RIC takes over sole possession in Little East with 60-50 victory
WILLIMANTIC, Conn. - The Rhode Island College men's basketball team opened the game by missing 13 of its first 14 shots but sank over half of its second-half attempts from the floor on the way to a 60-50 Little East Conference victory over Eastern Connecticut State University Saturday afternoon at Francis E. Geissler Gymnasium.
At left: Mike Garrow battles Tahrike Carter for position in the first half of Saturday's Little East Conference loss. (Photo by Courtney Weber).
Ranked No. 21 nationally, Rhode Island (16-2, 8-1 Little East) took hold of sole possession of first place in the conference by winning its ninth straight game since dropping a 76-68 home decision to Eastern (13-6, 7-2 Little East) Dec. 8 at the Murray Center.
Eastern, which defeated Rhode Island in last year's conference championship game, saw seven-game conference and six-game overall winning streaks come to an end. The Warriors drop into a two-way tie for second place in the LEC with the University of Southern Maine, which dumped homestanding Western Connecticut State University Saturday, 90-77.
The No. 1-rated defensive team in the conference, Rhode Island held Eastern 23 points under its season average, outscoring the hosts 36-23 in the second half. The Warriors entered play as the conference's top three-point-shooting club but managed only three from distance on 16 tries.
Led by junior guard Michael Palumbo, the Anchormen second team outscored the Eastern reserves, 29-3. Palumbo came off the bench to nail all three of his three-point field goals, all coming in the second half. Palumbo connected on consecutive three-pointers to give the Anchormen their first double-digit lead, 52-42, with just under five minutes left and two minutes later, Palumbo and junior guard Nyheem Sanders drained back-to-back three-pointers to push the visitors' lead to 13, 57-44, with three minutes left.
Three free throws from senior forward Tyler Hundley (Cheshire) gave the Warriors their last lead with 12 minutes left before Rhode Island countered with nine consecutive points to move out to a six-point, 44-38 lead with nine minutes left. Six of RIC's points in that stretch came inside the paint by three difference individuals. Senior guard Tahrike Carter got it going with a free throw, and after Eastern missed two straight three-pointers, he dropped in a jump shot.
Carter (14 points) and Palumbo (13) topped RIC in scoring while junior guard Brian Salzillo (North Haven) and senior forward Chris Robitaille (Canton) led Eastern with 14 and 12 points, respectively. Freshman guard Trachone Preston (Enfield) had eight points and shared game-high rebounding honors with Hundley with eight, while Robitaille grabbed seven. Preston converted all six of his free throws to push is season percentage over .800 (.810).
Salzillo swished one three-pointer in each half to extend his streak of consecutive games with at least one long-range basket to 24.
Rhode Island turned the ball over only nine times in the whole game, with only three coming in the second half when it outscored Eastern 16-1 off turnovers. In the game, 20 Eastern turnovers resulted in 22 RIC points.
Senior point guard Joe Ives (Avon), the Eastern team leader in minutes, missed his first game since his freshman year with a shoulder injury. In this year's win over Rhode Island, Ives played all 40 minutes and finished with 14 points and six rebounds.
Eastern hosts Wesleyan University Wednesday at 7 p.m.