Sophomores lead Panthers to first LEC win
PLYMOUTH, N.H. – Plymouth State University used a 5-0 spurt over the final minute to outlast the University of Southern Maine, 56-50, in men's basketball action at Foley Gymnasium Tuesday night.
A quartet of sophomores was instrumental in the PSU win, as Curtis Arsenault (Berlin, N.H.) paced the Panthers with 14 points and seven rebounds. Jack Preston (Nashua, N.H.) finished with 12 points, nine rebounds and two blocks, while Ernie Johnson (Springfield, Mass.) added 12 points and three steals. Nathan Clarke (Reading, Mass.) also played a key role in the win, contributing seven points, six rebounds and three assists.
Southern Maine got 14 points and five rebounds from junior Jacob Littlefield (Mechanic Falls, Maine) and classmate Sean Caddigan (Bethel, Maine) added 11 points while connecting on all three of his three-point attempts. Junior Alex Fraser (Portland, Maine) finished with nine points, two rebounds and two blocks in the losing effort.
In a sign of things to come the four PSU sophomores scored the game's first eight points, as each connected from inside in the opening minutes. A Johnson three pushed the Panther lead to 11-3 and a pair of free throws from senior Alex Burt (Dover, N.H.) gave Plymouth a 10-point lead after just five minutes. Southern Maine responded with a 14-5 run over the next seven minutes to cut the deficit to one, 18-17, but PSU would not relinquish the lead.
Arsenault connected from inside on back-to-back possessions, before burying a three from the corner to give Plymouth a 26-20 lead. Caddigan connected from long range to cut the Panther lead in half, but Clarke drilled a three on the next Panther possession and the two teams traded buckets over the final minutes of the first half, with Plymouth holding a 33-27 lead at the intermission.
PSU was twice able to push the lead back to 10 in the second half. A Johnson layup with 13:51 to play gave Plymouth a 41-31 edge, but the Huskies came back with a 10-2 run. Littlefield had seven points during the stretch, while Caddigan connected from long range.
Littlefield and Fraser would combine for the next eight USM points, but a Burt jumper and free throws from Johnson, Arsenault and Preston allowed the hosts to maintain the slight advantage.
Clarke connected on a tough, driving layup in traffic to give PSU a 51-47 lead with 2:21 to play. Southern Maine had a chance to tie the game a minute later, but Fraser could only connect on one-of-two free throws. Clarke pulled down the defensive rebound and in the ensuing possession Preston grabbed an errant shot and connected on the put back to push the Plymouth lead to 53-50. Johnson came up with a steal and iced PSU's first Little East Conference (LEC) win of the year by burying two clutch free throws.
Plymouth State (6-10, 1-5 LEC) travels to LEC foe University of Massachusetts Dartmouth for a 3:00 p.m. match-up on Saturday. Southern Maine (3-13, 0-6 LEC) is also in action on Saturday, as the Huskies play host to Western Connecticut State University.
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