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PSU Men’s Basketball upended by Western Conn.

Panthers late rally falls short; Arsenault, Preston leading scorers

            PLYMOUTH, N.H. – The sharp-shooting of sophomore Kendall Marquez (Willimantic, Conn.), junior Phil Starks (Hartford, Conn.) and senior Claudy Casseus (Uniondale, N.Y.) helped guide Western Connecticut State University to a 92-81 win over Plymouth State University in Little East Conference (LEC) men's basketball Saturday afternoon.

            Marquez finished with a game high 24 points on 9-of-13 shooting (4-of-7 from long range), as Starks added 19 points while connecting on 6-of-9 attempts (3-of-4 for three).  Casseus added 14 points on 4-of-5 shooting from the floor and a perfect 6-of-6 from the free throw line.

            Plymouth State had four players finish in double figures, led by a 20-point effort from sophomore Curtis Arsenault (Berlin, N.H.).  Sophomore Jack Preston (Nashua, N.H.) added 19, while senior Alex Burt (Dover, N.H.) and sophomore Ernie Johnson (Springfield, Mass.) added 12 and 10 points respectively.  Arsenault hit on all four of his three-point attempts, while Preston and Burt led the team with eight and six rebounds.

            Looking to set the pace early, PSU jumped out to a quick 7-0 lead in the game's first three minutes.  Burt opened the scoring with a driving layup, drawing a foul.  He hit the ensuing free throw, then Preston hit on back-to-back jumpers for the early lead.  Marquez swished a pair of threes, sandwiched around a pair of Preston free throws, and the Panther lead was 9-6 after four minutes.

            A jumper by senior Philkwan Tate (Bloomfield, Conn.) gave WCSU its first lead, 13-12, as part of an 8-0 spurt.  Arsenault drove inside for a difficult layup, then connected on a  free throw to end the run and bring the Panthers within one, 16-15, midway through the opening frame, but Western responded with a 16-2 run, keyed by three Starks three-pointers, to lead 32-17 with 6:29 to go.

            Johnson used dribble penetration to get around two WCSU defenders and hit a slashing layup with 3:58 left.  On the next Panther possession Johnson hit a three from the left wing, then Arsenault came up with a steal and breakaway layup to cut the lead to 36-29 with 2:30 to go, but Western would close the half with a 7-2 spurt to lead 43-31 at the intermission.

            The Colonials maintained a double-digit lead for the first 12 minutes of the second half.  Plymouth State used an 8-0 run to get within three points, at 63-60, with just under seven minutes remaining.  In the run, Johnson had a steal, two fast-break layups and a free throw, but WCSU answered with back-to-back steals off PSU in-bounds plays to push the lead back to 68-60.

            Sophomore Nathan Clarke (Reading, Mass.) drained a straight-on three to bring PSU within seven, 74-67, with 3:37 left, and after a pair of Arsenault triples, junior Uche Nwokeji (Lynn, Mass.) connected on two free throws to cut the Colonial lead to six, 84-78, with just 1:08 remaining.  Western was solid from the charity stripe, though, connecting on all eight attempts (six by Casseus and two by Starks) to hold on for the win.  A long-ball from Arsenault closed the scoring, with WCSU maintaining the 92-81 advantage.

            Western Connecticut outshot the Panthers 61.2% (30-of-49) to 40.7% (24-of-59).  The Colonials hit 9-of-17 (52.9%) from downtown and 23-26 (88.5%) from the line, including their last 15.  The Panthers were a sizzling 7-of-10 (70.0%) from long range, and attempted ten more free throws than WCSU, shooting 26-of-36 (72.2%).

            Plymouth State (7-14, 2-8 LEC) will be on the road Tuesday night for a 7:30 p.m. LEC contest with Southern Maine.  The Colonials also play Tuesday night, hosting LEC-foe Rhode Island College at 7:30 p.m.

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