CHICOPEE, Mass. – Elms College sophomore guard Derek Murphy (Columbia, Md.) notched a game-high 21 points highlighted by 4 of 7 shooting from beyond the arc to help the Blazers secure a hard-fought 71-61 victory over Becker College in Saturday afternoon's New England Collegiate Conference (NECC) men's basketball game at Picknelly Arena.
With the win, Elms improves to 7-9 on the season, 5-3 in league action, while Becker moves to 7-8 overall, 4-3 in conference play.
In the first half of action neither team held more than a five point lead as the sides played to five tie scores and exchanged advantages 10 times before Elms' senior forward Isaiah Odunlami (Providence, R.I.) hit the back end of two free throws with 18 seconds left to set the score at 32-31 in favor of Becker at intermission.
Murphy and guard Andre French (Torrington, Conn.) led the Blazers with 10 and nine points in the opening period, while junior forward Kenny Lockett (Atlanta, Ga.) cleaned up the glass with eight first half rebounds. Freshman forward Conny Ihearahu (Largo, Md.) added three blocks in the stanza.
Tyler Roberson (Irvington, N.J.) led the Hawks in the first frame with 11 points and dished out three assists alongside Chris Canady (Newark, N.J.) who had three helpers. Kyle Credle (Queens, N.Y.) drained a pair of treys and David Maturah (Windsor Locks, Conn.) pulled down six rebounds.
In the second half, Elms posted a narrow 53-50 lead following a French strike from long distance before Canady pulled Becker to within one at 53-52 with 6:00 to play in the contest. Ihearahu then collected an offensive rebound and made the put-back, and Murphy then hit the front end of two free throws to give the Blazers a 56-52 edge with 4:51 to play.
After French and Becker's Donovin Ford-Hayes (Windsor Locks, Conn.) exchanged buckets, Ford-Hayes nailed a three-pointer with 2:48 on the clock to pull the Hawks to within on at 58-57. Elms answered as Murphy converted a pair of foul shots and then canned a three-pointer with 1:40 to play to give Elms a 63-57 lead. A layup by Odunlami and a pair of made free throws from both Ihearahu and Odunlami with under one minute to play allowed Elms to post a 69-57 lead and the Blazers were able to maintain a double-digit lead despite baskets from Rashaun Liggon (Elizabeth, N.J.) and Roberson to seal the 71-61 victory.
French finished with 16 points on 6 of 17 from the floor and 4 of 10 from three-point range. He added six rebounds and five assists in the winning effort, while Odunlami hit 11 of 16 free throws and notched 15 points in the win. Ihearahu added 10 points and 14 rebounds, while Lockett registered nine points and a game-best 15 boards.
Roberson led Becker in defeat with 20 points, while Ford-Hayes and Liggon netted 13 and 12 points respectively. Maturah and Liggon each added three blocked shots, while Maturah grabbed a team-high 11 rebounds for the Hawks.
Elms returns to non-conference action on Wednesday, Jan. 22 when it travels to Albertus Magnus College for a 7:00 p.m. contest.