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February 13, 2013

PSU Men’s Hoop comes up short vs. Southern Maine

Nwokeji with big double-double for Panthers

            PLYMOUTH, N.H. – Senior Alex Kee (Bath, Maine) and junior Conor Sullivan (Scarborough, Maine) combined to score 27 points Wednesday evening as the University of Southern Maine defeated Plymouth State University, 60-50, in a Little East Conference men's basketball contest at Foley Gymnasium.

            Kee scored a team-high 14 points for the Huskies, making 3-of-5 from three-point range, while Sullivan added 13 points and a team-high nine rebounds. Junior James Odneal (Pontiac, Mich.) and freshman Cole Libby (Buxton, Maine) chipped in with nine points apiece as the Huskies stopped a three-game losing skid, improving to 14-10 overall and 8-5 in conference games.

            Plymouth State got a strong performance from freshman Uche Nwokeji (Lynn, Mass.), who scored 14 points and collected a season-high 21 rebounds, including 11 off the offensive glass. Nwokeji's night was hampered by converting just 4-of-13 from the free throw line.  Sophomore Alex Burt (Dover, N.H.) also scored 14 points but the Panthers slipped to 6-18 overall and 2-11 in the LEC.

            Nwokeji's monster night on the boards helped PSU to a 51-38 rebounding margin, as the Panthers grabbed 20 offensive boards.  He is the first Panther to collect 20 rebounds in a game since Jason Blackburn recorded 21 at Southern Maine on Jan. 23, 2001.

            PSU got off to a slow start, managing just six points in the first 10 minutes and falling behind, 16-6.  The Panthers clawed their way back to within three points (18-15) at the five-minute mark, but USM closed the half with a 9-2 spurt to take a 27-17 margin into the break.

            The Huskies never trailed in the second half but had trouble putting the pesky Panthers away.  Odneal's early three pushed the USM margin up to 12 points before Burt hit a pair of threes and Nwokeji added a bucket to get the game down to four points, 30-26, with 15 minutes to play. USM pushed the lead back up to 10 a couple times, but PSU wouldn't go away, and it was a five-point game (49-44) with 1:27 to play.

            USM held off the Panther charge by making 11 of 12 free throws down the stretch.  PSU had opportunities but converted just 9-of-24 from the charity stripe.  The defenses were tough, as USM shot just 35 percent in the game while PSU converted at a 33 percent clip.

            Both teams wrap up the regular season with "Senior Day" conference home games on Saturday.  The Huskies return home to host the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, and the Panthers entertain Western Connecticut State University.

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