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M-Basketball: Defense Carries Warriors

In tip-off opener against WNEU, Warriors allow fewest points  in 29 years

By Bill Mullins/Sports Information Staff



Head Coach Bill Geitner (2:18)

geitner_head_72dpi2012_2794.jpgWILLIMANTIC, Conn. -- The Eastern Connecticut State University men's basketball team got its season off on the right track with a  62-34 win over visiting Western New England University Friday night in the opening round of the 32nd Annual Eastern Tip-Off Tournament at Francis E. Geissler Gymnasium.

At right: Mike Garrow (Cris Yarborough photo)

Eastern, comingoff last year's appearance in the NCAA Division III Sweet 16, moves into its 28th tournament final Saturday at 3 p.m. against Clark University, which got a three-point field goal from Brian Vayda in the final seconds to down Bowdoin College, 55-54, in Friday's second semifinal. Clark defeated Eastern in its only other tip-off appearance in 1982, winning the title game 74-71.

Bowdoin, which lost in the tourney final in its only previous tip-off appearance in 2009, faces Western New England in the 1 p.m. game for third place.

The Warriors used big runs at the start of both halves and to close out the first half en route to their rout of the Golden Bears, keeping the team a perfect 11-0 in season-openers under the leadership of head coach Bill Geitner. The 34 points by Western New England are the fewest allowed by Eastern in 29 seasons (including all of the shot clock era), the lowest yield since holding down Western Connecticut in a 34-27 slow-down win during the 1983/84 season, prior to the use of the shot clock.

Eastern started out by hitting their first three 3-point field goals of the game as they jumped out to a 9-0 lead 2:07 into the game. Redshirt junior Mike Garrow (Terryville) connected on the first attempt and junior Brian Salzillo (North Haven) converted the subsequent two attempts for the Warriors. After trading blows until the 5:49 mark, Eastern revved up the offense again and closed the half on a 10-1 run, in which five different players scored, for a 34-15 halftime lead.

Eastern shot 12 of 22 from the field in the first period, including 6-of-9 from beyond the arc while showcasing their trademark defensive intensity by holding Western New England to 22.2 percent shooting from the field, 11.1 percent from three-point range.

Eastern continued its hot shooting as the second half opened with a 9-0 run, led by four points from senior point guard Joe Ives (Avon) and a capped by a three-pointer from fellow senior Tyler Hundley (Cheshire).

Raring to go following a season in which he missed all but the first five games last year, Garrow led the way for the Warriors with 15 points on 6-of-10 shooting, including a thunderous one-handed baseline dunk going under the basket to seal the game.

For the game, nine different Eastern players scored, and 13 saw playing time in the opener. Salzillo also scored in double figures as he hit four of his first five shots to finish with 12 points. The third-leading scorer was Hundley with seven, while senior Chris Robitaille (Canton), Ives, and junior Tim Quinn (Vernon) each had six for the balanced attack.

Eastern dominated on both ends of the floor, outshooting the Golden Bears 46.9 percent (23-49) to 254 percent  (15-59) and out-rebounding the visitors by a 46-27 margin. The rebounding effort was led by Robitaille and Hundley, with nine apiece, while Garrow added seven and Salzillo established a new career-high with six. Hundley's rebounds also represented a career best.

For the game,  Eastern sank half of its 20 three-point field goals, including a torrid 6-of-9 in the first half. Western New England was just 2 of 19 from behind the arc in the game. Robitaille had a career-high six assists and Ives four.

Senior Damon Alston, Western NE's leading returning scorer from last season, was held scoreless on 0-7 shooting. No Golden Bear player reached double figures.

The Warriors will need to work on reducing the number of turnovers they commit, according to Geitner. "We committed 19 turnovers and that isn't our kind of basketball", he said.

 Game Notes:

With the win Eastern improves its all-time mark to 12-12 against Western New England.

The championship appearance will be the 11th in a row for Eastern, which has captured three titles, most recently against Bowdoin in 2009.

Garrow  (15 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 block, 1 steal), named to last year's tip-off all-tournament team along with Salzillo, was named Player of the Game by the Eastern Connecticut Sports Information Office.

Eastern is now 51-21 in season opener's dating back to the 1939-40 season, and now has a 28-4 record in tip-off openers.

Eastern heads into tomorrow's match-up with just a 3-6 all-time mark against Clark.

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