Worcester, Mass. – In the end, the final score was fitting. On a day when Clark University held Pat Oroszko Day, the end result showed everyone that his spirit remains in a place he loved so much.
The Cougars jumped out to an early lead and never looked back, dispatching of Western New England, 77-52 – a margin of 25 points – the exact number that Oroszko wore during his four years as a member of the Clark program. Earlier this year, Oroszko, who became an assistant coach at his alma mater after his playing days ended, passed away after a valiant battle with esophageal cancer.
On several occasions throughout Central Massachusetts, the basketball community has taken time to remember him but today was the basketball program's turn and the University community wrapped their collective arms around his family by packing the stands, most people in white t-shirts with his name and number emblazoned on the back.
Then, many of the student-athletes he recruited to Clark and coached, went out a sent the Scarlet and White to an impressive 7-2 heading into the semester break, surpassing their win total from all of 2015-16.
Score: Clark University 77, Western New England 52
Records: Clark University 7-2, Western New England 1-8
Location: Kneller Athletic Center, Worcester, Mass.
How It Happened:
Luca McCormick (Bradenton, Fla.) kick started the Clark offense in the early going by drilling three three-pointers in the first three minutes of the game and after Joe Atkinson (Milford, Mass.) and Brendan Kittredge (Clinton, Mass.) both followed their own misses with putbacks, the Cougar advantage was already at ten, 15-5.
That lead ballooned to 24-7 after Kittredge knocked down a three-pointer of his own, capping a 9-2 run in less than three minutes.
Western New England clawed its way back into the game before the half closed out and when Mike Gelineau (Waltham, Mass.) collected a steal and finished with a two-handed dunk on the other end, suddenly the Golden Bears were within seven at 32-25 with 2:21 left in the first half.
Clark was able to go into halftime ahead 38-27 after a David Mercier (Milford, Mass.) three-pointer and then the lead grew to 14 when John Pisacreta (Andover, Mass.) opened up the second half with a three-point bomb. Moments later the Cougar bulge was 18 after Mercier made two free throws and McCormick scored inside.
As the half wore on, the Clark lead continued to grow and when Josh St. Fort (Milton, Mass.) scored on a reverse layup and McCormick dropped in another three-pointer, the Cougars looked to be in control at 60-40 with more than ten minutes to play.
Western New England made one final push and a 9-0 run that featured a Gelineau three-pointer, a Mike Pettway (Bridgeport, Conn.) basket and an inside hoop from Mayo Aina (Providence, R.I.) had them within 11 at 60-49.
Clark, however, put the game away with a 17-2 spurt that highlighted by a Lamar Berk (Saint Augustine, Fla.) three-pointer, a Kittredge layup and was capped by a Robby Girardin (Goffstown, N.H.) layup off of a feed from Jared Stape (Bethesda, Md.) that made the score 77-51.
Inside The Numbers:
The Cougars held the Golden Bears to just 34 percent shooting, including a frigid 29 percent in the final 20 minutes. Clark also controlled the interior, holding a 45-25 edge on the glass, a 24-12 edge on points in the paint as well as a 19-3 bulge in second chance points.
For The Nation:
McCormick scored 11 of his game-high 18 points in the first half, while Kittredge came off the bench and was once again effective, totaling 14 points on 6-for-8 shooting.
Atkinson stuffed the stat sheet again with eight points, nine rebounds and five assists and both Pisacreta and Mercier added seven points each. Adam Converse (Woodstock, Conn.) had his second straight strong outing, finishing with eight points, including a tremendous two-handed follow dunk midway through the second half.
For The Foes:
Gelineau came off the bench to lead the Golden Bears with ten points, while Aina had nine points and four rebounds.
Clark is off until December 28 when they face Edgewood University in Daytona Beach, Fla. in the Land of Magic Classic, while Western New England is off until after the New Year when they visit the University of New England.