Preston leads Panther offense as LEC Tourney upset bid falls short
PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Second-seed Rhode Island College got a clutch free throw from senior Eric Alleyne (Watertown, Mass.) in the closing seconds to ice a nail biting 66-62 win over seventh-seeded Plymouth State University in the opening round of the Little East Conference (LEC) Men's Basketball Tournament Tuesday night at The Murray Center.
Alleyne was sent to the line with eight seconds remaining after Plymouth State freshman Brian Boulay (Keene, N.H.) drilled a jumper from the left elbow to pull the Panthers within 65-62. Alleyne missed the front end of the one-and-one, but was able to connect on the second attempt, giving the Anchormen the four-point margin. A three-point attempt by PSU senior Alex Burt (Dover, N.H.) bounced off the back rim just before time expired.
With the loss Plymouth State's season comes to a close with an overall record of 7-19. Rhode Island College improves to 19-7 and advances to the semifinal round Friday night (TBA), when the Anchormen will face third-seeded University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.
The Panthers got big games out of their big men, with sophomore Jack Preston (Nashua, N.H.) leading the way with a game-high 21 points and nine rebounds. Junior Uche Nwokeji (Lynn, Mass.) posted a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds, while Burt and Boulay also finished with 13 points each.
Alleyne and senior Chris Burton (New Rochelle, N.Y.) paced the Anchormen with 13 points apiece. Alleyne also added six rebounds and four assists. Senior Victor Smith (Providence, R.I.) added 12 points, all in the second half, and six rebounds, while junior Patrick Matthews (Waipahu, Hawaii) contributed 10 points.
RIC seemed to have the game in hand, leading 61-49 with 53 seconds to play, but PSU made things close with the help of some sloppy Anchormen play. Preston hit two free throws and Nwokeji came up with a steal on the inbounds pass. Alleyne was called for an intentional foul and Nwokeji hit both free throws. The Panthers retained possession and Burt nailed a three from the left wing off the inbounds play to cut the deficit to 61-56 with just over 35 seconds to go.
After a pair of RIC free throws, Boulay finished on a pretty dribble drive to trail 63-58 with 25 seconds left. Nwokeji came up with another steal on the inbounds pass and Burt slashed to the rim, finishing with his left hand, to cut the lead to three, 63-60.
Burton connected on two free throws for RIC with 16 seconds remaining, setting up Boulay's jumper and Alleyne's game-winning free throw.
RIC led by as much as 11 in the first half, pulling ahead 24-13 with 3:35 left in the opening period, but Plymouth State closed the half with four straight points to trail 24-17 at intermission. The Panthers surged ahead in second half, taking a 35-34 lead with 12:48 to play when Boulay was fouled as he hit a difficult layup. He connected on the free throw for the last PSU lead.
Burt finishes his Plymouth State career with 1,045 points, leaving him in 21st place on the program's all-time scoring leaders list. He finished the year as one of three Panthers averaging double-figures, closing the season with a team-high 12.3 points per game. Preston averaged an even 11.0 per game, while sophomore Curtis Arsenault (Berlin, N.H.) finished with 10.6 per game average.
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