24 giveaways too much for St. Anselm to overcome.
GOFFSTOWN — The Saint Anselm men’s basketball team was pressed into the hardwood for 40 minutes by Bridgeport and had no answers as the Purple Knights picked up an 88-79 win Wednesday at Stoutenburgh Gym.
Bridgeport’s full-court, full-game press was too much for the Hawks. Saint Anselm turned the ball over 24 times and couldn’t climb out of a 13-point hole in the second half. The Hawks did get the deficit down to four but got no closer.
“They’re turning people over 20 times a game,” Saint Anselm coach Keith Dickson said. “We beat them last year and turned it over 22 times. The tradeoff is you usually get easy advantage plays. We turned it over and then we didn’t really finish our advantage plays at a rate that was high enough to hurt them.”
Saint Anselm led for just 3:34 of the game. The Purple Knights grabbed a seven-point lead going into the half and maintained it over the final 20 minutes thanks to four players with 13 or more points.
Bridgeport’s biggest game came from Hashem Abbas. The Hawks had no answer on the defensive end for the junior center who racked up a game-high 21 points as well as six rebounds.
The Hawks shot well, going 53.8 percent from the field, and finished with five players in double figures including freshman Joey Belli. Belli played 34 minutes off the bench to finish with a career high 11 points, nearly tripling his 4.6 points per game average.
Sophomore Miles Tention and junior Chris Paul finished with 17 points for the Hawks. The scoring just wasn’t enough to balance out the turnovers caused by Bridgeport’s suffocating press.
“Joe is better suited to play against a team like that,” Dickson said. “He’s a legitimate point guard that can think the game. We were much better when he was attacking pressure than some other guys.”
The loss drops Saint Anselm to 6-4 heading into the holiday break. The Hawks return to action at Stoutenburgh on New Year’s Day against Daemen.
After a dynamic November in which the Hawks went 6-1, including overtime wins over in-state rivals Franklin Pierce and Southern New Hampshire, Saint Anselm ended 2019 going 1-3 in December.
The Hawks did rack up a 3-1 record in Northeast-10 play, though, and will have only conference games left to play after the contest against Daemen.
“I’m not happy, and I think this is the way this thing goes,” Dickson said. “We’re incredibly inconsistent in our individual play and our team play. We’ll try to find our way in the second semester and be playing decent basketball down the stretch to play for something meaningful.”