SCSU falls to St. Michael’s College in NE-10
Edgar Ayala – Special to the Southern News
It was the end of the Northeast-10 Conference Tournament for Southern Connecticut men’s basketball team before it even got started, as the Owls felt short 81-79 at the hands of Saint Michael’s College, Sunday night in Moore Field House.
The loss made it the third time this season the Owls have fallen to the Purple Knights, only this time being in the quarterfinals of the Northeast-10 Championship.
Seniors, Tylon Smith and Luke Houston along with junior Deshawn Murphy were the leading scorers with a combined 61 of Southern’s 79 points, and were the trio that helped keep Southern’s hopes alive. Smith, who finished the game with 20 points, seven rebounds and four assists, said he was still upset that the team was knocked out in their first game of the competition.
“Disappointed,” he said. “We came in entitled that we were going to win and move on, but it was disappointing that this team came in twice this year and beat us. Nothing we can do now but learn from it and grow from it. We grow from our second half performance and learn from our first half performance, and this will be the fuel to the fire going into the regional.”
Head coach Mike Donnelly said he found himself in a similar situation last week after the Owls lost to American International College game with the Owls trailing at the half trying to overcome a deficit, but was also just as frustrated as his players when the final buzzer went off.
“Well we didn’t win, so I’m disappointed in the fact that we didn’t find a way to get it done,” Coach said. “I told the guys I was happy we got back into the game as quickly as we did [in the second half], but we just didn’t make the plays towards the end of the game. That being said, we’ve shown a ton of fight, we don’t expect anything less from the guys, but I am disappointed because we certainly didn’t expect to lose in the first round.”
Murphy, who finished with a team-high 23 points including five three-pointers, exploded in the first five minutes of the game, knocking down 13 of Southern’s 17 points. The Owls came out strong to start the game, but finished shooting 39.4 percent from the field to end the first half causing them to be down 46-38 at half-time.
Along with Murphy, Houston was playing at the top of his game as he finished the night with 18 points and eight rebounds, shooting 55 percent from the floor while draining four from beyond the arc. He said that his team needs to play better early.
“We came out and didn’t play well in the first half, which is why they caught up to us,” Houston said. “We just didn’t do enough, and that’s pretty much how it was today.”
The Owls came out much more aggressive in the second half, and Donnelly said it was because he got through the player’s heads in the locker room while also making defensive changes.
“We made a couple adjustments defensively which I really thought helped,” coach said. “I was disappointed how we defended in the first half and told the guys if we don’t guard were not going to get back into this thing. So I just told them to keep believing and playing hard.”
Trailing 81-77 with less than five seconds, Houston was able to force a turn over and get fouled at an attempt from the three-point line; he made the first two freebies but missed the third. After the game Donnelly said he did not tell Houston to purposely miss the last free throw at an attempt to get a tip in, and tie the game.
“No, I did not tell him to miss it,” he said. “But I’m glad Luke got fouled. He did a good job getting a turnover and getting the foul, but we just couldn’t fully capitalize tonight.”