MEDFORD, Mass. - Junior Jon Pierce (Belmont, Mass.) scored 37 points and the Tufts University men's basketball team stayed a step ahead of Plymouth State University for a 71-65 victory on Thursday night at Cousens Gymnasium. PSU junior Jason O'Keefe (Everett, Mass.) was a good match for Pierce, leading the Panthers with a career-high 28 points.
Pierce had 18 points in the first half and 19 in the second. He scored on 11-of-16 field goal attempts, including 6-for-8 on three-pointers. He added a 9-for-11 performance at the line, 10 rebounds and three blocks in an all-star performance. O'Keefe was nearly as impressive for the Panthers, hitting 10 of 18 shots (4 for 9 on threes) and all four of his free throws. The Jumbos won for the fourth time in five games to improve to 4-2. The Panthers lost for the fourth time in five games to fall to 2-4.
After Tufts took an early 9-4 lead, PSU maintained an advantage for a five-minute stretch of the first half which peaked at 17-12 on a free throw by sophomore Tom Dowd (Portsmouth, N.H.). The Jumbos poured it on during a five-minute stretch later in the half, outscoring the Panthers 21-6 during the span to take a 12-point, 37-25 advantage. However, Plymouth finished the half with an 11-2 stretch and a three-pointer by O'Keefe closed the margin down to 39-36 for halftime.
The Jumbos would not trail in the second half, but Plymouth was on their heels for most of the 20 minutes. Dowd's opening lay-up pulled the visitors within one at 39-38, but Tufts answered with a Pierce free throw and a lay-up by senior co-captain Aaron Gallant (Bangor, Maine). The Jumbos were able to build the lead to 10 (52-42), but Plymouth scored the next seven points, including a three-pointer by sophomore Ryan Lambert (Derry, N.H.), and the Tufts lead was at three (52-49) with 9:50 to play.
That would be the scenario for the rest of the game. Four times the Panthers would get within two points, and once they were behind by one at 63-62 following a traditional three-point play by junior Mike Chergey (Bow, N.H.) with 1:41 remaining. However, the Jumbos held them off. O'Keefe answered with a straight-away three to make it a one-possession game again with 35 seconds to go. Pierce hit one of two free throws at the other end, then O'Keefe missed a three on which Pierce rebounded and was fouled. He hit both to finally put away the Panthers.
Dowd submitted a solid line of 15 points, eight rebounds and three blocks for Plymouth State. Sophomore Matt Feehan (Nashua, N.H.) finished at six points, five rebounds and four assists.
The Little East Conference season begins this Saturday with PSU making a visit to Eastern Connecticut State University for a 3:00 p.m. tip-off. The Warriors and Panthers were picked fifth and sixth, respectively in the LEC pre-season poll.
(Courtesy of Tufts Sports Information)
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