PSU Men’s Basketball nipped by Southern Maine

PSU Men’s Basketball nipped by Southern Maine

Burt eclipses 1,000-career points in LEC setback

            GORHAM, Maine – Sharp-shooting from beyond the arc helped lead the University of Southern Maine over Plymouth State University, 70-68, in Little East Conference (LEC) men's basketball Tuesday night.

            Plymouth State had the ball with 28 seconds remaining and had three shots to tie or take the lead, but came up just short.  Sophomore Curtis Arsenault (Berlin, N.H.) had his three-point attempt hit the back-rim.  Classmate Jack Preston (Nashua, N.H.) came down with the offensive rebound, but his put back attempt in heavy traffic was off the mark, then senior Alex Burt (Dover, N.H.) had a chance at the buzzer, but his three wouldn't fall.

            Burt scored 15 points in the loss, becoming the 26th player in Plymouth State men's basketball history to reach the 1,000 point mark.  His 1,010 career points put him in 25th place among PSU's all-time scoring leaders, surpassing current assistant coach Petey Skevas (Plymouth State, '14), who finished with 1,002.

            Preston led the Panthers with 18 points (8-of-13 shooting) and eight rebounds.  Burt's 15 points came on 5-of-13 shooting, and he added three assists.  Arsenault also finished in double-digits, scoring 10 points while adding six steals and two rebounds.  Junior Uche Nwokeji (Lynn, Mass.) was big off the bench, contributing nine points and eight rebounds, including five on the offensive end.

            Junior Cole Libby (Buxton, Maine) led the Huskies with 17 points and four rebounds, while classmate Jacob Littlefield (Mechanic Falls, Maine) was big down the stretch.  Littlefield finished with 15 points on 7-of-14 shooting, including USM's last seven points from the floor.  Junior Alex Fraser (Portland, Maine) finished with 14 points, courtesy of four three-pointers, to go along with eight rebounds.  The Huskies connected on 6-of-10 triples in the second half and outscored Plymouth State 30-9 from long range for the game.

            Preston was the story early as he led the Panthers to a quick 8-0 lead over the game's first three minutes.  Preston had three layups during the stretch, with a pair of Burt free throws accounting for the other two points.  Another Preston layup, followed by jumpers from both Preston and Burt, pushed the Panther lead to 14-6.  Sophomore Nathan Clarke (Reading, Mass.) hit a three from the left corner off a nice feed from Burt for a 17-9 feed, then Burt slashed through the lane and finished with his left hand to put PSU up 19-9 with 12:40 to play.  The driving layup gave Burt career points 1,000 and 1,001.

            Southern Maine responded with an 8-0 run to close to 19-17, including three-pointers from Libby and Fraser, but Aresenault hit a three of his own to push the PSU lead back to five, 22-17.  Senior Michael Elliott-Baltimore (North Lauderdale, Fla.) put Plymouth up 28-21 with a jumper in the lane, but another 8-0 run by the Huskies gave USM a 29-28 lead with 3:41 left in the half.  Fraser connected on a three just before halftime to give USM a slight 32-30 advantage at the break.

            Preston finished the first half with 12 points, with 10 coming in the game's first four minutes.  The Panthers trailed despite shooting 50.0% (13-of-26) from the floor in the half, while holding Southern Maine to 10-of-26 (38.5%).  The Huskies made 10 trips to the free throw line, connecting on eight, while Plymouth was just two-of-three.

            The second half was more of the same, as neither team led by more than three over the first six minutes.  Libby drained a three to cap a 10-0 USM run for a 50-42 lead with 12:35 to play, but Plymouth responded with seven straight.  Nwokeji tipped-in a layup attempt from Clarke and was fouled on the play.  After missing the free throw, Arsenault grabbed the offensive rebound and connected on the put back, getting fouled on the attempt.  Arsenault drained the free throw, then Burt hit a running jumper and the Huskies lead was 50-49 with 11:16 remaining.

            USM scored 10 of the next 12 points for its biggest lead, 60-51, with 9:05 to play, but Plymouth used an 11-2 run to tie the game at 62-62 with 4:37 to play.  After a Littlefield jumper, Nwokeji hit a pair of free throws to retie the score at 64-64.  Littlefield then connected on a deep three from the left wing to put USM up 67-64 with 3:01 remaining.  Arsenault finished on a strong move to the basket to cut the USM lead to 68-66 with 1:11 left, but Littlefield drained a fadeaway baseline jumper to push the lead back to four.  After Burt sank a pair of free throws with 41 seconds left, USM junior Sean Caddigan (Bethel, Maine) had a chance to ice the game but he misfired on the front end of a one-and-one, setting up PSU's chance for overtime or a buzzer-beating win.

            The Huskies connected on 6-of-10 triples in the second half and outscored Plymouth State 30-9 from long range for the game.  USM finished 10-of-24 (41.7%) from long range for the game, while PSu connected on 3-of-16 (18.8%).  Plymouth State held a slight 34-28 edge in rebounds, but the Huskies bench outscored PSU's 31-19.

            Plymouth State (7-15, 2-8 LEC) will be on the road again Saturday, visiting the University of Massachusetts Boston for a 3:00 p.m. LEC game.  Southern Maine (5-17, 2-9 LEC) will also be back in action Saturday, as the team squares off against Rhode Island College (3:00 p.m.) in LEC action.

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