DARTMOUTH, Mass. – Senior Jake Laga (Northampton, Mass.) poured in a season-high 21 points to lead the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth to a 94-82 victory over visiting, previously-unbeaten Salem State University this afternoon in a NCAA Division III men's basketball contest at the Tripp Athletic Center.
The Corsairs won for the second straight time to even their overall record at 2-2, while the Vikings were handed their first loss of the season to slip to 2-1.
UMass Dartmouth shot 64.5 percent (40-for-62) from the field, including 53.3 percent (8-for-15) from long range, to generate its highest offensive output of the season. Laga was 8-for-11 from the floor, including 2-for-2 from long range, to lead five Corsairs in double figures in scoring. The senior captain also pulled in five rebounds and handed out four assists.
Senior Josh Castillo (Lynn, Mass.) and juniors Wale Abraham (Lynn, Mass.) and Jordan Rezendes (Onset, Mass.) each scored 14 points, while sophomore Jon Robinson (Chatham, Mass.) made all five attempts from the field, including a 3-pointer, for 11 points. Seven of the nine student-athletes who recorded a rebound collected at least three, paced by Abraham's six. Abraham also turned in a dominant performance on the defensive end with four blocks and two steals.
Senior Bryan Ortiz (Salem, Mass.) scored 17 of his 24 points in the second stanza to lead a rejuvenated Viking offense. Freshman Marcus Faison (Cambridge, Mass.) posted a double-double of 14 points and 14 rebounds, while senior Hamed Akanni (Fitchburg, Mass.) contributed 18 points and six boards. Senior Nicholas Grassa (Lynn, Mass.) also reached double digits in the scoring column with 12, including a pair of deep trifectas.
Salem State scored the opening basket of the contest, but Laga drained a 3-pointer to spark the 10-0 run that gave the Corsairs a lead they would never relinquish. Senior John Genkos (Worcester, Mass.) capped the surge with five consecutive points, including a triple.
UMass Dartmouth opened its largest lead of the afternoon with a 15-3 spurt. Rezendes fueled the burst with six points, while four other players contributed to the run to give the hosts a 34-16 lead with just over eight minutes, 30 seconds left in the frame.
The Vikings outscored the Corsairs 19-10 over the remainder of the half to cut their deficit to nine points, 44-35, at the break.
UMass Dartmouth utilized a 9-0 run to balloon its advantage to 16 points (62-46), but Salem State responded with a 19-4 surge to whittle its deficit to one point with just under nine minutes remaining in regulation. Akanni hit consecutive lay-ups, while Ortiz knocked down back-to-back three pointers to trim the margin to 66-60. Junior Anthony Hodges (Worcester, Mass.) closed the run with three straight points to make it a 66-65 ballgame.
Robinson was able to quell the fire with a lay-up to help the hosts' regain their footing.
The game remained within two possessions into the final four minutes when UMass Dartmouth closed strong down the stretch with a decisive 13-4 run. Robinson answered an Ortiz triple with one of his own to ignite the surge. He was the catalyst with five points, while Rezendes and Laga each had four.
Salem State was able to stay within striking distance thanks in large part to its defensive pressure, forcing 19 turnovers. The Vikings connected on 45.7 percent (32-for-70) from the floor, including 31.8 percent (7-for-22) from behind the 3-point arc.
UMass Dartmouth will return to action at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 25, when the Corsairs host Curry College in a non-conference contest.