WILLIMANTIC, Conn. –Junior guard Carlos Gonzalez (Springfield, MA) had ten points, four steals and four assists in the team's 26-5 run over the first nine minutes and the five-time defending Little East Conference regular-season champion Eastern Connecticut State University men's basketball team rolled to a 78-49 victory over Castleton University Tuesday night at Francis E. Geissler Gymnasium.
The win is the 40th consecutive one at home for Eastern (10-3, 4-1 LEC) in conference regular-season play and moves the Warriors into a two-way tie for first in the LEC with UMass Dartmouth, which downed host Rhode Island College, 65-64 Tuesday.
Gonzalez and sophomore guard Cory Muckle (Westbrook) combined for five three-point field goals in that opening 26-5 run as the Warriors raced to a 17-point, 42-25 lead.
Eastern shot 53.1 percent from the floor in the first half and was 7-of-17 from long distance. The Warriors turned the ball over only four times while forcing ten miscue with six steals, outscoring the visitors 20-6 off turnovers over the first 20 minutes
Ranked second nationally in steals, Gonzalez finished with a season-high and career-tying six in just 23 minutes to go along with a game-high 23 points, four rebounds and four assists. He was 8-of-14 from the floor, including 6-of-9 from distance. Muckle totaled 17 points with the help of 5-of-12 shooting from behind the arc, with freshman forward Seth Thomas (Norwich) chipping in 12 points (5-of-8 FG) and seven rebounds. Gonzalez set the season record with 98 steals as a sophomore and his sixth of Tuesday's game gives him 50 for the season, improves his season average to 3.85 and moves him to within 13 of breaking the program career record of 228, set by E-Club Hall of Famer Rich Vega from 1998-02.
Eastern freshman guards Nick Casiano (Rocky Hill) and Thomas Close (East Hampton) recorded their first collegiate points for the Warriors. Casiano had five points, three assists, two rebounds and a steal in 13 minutes and Close converted his first collegiate shot – a three-pointer – and had three points and a rebound in nine minutes.
Castleton (3-10, 0-5 LEC) got 15 points from sophomore guard Eric Shaw and junior guard Casey Belade and a game-high nine rebounds from junior forward Igor Almeida
Eastern hosts the University of Southern Maine in a conference game Thursday at 7:30 p.m.