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SNHU men playing for conference title, NCAA bid

Mar. 8—The men's basketball teams from Southern New Hampshire University and Southern Connecticut State will meet for a third time this season Saturday, and SNHU coach Jack Perri is hoping for more of the same.

SNHU defeated Southern Connecticut at home 84-71 on Jan. 13, and posted an 82-70 victory at Southern Connecticut on Feb. 21. Saturday's matchup will come in the Northeast 10 championship game at SNHU's Stan Spirou Field House (1 p.m.).

The winner receives an automatic bid to the NCAA Division II tournament.

"We shot very well both of those games and that's kind of par for the course for how we've been playing," Perri said. "Since our last game at their place we've really hit our stride offensively. I expect Southern to maybe do some different things than they did in the first two games defensively, because we were really efficient with our offense and shot a pretty high percentage in both those games."

Fifth-seeded SNHU (20-10, 13-9 NE10) will enter Saturday's contest on a six-game winning streak. That includes a 97-65 victory over top-seeded Saint Michael's in Wednesday's NE10 semifinals. SNHU set a program record by making 19 3-pointers in that game. The Penmen received 33 points from leading scorer Matt Becht and 23 from Kurtis Henderson in the win.

"This year our team is just loaded with shooting," Perri said. "That's really what we're great at. We're certainly better from outside the arc than we are from inside the arc."

SNHU guard Alex Rivera didn't play against Saint Michael's because of a knee injury. Rivera is the team's No. 2 scorer (12.6 points per game).

"Not sure he's going to play," Perri said. "We may need some guys to step up in his absence if he's not ready by Saturday."

Sixth-seeded Southern Connecticut (22-9, 13-9 NE10) defeated seventh-seeded Saint Anselm 82-73 in the semifinals. Point guard Marty Silvera collected 30 points, nine rebounds and nine assists in that victory.

Southern Connecticut also has the NE10 Defensive Player of the Year in 6-foot-6 sophomore forward Cherif Diarra, who led the conference in blocked shots (53) and rebounds per game (9.5).

Perri said limiting the points Southern Connecticut scores in transition and outrebounding the Owls are among SNHU's keys to victory.

"Defensively for us it's not going to change because we did have some success," he said. "They're a pretty high-scoring team and we held them under their average in both of those games.

"They're big and strong and physical up front, and they have a dynamic point guard. If we can limit their second chances that will certainly help us."

rbrown@unionleader.com