WILLIMANTIC, Conn. – Three weeks after allowing 99 points to the top-scoring team in the Little East Conference in Keene State College, the Eastern Connecticut State University men's basketball team limited the Owls to 20 second half points and 27.1 overall shooting and moved to within a win of its fourth straight Little East Conference regular-season title with a 74-53 triumph Wednesday night at Francis E. Geissler Gymnasium.
Entering the game sharing first place with Keene (16-8, 9-4 LEC) and UMass Dartmouth (16-8, 9-4 LEC), Eastern (16-8, 10-3 LEC) regained sole possession of first place in the conference on the strength of its win and UMass Dartmouth's 78-77 home loss to UMass Boston Wednesday.
Eastern can wrap up the outright regular-season title and the No. 1 tournament seed by defeating UMass Boston Saturday at Geissler Gym. Also Saturday, Keene State hosts Rhode Island College and UMass Dartmouth visits the University of Southern Maine. Regardless of Saturday's outcome, Eastern is assured of no worse than a share of the LEC regular-season title. In the event of a tie atop the final standings, tie-breakers will determine seedings. Eastern has been the outright LEC regular-season champion the last three years.
Wednesday, the Warriors scored the first seven points of the game and never trailed, moving out to a 25-point lead in the final minute.
The top-rated defense in the conference, Eastern forced the Owls into 27.1 percent shooting from the floor. The Warriors scored 14 points off 18 Keene turnovers, shooting 45.7 percent from the floor in moving out to an 11-point, 44-33 lead.
Senior forward Hugh Lindo (Enfield), who was 10-of-12 from the floor in the 99-92 loss at Keene State Jan. 25, led all Eastern players with 24 points, ten rebounds, four blocks and two steals. Lindo was 8-of-12 from the floor. A 55.8 percent free throw shooter this year, Lindo was 8-of-11 from the stripe.
Freshman point guard Carlos Gonzalez (Springfield, MA) followed with 13 points, five rebounds and three steals for Eastern. He connected on three three-point field goals. Junior guard Tarchee Brown (Rockville) struggled from the floor (2-of-12, six points) but had seven rebounds, four assists, two steals and sank both of his free throws.
Making significant contributions to the win off the bench were junior guard Donny Craig (Waterford) and sophomore guard Jaysen Nunez (Hartford). In 11 minutes, Craig submitted six rebunds, three free throws, two assists and two steals in 11 minutes. Nunez spelled Gonzalez at the point when the latter faced foul trouble and made good on two of three three-pointers, along with a rebound and assist without a turnover in 13 minutes.
A winner of 11 of 12 home games this year, Keene dropped to 4-7 away from Spaulding Gymnasium. Senior forward Matt Ozzella, Keene's second-leading scorer, was also ineffective from the floor with 2-of-11 (seven points) shooting, but grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds.
Senior forward Jaquel Edwards led Keene with 16 points, six of his points coming form the foul line. Sophomore guard Ty Nichols, Keene's top scoring this year, finished with ten points but missed 13 of 16 field goals. Junior guard Dizel Wright , who averages 10.7 points and 4.5 rebounds, did not play for Keene.