Pierre dominates in SVC win over MCLA

BENNINGTON — The Mountaineer Athletic Center might as well have been renamed to "Mike Pierre's Personal Playground" Wednesday night, with how hot the senior got on the offensive end.

The Melrose, N.Y., native scored a game-high 47 points to lead the Southern Vermont College men's basketball team to a 99-84 win over the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.

His scoring output set a new SVC single-game record.

Pierre went 17-for-25 from the field and knocked down a game-high four 3-point shots, along with nine free throws. On top of his exploits on the offensive end, he also had a game-high five steals on defense.

Coming into the game, Pierre had a clear mindset.

"Today, I wanted to take a step as a leader and our team needed to take a step and move forward and make a statement," Pierre said. "As far as offense goes, it was probably our best offensive outing we've had in terms of assists, moving the ball and finding good shots."

SVC coach Dan Engelstad was impressed with how his senior leader took over the game.

"We needed him to step up. He came out the gate and really got hot early," Engelstad said. "Whenever you see the ball go in the basket early, it usually helps and Mike's a good shooter. For him to be able to see the ball go in from three just opened the entire game up today."

Other than Pierre, the Mountaineers got a strong game from forward Andre Hodo, who scored 13 points and was a force on the boards too with seven rebounds.

Daemond Carter and Claude Payne chipped in with nine and eight points, respectively in the contest.

Aaron Murray had an impressive day on the boards for SVC, pulling down a team-high 11 rebounds.

MCLA used a more balanced scoring attack to get its points, with five different players scoring in double digits. Keiland Cross led the way for the Trailblazers with 16 points.

Something Engelstad has harped upon a lot early in the season has been keeping his team's turnovers down. In the first handful of games, it was a problem for SVC, but in recent games, the Mountaineers have done a much better job hanging on to the ball.

Wednesday night proved to be great for SVC in that regard for most of the contest. The Mountaineers turned over the ball just 11 times. Coming into the final few minutes, they had just five turnovers.

"We got a little bit sloppy down the final four minutes of the game, but I like that we're not turning the ball over because that creates more opportunities for us to score the ball like we did tonight," Engelstad said.

Not only did they keep their own turnovers down, but they took advantage when MCLA turned the ball over, converting 32 points off of turnovers. Their opponent had just six points off turnovers.

Though the scoreboard might not show it, the Trailblazers did show some major fight throughout the contest, not letting the game get too out of hand. A major factor that kept them in somewhat of striking distance was their play on the boards.

MCLA outrebounded the Mountaineers by a 48-34 margin.

Despite the offense notching what was probably their best performance of the season, SVC knows it needs a better effort on the defensive end. The Mountaineers, who were a team predicated on strong defense early in the season, has now given up more than 80 points in three consecutive contests.

"Offense isn't the issue, we just need to become better defensively," Engelstad said. "We're still not there."

Before Wednesday's contest, SVC hadn't played a game since its trip down to Miami for the HoopMIA D3 Holiday Shootout, which concluded on December 20. With such a long lay off, conditioning is important and Wednesday was a solid first step to get back to where they need to be.

"We definitely worked some rust off today," Pierre said. "Coach had us running in practice to get us back in shape, but we're still not there yet. We still have some work to do."

The Mountaineers are back in action next Tuesday on the road against Wheelock. Tip off is set for 7:30 p.m.

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


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