Men's Basketball: Warriors Pull Away to Extend LEC Regular-Season Home Streak

Carlos Gonzalez turns one of his six steals into two easy points that gave Eastern an early 16-10 lead eight minutes into Saturday's 84-70 Little East Conference win over UMass Boston. Gonzalez entered the game ranked fourth nationally in steals per game (4.1). (Photos by Nick McAneny)
Carlos Gonzalez turns one of his six steals into two easy points that gave Eastern an early 16-10 lead eight minutes into Saturday's 84-70 Little East Conference win over UMass Boston. Gonzalez entered the game ranked fourth nationally in steals per game (4.1). (Photos by Nick McAneny)

WILLIMANTIC, Conn. – Senior guard Kendall Marquez (Willimantic)  had 17 of his team-high 20 points in the second half to spark the Eastern Connecticut State University men's basketball team to its 36th consecutive Little East Conference regular-season home victory, 84-70, Saturday afternoon at Francis E. Geissler Gymnasium.

With its tenth straight overall win this year – the second-longest streak for Eastern (19-2, 10-0 LEC) under 16th-year head coach Bill Geitner – the No. 16 Warriors remain one game ahead of Keene State College in the conference, which kept pace with a  77-49 home win over Rhode Island College Saturday.

In the first half, Eastern outscored UMass (11-10, 5-5 LEC) by ten points off turnovers, and used a run of 11 straight points to overcome the Beacons' only lead (10-7). The Warriors led by eight at halftime and opened the second half with a 9-4 scoring spurt which pushed the lead to 13, 47-34, four minutes into the half. UMass was never able to cut the deficit to single digits and the Eastern lead peaked at 20, 68-48, on one of Marquez' six three-point field goals, midway through the second half.

During the 11-point first-half run which turned a three-point deficit into an eight-point lead, the Warriors got points from four different players, freshman guard Cory Muckle (Westbrook) starting and ending the run by hitting his only three-pointer of the game and also a jumper.

Marquez was 5-of-9 from three-point range in the second half, 6-of-10 from distance in the game, collecting the 200th three-point field goal of his four-year career in the process. Sophomore guard Carlos Gonzalez (Springfield, MA) followed with 17 points (6-of-6 FT), six steals, five assists and four rebounds in the game, totaling 13 points in the second half.  He is ranked fourth nationally in steals, entering with an average of 4.1. Senior forward Tarchee Brown (Rockville) added 15 points and five rebounds and junior forward Leonel Hyatt (Greenwich) 11 points and seven rebounds. Hyatt and Gonzalez were a combined 10-of-13 from the floor. Junior guard Donny Craig (Waterford) came off the bench for eight points, six rebounds, four assists and two steals in 23 minutes.

Freshmen guards Charles Mitchell and Michael Boyd combined for 25 of UMass' 40 second-half points. Boyd kept the visitors within striking distance over the final 20 minutes by going 7-of-9 from the floor  for 15 points and also chipping in five assists with just one turnover in 20 minutes. Charles Mitchell had ten points in 20 second-half minutes.

Boyd led all players in the game with 24 points and six assists and also had five rebounds. Charles Mitchell followed with 19 points (4-of-8 from long range), with sophomore guard Dasan Cinelli chipping in ten points (4-of-6 from the floor) and five rebounds before fouling out with 40.1 seconds left.

Eastern hosts Keene State Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. at Geissler Gym. The Warriors downed Keene, 70-64, Jan. 17 at Spaulding Gym in the first meeting between the teams. Eastern also downed Keene in last year's LEC tournament final at Geissler Gym.