DARTMOUTH, Mass. – The Eastern Connecticut State University men's basketball team erased a nine-point deficit over the final two minutes of regulation to force overtime, but the Warriors missed four shots in the lane and turned the ball over once on their final five possession of overtime in a 101-99 overtime loss to the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Saturday afternoon at the Tripp Athletic Center.
Needing wins in its final three LEC games to record its second perfect 14-0 conference season in five years, No 10 nationally-ranked Eastern (20-3, 11-1 LEC) instead had an 11-game winning streak snapped by a UMass Dartmouth (12-11, 5-7 LEC) team which dressed only nine players, had lost its last four, and had dropped a 24-point decision at Eastern a month ago.
One Eastern win or one loss by Keene State in the last two LEC regular-season games gives the Warriors at least a share of their fifth straight regular-season title and the No. 1 tournament seed. Keene pulled to within a game of Eastern with an 84-71 home win over Western Connecticut Saturday.
The Warriors never led until scoring the first basket of overtime. They led five times by two points in overtime, the last lead coming at 99-97 on an inside layup by senior forward Jacob Collins (Bristol) with 1:54 left, but sophomore guard Brandon Williams tied the game with two free throws on UMD's next possession, and broke the final tie by scoring off his own missed shot with 19 seconds left to make it 101-99.
UMass clanged two free throws with 6.8 seconds left that gave Eastern a final opportunity after a defensive rebound by senior guard Tarchee Brown (Rockville), but sophomore guard Carlos Gonzalez' (Springfield, MA) floater in the lane bounced off the rim as time expired.
Sophomore guard Jake Collagan (Wethersfield) played a huge role in bringing Eastern back from 15 points down with 4:30 left and from nine points down in the final two minutes of regulation when he scored seven points on a pair of three-pointers and a free throw. Collagan's free throw with 25.3 seconds left cut UMD's lead to one, 87-86, and after the Corsairs sank one of two with 22.8 seconds left, Brown banked in a runner in the paint with 9.9 seconds left to tie the game, 88-88. With time expiring, sophomore guard Marquis Jones nearly ended the game in regulation, but his tip-in at the buzzer fell off the rim.
For the second time this year against UMass, the Warriors recorded a 56-point second half which allowed them to cut a nine-point halftime lead and send the game into overtime. Brown (16), Collagan (12) and Collins (10) combined for 38 of the team's second-half total and senior guard Kendall Marquez (Willimantic) chipped in eight second-half points before fouling out with 42.9 seconds left in regulation in a tie game. Collagan and Collins both came off the bench in the game.
Brown shared game-high scoring honors with 31 points – his second 30-point effort of the year. He was 12-of-17 from the floor and also led both teams with ten rebounds. Collins finished with a career-high 17 points – all after halftime -- on 8-of-10 field goal shooting. Collagan was 4-of-5 from three-point range for the second straight game (following that showing in Thursday's key 83-78 win over his former team, Keene State), and followed Brown with 20 points.
Gonzalez added 12 points, nine assists and five steals and Marquez totaled 11 points (5-of-5 on free throws).
UMass, which was 21-of-26 from the foul line after halftime, got 31 points from freshman guard Jake Ashworth. Ashworth, who shoots 42 percent from distance and over 90 percent from the stripe, was 4-of-7 from three-point range and 9-of-10 from the foul line. Ashworth sank clutch jumpers twice in overtime with his team trailing by two.
Williams followed Ashworth with 28 points. He was 10-of-11 from the foul line, helping the Corsairs go 24-of-30 from the stripe.
Collagan and Collins combined for 37 of Eastern's 39 bench points, which outscored UMD's non-starters by 34 points. The Warriors also shot 55.1 percent from the floor but turned the ball over a season-high 17 times and was out-rebounded, 16-7 off the offensive glass, which gave UMD a +9 points advantage in that department.
The program's all-time scoring leader, Brown exceeded 1,800 career points in the game and brings a 105-game career total of 1.828 points into the final week of the regular seaosn.
In final LEC games, Eastern visits Western Connecticut Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. and closes out the regular season Saturday, hosting the University of Southern Maine at 3 p.m.