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Men's Basketball: Gonzalez Enjoys Career Day in Warriors' Comeback Win over Plymouth

Junior guard Carlos Gonzalez sinks this floater with 1:01 left in the game that made him the 34th player to reach 1,000 career points in an Eastern uniform. The points were part of Gonzalez' run of nine straight Eastern points that helped the Warriors back from seven points down for their 44th straight Little East Conference regular-season home win. Credited with the assist on the milestone basket was Gonzalez' roommate, senior forward Leonel Hyatt (Photo by Sara Pisanelli).
Junior guard Carlos Gonzalez sinks this floater with 1:01 left in the game that made him the 34th player to reach 1,000 career points in an Eastern uniform. The points were part of Gonzalez' run of nine straight Eastern points that helped the Warriors back from seven points down for their 44th straight Little East Conference regular-season home win. Credited with the assist on the milestone basket was Gonzalez' roommate, senior forward Leonel Hyatt (Photo by Sara Pisanelli).

WILLIMANTIC, Conn. – Junior guard Carlos Gonzalez (Springfield, MA) scored nine straight Eastern Connecticut State University points in the final minutes – including the 1,000th of his career on the way to a career-high 35 points – to power the Warriors to their 44th straight Little East Conference regular-season men's basketball home win, 80-75, Saturday afternoon at Francis E. Geissler Gymnasium.

Trailing by seven points with  seven minutes left, Eastern (15-4, 9-1 LEC) outscored Plymouth (10-9, 5-6 LEC) 25-13 the rest of the way. In those final seven minutes, the Warriors were 7-of-11 from the floor without a turnover and canned eight of nine free throw.

Now 7-1 at home and a winner of seven of its last eight, five-time defending LEC regular-season champion Eastern holds a 1 ½ game lead over Keene State College. The Owls defeated UMass Dartmouth, 82-57, Saturday at Dartmouth, MA. UMass Dartmouth trailed Eastern by one game entering play Saturday.

Eastern ran off ten straight points to turn a seven-point deficit into a three-point, 65-62 lead with 5:37 left. Freshman forward Seth Thomas (Norwich) got it going with five straight points on two free throws and a conventional three-point play on an assist from Gonzalez that cut the gap to two, 62-60. Gonzalez then scored while being fouled following a defensive rebound from senior forward Donny Craig (Waterford) to tie the game, and Craig answered with his only three-point field goal of the game which was set up by two offensive rebounds by sophomore guard Cory Muckle (Westbrook) to push the Warriors into their 65-62 lead.

After Plymouth junior guard Jaylen LeRoy gave his team its final lead, 74-72, with 1:28 left, Eastern held the visitors without a field goal the rest of the way, running off eight of the final nine points. Gonzalez' floater in the lane off a short flip from senior forward Leonel Hyatt (Greenwich) gave him his 1000th career point and tied the game for the final time, 74-74, with 61 seconds left. Gonzalez then stole the ball and nailed the final of his six three-pointers from very long range. Gonzalez (2-of-2) and junior guard Jake Collagan (Wethersfield) combined to convert three of four free throws in the final 11.6 seconds.

Ranked second nationally in steals (he is the program's all-time leader in that category), Gonzalez swiped five balls, handed out four assists and pulled down four rebounds in 40 minutes to go along with his 35 points – five more than his previous high set in the conference tournament championship game during his freshman season in a win over Keene State College at Geissler Gym. He was 6-of-10 from deep Saturday and cashed in nine of ten free throws.

Muckle added 13 points and seven rebounds (four offensive) and Thomas had his second double-double of the season – both coming against Plymouth. He finished with 11 points and ten rebounds (three offensive) after going 11/11 at Plymouth Dec. 8. Senior guard Jaysen Nunez (Hartford) came off the bench for six points and five assists without a turnover in 16 minutes.

Freshman forward Manny Alisandro led Plymouth with 24 points and 12 rebounds without a turnover in 34 minutes, with LeRoy adding 18 points, freshman guard Dante Rivera 14 points, four rebounds and four assists and 6-foot-8 inch senior forward Mike Osgood  tossing in 13 points with eight rebounds. Osgood did not play in Plymouth's  77-62 loss to Eastern earlier this year at Plymouth, NH.

Behind Nunez and Craig, Eastern's bench outscored the Plymouth seconds, 13-0, and outrebounded them, 7-2.

Eastern visits Massachusetts Boston in a conference game Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.