March 15, 2009

Courtesy of Merrimack Athletics

After a thrilling 86-84 overtime victory over Lowell in the quarterfinals Saturday, Merrimack looks to advance to the regional finals for the first time since 1976-77 when it battles with rival Bentley Sunday.

RECAPPING SATURDAY’S WIN: Behind double-doubles and 25 points each from Darren Duncan and Darin Mency, Merrimack defeated third-ranked UMass Lowell 86-84. With the game tied at 84 with 13 seconds to play in overtime, Duncan found Aaron Strothers down low who hit a lay-up, his only basket of the game in his only attempt, to put the Warriors ahead by two. Lowell had the last shot but Kevin Carr’s three-pointer went off the back rim, and Merrimack prevailed with its first tournament win since 2000. The teams went back and forth as the end of regulation neared, with Merrimack leading 75-72 after a free throw from Duncan. But Kyle Caiola tied it up with 40 seconds left as he hit a lay-up, was fouled, and hit the free throw. Mency missed a three with two seconds remaining, and a midcourt shot from Lowell was well wide at the buzzer, sending the game to overtime. Neither team lead by more than eight points, coupled with 17 lead changes and eight tie scores,

LIFETIME AGAINST BENTLEY: Merrimack is 33-43 lifetime against Bentley and 0-1 lifetime in the NCAA Tournament. Bentley has won the last 11 meetings, including last season in the NCAA  Tournament.

THIS SEASON VS. BENTLEY: The Warriors were swept this season by Bentley.
January 6 @ MC: BEN 91, MC 68: Foul trouble and poor shooting doomed the Warriors in a 91-68 loss at the Volpe Gym. Dee Mency finished with a game-high 25 points in 29 minutes, while Darren Duncan added 16 points and eight assists but was 5-for-17 from the field. Merrimack finished 6-for-31 from behind the arc and 23-for-69 overall from the field.
January 31 @ BEN: BEN 86, MC 79: Duncan scored 23 points and added nine assists, but Merrimack was edged by Bentley 86-79. Bentley used an 8-0 run with Jason Westrol scoring seven points in the final 2:50 to put the game away. The Falcons scored 10 of the final 12 points in the game.

MERRIMACK IN THE NCAAS: This will be the seventh NCAA appearance, fifth under Coach Hammel and the second straight trip to the tournament. Merrimack is 6-6 in the NCAAs after Saturday’s win.

1976-77: The Warriors reached the NCAA regional final before losing to Sacred Heart 110-104. They defeated Bridgeport 107-83 in the first round.

1977-78: One of the best teams in school history, the Warriors were 23-6 and lost in the regional finals after beating Bryant 116-91.

1990-91: After losing to Bentley in the NE-10 Championship, Merrimack, which was 21-9 that season, reached the NCAA tournament, losing to Franklin Pierce 81-77 in Worcester. Merrimack then downed Assumption 89-71 in the consolation game.

1991-92: Merrimack’s first Northeast-10 Conference Championship propelled the Warriors to the NCAA tournament before losing to Bridgeport 91-84 but defeated Assumption 105-84 in the consolation game.

1999-00: Winning the NE-10 Conference Championship with a 84-78 victory over AIC, the Warriors defeated Saint Rose in the first round of the NCAA tournament 92-64 before losing to Adelphi 90-64 in the second round.

2007-08: Merrimack returned to the NCAA tournament as the eighth seed and lost to top-ranked and unbeaten Bentley 81-68 despite 25 from Duncan and leading by 12 at halftime.