Arsenault scores 20 to lead Panthers
WESTFIELD, Mass. – Junior forward Grant Cooper (Northampton) had team highs of 17 points and eight rebounds Saturday afternoon to lead Westfield State University to a 69-60 come-from-behind victory over Plymouth State University in the Rick Martin/Holiday Inn Express Men's Basketball Classic.
PSU finishes the tournament with a 1-1 record, having defeated Saint Joseph's (L.I.) in Friday's opener, 76-54. Westfield State was the only unbeaten team in the Classic, also defeating another Little East Conference school – the University of Southern Maine - on Friday night, 68-60.
Freshman guard Curtis Arsenault (Berlin, N.H./Phillips Exeter) scored a game-high 20 points for the Panthers. Sophomore Uche Nwokeji (Lynn, Mass.) tallied 15 points and senior Mark MacGregor (Rochester, N.H./Spaulding) finished with eight points and eight rebounds.
Sparked by 12 second-half points from Cooper, the Owls erased a seven-point deficit, 53-46, with 8:22 remaining. Westfield also got a big boost from junior reserve guard Robby Jones of Chicopee, who scored 10 points, all in the second half.
Jones nailed a 3-point basket from the top of the key and Cooper converted a conventional 3-point play as the Owls pulled to with a point, 53-52, with 6:22 remaining. Westfield took the lead, 54-53, on two Cooper free throws, and capped a 10-0 scoring run on a Jones layup for a 56-53 edge with 4:17 remaining.
Plymouth knotted the score at 56-all on a 3-point basket by junior Alex Burt (Dover, N.H.) at the 3:39 mark, but Westfield pulled away in the closing minutes.
The Owls regained the lead for good, 58-56, when sophomore forward Tchuijo Nkamebo of Amherst soared above the rim for an offensive rebound and dropped the ball through the hoop. Cooper and Jones teamed up to score eight of Westfield's final 10 points in the last two minutes.
The teams exchanged baskets in the first half as four points was the largest lead for both teams. The Owls led 33-32 at the break but Plymouth maintained a single-digit lead for most of the second half by dominating post play. A layup by junior Shomari Morgan (Manchester, N.H./Memorial) gave the Panthers a 49-42 lead with 11:38 remaining, and they took another seven-point lead, 53-46, on two free throws by Nwokeji.
Despite the setback, Plymouth outrebounded Westfield, 43-24, including 23 offensive rebounds. But the Owls shot 49 percent from the floor (22-45), 72 percent from the foul line (23-32) and took care of the ball fairly well for the second straight game with 12 turnovers. Plymouth shot 40 percent from the field (23-57) and canned only 8 of 15 free throws.
Also scoring in double figures for the Owls was junior point guard Jordan Santiago of Westfield High School with 10 points. Junior reserve forward Dan Johnson of Belchertown contributed eight points. Santiago and Cooper each had three steals.
PSU will travel to Concord, N.H. on Tuesday to face Rivier College at 8:00 p.m. in the Boys & Girls Club Classic, hosted by New Hampshire Technical Institute.
(Courtesy of Westfield State Sports Information)
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