Men's basketball edges East Region's top squad, 67-61

MANCHESTER, N.H. – Taking on the top ranked team in the East Region, the Saint Anselm College men's basketball held on for a thrilling 67-61 victory over the University of Bridgeport on Tuesday at Stoutenburgh Gym.

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The Hawks improve to 8-3 on the year following the non-conference tilt. Bridgeport, who was ranked 19th nationally in NCAA Division II by D2SIDA and was receiving votes in the National Association of Basketball Coaches' Top 25 poll, dips to 9-3 on the season.

Saint Anselm hosts Post this Saturday, Dec. 30 at 4 p.m. in what is the second-to-last non-conference game of the regular season for the Hawks. To date, Saint Anselm has won five of its last six games played on the Hilltop and has won 12 of its last 13 games played on Al Grenert Court.

Junior Tim Guers played all 40 minutes, pouring home a team-best 20 points while reeling in 12 rebounds. Senior Taylor Fortin registered 16 points and was followed by eight-point performances from freshman Chris Paul and senior Kyle Green. Senior Austin Nydegger tallied 12 points in 16 minutes off the bench.

Bridgeport led by a game-high eight points, 24-16, with 7:51 to go in the first half following a Sharif Cobb layup. A 12-point scoring run by Saint Anselm propelled the hosts into the lead, 28-24, as Paul, Green, Fortin and Guers strung together foul shots and baskets down the stretch in the opening stanza.

Down by two with 29 seconds left, Green battled for a rebound underneath the basket and tipped the bouncing ball home as time expired to lift the Hawks to a 33-31 lead at the break. The Hawks led at halftime despite yielding 11 points on seven of its turnovers.

With the score tied at 44 with 10:43 left in regulation time, a clutch Nydegger triple set up by Fortin created a lead that the Hawks would not relinquish. Ahead by eight points with under five minutes, Bridgeport would make things interesting by cutting the Saint Anselm lead to two points, 59-57, with 3:16 remaining to force a Hawks timeout.

Out of the break, Guers made a clutch three-point basket with under three minutes remaining to boost the Hawks to a five-point lead. Ahead by only two points once again in the last minute, Fortin put the game out of reach with a layup and back-to-back free throws only seconds later to deliver an upset to the higher-ranked Purple Knights.

Bridgeport won the rebounding battle, 43-to-39, but the Hawks held a distinct edge in field goal percentage, making 44.4% of its shots opposing a 36.1% mark by the Purple Knights from the floor.  The Saint Anselm bench poured home 22 of its points, outscoring the Bridgeport reserves who combined for only 12 points. 

Cobb led the Purple Knights with 20 points while Sam Joseph secured nine rebounds.