Western Conn. uses late spurt to get past PSU Men’s Basketball

Western Conn. uses late spurt to get past PSU Men’s Basketball

Burt nets team-high 19 in LEC defeat

            DANBURY, Conn. – Junior Phil Starks (Hartford, Conn.) hit a huge three-pointer in the closing minutes to help guide Western Connecticut State to a 65-58 win over Plymouth State University in Little East Conference (LEC) men's basketball Saturday.

            With less than two minutes to play and nursing a 59-56 lead, Starks connected from long range to make it a two possession game.  Sophomore Nathan Clarke (Reading, Mass.) hit a jumper to bring Plymouth within four points (62-58), but the Colonials would score the final three points, all from the free throw line, on the way to the victory.

            Senior Alex Burt (Dover, N.H.) led the Panther offense with 19 points, including 9-of-11 from the free throw line, to go along with four rebounds and three assists.  Junior Uche Nwokeji (Lynn, Mass.) came off the bench and posted his second double-double season, and week, with 12 points and 11 rebounds.  Sophomore Ernie Johnson (Springfield, Mass.) stuffed the stat sheet with six points, three rebounds, three assists and three steals.

            WCSU sophomore Kendall Marquez (Willimantic, Conn.) led all scorers with 23 points on 6-of-12 shooting, including 3-of-6 from downtown.  Senior Russell Payton (Stratford, Conn.) added nine points and three rebounds, while classmate Philkwan Tate (Bloomfield, Conn.) added six points, seven rebounds, two assists and two steals.

            A Marquez three gave WCSU an early 5-2 lead and the Colonials played ahead for nearly the entire first half.  Plymouth hung around and never trailed by more than five points, until a WCSU jumper pushed the lead to 26-20 with 3:44 left in the half.  PSU responded with a 6-0 run, capped by a Clarke layup to knot the score with less than a minute remaining.  The Colonials had a chance to take a lead into halftime, but Nwokeji pulled down the rebound from a missed layup and hit a streaking Burt, who was fouled on a layup attempt at the buzzer.  Burt connected on the ensuing free throws to give the Panthers a 28-26 lead at the intermission.

            Burt connected from long range to open the second half, pushing the PSU lead to 31-26, the largest it would get, before WCSU scored six unanswered to regain the lead.  A Nwokeji layup, followed by another Burt triple gave PSU a 40-38 lead with 14:31 left in the game.  The Colonials went ahead 46-44 with 10:00 to play before a Clarke driving layup retied the score. 

            WCSU surged ahead with a 9-0 run to lead 55-46 with under seven minutes to play, but PSU responded with eight straight points to close within one at 55-54.  Another Nwokeji layup left the Panthers down 57-56 with 2:57 to go, before Marquez connected on two free throws, setting up Starks' heroics.

            Plymouth held a slight advantage on the boards, outrebounding the Colonials by a 37-34 margin.  The Panthers also held a 16-11 edge in assists, but hit on only 12-of-24 attempts from the charity stripe.

            Plymouth State (5-8, 0-3 LEC) returns home on Tuesday looking to notch its first LEC victory as the Panthers play host to UMass Boston (7:30 p.m.).  WCSU is also at home and facing a conference opponent on Tuesday.  The Colonials square off with Keene State College at 7:30 p.m.

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