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Men's Basketball: Defense Spurs Warriors to Opening Victory at Colby Classic

Carlos Gonzalez (left) scored all seven of his points in the second half -- four of them in 12 seconds to spark a late 11-0 scoring run -- in the Warriors' 72-55 win over Montclair State Saturday evening in the first round of the Colby College Classic.
Carlos Gonzalez (left) scored all seven of his points in the second half -- four of them in 12 seconds to spark a late 11-0 scoring run -- in the Warriors' 72-55 win over Montclair State Saturday evening in the first round of the Colby College Classic.

WATERVILLE, Maine – The Eastern Connecticut State University men's basketball team outscored Montclair State University by 18 points in the second half – holding the Red Hawks nearly 40 points under their season average in the game– in a 72-55 victory in the opening game of the Colby Classic Saturday evening at Wadsworth Gymnasium.

In a battle of early-season unbeatens, Eastern (4-0) outscored Montclair (3-1), 22-7 in the opening 11 minutes of the second half to pull away from a one-point halftime deficit into a 14-point, 56-42. The Red Hawks cut the gap to seven, 56-49, with six minutes left, but the Warriors answered by ripping off 11 in a row – senior guard Kendall Marquez (Willimantic) scoring five in a row and sophomore guard Carlos Gonzalez (Springfield, MA) four straight – to open up an 18-point, 67-49 lead with just over four minutes remaining.

Sunday's 3 p.m. championship game features undefeated teams again when the Warriors face Colby College (4-0). The Mules routed Maine at Farmington, 82-60, in Saturday's first game.

While Eastern was commanding the momentum with its decisive 22-7 run to start the second half, Montclair was 2-for-12 from the floor with seven turnovers. The Warriors turned the ball over only twice in that stretch and canned half of their 12 field goals.

Senior guard Tarchee Brown (Rockville) of Eastern led all scorers with 22 points – 15 when Eastern outscored MSU 38-20 in the second half -- to move into fifth place all-time in scoring with 1,458 points, 199 behind all-time scoring leader Nick Nedwick (2008-12). Marquez followed with 19 points and a team-high seven rebounds. Brown connected on all four of his three-pointers and Marquez was 4-of-8 from distance. Gonzalez, who re-entered the game just prior to the 11-0 run, contributed all seven of his points in the second half and also added five assists and four rebounds.

Senior guard Jovanni Chatham led Montclair with 12 points, freshman guard Myles Mitchell-White adding ten and 6-8 sophomore post player Eddie Emedoh eight points and nine rebounds.

In the second half, Eastern shot 54.5 percent (12 of 22), Montclair 35.0 percent (7-of-20. Led by Brown (4-of-5) and Gonzalez (3 of 4), the Warriors were 11 of 15 from the stripe (9-of-11 in the second half. Eastern was outrebounded 33-27 and did not have a second-chance point, but was +7 over MSU in points off turnovers. Eastern commited only 12, Montclair 21.

The game was only the second between the programs under current Eastern 16th-year head coach Bill Geitner. In Geitner's eighth game as Eastern's head coach, host Montclair ripped the Warriors, 73-47, in 2002-03 in a game featuring two clubs headed in opposite directions. The Red Hawks were in the midst of a 23-6 season which did not end until the semifinals of the NCAA sectional that year, while Eastern was in the early stages of a 7-19 season that included a 2-13 record away from Geissler Gymnasium. 

Colby holds a slim 4-3 advantage in the season series but Eastern came away with a 74-53 triumph -- the largest differential by either team in the seven-game series -- in the Eastern Tip-Off Tournament in in the last meeting three years ago.