The Husson University men’s basketball team made the most of a surge late in the first half to fend off Maine Maritime Academy 79-69 in a North Atlantic Conference game at Newman Gymnasium on Friday night
Coach Warren Caruso’s Husson squad improved its record to 9-4 overall and 5-0 in conference play to remain tied with UMaine-Farmington atop the NAC. UMF topped Northern Vermont-Lyndon 97-61 on Friday.
Maine Maritime, which won just five games a year ago, is now 6-6 overall, 3-2 in the NAC.
Husson scored the final 19 points of the first half to build a 46-28 halftime advantage, and while MMA threatened after the break, the Mariners got no closer than six.
“We got to a point where we were doing what we wanted to do in the game late in the first half, and that was to pressure and attack the basket,” Caruso said. “For that eight-minute stretch we played just the way we wanted to.
“Maybe that was about the only eight-minute stretch we played the way we wanted to, but it was a decisive run.”
Cole Thomas led a balanced Husson offense with 14 points, while Thompson came off the bench to add 13 points, five rebounds and six assists, and Corey Kaiser chipped in 12 points.
Adam Richardson led MMA with 19 points and six rebounds, while Nicholas DePatsy scored 16 points, and Riley Jorgenson scored 15 points and grabbed 11 rebounds.
The Eagles’ ability to force turnovers — 11 during the first half by the Mariners — led to high-percentage scoring changes, and Husson capitalized by shooting 60 percent (18 for 30) during the game’s first 20 minutes.
Thompson came off the Husson bench to spark not only the half-ending run, but also a 32-7 overall blitz after Maine Maritime took a 21-14 lead on a 3-pointer by DePatsy with 11:04 left before the break.
Husson then scored 13 straight, with Thompson contributing two baskets, a steal and an assist, as the Eagles retook the lead at 23-21 on a Brett Cunningham 3-pointer and stretched the margin to 27-21 on two D.J. Bussey free throws with 7:07 left in the half.
MMA finally answered with seven straight points of its own on a layup by Riley MacLeod, DePatsy’s third 3-pointer of the half and a running hook from the lane by Andrew Liebart to move back into the lead at 28-27.
But that was it offensively for the Mariners before the break.
A floater by Thompson regained the lead for Husson, and it was just the start of a game-changing offensive burst for the Eagles.
Defense had a lot to do with it, as Husson forced four late turnovers by MMA and cashed in on each one while Thomas, Bussey and Justin Martin each struck from 3-point land.
“They started pressuring us, and I thought got up into our ballhandlers a little bit,” MMA coach Dan McNeely said. “It was hard for us to enter into our offense and then when we did enter they were pressuring the wings, and we weren’t able to drive the ball and we were turning it over.
“The first eight minutes of the game we were able to do what we wanted offensively, but then we went into that lull where they said, ‘We’re just going to pressure you and not let you run offense,’ and when they did that it got tough for us.”
Thompson finished the half with 10 points, four assists and three rebounds, while DePatsy had a game-high 13 points at the break for MMA.
“Justin’s playing really well,” Caruso said. “He’s doing a lot of things really and embraced coming off the bench as our sixth man. He’s had a lot of good games so far this year.”