Men’s Basketball Pulls Past Keene State for 73-67 Season-opening Win

kyle depollar dribbles the ball

BENNINGTON, Vt. – The Southern Vermont College men's basketball team was able to overcome an eight-point deficit with 8:27 left to go in the second half to defeat the Keene State College Owls, 73-67, Wednesday evening in a non-conference season opener at the Mountaineer Athletic Center.

KSC was up 34-29 at the intermission before doubling its lead a few minutes into the second period. SVC chipped away and went in front at 62-61 for its first advantage since there was 13:27 on the clock in the first half. The two sides battled down the stretch, but Southern Vermont was able to pull away with some clutch free throw shooting while preventing the Owls from getting back into it.

SVC (1-0) is next in action on Saturday when the team travels to Johnson State College for a 3 p.m. non-league tip-off. Keene State (0-1) looks ahead to a 5:30 p.m. Saturday contest at SUNY Plattsburgh.

Wednesday was a big win for Southern Vermont as the Owls were coming off a 2016-17 campaign that saw them reach the quarterfinal round of the NCAA Division III National Tournament; it was SVC's first victory in six all-time meetings against Keene State and avenged an 87-60 season-opening loss on the Owls' campus last year.

Mountaineer sophomore Tyler McLeod (Auburn, N.Y.) paced the hosts as he tied the game-high of 18 points in a strong 28 minutes off the bench; he also added a game-best 14 rebounds for the double-double. SVC senior Mike Pierre (Melrose, N.Y.) followed with 16 points and 12 rebounds for a double-double of his own, and junior Kyle Depollar (Rockville, Md.) had 12 points and three steals in the win. Senior Daemond Carter (Forestville, Md.) also reached double figures as he scored 10 points and notched four steals in 17 minutes of reserve time.

Keene State junior Ty Nichols (Springfield, Mass.) and sophomore Ben Olson (Derry, N.H.) both tied the game-high of 18 points while adding five assists and six rebounds, respectively. Freshman Miguel Prieto (Providence, R.I.) had 12 points off the bench while classmate Sidi Diallo (Lowell, Mass.) pulled down a team-best 11 rebounds.

The Owls went 27-62 (43.5 percent) from the floor, but SVC wasn't far off of that with a 41.1 percent (23-56) field goal clip of its own. The Mountaineers connected on seven 3-pointers to Keene State's two, and Southern Vermont owned a 45-33 advantage on the glass.

KSC jumped out to a quick 8-3 lead to begin the first half after a Nichols layup. Pierre responded with a triple to cut the deficit to two, and from there the two teams were rarely separated by more than a possession until late in the period. The Mountaineers briefly held a lead at 13-12 with 13:27 remaining after a McLeod layup, but the Owls quickly responded with a Prieto jumper to regain the upper hand.

Keene State managed to hold onto the advantage for the rest of the first half. After Mountaineer junior Josh Borders (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) drained a long two to bring his team within one at 23-22, the Owls responded by going on a 12-3 run, capped by another Nichols layup, to take a 34-25 lead with 2:47 left in the stanza. SVC was able to finish the half strongly, however, and scored the final five points to enter the locker room trailing just 34-29.

Keene State extended its separation to start the second half as Owl freshman Jake Dunkley (Attleboro, Mass.) made a layup with 15:43 on the clock for the visitors' largest lead of the night (43-33). The Mountaineers failed to give up, and they responded with baskets from Pierre and McLeod to cut the deficit to four.

Southern Vermont would trail throughout most the second half, but the Owls were never able to create much distance between the two teams after SVC made it a two-possession game. Pierre finally tied the game at 63-63 from the charity stripe with 4:14 remaining, and the MAC faithful could sense that the game was theirs.

Pierre would then go right back to the line soon-after and made another freebie to give the Mountaineers their first lead since early in the first half. Nichols sent the edge back to the Owls with a layup on the other end, but an ensuing Mcleod jumper put the Mountaineers ahead 66-65 with 3:35 remaining.

The two teams wouldn't score again until Depollar drained a huge, crowd-sparking three with 1:07 remaining. Trailing by four, the Owls attempted to extend the game by sending their opponent to the line, but the Mountaineers were able to make enough of their free throws and hold on for the 73-67 win.