PLYMOUTH, N.H. - Junior Matt Walker (Brockton, Mass.) and freshman Brandon Stephens (Dorchester, Mass.) combined to score 43 points on 60 percent shooting Saturday afternoon as the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth held off Plymouth State University, 86-75, in the Little East Conference men's basketball regular season finale for both schools at Foley Gymnasium.
The Corsairs, who are ranked sixth in the NCAA Northeast region and 19th in the nation by d3hoops.com, won for the ninth time in their last 10 outings to wrap up the regular season at 22-3 overall and 12-2 in conference play, finishing in second place. Upset-minded PSU had its three-game winning streak stopped and completes the regular season at 12-13 overall and 8-6 in the LEC, good for third place, an increase of four spots from last year.
Walker and Stephens each connected on 9-of-15 shots from the field, with Walker making 4-of-7 from three-point range and Stephens converting 3-of-8 from beyond the arc. Junior Jeff Macchi (Franklin, Mass.) and Brandon Shelton (Cambridge, Mass.) contributed 14 points apiece for the Corsairs, with Shelton adding a team-high eight rebounds.
Senior Ben Huntington (Hampstead, N.H.) provided one of the highlights for the Panthers, becoming the 22nd men's basketball player in school history to score 1,000 points. He finished the game with 15 points, making 3-of-6 from three-point range. Huntington (right), who leads the LEC and ranks second in the nation in free throw percentage (92.4), had his streak of consecutive made free throws end at 38.
Sophomore Tom Dowd (Portsmouth, N.H.), who missed the last game with an illness, came back to lead PSU with 18 points, making 9-of-10 shots from the field. Classmate Ryan Lambert (Derry, N.H.) added 14 points for the Panthers in the setback.
UMD never trailed in the game, but didn't put the Panthers away until the final minute of play. The Corsairs led by seven points at the midway point of the first half, pulled away to a 17-point advantage (38-21) with three minutes remaining, and went to the locker room with a 42-29 lead.
PSU cut the deficit to six points on four occasions in the second half, first with 15 minutes remaining and then three other times in the final four minutes. The Panthers were down six (79-73) with two minutes to go, but managed only a pair of Lambert free throws the rest of the way as UMD held on for the victory.
Plymouth State will be the third seed in next week's LEC Tournament, and will host sixth-seeded Western Connecticut State University on Tuesday at Foley Gymnasium in a first-round game. Second-seeded UMD will host seventh-seeded UMass Boston in Tuesday's opening round match-up.
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