MEDFORD, Mass.—Babson College trimmed a 14-point deficit down to just two in the closing minute before suffering a 75-70 loss to Salem State University in the championship game of the New England Big 4 Challenge on Sunday afternoon at Cousens Gym.
Babson, which was playing in its fifth straight Big 4 Challenge title game, falls to 4-4 on the year, while Salem State improves to 6-2 with its first tournament championship.
Senior Nick Comenale (New York Mills, N.Y.) finished with 20 points, four assists and three steals, while classmate Bradley Jacks (Fort Washington, Md.) produced a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds to go along with a career-high six blocked shots. Both players were named to the 2017 Big 4 Challenge All-Tournament team.
First-year Andrew Jaworski (Tolland, Conn.) added 15 points and five boards for the Beavers.
Senior Shaquan Murray (Boston, Mass.) poured in a game-high 26 points and classmate Drew Healy (Lowell, Mass.) finished with 14 points and 17 rebounds for the Vikings. Tournament Most Outstanding Player Rayshaw Matthews (Boston, Mass.) chipped in with 11 points, six boards and three assists in the win.
The Green and White started 9-of-11 from the field and got 15 points from Comenale and 13 from Jaworski in a first half that featured nine ties and 13 lead changes. The Beavers led by as many as three in the opening seven minutes of the stanza and later rallied from a 39-35 deficit to go into the locker room deadlocked at 43-43.
After converting layups on back-to-back possessions to start the second half, Babson scored on just three of its next 23 trips as Salem State opened a 64-53 lead with 7:54 remaining. Sophomore Julian Alexis (Somerville, N.J.) stopped a scoring drought of over four minutes to cut the deficit to eight, but Matthews and Murray responded with back-to-back triples to push the Vikings' margin to 70-56 with 5:38 left.
Comenale and junior Brandon Johnson (Mount Vernon, N.Y.) combined to score 10 points during a 12-0 run that brought the Beavers within 70-68 on a pair of free throws by Comenale with 39 seconds to go. Salem State offset a layup by Jaworski by going 3-of-4 at the free throw line to make it 73-70 with 19 seconds remaining, and Comenale's potential game-tying attempt was well off the mark with three seconds remaining.
Babson, which shot just 34.4 percent in the second half, was held to a season-low 42.2 percent from the field on the afternoon. The Beavers also got outscored 40-30 in the paint and were outrebounded 49-34.
Babson closes out the semester when it hosts nationally-ranked Amherst on Thursday at 7 p.m., while Salem State travels to WPI next Saturday at 2 p.m.
• The Beavers, who had won three straight against Salem State, are now 7-13 all-time against the Vikings.
• Babson has lost four consecutive Sunday games going back to last February.
• The Green and White is 0-2 this season and 12-8 over the last two years in games decided by five points or less.
• With four three-pointers on Sunday, Comenale has 194 career triples and moved past Matt Palazini '14 for fourth place on the program's all-time list.