SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – The Eastern Connecticut State University men's basketball team scored 27 points and committed only two turnovers on its final 22 possessions to erase a five-point deficit with ten minutes left and pull away for a 74-59 victory over Springfield College Sunday afternoon in the consolation game of the Hampton Inn West Springfield/Naismith Classic at Blake Arena.
Behind 14 second-half points from junior guard Jake Collagan (Wethersfield) and senior forward Leonel Hyatt (Greenwich), Eastern (9-3) outscored Springfield) (3-8) 45-26 in the second half in equaling its least points allowed this season and defeating the Pride in this tournament for the second time in the last two appearances. In 2011, the Warriors won, 59-46, in the title game. Springfield was coming off last year's berth in the national semifinals.
Down by four points at halftime and by seven after the first basket of the second half, Eastern played near-perfect basketball over the final ten minutes, outscoring its hosts 27-7 to wipe out a five-point, 52-47 deficit.
In the final ten minutes, the Warriors canned nine of 17 tries from the floor, were 5-of-6 from the foul line and turned the ball over only twice – the second one coming in the final seconds. In the second half, Springfield shot just 24 percent from the field and its eight turnovers allowed Eastern a 12-2 scoring advantage on miscues. On its 20 possessions over the final ten minutes, the Pride missed 12 of 14 attempts from the floor and committed four turnovers (all in the final three minutes).
In that 27-7 run over the final ten minutes, four players carried the Eastern scoring load: junior guard Carlos Gonzalez (Springfield, MA) had nine points on three three-point field goals – two coming on successive possessions on either side of a missed Springfield shot that turned the tide for good and gave the Warriors an eight-point lead with just under four minutes left; Collagan had seven points, kickstarting the comeback by swishing three free throws after being fouled on a three-point bid; Hyatt chipped in six points, and senior guard Donny Craig (Waterford) added all five of his game points, three coming on a corner three-pointer off a pass from senior guard Jaysen Nunez (Hartford) on his first shot of the game that gave the Warriors a six-point, 58-52 lead, with six minutes left.
Collagan represented Eastern on the all-tournament team after totalling 26 points (4-of-8 from distance), six rebounds and only one turnover in 38 minutes Sunday. He had 17 points in Saturday's 79-73 loss to No. 16 Nichols College. Hyatt finished Sunday's game with eight rebounds and a career-high 16 points on 6-of-7 field goals and 4-of-5 free throws. Gonzalez had 14 points (4-of-8 from distance), nine rebounds and four steals and only two turnovers in 33 minutes.
At left: Junior point guard Carlos Gonzalez looks for an open teammate in the second half of Sunday's 74-59 win over Springfield College in the consolation game of the Naismith Classic at Blake Arena. In the game, Gonzalez had 14 points, four steals and three assists against the Pride and sank three key three-pointers in the second half.
In addition to guarding Springfield All-America forward Jake Ross, freshman forward Seth Thomas (Norwich) had eight points and four rebounds in 25 minutes. Craig also had four rebounds (three in the second half) in 15 minutes off the bench.
Ross led the Pride with a game-high 28 points to go along with eight rebounds in 36 minutes, but scored ten of his points from the foul line and turned the ball over seven times. Junior forward Heath Post had 15 points and a game-high 11 rebounds for Springfield, with nine of his points coming from the foul line as Ross and Post combined to connect on 19 of 23 shots from the stripe. Springfield's two substitutes contributed only five points on 1-of-10 field goal shooting and six rebounds in 50 minutes.
In the tournament, Gonzalez and Collagan each averaged 21.5 points. Gonzalez also led the Warriors with 15 rebounds, nine three-points, seven assists and seven steals. Hyatt had 18 points and 12 rebounds and was 7-of-10 from the floor. Gonzalez, Collagan and Hyatt combined to shoot 55.1 percent (38-of-69) from the floor and 93.3 percent (14-of-15) from the stripe. As a team, Eastern shot 84.0 percent from the foul line (21-of-25) and 47.8 percent from the floor and held its opponent to 39.8 field goal shooting.
Eastern hosts Castleton University in a Little East Conference game Jan. 8 at 7:30 p.m. The Warriors play six of their eight games in January at home.