WILLIMANTIC, Conn. – The Eastern Connecticut State University men's basketball team watched a 17-point dwindle to three before embarking upon a 22-3 scoring onslaught over seven minutes in the second half as the Warriors pulled away for their 43rd straight Little East Conference regular-season home win, a 93-77 verdict over Rhode Island College Saturday afternoon at Francis E. Geissler Gymnasium.
The win is the sixth straight for Eastern (14-3, 8-1 LEC), which moves 1 ½ games ahead of idle UMass Dartmouth in the race for its sixth straight LEC regular-season title. Keene State College remained two games off the pace with an 80-59 home decision over the University of Southern Maine Saturday.
One of Eastern sophomore guard Cory Muckle's (Westbrook) career-high six three-point field goals with 11 minute left sparked the decisive 22-3 run that blew open a tight three-point game as the Warriors moved out to a 22-point, 93-71 lead with four minutes left.
In that seven-minute stretch, Muckle and junior guard Carlos Gonzalez (Springfield, MA) each tossed in eight points as the Warriors nailed 8-of-11 shots and turned the ball over only once. Muckle canned three free throws soon after his opening three-point field goal, and Gonzalez finished off the burst with the final eight points – six coming on a pair of three-pointers. Senior guard Donny Craig (Waterford) came off the bench in that 22-3 by contributing a pair of inside hoops and three defensive rebounds as the Warriors completed the two-game season series sweep for the third straight year.
Rhode Island (10-8, 3-6 LEC), 1-5 in its last six games, misfired on ten of 11 shots and turned the ball over three times in 15 possessions as it was unable to counter the Warriors' offensive surge during the 22-3 run.
Eastern shot 54.1 percent in building an eight-point 53-45 lead at the break. Muckle paced three double-digit scorers in the first 20 minutes, and Gonzalez handed out seven of his game total of nine assists. Freshman guard Deyshawn Tengbeh (East Providence, RI) Sophomore guard Adham Floyd (Worcester, MA)
combined for 28 of RIC's points and each grabbed five rebounds in the first half.
Muckle led all players with 27 points – one shy of his career-high – with Gonzalez totaling 22 points and six rebounds along with his season-tying nine assists, and only one turnover in 37 minutes. Freshman forward Seth Thomas (Norwich) added 13 points and seven rebounds – ten of the points and six of the rebounds coming in the first half – and Craig had eight of his ten points and all four of his rebounds in 15 second-half minutes. Senior forward Leonel Hyatt (Greenwich) pulled down a game-high 12 rebounds and blocked two shots.
Floyd connected on half of his shots and led RIC with 21 points, with Tenghbeh adding 19 points without a turnover in 34 minutes. Each grabbed eight rebounds.
Eastern hosts Amherst College in a non-conference game Tuesday at 5:30 p.m.