SALEM, Mass. – Junior forward Hakeem Animashaun (Dedham, Mass.) poured in 33 points and junior guard Sean Bryan (Lowell, Mass.) totaled 27 points, nine rebounds and six assists as the Salem State University men's basketball team clinched the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) regular season title for the 28th time with a 108-97 victory over visiting Bridgewater State University on Wednesday evening at Twohig Gymnasium.
The Vikings improve to 15-8 on the season and 9-1 in the MASCAC, while the visiting Bears fall to 6-15 overall and 4-5 in conference play.
Animashaun went 12-17 (70.5%) from the field, topping the 30-point mark for the fifth time this season. He also grabbed six boards and blocked a pair of shots.
The Vikings overcame a career-high 36 points from BSU junior forward Rayshon Ward (Fayetteville, N.C.) who also corralled a game-best 15 rebounds (seven offensive) for his team-leading 12th double-double of the season. Ward connected on 15 of 23 (65.2%) field goal attempts including 2-for-4 from behind the arc. He was also a perfect 4-for-4 at the free throw line and blocked three shots.
Both teams were efficient from the offensive end in the first half, shooting a combined 61.1% from the field. The opening stanza featured 12 ties and 13 lead changes as neither team managed to build an advantage larger than five points. With the game tied 28-28, five straight points by Ward, including a three-pointer, gave Bridgewater State a 33-28 lead with 10:39 left in the period. Animashaun – 17 first half points and Bryan – 16 first half points, helped erase the deficit as a bucket by Animashaun and two Bryan free throws put the Vikings back on top 43-40 at the 5:45 mark. The two teams exchanged baskets into the stretch before a layup by senior forward Temitope Bailey (West Springfield, Mass.) put Salem State ahead 54-50 at the break.
Sophomore guard Evan Mason (Gloucester, Mass.) provided a spark for the Vikings with seven first half points on 3-of-3 shooting. Ward, who went 8-10 (80%) from the floor paced the Bears with 17 points before intermission. Junior forward Dimitri St. Louis (Brockton, Mass.) and freshman guard Admar Jaramillo (Brockton, Mass.) each tallied nine points for Bridgewater State.
Salem State and Bridgewater State continued their hot hand into the second half, as the Vikings clung to a one-point lead, 60-59, following two free throws by BSU junior guard Ryan Carney (Easton, Mass.). However, Salem State, which connected on 53.7% of their shots in the second half, began to pull away, as a 13-0 run highlighted by an Animashaun dunk put Salem state ahead 73-59 with 13:48 remaining.
The Bears would get no closer than nine points (81-72) the rest of the way, while Salem go up by as many as 18 points on two separate occasions (96-78, 106-88).
Salem State to hit the century mark for the fourth time this year. Bridgewater State has allowed 100 or more points in each of its last two games. The Bears have also given up at least 90 points in a game six times this season. BSU's 97 points marked a season-high.
Sophomore guard Alex De La Rosa (Boston, Mass.) added 10 points for Salem State while Bailey checked in with eight points and nine rebounds. The Vikings shot 58.8% (40-68) for the game, 40% (4-10) from behind the arc and 82.8% (24-29) at the charity stripe.
St. Louis and Carney finished with 16 and 12 points, respectively, for the Bears, while sophomore forward Nick Crocker (East Falmouth, Mass.) chipped in with ten points. Bridgewater State shot 50.6% (39-77) for the game including 6-for-18 (33%) from three-point range. The Bears also went 13-for-17 (76.5%) at the line.
The MASCAC schedule continues for both teams on Saturday afternoon at one. The Bears host Framingham State University while the Vikings entertain Westfield State University.
Notes: Prior to Ward's 36-point effort, the last Bear to score at least 35 points in the game was Tom Cuddihy who tallied 35 points in a 79-71 win at Worcester State on February 13, 2007.