Damon Alston's Career-High 31 Points Not Enough to Save Men's Basketball

Damon Alston's Career-High 31 Points Not Enough to Save Men's Basketball
SPRINGFIELD, Mass.--The Western New England University men’s basketball team fell victim to a spectacular shooting display by Ryan Sheehan of Nichols College in the Golden Bears’ 100-92 Commonwealth Coast Conference loss Saturday afternoon at the Alumni Healthful Living Center field house. The defeat drops the Golden Bears to 4-7 in conference play and 6-12 overall. With its road victory, Nichols improves to 6-5 in the CCC and 11-7 overall.

Western New England was able to erase all but one point off a 16-point halftime deficit, but a cold-shooting streak in the final three minutes ended the Golden Bears comeback hopes. Senior guard and co-captain Damon Alston finished the day with a career-high 31 points on 12-of-22 shooting.

Although Alston was great, Sheehan was even better. The sophomore forward tallied 38 points while showcasing a wide variety of shots, including deep 3-pointers, bank shots and turnaround jumpers. He was 4-for-7 from 3-point range, 8-for-8 from the free throw line, and 13-of-20 shooting from the field overall. Sheehan also scored 38 points in Nichols’ 119-112 win over Curry on Wednesday.

Sheehan’s great shooting day was part of an overall impressive shooting performance put on by the Bison. They shot 53.8 percent in the first half, and 53.6 percent in the second half, compared to the Golden Bears’ 45.2 percent in the first and 54.5 percent in the second.

Western New England dug itself into a deep hole early when it was unable to break the Nichols full-court press, leading to several points off turnovers. Coach Mike Theulen called a timeout six minutes into the game with the Golden Bears down 21-8 and trying to keep up with Nichols’ dizzying up-tempo pace. Western New England was eventually able to settle down on offense and cut the lead down to eight, but just before the half another Nichols run fueled by Sheehan pushed the margin back up to 16. The Bison led at halftime, 54-38.

The Golden Bears proved themselves willing and able to play Nichols’ up-tempo style in the second half, and made several small runs to get within single digits. After a couple of jumpers by Musa Elsir (13 points), a Garey Allen 3-pointer brought Western New England within one point, at 77-76, with six minutes to go in the game. The Golden Bears kept fighting, and kept the game close until the final buzzer.

Dennis Rinaldi added a double-double for the Golden Bears with 13 points and a game-best 12 rebounds, and Sinclair Lewis chipped in a career-high 14 points (10-for-10 on free throws) off the bench. Ryan Mickiewicz (5 points, 4 rebounds) dished six assists and Lewis had four.

Western New England set what is believed to be a school record, going a perfect 22-for-22 from the free throw stripe. Only Dickinson – which made all 27 of its attempts in a game versus Ursinus on Dec. 8 – has been perfect in a game with at least 20 free throws this season. 

The Golden Bears will try to rebound from this tough loss Tuesday night when they host Salve Regina in CCC action.

Jessy Michaud paced the Bison with eight assists.