SVC upsets Keene State on opening night

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BENNINGTON — Coming into Wednesday night's season-opening game against Keene State College, the Southern Vermont College men's basketball team knew they had a tough task on its hands to come out with a victory against the Owls.

KSC had just come off of a NCAA Division III tournament run, where they made it all the way to the Elite Eight. They were also returning one of the better players in the nation in junior forward Ty Nichols.

Even for a consistent conference tournament team like the Mountaineers, it was going to be tough to come out on the winning end. SVC was well aware of how good its opponent was, but after a strong second half on both ends, the Mountaineers came out on the winning side. SVC would go on to top the Owls 73-67 at Mountaineer Athletic Center.

The win was the Mountaineers first win over KSC in program history so it had a special significance for the team.

"That's a special win for us. That's a team that our school has never beaten before," SVC coach Dan Engelstad said. "Coming back in second half and playing the way we did; this group showed me some resiliency to be able to do that, so I'm proud of them.

The Mountaineers were down by five points at halftime and struggled to slow down KSC on defense. The Owls shot 50 percent from the field in the first half, compared to the Mountaineers 37.5 percent.

The second half saw an inspired performance from SVC as they outscored KSC 44-33 in the second half. Key rebounds on both sides of the ball gave the Mountaineers a major advantage.

"Getting stops especially when we took the lead was huge," Engelstad said on what put his team in the driver's seat. "At the end of the game, the last four minutes, we just kept getting stops and rebounds. That's what good teams do. To hold a team like that under 70 after turning it over 28 times, that's a huge win."

Four different players scored in double-digits for SVC. Tyler McLeod led the way with 18 points, followed by Mike Pierre (16), Kyle Depollar (12) and Daemond Carter (10). McLeod and Pierre both had double-digit rebounds as well to complete the double-double.

KSC saw a strong performance from Nichols and Ben Olson, who both scored 18 points in the contest.

Three-point shooting was a major difference in the game as the Mountaineers shot 46.7 percent from behind the arc, while the Owls shot just 11.1 percent.

SVC also outrebounded KSC by a margin of 44-33.

Engelstad pointed to turnovers as a major area that needs to be addressed for his team, with 28 in total in the game.

This win means a lot to the Mountaineers, but they won't let it get in their head. They're more focused on what the next challenge is.

"That's a really great program and to beat a team like that is great for our program, but now we have to put it in the past and look forward to Johnson State," Engelstad said.

The Mountaineers will be back in action Saturday, as they prepare to take on Johnson State on the road.

Adam Aucoin can be reached at aaucoin@benningtonbanner.com and at @AAucoin_Banner on Twitter.


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