Nwokeji's huge second half lifts Panthers to LEC win
DARTMOUTH, Mass. – Senior Uche Nwokeji (Lynn, Mass.) scored 14 second half points to lead the Plymouth State University men's basketball team past the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, 81-75, in the Little East Conference (LEC) opener for both teams Saturday afternoon. The Panthers, who trailed for much of the game, improve to 4-0 (1-0 LEC), while UMass Dartmouth falls to 2-2 (0-1 LEC).
Junior Curtis Arsenault (Berlin, N.H.) drained a three-pointer right in front of the PSU bench with 3:26 left to play to give the Panthers a 71-70 lead, their first since scoring the game's opening basket. Classmate Jack Preston (Nashua, N.H.) used a pretty dribble-drive and spin-move to get inside before finishing with a soft touch off the glass to push the margin to three, 75-72, with 2:13 remaining.
A pair of made free throws by sophomore Brian Boulay (Keene, N.H.) increased the lead to 77-72, but UMD senior Jordan Rezendes (Onset, Mass.) responded with a deep three. The Corsairs had a chance to tie the game moments later, but Rezendes put up an air ball and Preston blocked the put-back attempt before Nwokeji controlled the rebound and was fouled. He connected on both free throws to push the lead to 79-75.
Rezendes airmailed another long range shot, but saved the loose ball from heading out of bounds. His pass attempt ended up on the floor and PSU sophomore Kieran Beck (Danvers, Mass.) jumped on the ball and alertly called timeout with just 21 seconds left. Boulay had a chance to ice the game from the free throw line, but a lane violation gave the Corsairs the ball back, trailing 79-75 with 19 seconds to go.
UMD had multiple shots in the closing seconds but were unable to connect, before Boulay came away with a loose ball and was fouled with 0.3 seconds left. He calmly drained both attempts to cap off the win.
UMass led by as many as nine points in the opening half, but Nwokeji scored the final five PSU points to trail 41-35 at the intermission.
Nwokeji nearly had a double-double in the second half alone (14 points on 6-of-9 shooting and nine rebounds). He finished the night with game-highs of 25 points and 16 boards overall. Arsenault added 19 points and seven rebounds, while Preston was good for 16 points. Beck had a solid game with eight points (4-of-6 shooting) and six boards, while senior Nathan Clarke (Reading, Mass.) put in another solid effort with four points, six assists and five rebounds.
Rezendes led the Corsairs with 24 points, nine assists and six rebounds, as freshman Nick Portelance (Fairhaven, Mass.) contributed 13 points and seven rebounds. Junior Jahlelle Moise (Brockton, Mass.) added 10 points.
Despite getting into the double bonus early, the Corsairs shot just 64% (18-of-28) from the charity stripe. PSU was near perfect from the line, shooting at 92% (24-of-26), and connected on all 12 second-half attempts. The Panthers controlled the glass, outrebounding UMD by a 50-39 margin, while outscoring the Corsairs 32-20 in the paint and 15-6 in second chance points.
After four straight road games to open the season, Plymouth State finally opens its home schedule on Tuesday night when the Panthers host Castleton University in a non-conference contest (7:30 p.m.). The Corsairs will play their fifth straight home game Tuesday night when they entertain Husson College (7:00 p.m.).
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