Panthers' upset bid falls short
PLYMOUTH, N.H. – Junior Ryan Martin scored a game-high 28 points Tuesday evening as Little East Conference-leading Keene State College held off an upset bid by rival Plymouth State University, 86-71, in a hard-fought men's basketball battle at Foley Gymnasium.
Martin made 6-of-10 shots from three-point range and 9-of-13 overall to pace the Owls. Six-foot-10 junior Rashad Wright added 19 points, eight rebounds and six blocked shots and juniors Eric Fazio and Anthony Mariano chipped in with 17 and 14 points, respectively. Keene State, ranked 21st in the latest D3hoops.com national poll, won its ninth straight to improve to 18-4 overall and 10-1 in the LEC.
Plymouth State was led by senior Brian Chergey, who converted 8-of-14 shots from the field and finished with 20 points and six rebounds. Sophomore Petey Skevas added 13 points and eight assists, but PSU fell to 7-14 overall and 2-9 in conference play.
There were six lead changes in the first half as the home team presented the Owls with a tough challenge. PSU took a four-point lead four minutes into the game before KSC rallied behind the hot shooting of Martin. It was a four-point Keene State lead at the midway point of the half, and the Owls pulled ahead to a nine-point margin (32-23) with eight minutes to play on Martin's fifth three-pointer of the half.
The Panthers got the margin down to four points with six minutes on the clock, only to see Keene State bump it back up to a 13-point margin (43-30) four minutes later. An 8-1 PSU burst to close out the half, including five points from sophomore Sheldon Benson, made it a 44-38 KSC lead at the break.
Keene State maintained a comfortable lead throughout the second half, but couldn't put the pesky Panthers away until the final three minutes. The Owls had the lead up to 13 points early in the second half before PSU whittled the margin down to six (60-54) at the midway point. An Owl burst got the lead back up to 11 points with eight minutes to go, but PSU wouldn't quit, and got the deficit down to six points three times, the final time coming with 4:14 to play.
The Owls proved too strong down the stretch, outscoring the Panthers 14-5 over the final four minutes. KSC scored 10 of its final 12 points at the line, converting 10 straight free throws.
PSU shot just 42 percent from the field while Keene State connected at a 53 percent clip. Rebounds were nearly even, with KSC finishing with a 34-33 advantage.
Both teams play LEC games again on Saturday, Keene State visiting Western Connecticut State University and Plymouth State hosting UMass Boston on Senior Day at Foley Gym.
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