Worcester, Mass. - Paced by a season-high 27
points from senior Mark
Alexander (Providence, R.I.) and another stellar team
performance from behind the arc, Clark closed out the first half of
its schedule with a wire-to-wire, 90-65 win over visiting Nichols
College on Saturday afternoon at the Kneller Athletic Center.
With the victory, the Cougars move to 7-3 on the season, matching the program's best ten-game start since the 2002-03 season - the last time they advanced to the NCAA Tournament.
The loss for the Bison, meanwhile, snaps a four-game winning streak and sends them into their semester break with a 6-3 overall ledger.
Clark came out of the gates soaring, scoring 17 of the game's first 19 points to take an early lead. After an easy Alexander breakaway layup made the score 19-6, Nichols called their fourth timeout less than seven minutes into the game.
The Cougar offensive onslaught continued however, as they connected on nine triples in the first 20 minutes. The last one came courtesy of an Alexander feed to Jack Minister (Manchester, England), who dropped in his third of the half as time expired to give Clark a commanding 52-29 halftime bulge.
Nichols, led by Pete Atkins (Gainesville, Fla.) came out strong in the second half, trimming the 23-point halftime lead down to 16 at 55-39, but the Cougars answered back with a 10-2 run capped by a Mitch Renshaw (Rutland, Mass.) jumper to move the Clark advantage to 65-41 with 13:37 left. The lead ballooned to as many as 31 at 84-53 on another inside hoop from Renshaw before both teams emptied their respective benches.
For the game, Clark shot a scorching 53 percent from the field (29-for-55) and 55 percent from behind the arc, connecting on 15 of their 27 attempts. Although the Cougars committed 20 turnovers, they held a sizeable advantage on the boards (39-26) and had 23 assists on 29 baskets.
Nichols, meanwhile, struggled from the outset, shooting just 39 percent from the floor and 50 percent from the free throw line.
Alexander, who is averaging 26 points per game in his last two contests, made 10-of-13 attempts and grabbed six rebounds in 27 minutes. Sophomore Brian Vayda (Sturbridge, Mass.) registered his second double-double of the season and the ninth of his career with 14 points and 11 rebounds. Minister, who made four-of-six three- pointers, totaled a season-high 15 points and five rebounds. Chris LoPiano (Franklin Square, N.Y.), meanwhile had a career-high tying nine assists and just one turnover in 21 minutes of action.
Atkins led the way for the Bison, ending with 18 points on 7-for-11 shooting, while Chris Paquin (Barre, Mass.) joined him in double figures with 10 points.
Clark now has 17 days off until their next contest - a regional showdown with Salem State at the Vikings' Holiday Classic on December 29 at 7 p.m., while Nichols won't return to the hardwood until a January 5th home game with UMass-Boston.