WILLIMANTIC, Conn. -- Sports are full of passion, excitement, and, of course, rivalries. Eastern Connecticut State University and Keene State College share many traits, the most important of which is the desire to beat one another.
Every sport. Every year.
Most recently, men’s basketball has become the latest showcase for this rivalry. Eastern has beaten Keene State in the Little East Conference championship game for the last two years. In 2017, Carlos Gonzalez – then a freshman -- stepped up when Eastern’s top players suffered injuries. Eastern would win in the dramatic final minute behind Gonzalez’s 30-point outing. In last year’s tournament, Keene State‘s Miguel Prieto checked out of the semi-final game with an injury, allowing Eastern to glide to its second consecutive championship victory over Keene State.
Eastern is on pace for another 20-win season, with a significant victory over 2018 NCAA Final Four participant, Springfield College, 74-59, that closed out the 2018 portion of its schedule.
Although Keene was only 7-6 (3-2 LEC) in its first 13 games, the Owls lost five of their games by single digit margins and defeated No. 22 Middlebury College. Regardless of the regular season records, these teams have the potential to meet for the third straight year in the LEC finals.
The teams are led by fellow Springfield natives Ty Nichols of Keene, and Eastern’s Gonzalez, each of whom has received recognition on the D3hoops.com Team-of-the-Week this year. A senior, Nichols is the only active player in the NCAA, across every division, with 1,800 points, 500 rebounds, and 400 assists. Nichols is also third all-time in scoring at Keene. Gonzalez is second in the nation in steals per game and only 12 steals away from tying the program’s all-time record in that category. Gonzalez is on pace to score 1,000 career points this season.
The Keene State-Eastern matchup is one for the ages. Don’t miss the first faceoff of the season this Saturday when Eastern hosts Keene in the Francis E. Geissler Gymnasium.
Whether you’re a fan of basketball or just love a good rivalry, be sure to watch the two Little East Conference powerhouses battle at 3 p.m.