Keene State holds off No. 18 ECSU
Owls move into sole possession of first place in Little East
WILLIMANTIC, Conn. -- In a back-and-forth game that featured 18 lead changes, Keene State got the job done on the road, defeating No. 18 Eastern Connecticut State 64-56 on Tuesday night at Geissler Gymnasium.
"I am so proud of our guys tonight," KSC head coach Rob Colbert said. "We really grinded it out in the second half with some good defensive stops and if you want to win championships you have to be able to do that."
|TOP 25 SCORES|
|No. 1 Middlebury 73, Plattsburgh State 54|
|Keene State 64, No. 18 Eastern Conn. State 56|
|No. 20 Augustana (Ill.) 70, No. 22 Wheaton (Ill.) 46|
|No. 21 Illinois Wesleyan 75, Millikin 53|
|Western Connecticut 93, No. 24 R.I. College 87|
The victory propels the Owls into sole possession of first place in the Little East Conference standings with a 13-4 overall record and 7-1 mark in league games. The Warriors, who had won 13 in a row coming into tonight's contest, drop to 14-2 overall and 7-1 in LEC play. The Owls, who has defeated two ranked teams in less than 10 days, have now won six of their last seven games.
In the second half, on back-to-back ECSU possessions, junior forward Chris Robitaille hit layups off the same pick-and-roll play, to give the Warriors some breathing room and a 47-43 lead with 8:48 to play.
KSC answered right back with a 7-2 run of their own, capped by a jumper from junior guard Ryan Martin with 6:25 remaining for the 50-49 lead.
After the Warriors tied the contest at 54-54 on a free throw from senior guard Nick Nedwick, the Owls go jumpers from Nicco DeMasco, Martin and Rashad Wright, all in the paint to give KSC the 60-54 lead with only 50 seconds to play.
After senior guard Jamie Kohnhit two free-throws for ECSU, Keene State hit their shots from the charity stripe when it counted, as Martin and freshman guard Tom Doyle each went two-for-two from the line for the 64-56 win.
The first half went back and forth as well, with the lead changing eight times in the contests first nine minutes, ECSU took a two-point lead with 10:21 remaining on the three-pointer from sophomore Brian Salzillo to make it 13-11 Warriors.
That bucket would start a 14-2 run for Eastern, capped by a layup from Nedwick, the Warriors would take 24-13 lead with only 5:15 left.
Keene State would close out the half on a run of their own, outscoring the hosts 9-0 in the last 2:24, with layups from DeMasco and Ollie Hunter sandwiched by a three-ball from Martin to make it 29-27 ECSU at the halftime break.
Martin led the way in scoring for the Owls, with 13 points in 39 minutes of action.
Kohn, needing 28 points tonight to hit the 1,000 point plateau, led all scorers with only 16 points for East Conn. Nedwick and senior forward Hamilton Levy also hit double-digits with 15 and 10 points respectively.
KSC out-rebounded ECSU 35-33 in the contest and got some good production from their big men down the stretch. "I thought at the end we did a good job of ending possessions," Colbert said. "It was one-and-done for them tonight because we were tough on the boards at the end of the game."
DeMasco pulled down a team-high eight rebounds off the bench for the Owls.
In the victory, the Owls also showed their depth, getting 25 points from the bench, with Hunter getting 10 points off the pine.
Sophomore Jim Hepple played like a man-possessed, scoring five points and dishing out two assists and grabbing two steals to ignite the Owls bench in the second half. "Hepple has worked so hard in practice I told him before the game that he might get an opportunity tonight to give us some minutes," Colbert said. "His role is to give us a battery-charge and bring energy and he did very well at that tonight."
The Warriors only managed five points from their bench players.
The Owls shot almost 50 percent from the floor (26-of-54) to Eastern's 37 percent (19-of-51).
On the road this season, KSC is 4-0 in Little East play after tonight's victory. "I don't know that we prepare any differently for road games," Colbert said. "We have been fortunate to go on the road and grab some wins."