Panthers come up short in back and forth LEC battle
PLYMOUTH, N.H. – A key 13-0 run to start the second half helped Western Connecticut State University to a 78-75 Little East Conference (LEC) men's basketball win over Plymouth State University at Foley Gymnasium Saturday night.
The Panthers had a shot to send the game to overtime, but a three-point attempt at the end of regulation was off the mark. PSU drops to 12-4 and 3-2 in the LEC, while WCSU moves to 10-5 and 4-1 in conference play.
Plymouth State jumped out to a quick 10-2 lead thanks to the interior play of senior Uche Nwokeji (Lynn, Mass.) and junior Jack Preston (Nashua, N.H.). The two combined for six points in the opening three minutes. A three-pointer from junior Curtis Arsenault (Berlin, N.H.) put the hosts up 15-6 after 4:32 before the Colonial offense found its groove. A 15-8 spurt by the visitors, highlighted by a pair of deep threes from freshman Rashard Rodriguez (Trumbull, Conn.), cut the Panther lead to 23-21 after 11:04.
Preston increased the PSU lead to 25-21 with a thunderous put-back dunk, but Western Connecticut responded with a long ball in its third straight possession when senior Ryan Belote (Meriden, Conn.) connected from the left wing with 8:08 left in the opening half.
The visitors upped the lead to five points, 39-34, on a layup from freshman Tyrell St. John (Stamford, Conn.), but PSU followed with eight straight points, capped by a triple from Arsenault, to take a 42-39 lead into halftime.
The Colonials turned up the defensive intensity to start the second half, scoring 13 straight points to take a 52-42 lead. Junior Nick MacGregor (Rochester, N.H.) nailed a straight away three-pointer to stop the run, sparking a 13-4 burst for the hosts. Nwokeji capped the run with a pair of tough interior buckets, bringing Plymouth State within one at 56-55 with 11:17 remaining.
WCSU would maintain a slight advantage until Preston knotted things at 69-69 with a pair of free throws and 3:36 left on the game clock.
From that point it was a free throw shooting battle. Phil Starks and Jauch Green combined to go 7-of-8 from the line to put the Colonials up 76-70, but Arsenault buried a three-pointer for a 76-73 margin with just 25 seconds left.
After a Western Connecticut turnover, Arsenault added a pair of free throws to bring the hosts within one, 76-75, with 14 seconds to play, but senior Luis Bridtter (Stamford, Conn.) connected twice from the charity stripe for the visitors and Plymouth State's attempt at a tying three-pointer just before the buzzer was off the mark.
Arsenault led four Panthers in double figures, scoring a game-high 24 points (9-of-16) to go with five rebounds and four steals. Preston added 19 points (7-of-10) and four rebounds, while sophomore Brian Boulay (Keene, N.H.) added 15 points. Nwokeji chipped in 12 points (4-of-6) and seven rebounds.
Starks paced the Colonials with 22 points (6-of-13), and hit on all eight of his free throw attempts. Bridtter and Rodriguez added 14 points apiece, with Bridtter adding a game-high eight boards. Green came off the bench for 11 points and seven rebounds, and junior Tre'Von Perry (Waterbury, Conn.) added 10 points and eight boards.
The Panthers were an even 50% (27-of-54) from the field, and 42% (5-of-12) from long range. WCSU finished at 43% from the floor (26-of-61) and 55% (6-of-11) from deep. The Colonials shot 91% (20-of-22) from the charity stripe, while PSU finished 16-of-23 (70%). PSU outscored the Colonials 36-22 in the paint, but the visitors held a 38-29 advantage on the boards.
Plymouth State continues its string of LEC games on Wednesday when the Panthers travel to Keene State for a 7:30 p.m. contest. The Colonials are also back in league action Wednesday night, playing at rival Eastern Connecticut State (7:30 p.m.).
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