Late Panther rally falls short
PLYMOUTH, N.H. – Rhode Island College withstood a furious comeback attempt by the Plymouth State University men's basketball team Saturday and held on for a 57-54 win in a tough Little East Conference defensive battle at Foley Gymnasium.
RIC built up a 12-point lead, 55-43, with 2:40 to play after Randy Casey (Attleboro, Mass.) hit a jump shot, but the Panthers put together a 12-2 run down the stretch to make the contest interesting in the final minutes.
Plymouth State was led by junior Sheldon Benson (Pembroke, N.H.), who scored a season-high 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting.
Junior Petey Skevas (Wethersfield, Conn.) started the rally with a drive to the hoop and sophomore Alex Burt (Dover, N.H.) followed with a lay-up and two free throws. Benson drained a three-point bomb that drew the Panthers to within three, 55-52, with one minute to play. PSU got the ball back with a four-point deficit, but could not connect on a three-pointer. RIC's Alex Cruz (East Hartford, Conn.) hit one of two from the line to extend the lead to five, 57-52, and Skevas hit a lay-up with two seconds left to account for the final score.
Rhode Island College, which has now won seven consecutive games, improves to 14-2 overall and 6-1 in the LEC. The Panthers fall to 3-13 and 1-6.
The Anchormen came out of the gate strong, scoring the game's first nine points. RIC was able to work its lead up to 10 points, 17-7, in the first session, but Benson hit on consecutive tries late in the half, one from behind the arc, drawing the Panthers to within six, 20-14.
A put-back by freshman Uche Nwokeji (Lynn, Mass.) got the Panthers even closer, 20-16, with 4:32 to play before the intermission. Two minutes later, Nwokeji hit another inside shot that brought PSU to within a point, 21-20, and after a pair of RIC free throws, a lay-up by sophomore Shomari Morgan (Manchester, N.H.) once again closed the gap to one, 23-22. Two free throws by sophomore Chris Burton (New Rochelle, N.Y.) gave the visitors a slim three-point margin heading into the locker room.
PSU dug itself into a hole early in the second half, getting outscored by the Anchormen 15-6 in the first seven minutes of the frame. The Panthers were only able to connect on one field goal during that stretch, but a Benson jumper with 11:10 left cut the RIC lead to eight, 40-32.
RIC was able to knock down 25-of-37 from the free throw line while out-rebounding the Panthers 33-29.
Senior Tahrike Carter (Brooklyn, N.Y.) and Cruz were the only Anchormen in double digits, scoring 14 and 12 points respectively. Senior Ethan Gaye (Providence, R.I.) added eight points while Burton scored seven points and hauled down six rebounds.
Skevas added 11 points for the Panthers while Morgan chipped in with nine points and five rebounds.
The Panthers return to action on Tuesday when they travel to Gorham, Maine for a game with the University of Southern Maine. RIC is home on Tuesday, hosting Western Connecticut State University.