PLYMOUTH, N.H. - Junior Mike Loughlin (Manchester, N.H./West) scored a game-high 21 points Tuesday evening, leading the Plymouth State College men's basketball team to a 90-75 victory over Rhode Island College in the opening round of the Little East Conference Tournament.
The win advances the second-seeded Panthers to the LEC semifinals Friday at 6:00 p.m in Danbury, Conn., hosted by top-seeded Western Connecticut State University. PSC will meet third-seeded Keene State, which advanced Tuesday with a 62-61 victory over Eastern Connecticut.
WCSU will host fourth-seeded UMass Dartmouth in the 8 o'clock game Friday. The two semifinal winners will meet for the championship Saturday at 3:00 p.m. in Danbury, with the champion receiving an automatic bid to the NCAA Division III National Tournament.
Plymouth State led most of the game, but had trouble putting the visitors away. Twice in the first half PSC ran up an eight-point lead, only to see RIC battle back to tie the score. The Panthers settled for a four-point advantage (40-36) at the break.
PSC started to pull away in the second half, extending its lead to 15 points (62-47) with 12 minutes remaining. The Anchormen were able to get the deficit down to seven points (72-65) with five minutes to play, but the Panthers got it back to a double-digit lead and RIC got no closer than eight points the rest of the way.
The Panthers improve to 20-6 on the season, registering the fourth 20-win season in school history and the first under fourth-year head coach John Scheinman. RIC, which was 1-24 last year, finishes the season at 13-13.
Loughlin hit 7-of-12 from the field, including 4-of-6 from three-point range. Senior guard Kenny Stewart (Londonderry, N.H.) added 18 points for the Panthers, junior Ryan Chicoine (Gorham, Maine) had 15 points and seven rebounds off the bench, and sophomore Anthony Oglesby (Brooklyn, N.Y.) contributed 10 points and a team-high nine boards.
RIC had a balanced scoring attack, with juniors Kamran Alemdar (Stockholm, Sweden) and Lester Carter (Boston, Mass.) leading the way with 15 points apiece. Freshman K.C. Grandfield (Dartmouth, Mass.) added 14 points, junior Andre Daley (Boston, Mass.) contributed 13, and freshman Brian Stanko (Swansea, Mass.) chipped in with 10.
PSC shot only 40 percent from the field while RIC hit on 56 percent of its shots, but the Panthers outrebounded the Anchormen 43-30. The hosts also had a distinct advantage at the free throw line, sinking 26-of-36 while RIC was 13-of-19.
Plymouth State's meeting with Keene State on Friday will be the rubber game of the season series, with both teams winning on the road. PSC won 65-62 in Keene on Jan. 28, and KSC won 69-63 in Plymouth on Feb. 18.