Bell's game-best 37 points guides Falcons to key MASCAC victory
FITCHBURG, MASS. - The Fitchburg State men's basketball team had its work cut out for them when they hosted a Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) undefeated in Salem State on Saturday afternoon.
The Falcons rose to the occasion, coming out on top of an 87-83 decision at Parkinson's Gymnasium.
"They were 5-0 in the league and that was a big deal. This was an important game for the standings and how the season is going to finish out. For us, having a good showing, competing, and then pulling out the win will really speak to our confidence going forward," said Fitchburg State head coach Titus Manderson
Senior Jaleel Bell led the charge for Fitchburg State in the win, dropping his fourth double-double of the season with 37 points (12-for-20 from the field) and 11 boards in 37 minutes played. It was his second-highest point total of the season, and third time scoring 30+ this year.
"He came out from the beginning and set a tone that anyone watching could say, this kid is gonna' try to carry this team. It was right from the tip, he had an attitude today," said Manderson.
The two teams came off the opening tip with tremendous tempo, but Fitchburg State was able to control the opening 20-minutes of play. During that time, Bell set the tone, scoring the first eight points for Falcons and 20 in the half.
After heading into the halftime break with a comfortable 50-32 lead, the Green & Gold had to do everything it could to stay ahead in the second stanza as Salem State came out of the break to claw its way back into the game.
In the opening five minutes of the second half, the Falcons were held scoreless before the Vikings netted a slight 6-2 run. During that time, defenses reigned supreme as a combined six blocks and six steals from the teams raised the crowd to their feet – and kept them there.
With 11:14 to-go in the game, Bell took a pass from junior Lance Hill in the corner before draining the contested shot, pushing the Falcon lead to 16 (53-47). Salem State wasted no time for a response as junior Rayshawn Matthews hit a triple from the elbow moments later.
That jumper from Matthews sparked an 11-2 scoring run that got the Vikings within ten points of closing the deficit (65-58) with plenty of time left on the clock.
Just after the six-minute mark of the game, Salem State got out on another scoring run – this time with free throws – as six straight from the stripe became the precursor of three consecutive buckets by freshman Sean Bryan, leading an 11-2 advantage and giving the Vikings a 74-72 lead.
After free throws from junior Josh Bosworth and a layup by senior Leonny Burgos, giving the Falcons a two-point lead with 2:05 left in the game, freshman Nicholas Tracy gave his team some separation when he jumped the passing lane before finishing a layup on the other end.
Following the steal, Tracy poured in four more crunch time points to give the Falcons an 86-83 lead with just 21 seconds left.
Throughout the game, Fitchburg State knocked down 31-of-65 from the field (47.7%) while making 6-of-10 (60%) from beyond the arc. Salem State finished 30-of-65 from the floor (46.2%) and 7-of-16 (43.8%) from triple. Salem State enjoyed a slight margin on the glass, grabbing 39 rebounds to the Falcons 37.
Junior Mustapha Koroma led the bench of Fitchburg State, scoring 12 points in 22 minutes and picking up three rebounds. Tracy ended with 11 points and three steals in 22 minutes of action.
Salem State had four players in double-digits as Marcus Faison led his team with 16 points and 15 rebounds. Junior guard Shaquan Murray finished as the Viking's top-scorer with 17 points. Sophomore Alexander Santos (13 points) and Bryan (16 points) also played solid minutes for Salem State.
Next up for the teams, Salem State (11-7, 5-1 MASCAC) hosts Bates College on January 25th at 7:00 p.m. while Fitchburg State (8-9, 3-2 MASCAC) faces off with its second straight MASCAC-foe, traveling to Framingham State on the same day for a 6:00 p.m. tip-off.
Release courtesy of Fitchburg State student journalist Kyle Prudhomme