SMITHFIELD, R.I. – A 15-0 run midway through the second half would give the Bryant University men's basketball team a 20-point lead with five minutes to play and afford the home side all the cushion it needed en route to an 85-70 victory over Sacred Heart Thursday night in league action at the Chace Athletic Center.
Sacred Heart (4-14, 1-2 Northeast Conference) would go on a 6:30 scoreless streak that saw the Bulldogs (10-8, 2-1) go up, 77-57, with 5:12 left on the clock. And while the Pioneers fought through the final whistle, they would only close the gap to 15 points at the final buzzer.
Senior forward Alex Francis (Harlem, N.Y.) picked up his third double-double of the season and 29th of his Bulldog career in the victory, as well as recording his fourth-consecutive 20-point game to finish the night with 27 points and a season-high 11 boards while going 12-of-18 from the floor. The performance moved Francis up to No. 13 on the NEC's all-time scoring list.
Senior Corey Maynard (Adelaide, Australia) cruised to 19 points (4-7 from long range) on a strong all-around performance, dishing out a game-best seven assists with four steals on the night. Junior Dyami Starks (Duluth, Minn.) also finished in double figures with 14 points.
Louis Montes paced Sacred Heart and the contest with 28 points, with Chris Evans finishing as the only other Sacred Heart player in double digits (10 points). De'von Barnett and Mostafa Abdel Latif each pulled in nine boards to lead the visitors, who shot 38.3 percent from the floor on the day.
The game stayed tight until a three from Maynard gave the Bulldogs a 31-26 lead with 7:29 left in the first half. A Francis layup renewed a five-point edge for the Black and Gold heading into the final five minutes of the frame, 37-32, and Bryant took a half-high seven-point advantage with 1:07 on the clock, 44-37.
Sacred Heart would hold for the last shot of the frame, and an Abdel Latif layup would send the teams to the locker room with a 44-40 score in favor of the hosts.
The Bulldogs grew the home side's lead to eight points, 57-49, less than five minutes into the second session, and Maynard would score eight-straight points for a 62-51 advantage at the 14:12 mark.
Curtis Oakley (South Euclid, Ohio) gave Bryant its first double-digit lead of the night halfway through the second stanza, 68-57, as part of the 15-0 run that would take up 6:30 and run the clock down to 5:12 for a 77-57 Bulldog advantage that would put the game out of reach.
The Bulldogs finished the contest shooting 53 percent from the field and 32 percent from 3-point range with a 7-of-11 mark from the charity stripe. As a team, Bryant handed out a season-high 21 helpers but was outrebounded by the Pioneers, 44-32.
The Bulldogs hit the road for their next outing, a Saturday afternoon matchup against Fairleigh Dickinson (3 p.m.).