BANGOR, Maine — Eric Cottonham’s 3-pointer with 3:16 to play propelled the Husson University men’s basketball team to a hard-fought 86-76 victory over Saint Joseph’s College of Standish on Thursday night at Newman Gymnasium.
Husson coach Warren Caruso was happy to see Cottonham’s shot zip through the basket.
“We needed someone to make a basket,” said Caruso. “Once someone put one in, then it felt like the next one would go, too.”
Eric Modica followed with a conventional three-point play, and Corey Wood scored seven of the host Eagles’ final 10 points on free throws to complete the win.
“We executed good on both ends of the floor in the first half,” said Caruso. “Not so much in the second half.
“I thought were becoming more of a half-court team, and that’s not when we’re at our best.”
Husson (1-1) used a 24-7 burst in a high-paced first half to jump out to an 18-point lead, eventually pushing it to 22 (60-38) with 15:47 to play in the second half.
“We were aggressive in the first half,” said Caruso. “We made them play away from the basket and we made some shots.”
“We were a little unprepared for their intensity,” said Monks coach Rob Sanicola. “The second half we did the things we do. We got back to being ourselves.”
The Monks (3-1) slowed the game down in the second half and rallied to cut the margin to four twice, the second coming at 70-66 with 5:20 left.
“In the first half, we got out of our rhythm,” said Sanicola. “In the second half we started to move the ball and execute.”
After several unproductive trips up and down the floor for both teams, Cottonham drilled his 3 from the right side at the free-throw line extended.
“We took a stand defensively,” said Wood, who also had a game-high seven assists. “We got back on our groove and got them on their heels.”
Wood said the seniors have been stressing defense.
“It’s all about the defense. We wanted to set the tone around it,” he said. “Our seniors stressed defense and we got after it.”
Modica finished with 17 points for the Eagles, Cottonham added 15 (on five 3s) and Brooks Spaulding, Wood and Phil Leighton posted 11 each.
Nicholas Jobin led the Monks, and all scorers, with 19 points, Krubiel Workie had 16, Zach Blodgett of Glenburn contributed 14 and Matt Madeiros had 10.
Money raised at the game went to the Clark Noonan Scholarship Fund. Noonan was a Bangor High star athlete who played two years of basketball at St. Joe’s before his death in a car accident in April.
The teams traded baskets in the early going and it was tied at 7 until Cottonham hit his second 3 of the game with 16:01 to play in the first half to give Husson a 10-7 lead. The Eagles held it from then on.
Blodgett, who played with Noonan at Bangor as well as St. Joe’s, was a key contributor for the Monks in the first half with eight points.
It was still a one-point game a little more than four minutes later, but a pair of free throws by Phil Leighton, a 3 by Jacob Moore, a basket by Marc Zaharchuk and a layup in heavy traffic by Wes Murphy pushed it to 10.
“Their pressure and intensity took us out of our game,” said Sanicola.
The Eagles continued to slice toward the basket for layups or kicked the ball back out for 3s as the lead continued to build.
“We’d rather play up and down [the floor],” said Caruso, who hopes to see more of that when the Eagles host a highly regarded Worcester Polytech squad on Saturday at 1 p.m.