BENNINGTON -- It took the Southern Vermont College men's basketball team over 30 minutes to finally create separation against Lesley University on Tuesday, but when the Mountaineers finally made their move it resulted in a 68-54 win that ended a three-game slide for SVC.
"We needed this one," said SVC coach Dan Engelstad. "It could have been by one point. We needed a win [tonight]."
DeShawn Hamlet led the way for SVC with a 13 point, 14 rebound performance while also dealing with foul trouble, and Eddie Mack III came up with 12 points, including two big threes in the second half, to help SVC to the win.
Lesley's Mike Kaufman led all scorers with 16 points in the contest.
In the first half, SVC came out and took an early 8-2 lead before Lesley would come back and tie it at 8-8.
The Mountaineers then pushed out again, taking a 16-10 lead on a steal by Jordan Alston that resulted in an assist to Dolapo Olugbile (9 points), but the lead didn't stick as Lesley responded by outscoring SVC 19-10 to close out the half.
During that stretch, Lesley would hit 12 free throws to help take a 29-26 lead going into half. In the first half, Lesley shot 15-for-18 from the charity stripe while SVC struggled, shooting 35.7 percent on 5-of-14 shooting from the line.
"Not only did we miss the free throws, we fouled on a lot of the misses," Engelstad said. "[Lesley] weren't making any field goals, so I thought our defensive effort was good. The problem was, we weren't making ours."
To open the second Mack III hit a trey to tie things up and stole a pass and took it the distance to put SVC up two, but Lesley countered with a 7-0 run capped on a triple from Kaufman, one of five threes on the night for him, to take a 36-31 lead.
But once Lesley took the five point lead, it was as if the light switch was turned on for SVC.
Brandon Casella (5 points) hit a jumper to start the SVC comeback, part of an 11-0 run that gave SVC the lead at 42-36, then hit two of three free throws to tie the game up at 36-36. Another free throw, this time from Izzy Melton (7 points), gave SVC the lead for good and a trey from Jermaine Campbell (6 points) put SVC up 40-36.
When SVC took the lead, the crowd at the Mountaineer Athletic Center came to life and Engelstad noted that his team fed off of that energy.
"We didn't give them anything to cheer about [in the first half]," Engelstad said. "Then in the second, we got a couple stops and the crowd came to life and our guys responded by keeping the energy up."
SVC would push the lead to double digits on a bucket by Alston to make it 51-39. Lesley would get the deficit back down to nine at 52-43 on a free throw from Justin Rosa (10 points), but SVC put together a 6-0 run, with Alston and Melton each hitting two free throws during the stretch, to push the lead back to 58-43 and the Mountaineers cruised the rest of the way.
Campbell finished with five rebounds and two steals off the bench for SVC, Melton had 11 rebounds off the bench and Olugbile added seven boards while Casella chipped in with six. Kris Bennett had eight points and nine boards for Lesley, while Rosa added seven rebounds. Rosa also led all players in assists, tallying four for the Lynx.
SVC also shot 17-for-22 from the free throw line in the second half while Lesley went 6-for-8.
After the game, Engelstad noted the importance of his role players in the game. With the starting crew having a relatively off night for SVC, Engelstad thought the energy from the bench helped swing the game in their favor.
"We needed [them] in a big way. Some of the guys that were starters didn't have their ‘A' games. When you have nights like that, when your guys that usually have a check mark and think they will show up, you need to find someone to step up.
"[Campbell and Alston], those are two freshmen that stepped up and made big plays for us. Hopefully they can continue this and keep up the production."
SVC moves to 13-8, 7-5 in the New England Collegiate Conference, while Lesley falls to 2-15, 0-9.