KINGS POINT, N.Y. — Goucher entered this afternoon's contest at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy knowing that a win would get the team right back in the Landmark Conference playoff picture. The Gophers were only a game back of the fourth and final playoff spot heading into today's games, and they were only a half-game behind the Mariners for sixth place.
Their defense, however, had no answers for Merchant Marine, allowing the Mariners to shoot 58 percent from the field in a damaging 98-86 defeat. The loss overshadowed a tremendous effort from Alex Noble (Clinton, Md./Surrattsville), who tied a team record with a 12 for 12 performance from the free throw line and finished with 26 points overall. Julian Livingston (Bowie, Md./Fairmont Heights) added 25 points for the Gophers (8-13, 3-7 Landmark).
The Mariners (10-11, 5-6) avenged a 72-65 loss at the Decker Sports & Recreation Center back in December.
Goucher started the game off strong, with Cody Toler (Laurel, Md./Reservoir) hitting a 3-pointer to give the Gophers an early 7-2 edge. Another Toler long ball made it 12-6, Goucher, just over four minutes in. The freshman guard, making his second start of the season, finished 4 of 5 from beyond the arc and totaled a career-high 12 points.
The Mariners responded with a 17-4 run to open up a seven point lead. A Livingston jumper leveled the score back at 34 apiece with five minutes remaining, but Merchant Marine would take a 46-40 advantage into the break.
The Gophers had only two first half turnovers, but they were out-rebounded 23-13 on the glass and three Mariners reached double-figures offensively.
Merchant Marine took its largest lead of 16 points at 61-45 after David Smith hit a pair of free throws four minutes into the second half. Noble rallied the Gophers with 14 points over the next eight minutes, and he sank his final two free throws with 8:22 remaining to cut the lead to 77-73. Five Gophers in team history have gone 12 for 12 from the charity stripe in a game, and this is the second time that Noble has done so in his career. He is shooting 85.6 from the line this year, which is second-best in the conference.
Goucher would not get any closer, though, as Merchant Marine scored the game's next seven points to seal the victory. The Gophers have now allowed 90 points or more in five contests that ended in regulation this season.
Livingston scored over 20 points in a game for the eighth time this season, and the duo of Livingston and Noble has combined to score 111 points over the last two games. Troy DeShields (Seaford, Del./Sussex Technical) chipped in 10 points for Goucher.
Smith led the Mariners with 31 points, nine rebounds and six assists, while Zach Karczewski added 22 points. Merchant Marine ended the contest with 41-22 advantage on the boards, including a 12-3 edge on the offensive end.
Goucher remains on the road for its next matchup, a 7 p.m. tilt at Juniata next Wednesday. The Eagles edged the Gophers 60-57 when the two squads met in Towson last month.