BENNINGTON, Vt. – The free throw line was a crucial factor at the Mountaineer Athletic Center Thursday night—helping Southern Vermont College overtake Dean College in the late going and secure a 77-63 New England Collegiate Conference (NECC) victory.
SVC led 29-27 at halftime, but the Bulldogs came back in the second period and went on top by eight with 7:50 left to go. The Mountaineers were resilient and stayed close before eventually pulling in front late, and the hosts capped the victory with an outstanding performance from the charity stripe in the closing minutes.
Southern Vermont improves to 12-5 on the year and 6-3 in league play with the regular season split with Dean. The Bulldogs fall to 11-7 overall and 6-4 in NECC action.
SVC heads to Elms College on Saturday for its next game with the Mountaineers and Blazers set to tip off at 3 p.m. Dean now prepares to host Lesley University at 12 p.m. the same day.
Southern Vermont's discipline in the final 20 minutes was key as the Mountaineers committed only three fouls in the second half. Adversely, DC was whistled for 14 personals which resulted in SVC going to the line 19 times. The hosts connected on 17 of those free throws to end the night 24-27 overall (88.98 percent).
Four Mountaineer starters made their way to double digits with senior Josh Borders (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) and sophomore Donnell Frayer Jr. (Upper Marlboro, Md.) tying the team-high of 19 points; they also had seven and four rebounds, respectively. Senior Andre Hodo (Silver Spring, Md.) tied the game-high of 11 rebounds in addition to notching 14 points, four assists, and three steals, and classmate Aaron Murray (Camden, N.J.) posted 14 points, six boards, and four blocks in the win.
Dean was paced by a 21-point performance from junior Jordan Booker (Waterbury, Conn.) who also had four assists and a pair of steals in the effort. Senior Armani Baker (Pawtucket, R.I.) had 15 points and 11 rebounds for the double-double, and classmate Dayvon Russell (Naugatuck, Conn.) chipped in with 11 points, five boards, and three assists.
DC edged Southern Vermont in field goal percentage with a 43.5 (27-62) compared to the Mountaineers' 42.4 (25-59), but SVC controlled the glass with a 40-29 advantage in rebounds. The hosts committed just eight turnovers to Dean's 14 and turned that advantage into an 18-9 upper hand in points off giveaways.
A tightly-contested first half saw seven lead changes as neither side could stay in front. Frayer Jr. led all players with 11 points at the break as the Mountaineers clung to a two-point edge.
Southern Vermont garnered some breathing room once play resumed with a Hodo triple putting his squad up 40-31 in the first four minutes of the second half. A 14-3 run, however, set the Bulldogs on top; Baker had six points in that stretch while Booker pitched in with five—three coming from the outside.
SVC came inching back after getting into the bonus with 7:28 on the clock. The two sides traded baskets as time waned, but the Mountaineers finally pulled ahead and played stellar defense to preserve the upper hand. A Booker trey with 5:09 to go would be the last Bulldog score of the night as Southern Vermont forced four turnovers the rest of the way. At the other end, SVC went 10-11 from the free throw line through the final five minutes to seal the win and avenge a 73-69 loss at Dean on January 5.
Borders went 8-8 from the charity stripe in the final 6:40 of action while Murray was 4-4 on free throw attempts in the second half.
Southern Vermont and Dean coaching staffs participated in the American Cancer Society's Coaches vs. Cancer Suits and Sneakers Week Thursday night—marking the sixth-straight year that SVC has helped raise awareness and money for the organization.
– #LetsGoSVC –