Merrimack men’s basketball team gears for NCAA tourney

AP Photo/Jessica Hill

Merrimack head coach Joe Gallo will lead his team against Northwestern University tonight

Playing in its second game in 48 hours and first-ever contest against a Big Ten opponent, the Merrimack College men's basketball program faces Northwestern on Friday at the Welsh-Ryan Arena in Evansville, Ill. The contest will air live on the Big Ten Network-plus.

Tip-off is set for 8 p.m. EST

WRAPPED UP D2 ON HIGH NOTE

Head coach Joe Gallo guided the Warriors through the most successful era of this decade, leading the team to three straight NCAA Tournaments, increasing his victory total in every season and winning the program's first Northeast-10 Conference Championship in 19 years to cap off Merrimack's Division II history. Gallo won 61 games in his first three seasons at the DII level - the most of any Merrimack coach in their first three years on the Warriors' sideline. Merrimack reached the Round of 32 in the DII NCAA Tournament twice under Gallo's direction.

SCOUTING THE WILDCATS

After a 13-win season in 2018-19 including six wins of their first seven games, the Wildcats aim to take another step towards a Big Ten Championships and NCAA Tournament berth in 2019-20. Last season, the Wildcats bowed out in the opening round of the conference tournament; the made the Big Dance just three years ago after a 24-win campaign in 2016-17.

MEET HEAD COACH JOE GALLO

On May 9, 2016, Joe Gallo was introduced as the eighth head men's basketball coach in Merrimack history. A 2004 graduate of Merrimack College, Gallo returned to his alma mater after a four-year stint as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Robert Morris. He is a former player with the Warriors and also served as an assistant coach from 2005-09. With 61 wins in three complete years at the helm of the program, Gallo already ranks fourth in school history in victories. Merrimack's 61 wins over Gallos' first three seasons (2016-19) marked the second most in school history. (62 wins from 1975-78 is the record).

KNOCKING ON DOOR OF GREATNESS

Merrimack's senior triumvirate of Juvaris Hayes, Jaleel Lord and Idris Joyner are knocking on the door of rarefied air at the start of the 2019-20 season. In their Merrimack careers, they own 61 wins on the class and need 16 in 2019-20 to set a new school record for victories by a senior class. Last season, the NE10 Championship victory for seniors Ryan Boulter and Troy McLaughlin was the 76th in the four-year career of last year's graduating duo, tying the Class of 1992 as the winningest class in men's basketball history.

HISTORY AGAINST NORTHWESTERN

Friday night's meeting will be the first in the all-time series between the Warriors and the Wildcats. Northwestern is the only member of the Big Ten Conference on Merrimack's schedule, and will represent the first opposition from the Big Ten that the program will ever play

EYE ON 100

Seniors Juvaris Hayes and Jaleel Lord have been mainstays in Merrimack's lineup since they arrived on campus. Hayes has appeared and started in every one of Merrimack's games since the start of the 2016-17 season, and will play in his 97th career game on Friday. Lord needs just seven more appearances after Friday to reach 100 career games played, as well.

Up Next:

The Warriors will have a full week off in preparation for a four-game-in-five-day stretch that sees Merrimack play in three consecutive days next week at the River Hawk Invitational, beginning with a contest against Dartmouth one week from Friday in Lowell.

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