KINGS POINT, N.Y. (Dec. 17, 2016) – The USMMA men's basketball team closed out the calendar year with an exciting 87-86 overtime victory over visiting Widener University on Saturday afternoon at the Liebertz Gymnasium. The win, which was the Mariners' third straight, improves their record to 4-7 on the season, while the Pride falls to an even 5-5 in defeat.
Three players scored in double-figures for Merchant Marine, as senior Matt Miller (Augusta, Ga.) led the way with a game-high 26 points, while freshman Connor Green (Flower Mound, Texas) had his highest turnout of the season with 18 and junior Robbie Kennedy (Spring Lake, N.J.) added 17 off the bench. Miller and Green also tied for the game-best with four assists each.
Sophomore David Washington (Firsco, Texas) brought down a team-high nine rebounds to go along with eight points, while freshman Eric Sobocinski (Southampton, N.J.) drained nine points on three 3-pointers. Senior Hunter Jones (Goodyear, Ariz.) and junior Christian Wittendorf (Granger, Ind.) rounded out the Mariner scorers with five and four points, respectively.
The first half was very back-and-forth, as there were a total of 13 lead changes and the score was tied five separate times. The Pride got hot late, opening up a 10-point lead, 40-30, with 1:06 to play. The Mariners scored the next five points on a layup by Washington and a three-point buzzer-beater by Kennedy and the two teams went into the locker rooms for halftime with the visitors up, 40-35.
Widener was firing on all cylinders to start the second half, as they pushed their lead up to a game-high 14 points, 55-41, at 15:39 after a pair of free throws. Minute-by-minute Merchant Marine kept chipping away at the lead until it was down to just three, 62-59, at 9:48. The Pride built the lead back up to five on another pair of free throws at 8:37 before the two teams traded jumpers to make the score 66-61. The Mariners responded with back-to-back 3's by Sobocinski and Miller to take their first lead since midway through the first half, 67-66, at 6:01
An 8-2 run by the visitors put the Pride back up by five, 74-69, at 3:12, but Green hit a jumper and was fouled, then converted the three-point play and Miller followed with a game-tying jumper at 1:48 to make it 74-all.
After a timeout by Widener, the Pride missed a three on their next possession but gained the offensive board and were fouled and made both freebies to take a 76-74 lead at 1:16. Miller made another jumper with 57 seconds left to tie it once again. Both teams missed chances on the next two possessions and Widener brought the ball up the court with just 18 seconds left, but were unable to find the game-winner on two straight shots in the final three seconds, forcing the Mariners' first overtime game of the season.
USMMA struck first in the extra frame and didn't give up the lead the rest of the way. The Mariners built their advantage up to six points over the first three minutes thanks to a 6-0 run. The Pride had a chance to tie the score late, but only made one-of-two free throws with 29 seconds left before Kennedy was fouled. The junior also hit one-of-two at the line to put Merchant Marine back ahead by two.
Widener was aggressive on their next possession, opting to go for a three with just 13 ticks left, but missed, and Kennedy was fouled once again after grabbing the rebound and nailed both his freebies with eight seconds left to all but seal the game. The Pride hit a three-pointer as time expired, but it wasn't enough.
For the Pride, two players recorded 20-plus points, as junior Sam Smith scored a team-best 22 and classmate Sardayah Sambo contributed 20. Sambo also recorded a double-double after he led all players in the game with 10 rebounds. Sophomore Nick Jackson chipped in with 10 points in the losing effort.
The Mariners will take the next two-plus weeks off from competition before returning to action on Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2017, when they will travel up to Newburgh, N.Y. to face Skyline Conference divisional opponent Mount St. Vincent. Game time is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Knights' Kaplan Center. Live stats will be available for the contest at this link.
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Men’s Basketball Closes Out 2016 With Third-Straight Win, Edging Widener, 87-86 In OT