Salem, Mass. - Visiting Clark used 53 percent
shooting and excellent scoring performances from a trio of players
to earn a hard-fought 86-81 win over host Salem State in the
opening round of the Salem State Holiday Classic on Tuesday evening
at Twohig Gymnasium.
The Cougars, who were playing their first game in 17 days following exams, improved to 8-3 overall, while the Vikings fell to 1-9, just one season after winning the program's 18th conference title and making its 21st appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
Clark, meanwhile, won its fourth straight contest and will face Becker College for the second time this season in the Classic's final day of games tomorrow at 3 p.m.
The Cougars took a 72-66 advantage after a Reed Powell (Worcester, Mass.) score with six minutes remaining, but the Vikings cut the deficit to as few as three on three separate occasions.
With the score 72-69, Brian Vayda (Sturbridge, Mass.) made a pair of baskets and Jonathan Phillips (Shrewsbury, Mass.) added a smooth interior finish to give the Cougars a comfortable lead that Mark Alexander (Providence, R.I.) put away by making four free throws in the final minute to give Clark the win.
The Scarlet and White led by as many as 10 in the first half, before Salem State rallied to take a 51-46 lead four minutes into the second half. Clark patiently chipped away, and took the lead for good when Alexander hit a jumper with 10:53 remaining to give his team a 64-62 advantage.
Alexander finished with a game-high 23 points on 7-for-14 shooting, marking the third straight game in which he has eclipsed 20 points. Vayda added a season-best 21 points to go with six rebounds and three assists, while Phillips added a career-high 13 points in just 15 minutes off the bench.
During its four-game winning streak, Clark has scored 80 or more points three times but Tuesday's win over the Vikings was the first time all season the Cougar defense allowed more than 72 points.