CHICOPEE, Mass. – Backed by a game-high 25 points by sophomore forward DeShawn Hamlet (Hartford, Conn.), Southern Vermont College defeated Elms College 85-79 Tuesday during the first night of the New England Collegiate Conference (NECC) men's basketball schedule at Picknelly Arena.
The Mountaineers held a 46-35 advantage on the boards to go 4-1 on the season (1-0 NECC) while the Blazers fall to 1-5 overall, 0-1 in the league.
Southern Vermont was 8-for-10 from the charity stripe in the last five minutes to hold on to the lead in the program's second win over Elms in 13 meetings between the two; the Mountaineers' only other victory came in an 84-82 decision at home January 31, 2011.
Hamlet added nine rebounds while sophomore forward Dolapo Olugbile (Laurel, Md.) had 21 points and eight boards. Sophomore guard Jerry Buchanon (Windsor, Conn.) led the Blazers with 23 points, and senior guard Isaiah Odunlami (Providence, R.I.) notched a double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds for the hosts.
In the opening stanza, neither team built more than a five-point lead. After Odunlami hit the front end of two free throws with 37 seconds remaining in the half to set the score at 39-37 in favor of the Mountaineers, sophomore Antoine White (Germantown, Md.) hit a layup with 15 seconds left to give Southern Vermont a narrow 41-37 edge at intermission.
Buchanon exploded for 18 points in the first half with 5-of-11 shooting from the floor and hitting 7-of-7 from the free throw line. Hamlet was equally impressive in the frame, connecting on 6-of-10 from the field and 3-of-3 from the charity stripe en route to 15 first-half points.
The Blazers came out firing in the second half as Buchanon knocked down a trey at the 18:04 mark to pull Elms to within one at 45-44 before freshman forward Conny Ihearahu (Largo, Md.) powered in back-to-back layups to give Elms a 48-45 lead. Ihearahu continued his hot shooting early in the second half and gave the Blazers their largest lead of the contest (eight points) at the 14:49 mark when he delivered a layup to set the score at 54-46.
Hamlet interrupted the surge with a step-back three-pointer and ignited a 16-6 run for Southern Vermont capped by a layup from Olugbile allowing the Mountaineers to reclaim the lead at 62-60 with 9:24 on the clock.
Southern Vermont mounted its largest lead of the game when Olugbile drained a jumper at the 7:22 mark to give the Mountaineers a 69-62 cushion, but Odunlami answered with a strike from long-distance to pull the Blazers back to within four.
Trailing 81-77 and following a pair of free throws by freshman Rayshawn Taylor (Silver Spring, Md.) with 26 ticks on the clock, Elms junior forward Kenny Lockett (Atlanta, Ga.) drove to the hoop and converted a layup to bring the Blazers to within two at 81-79 with 20 seconds left in the contest. Hamlet then made a layup to set the score at 83-79 with 11 seconds to play, and after freshman captain Davante Jordan (Great Mills, Md.) secured a critical offensive rebound and was fouled, he made the ensuing free throws to secure Southern Vermont's 85-79 victory.
Southern Vermont hit 41.7 percent from the field led by Hamlet's 9-of-19 shooting. Taylor finished 5-of-11 from the field and 3-of-7 from long distance en route to 19 points, and junior Izzy Melton (Silver Spring, Md.) added nine points.
Lockett finished with 18 points while Ihearahu added 11 points and six boards. Sophomore guard Derek Murphy (Columbia, Md.) chipped in 10 points including a pair of three-pointers. Senior guard Piere Simpson (East Hartford, Conn.) dished out five assists, and Buchanon added four helpers in the losing effort.
Elms hit 50 percent of its shots and did well from beyond the arc hitting 38.5 percent from three-point range.
Southern Vermont turns back to the non-conference schedule with the Tri-State Shootout at Mass. College of Liberal Arts this weekend; the Mountaineers play College of St. Joseph Friday in the opening night at 8 p.m. Elms looks ahead to Thursday's 7 p.m. tip at Rhode Island College.