Owls defeat College of Saint Rose 83-58
Aaron Johnson – Sports Editor
As the snow falling outside of Moore Field House slowed most of New Haven, the Southern Connecticut men’s basketball team showed no signs of slowing down as they defeated the College of Saint Rose 83-58, with the win Southern clinched the NE-10 Southwestern division for a consecutive season.
“That’s one of our goals for the season,” said senior guard Tylon Smith. “We really wanted to win it on Tuesday and not tonight. But we’ll take it. That’s one of our goals and now we can just take it off the list.”
The Owls clinched the division after their win and American International College losing on the road to Le Moyne College. Southern will close out the season against the Yellow Jackets, a game that would have determined the top spot in the division had AIC won.
But the night belonged to the Owls, especially the three seniors. Smith, Luke Houston, and Jose Cruz were honored prior to the tip as it was their final regular season home game of their careers. The trio has been a part of the basketball program’s renaissance of the last four years, with two more victories they will leave Southern as the winningest class in program history.
“That’s crazy to even think that’s we’ve come that far,” Houston said. “Going into our freshman years one of our goals was to leave here the most winningest class and to be a game or two from that is just absolutely incredible.”
Throughout the night, Southern was able to frustrate the Golden Knights on offense, who shot just 22 percent from the field in the first half and 36 percent for the game. Head coach Mike Donnelly said that the Owls’ current nine-game winning streak has had much to do with the high level on the defensive side of the ball.
“Defensively that’s been a big part,” he said. “The big thing is our defensive positioning. We were outta position the early part of the year. And we just kept telling them where we want them off the ball defensively. And the first half was textbook for us. That was the best half defensively we’ve played all year.”
While the defense continued to play well, the Owls were able to light up the scoreboard from behind the arc. Southern shot 50 percent from the three-point line, led by sophomore Michael Mallory who finished 4-for-4 from three. Mallory, who scored the 1,000th point of his career last game, finished with 15 points in 23 minutes off the bench. Southern ended the game with five different players in double-figures, but the light was shining brightest on the Owls’ seniors.
“We had a good feeling that they were going to have great careers,” Donnelly said. “But they’ve exceeded our expectations both on and off the floor. They’re all really good students. They’re great people and they’re great basketball players. And I can’t say enough good things about the guys.”
Smith led the way on the floor, finishing with 19 points and seven rebounds. Houston turned in a strong game for Southern as well, finishing with 15 points and eight rebounds and in his lone start of the season, Cruz had one point, one block, and one rebound in 10 minutes. He said that his time at Southern coming to a close is not something that he has given up thought to, but that it has been a great ride.
“Not until I came outta the game today,” said Cruz. “I kinda realized this is my last regular season game here. It’s meant everything to us. It’s hard to really imagine it, but now that it’s here. It’s unbelievable. It means a lot to me.”