Keene State Athletics
DANBURY, Conn. — Keene State, led by sophomore Ryan Martin’s 23 points, upset No. 16 Western Connecticut State 81-76 on the road on Tuesday night at Feldman Arena. The win ends the Owls two-game losing streak and improves their mark to 10-3 and 3-1 in LEC play. The Colonials, who moved up seven spots in the latest D3Hoops.com poll released earlier Tuesday, drop to 12-2 overall and 3-1 in league action.
“After the let down on Saturday against Rhode Island College it was important for us to play well tonight,” said KSC head coach Rob Colbert. “We learned tonight that not only can we beat the great conference teams, but we can also play with some of the best in the country. To compete like we did on the road, in a game where we faced a lot of adversity, makes me very happy.”
Martin, who drew the tough assignment of covering the league scoring leader DaQuan Brooks, finished 8-of-11 from the field with 23 points, five assists, four steals and three rebounds and held Brooks to four-of-14 from the field and only 18 points.
“Ryan did a great job of playing both sides of the ball tonight,” said Colbert. “He was scoring for us and had to cover the returning LEC player of the year and played fantastic for us when we needed him too,” said Colbert.
The Colonials controlled the action early, as they led by as many as 11 in the first half. Freshman guard Jengodji Gates hit a baseline jumper with 6:08 remaining in the first period to give WestConn a 29-20 lead.
After a Martin jumper and a turnaround shot from sophomore Eric Fazio made it 29-24, WestConn hit on back-to-back threes from Brooks and Russell Payton to give the Colonials a 35-24 lead.
KSC closed the half with a 12-4 run, capped off by two consecutive buckets from Fazio to cut the lead to 39-36 at the break.
The Owls momentum didn’t end there, as they came out of the locker room on another 12-4 run with sophomore guard Anthony Mariano hitting a three pointer with 15:19 left to give the visitors their largest lead of the game to that point at 51-42.
Mariano, who grew up near the Colonial campus and finished the game with 13 points, would finally open the lead up to double-digits, on a jumper with 9:21 left gave KSC a 10-point, 61-51 lead.
WestConn fired back with an 11-3 run of their own, topped off by a Gates layup with 4:59 left to cut the KSC lead to 64-62.
Back-to-back layups from junior forward Oliver Hunter and another basket from Cody Snow gave the Owls a comfortable lead again at 70-62.
Down the stretch, KSC hit their free-throws as WestConn continued to try to stop the clock and gain possession. Hunter hit three-of-four from the charity stripe, but Colonial junior forward Gary Robinson’s three cut the Owls lead to 77-75.
Sophomore center Nicco DeMasco, who finished the contest with an 11-point 13-rebound double-double, hit one-of-two from the line to make it a two possession game at 79-75 with 14 seconds left. Brooks hit only one of his free throws the following trip up the court, as junior captain Steve Boudreau hit two from the line to ice the game and give the Owls an 81-76 upset victory.
The Owls dominated on the glass, outrebounding WestConn, 58-31, including pulling down 25 offensive caroms in the victory. “We had a distinct size advantage over them and our bigs did well on the glass tonight,” said Colbert. “Between Fazio and DeMasco they pulled down 20 rebounds and played some solid defense for us.”
Four KSC and WestConn players reached double figures in the scoring column. For the Owls Martin had 23, Mariano had 13, while DeMasco and Fazio added 11. The Colonials were led by Brooks’ 18 markers and 17 from Robinson. Wilburt Jarrett and Gates added 11 and 10 points, respectively in the loss.
Keene State returns to action this Saturday, as the Owls will host UMass Dartmouth at 3 p.m. in an LEC contest.