(Wenham MA) Big game.
Nichols (22-2) never trailed defeating Gordon (21-3) 107-93 before the season’s best crowd at the Bennett Center on Wednesday night.
The win gives the Bison a bye in the Commonwealth Coast Conference quarterfinals next Tuesday.
The Scots will get the #8 seed at home on Tuesday at the Bennett Center.
Gordon had won an earlier meeting between the two teams (76-72) at Dudley (MA) in January.
The Scots put up plenty of points tonight but never could slow Nichols down enough on the defensive end to make the game close in crunch time.
The Bison had three starters score in the twenties; DeAnte Bruton (27), Marcos Echevarria (26), and Matt Morrow (21). 6-8 Jerome Cunningham ended with fourteen points and had five assists.
The key player for Nichols may well have been the other starter, sophomore Nate Tenaglia. Nate was assigned to cover Eric Demers.
“Nate is as tough as it gets,” said Nichols coach Scott Faucher afterwards. “He loves guarding the other team’s best player.”
Eric again finished with 32 points but needed twenty-nine shots to get there. Last time, with Nate not playing, Eric was a warm 10-for-21.
“He (Eric Demers) is tough to guard,” explained Nate. “He hit some shots down the end, but I held him to nine points in the first half.”
The Bison were much more patient against the Gordon zone than they were last time. “We were sharing the ball offensively,” said Coach Faucher. “We got a lot of in-rhythm shots which is what we wanted.”
Gordon coach Tod Murphy reflected on the loss: “It’s one loss. Tonight was their night. They deserved to win. We beat them at their place so now we’re even. We’ve proven that we can beat them on their court so if it comes down to that we’ll have another opportunity.”
Nichols shooting was certainly improved over last time, but their defense was also. The Scots had fifteen turnovers, but the killer stat connected to the miscues was that the Bison turned those mistakes into 29 points. Nichols had ten steals.
“If we take away our mental mistakes and turnovers, we would have been right with them,” added Coach Murphy.
The Scots had very few open shots but that didn’t stop them from putting up points. 6-6 Garrisson Duvivier saw plenty of 6-8 Matt Morrow and 6-8 Jerome Cunningham but still managed 34 points and 15 rebounds. Last time Garrisson was able to get the NC big men in foul trouble but not this time.
The stats declare that this was GD’s best game of the season. He had only three turnovers and shot an impressive 15-for-24.
I thought that Garrisson might not have enough season left to catch Jim Petty (1902 points) as the all-time leading Gordon scorer. Not so fast. Garrisson, with tonight’s 34 points, is at 1843. He’s 59 points away. Endicott on Saturday and a run of tournament games might be enough.
Eric made another pass tonight with his thirty-two points. He moved by Aaron Trigg (honored at Homecoming) into 5th place.
Gordon takes on Endicott on Saturday to end the regular season. The Gulls ran into the same Western New England team tonight (and lost badly) that defeated Gordon in January.
A win or a loss against Endicott will not change Gordon’s spot, as the #2 seed, in the CCC tournament.
Play the Endicott game a little differently as a result? “Not a chance,” said Coach Murphy. “It’s Endicott. We’re going to be preparing for the tournament starting Saturday.”
Coach Faucher: “Our guys played with a lot of energy. We defended. They wanted this one. Gordon is a good team. They’re as tough as anyone.”
Nichols has been a very good team for a while. This is their 6th straight season with at least twenty wins. They have shared or won the CCC regular season title for the last six years. Their record during the regular season over the past 5+ years? 94-11!
But one of those eleven losses was to Gordon at Nichols. Will there be a rematch a week from Saturday? Stay tuned.
(All of the pictures above and below will enlarge considerably if you click on them.)