MANCHESTER — One case of agonizing defeat was followed by another at Stan Spirou Field House on Wednesday. After watching an upset slip through the hands of its female counterparts earlier in the night, the Southern New Hampshire University men’s basketball team succumbed to the same fate.
The Penmen were in control for much of the second half until a late push by undefeated Bentley allowed the Falcons to sneak away with an 89-83 win in Northeast-10 Conference action. The lead got to as high as nine points for SNHU (5-4, 2-3 NE-10) midway through the second half before Bentley (8-0, 5-0 NE-10) drew even with a 15-6 stretch. The teams played within a possession of one another for four minutes until a Colton Lawrence 3-pointer made it 84-79 Falcons with 2:16 left and the Penmen never recovered.
“This is the third top-15 team we’ve had in our gym this year,” said SNHU coach Jack Perri, whose club is 2-4 in their last six games. “I think our guys have given some great efforts and have come up short in each. Same thing here. This was probably our best game out of the three against maybe the toughest team to guard out of them. … They beat us on the boards and on some screen-and-roll action, and unfortunately we weren’t able to figure it out and get a win.”
Perri said the Penmen offered the best execution of the season, which showed in a 52-percent shooting night and four players in double figures. Daquaise Andrews paced those double-digit scorers with 24 points while Eamonn Joyce followed with 18. Bentley had three 20-plus point scorers as Ryan Richmond’s game-high 28 points led that trio.
The glaring issue for SNHU proved to be a disparity in free throws. The Penmen went to the line 15 times compared with the Falcons’ 33 trips, including 21-for-25 shooting from the stripe in the second half. SNHU had just two foul shots in the first half.
Perri took issue with the referees’ inconsistencies to the point of being called for a technical foul with 7:02 to play. The free throws from Perri’s technical paired with a SNHU personal foul helped generate a four-point swing for Bentley, which squashed SNHU’s momentum as it saw its lead go from five points to one.
“I was disappointed with some things and I voiced it, so I earned that,” Perri said. “It was unfortunate. I’m not sure that’s why we lost, but I’m disappointed it happened. But I also want to stick up for our guys.”
The momentum SNHU had going before Bentley’s resurgence was a carryover from the first half. Despite shooting 51 percent from the field dishing out 11 assists in the first half as a team, SNHU led for just 13 seconds in the opening 20 minutes.
A five-point swing from Charlie Russo (10 points) in the final 1:18 of the opening half helped the Penmen get to the break with a 42-40 edge. Russo stuck a corner 3-pointer to tie things before a Shawn Montague block turned into a Russo breakaway lay-in as time expired.
“Shawn makes a great block that gets us that finish, and I think Bentley was a little taken aback as the horn went off,” Perri said. “Getting that and taking the lead obviously felt good, but our guys earned that.
“The beginning of the second half is where we’ve had some trouble, but we came out with some good energy. It was our best offensive game where we shared the ball well and took the right shots.”
Plymouth State 80, Southern Maine 70: In Gorham, Maine, freshman Manny Alisandro of Manchester led the Panthers (6-3, 3-0 Little East) with 22 points and 14 rebounds. Junior Jaylen LeRoy of Manchester notched 13 points, nine rebounds, eight assists.