Courtesy ECSU Sports Information, keeneowls.com and goanchormen.com
#4 Keene State 81, #1 Eastern Connecticut 63
WILLIMANTIC, Conn. - The adage that it's tough to beat a team three times in a season proved true as the No. 4 seed Keene State College men's basketball team scored a stunning 81-63 upset of top seeded and nationally ranked Eastern Connecticut State University on Friday night at Geissler Gym.
The Warriors has won both regular season games over KSC but could not overcome the Owls in the semifinal, as KSC limited the Warriors to 40% shooting from the floor.
It was the first time the Owls (19-8) have ever beaten Eastern Connecticut on the road in the LEC tournament. The Warriors had registered tournament victories over KSC in 2000, 2010, and 2012.
KSC will play either Rhode Island College or UMass Dartmouth in the championship game on Saturday at 2 p.m.
Freshman guard Dizel Wright of Keene, who had only 10 total points against Eastern in the regular season, scored 17 and senior guard Tom Doyle dropped in 30 points. He was 12-for-14 from the foul line in helping the Owls to a 21-for-26 mark from the stripe. Sophomore forward Jeff Lunn came off the bench for 14 points for Keene, which had advanced to the semis with a 101-99 win over Western Connecticut.
It was the third straight game with at least 30 points for Doyle, after scoring 32 in the regular season finale at UMass Dartmouth and adding 35 more in the quarterfinals against Western Connecticut State.
The Owls came out pressing and forced 16 Eastern turnovers, with Keene capitalizing on those miscues for 16 points. Eastern failed on half of its 18 free throws.
Keene led by ten at halftime and by as many as 20, five minutes into the second half. Eastern whittled the deficit to four with nine minutes left before the Owls answered with 15 of the next 16 points. Doyle canned a jumper and a three-pointer to push the Owls' four-point lead by to nine with 6:39 left, and Lunn scored inside to restore a double-digit lead (68-57) with just under five minutes left. Eastern went more than seven minutes between baskets during Keene's decisive surge.
"We had talked that it would be a game of waves, and about bending but not breaking. We got a couple stops in a row, and we showed a lot of resolve during that onslaught," said head coach Rob Colbert.
The Owls had led by as many as 14 before coughing up the lead in an 82-76 loss to the Warriors on February 11. But the Owls knew they could stick with the high-flying Warriors. "We used it as a positive that we could do it for 20-30. Coach Justice had a great game plan. We didn't guard Lindo outside and were able to clean up a lot of trouble."
KSC now has a quick turnaround to tomorrow's championship game. "We'll be ready, regardless of who it is."
This will be the eighth time that KSC has advanced to the LEC title game since joining the league in the 1997-98 season. The Owls won their only tournament title in 2004. Eastern Connecticut State will be in hopes of an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.
The No. 4 seed has won the LEC tournament twice; Western Connecticut State did so in 1996 and Eastern Connecticut State also did it in 2000.
#2 Rhode Island College 75, #3 UMass Dartmouth 63
Senior forward Chris Burton (New Rochelle, NY) and classmate guard Eric Alleyne (Watertown, MA) combined for 41 points to lead second-seeded Rhode Island College to a 75-63 victory over third-seeded UMass Dartmouth in the semifinals of the 2015 Little East Conference Men's Basketball Tournament on Fridaynight at Eastern Connecticut's Geissler Gymnasium.
With the victory, the Anchormen (20-7) reach the Little East Tournament title game for the ninth straight season and will face fourth-seeded Keene State, who upset the tournament's top seed, Eastern Connecticut, 81-63, earlier in the day. The meeting between the two schools will mark the third time in the past nine seasons the teams have met in the LEC Championship Game. RIC is 2-0 in the previous meetings.
Rhode Island College has won 18 of its last 20 meetings with Keene State, including the last eight. The Anchormen's last setback to the Owls was a 92-91 loss on Jan. 14, 2012.
The Anchormen jumped out to an early lead on the Corsairs (14-13), taking a seven point lead, 17-10, on a layup by sophomore forward Terrance Tribble (White Plains, NY) with 10:17 left in the first half. The Anchormen increased their lead to as large as nine, but a 9-2 run by UMD, capped by a three-pointer by senior guard Josh Castillo (Lynn, MA), knotted the score at 21 apiece with 4:37 left in the half. The defense stepped up for both teams down the stretch with the score entering halftime tied at 23-23.
RIC was paced by senior center Victor Smith (Providence, RI) who scored eight points in the half, while the Corsairs were led by senior guard Jake Laga's (Northampton, MA) nine points.
The Anchormen opened the second half on a roll, taking a 10 point, 37-27, lead on a layup by Burton with 16:20left in the half. An Alleyne free throw upped the RIC lead to 14 with 12:42 left to play. A jump shot by Laga trimmed the UMD deficit down to eight, 48-40, with 8:36 left in the half, but a 12-4 run by the Anchormen over the next 3:37gave them a comfortable 16 point, 60-44 lead with just under five minutes left to play.
A layup by UMD junior guard Jordan Rezendes (Onset, MA) with 3:58 left made the score 62-51 RIC, but Burton sank 8-of-10 free throws down the stretch to seal the 75-63 victory.
Rezendes, the LEC's leading scorer in the regular season, scored 20 points with Laga pitching in 17 in the defeat. The Corsairs shot 37.1 percent (23-for-62) from the floor, 31.8 percent (7-for-22) from three-point land and 66.7 percent (10-for-15) from the charity stripe.
Burton finished with a double-double, registering 20 points and 12 boards, while Alleyne scored a game-high 21 points. Smith had a solid performance off the bench for the Anchormen, scoring 10 and hauling in seven boards. Freshman guard Roosevelt Shider (Meriden, CT) also scored in double figures with a 15-point effort. RIC finished the game shooting 41.0 percent (25-for-61) from the field, 75.0 percent (21-for-28) from the charity stripe and 30.8 percent (4-for-13) from downtown.