowd created helped us tonight.”

The Nor’Easters went on a 14-2 run during this stretch and Isaac Stickney (16 rebounds/16 points for the game) and Jaykyri Simpson with six points each did most of the damage.  Three of the baskets were on offensive rebounds.  UNE had ten of those in the second half.

“In the second half they (UNE) increased the physical nature of their play and we weren’t able to match it and respond to it,” explained Gordon assistant coach Jeremy Martin afterwards.

And where the Nor’Easters were able to cash in on their physical play with high percentage shots in close the Scots launched low percentage 3’s.  Gordon dialed long distance five times during those 7 ½ minutes and never got an answer.

“People make comments about defense but if you don’t make shots it’s not always the defense that’s responsible,” said Coach Mulligan.  The Scots had plenty of good long-range looks, so their 1-for-10 result in the second half on 3-point attempts was very surprising.  Make a couple of those 3’s and this game would have been in the one-possession zone a lot longer than it was.

Instead, with nine minutes to go UNE held a 53-46 advantage.  Gordon got to within four points a couple of times thereafter (55-51 and 57-53) but never within four and in possession of the ball.  The Nor’Easters turned up points on almost every possession in the end game and as the frustrations mounted, the UNE margin increased and they won going away, 72-59.

The win pushes UNE (9-3) past Gordon (8-4) in the Commonwealth Coast Conference standings with only Saturday’s games left.  UNE is at Nichols and Gordon hosts Salve Regina.

By my unofficial figuring: if Gordon wins and Western New England loses at Colby-Sawyer (they’re undefeated at home) then the Scots will host Western New England in the first round of the CCC playoffs.  If Gordon, UNE, and Western New England win on Saturday then, brace yourself, Gordon comes right back up to Biddeford for another try at the Nor’Easters.  Wouldn’t that be something!

You couldn’t help but be impressed with UNE’s two junior imports from Texas – Jaykyri Simpson and Johnnie Jefferson.  Jaykyri had Justin covering him and he still went 10-for-13 with 21 points and six assists.  Johnnie was 5-for-8 with 13 points.  “I got those guys from Texas here after I got here,” explained Coach Mulligan.  “I was blessed.  The Lord sent the right people.”

With Justin, Jon Marstaller (senior-6′5″-Naples ME), Mike Schnackenberg (senior-6′6″-South Portland ME), and Keith Krass (Senior-6′2″-Beach Park IL) being honored Saturday, and ending their Gordon careers after this season, it might not be a bad idea for the Gordon coaching staff to take a look in Texas for some replacements if this is what’s out there.

“We’re trying to change the culture at UNE,” said Coach Mulligan.  “It’s obviously a huge win to beat Gordon here.  Theirs is a program that we aspire to be like.”

After defeating Gordon, Colby-Sawyer, and Endicott in consecutive home games, you can see how on a given day UNE is as good as anyone in the CCC is.  And just think, they were picked by the coaches to finish 11th out of 14 teams this season in the preseason poll!

Gordon collected ten turnovers in the second half on the way to 16 for the game.  The key to any success they hope to have in the CCC tournament next week will be taking good care of the basketball.  The four games in which the Scots turned the ball over the most were; Roger Williams (20),  Eastern Nazarene (17), Salem State (17), and UNE (16).  Two obvious similarities jump out – all were losses and all were on the road.  Gordon’s record nearly assures them of being on the road next Thursday and Saturday if they’re still alive in the tournament.  More efficiency on offense could well be the key to bringing the championship trophy to Grapevine Road a week from Saturday.

There are blessings and there are blessings in disguise.  I was dealing with the latter at game-time.  My wife and our friend Carolyn came out of Biddeford’s 99 Restaurant to find that the car wouldn’t work.  AAA eventually did what they do and we were on our way but missed most of the first half of this game.  Then came the blessing; UNE Sports Information Director Curt Smyth furnished me with the play-by-play of the first half and I was good to go in the second half. 

boxscore UNE 2-20-08
 

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