Providence, R.I. - Down by as many as 17 in the
opening moments of the second half, Clark mounted a furious
comeback that saw them take the lead briefly before eventually
falling 74-72 to host Rhode Island College at the Murray Center on
The Cougars found themselves trailing by 15 at halftime (44-29) and faced their biggest deficit of the game in the first minute of the second half before embarking on a 14-2 run that was capped with a spectacular play by Mark Alexander (Providence, R.I.). After a scramble for a loose ball gave Clark possession on the other side of half court with only two seconds left on the shot clock, Brian Vayda (Sturbridge, Mass.) floated an inbounds pass that allowed Alexander to run underneath, take one dribble and bank home a three-pointer that closed the score to 48-43 with less than 13 minutes remaining.
The Anchormen regrouped momentarily and kept their lead for the next few minutes until a top of the key triple by Jonathan Phillips (Shrewsbury, Mass.) and an inside finish by Vayda capped the comeback, giving the Cougars a 60-59 lead.
Rhode Island College regained the lead and pushed it up to five as senior Jake Grimes scored six straight points for the hosts to give control of the game back to the Anchormen.
Clark refused to go away, cutting a six point advantage down to 68-67 with 1:26 left following a three from Mitch Renshaw (Rutland, Mass.) and a jumper from Alexander.
As he had done all night, however, RIC junior guard Antone Gray made key plays when his team needed him. He made four free throws and forced a turnover in the final minute to put the Anchormen in position to win the game.
Remarkably, the Cougars still had a chance to send the game into overtime in the final seconds following a pair of Gray free throws.
Alexander went to the free throw line with 2.8 seconds remaining and made the first to make the score 74-72. He missed his second intentionally and the ball bounced high in the air before the Anchormen's Ryan Thompson was able to wrestle it away as time expired.
Clark opened the game with the lead as Vayda began establishing himself on the interior and Chris LoPiano (Franklin Square, N.Y.) provided the long range shooting.
After the Cougars' initial flurry, RIC took control of the first half as Gray scored 17 of his career-high 27 in the opening stanza. Following a first half in which they shot just 38 percent, Clark connected on 48 percent of its second half shots (14-for-29).
The Anchormen dominated the boards, holding a 46-28 advantage on the glass, including 18 on the offensive end which helped them register 16 second chance points.
The Cougars were led offensively by Alexander, LoPiano and Vayda who all finished with 17 points, while Renshaw totaled 11. LoPiano, who made his first five three-point attempts, including all four in the first half, was an efficient 6-for-8 from the floor.
Clark (1-1) returns to action on Friday when they meet Framingham State at 7:30 p.m. in the opening round of the Golden Bear Classic hosted by Western New England College.