Preston, Panthers hand Warriors first regular season LEC loss since 2013
PLYMOUTH, N.H. – Sophomore Jack Preston (Nashua, N.H.) scored a career-high 25 points to lead the Plymouth State University men's basketball team over Eastern Connecticut State University, 65-57, in Little East Conference (LEC) action at Foley Gymnasium Saturday afternoon.
With the victory the Panthers (7-12, 2-7 LEC) snapped ECSU's 27-game LEC regular season win streak. The Warriors (16-4, 8-1 LEC) last lost a regular-season conference game on January 26th, 2013. Eastern Conn is ranked #22 in the most recent NCAA D3hoops.com poll.
Preston was dominant inside, connecting on 11-of-15 shots, while grabbing five rebounds. Classmate Ernie Johnson (Springfield, Mass.) added 17 points (5-of-12 shooting) and hit all six of his free throws in the final minute to ice the win. PSU also got key play from sophomore Curtis Arsenault (Berlin, N.H.), who added eight points and five rebounds, and freshman Brian Boulay (Keene, N.H.), who contributed eight points.
ECSU had three players in double figures, led by Trachone Preston (Enfield, Conn.). The junior finished with 15 points and seven rebounds, but also committed 10 turnovers. Classmate Kevin Leumene (Stamford, Conn.) added 13 points, with 7-of-8 shooting from the charity stripe, while sophomore Hugh Lindo (Enfield, Conn.) added 11 points and eight rebounds.
Jack Preston got started early, scoring the game's first points on a layup. The Warriors used a 10-3 run to take a 10-5 lead after five minutes, and the two teams traded buckets over the next few minutes. A jumper by Johnson and back-to-back layups by Preston tied the score at 15 midway through the opening frame.
ECSU went ahead 22-19 with 5:02 remaining in the first half, but Plymouth closed with an 11-2 run to lead 30-24 at the half. The lead was nearly nine, as Arsenault's half-court shot at the buzzer bounced off the rim and out.
The Panthers played with the lead the entire second half. Preston pushed the margin to 10, 34-24, with a dunk with 16:32 to play, and Arsenault was fouled after hitting a layup off an in-bounds play seconds later. Arsenault drained the free throw and the advantage was 11, 37-26. Eastern Conn hung around and cut the deficit to 43-39 after Trachone Preston scored on a breakaway layup, but Arsenault nailed a mid-range jumper on the ensuing possession to push the lead back to six (45-39).
ECSU again cut the deficit to four (47-43) after a pair of free throws by Leumene with 8:13 remaining. The Warriors set up full court pressure and nearly had a turnover, but Preston made a behind-the-back pass, saving the ball from going out-of-bounds, that found junior Uche Nwokeji (Lynn, Mass.) under the basket for an easy lay-in.
Leumene connected on another pair of free throws with 2:24 to play, to cut the Plymouth lead to 57-54. He was back on the line with 1:08 remaining, but could only hit one-of-two and Johnson came up with the defensive rebound, setting up his game-icing free throws. PSU finished 15-of-18 from the charity stripe, all coming in the second half.
ECSU had rolled through its first eight LEC games, winning by an average margin of over 18 points.
Plymouth State remains at home next week, squaring off with Bowdoin College in a non-conference battle Tuesday night at 7:00 p.m. Eastern Connecticut is off until next Saturday, when the Warriors will host LEC foe University of Massachusetts Boston (3:00 p.m.).
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