WATERVILLE, Maine --- Rahim Bunch scored a game-high 32 points to lead Johnson State College past Thomas College, 81-75, in North Atlantic Conference men's basketball play on Saturday at Larry Mahaney Gymnasium.
The Terriers (6-7, 2-4 NAC) relied heavily on Carlos Gonzalez inside in the early going. Gonzalez tallied 11 points as Thomas build a 22-9 lead with 11:39 to play in the first half. The run would be short-lived, though, as two fouls in quick succession sent the big man to the bench for the remainder of the half.
The Badgers (2-10, 2-4 NAC) responded to Gonzalez' absence by scoring eight straight points - five by Demetrius Slade - to cut the advantage to 22-17 at the 9:24 mark. The teams traded runs of seven and 12 points, respectively, over the next seven minutes with a Slade free throw drawing the teams even at 29-29 with 2:40 to play.
Mike Akanji scored Thomas last six points of the half, starting with a three-pointer to break the tie and finishing with a free throw in the final seconds of the half to give Thomas a 35-33 halftime lead.
With Gonzalez back in the lineup to start the second half, the Terriers were able to build an eight-point lead in the first 3:30.
Johnson State closed ranks after four players were dismissed at the 7:00 mark after leaving the bench during an on-court altercation. The Badgers continued to attack the basket on offense and pressure the Terriers into turnovers on defense despite their bench getting much shorter.
After a pair of Dayne Savage free throws gave Thomas a 73-64 lead at the 4:28 mark, Johnson State rattled off nine straight points, knotting the score at 73-73 with 2:19 to play.
Mike Akanji gave the Terriers a 75-73 lead with 1:56 to play when he tipped in a Levi Barnes missed three-pointer. Johnson State regained the lead, though, as Bunch scored layups on back-to-back possessions. The Badgers iced the win with two free throws each by Bunch and Slade.
Bunch finished with 32 points on 10-of-25 shooting with three three-pointers to lead all players. He also hit nine of 10 free throws, pulled down nine rebounds and had four assists. Demetrius Slade added 17 points, 11 rebounds and four steals off the bench, while Benjamin Holl drained three three-pointers en route to 11 points and six rebounds. Slade and Bunch combined to account for 18 of the Badgers' 20 made free throws.
Gonzalez and Savage scored 18 points each to lead the Terriers. Gonzalez completed the double-double by pulling down 11 rebounds and also had three blocks. Barnes struggled to just 6-of-18 shooting from the field but finished with 15 points and eight boards. Akanji added 11 points and seven rebounds, while Tyheem Simon had nine points.
Thomas was more efficient from the field, shooting 43.3 percent (26-of-60) from the field compared to Johnson State's 37.5 percent (27-of-72) and held a slim 44-43 rebounding advantage, but turnovers were the Terriers' bugaboo. Thomas committed 22 to Johnson State's 11.
Both programs host league leader Husson (7-3, 5-0 NAC) in their next outing. The Terriers host the Eagles on Tuesday night, while the Badgers take their shot on Friday evening. Thomas follows that up with a January 16 home date with UMaine-Farmington, while Johnson State entertains Maine Maritime that same afternoon.