BABSON PARK, Mass.—Senior Matt Palazini (Franklin, Mass.) scored a game-high 18 points and led three players in double figures as Babson College opened its season by blowing out Thomas College, 93-44, on Friday night in the first round of the Babson Invitational at Staake Gymnasium.
With the victory, Babson (1-0) will take on Skidmore College, who topped Rhode Island College, 79-70 in the nightcap, in Saturday's championship game at 4 p.m. Thomas and RIC will meet in the consolation game at 2 p.m.
Junior Eric Dean (Gilford, N.H.) poured in 15 points to go along with eight rebounds and three assists, first-year Joey Flannery (Acton, Mass.) had 12 points and five rebounds, while Kenny Ross (Furlong, Pa.) chipped in with eight points, nine assists, and five rebounds for Beavers.
Senior Garen Manzo (Millinocket, Maine) led Thomas (0-1) with eight points while first-year Zach Badohu (Boston, Mass.) chipped in with seven points. Sophomore Levi Barnes (Skowhegan, Maine) had six points and three assists.
The Beavers trailed only once, 3-2 after a three-pointer from Terriers' senior Franklin Salvador (Somerville, Mass.) just 1:28 into the contest. A pair of free throws from sophomore Justin Murray (Winslow, Maine) pulled Thomas to within 13-9 with 13:42 left in the opening half before the hosts broke the game open with a 37-12 spurt to close the half, taking a 50-21 lead into the break.
Babson then started the second half with a 14-5 run to put the game away for good. Junior John Wickey (Manchester, N.H.), who pulled down a game-high 12 rebounds, knocked down a pair of free throws, and after a jumper from the Terriers' Marquis Pollard (Philadelphia, Pa.), Palazini started an eight-point burst with a layup, followed by a pair of buckets from Dean sandwiched around two free throws from Ross.
The Beavers shot 45.3 percent from the floor (34-for-75) on the night and knocked down eight of their nine three-pointers in the first half, while holding Thomas to 25 percent shooting (15-for-60). The Green and White also held a 62-37 advantage on the glass, and grabbed 24 offensive rebounds.
In the second game of the night, Skidmore outscored Rhode Island College 24-11 over the final 6:41 of the second half to open the season with a 79-70 victory.
Sophomore Erik Sanders (New York, N.Y.) led four Thoroughbreds in double figures with 19 points, while classmate Aldin Medunjanin (New York, N.Y.) contributed 17 points, six rebounds and six assists. Junior Connor Merrill (Panton, Vt.) had 14 points and eight rebounds, and sophomore Tanner Brooks (Pikesville, Md.) notched 12 points and five rebounds.
Senior Nyheem Sanders (Pawtucket, R.I.) led the Anchormen with 19 points, junior Chris Burton had 18 points and a game-high 10 rebounds, and first-year Austin Cilley (Westerly, R.I.) chipped in with 12.
Rhode Island College got 16 first-half points from Burton and forced 17 Skidmore turnovers to take a 36-34 lead into the half. They grabbed an early 19-8 lead before the Thoroughbreds used an 11-0 run, fueled by six points from Sanders and five from Brooks to pull even at 19-19. Neither team led by more than four points over the final 8:20 of the opening period.
The second half featured seven ties and four lead changes before Skidmore took control of the game late. Trailing by four, Medunjanin and Merrill each knocked down a pair of free throws to tie the game at 59-59, before Merrill finished a layup and knocked down one-of-two free throws on the Thoroughbreds next two possession to go ahead 62-59. Medunjanin and Sanders followed with layups to push the lead to seven, and after RIC senior Michael Palumbo (Providence, R.I.) scored to stop an 11-0 run, Brooks buried a three-pointer to give Skidmore its biggest lead of the night at 69-61 with 4:28 to go.
The Anchormen pulled within five on a pair of free throws by Cilley with 2:13 remaining, but the Thoroughbreds were able to make five late foul shots to seal the win.