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M-Basketball Keeps it Together, 73-70

Warriors re-group against UMass Boston after 18-point lead evaporates

garrow_72_6844.jpgBOSTON - Junior forward Mike Garrow (Terrvyille) grabbed a rebound and scored on the other end to give the Eastern Connecticut State University men's basketball team the lead for good with four minutes left and the Warriors hung on for a 73-70 Little East Conference victory over the University of Massachusetts Boston Saturday afternoon at the Clark Athletic Center.

At left: Mike Garrow

After coming up short the last three times it was involved in a game decided by four or less points, Eastern (10-5, 4-1 Little East)  re-grouped after blowing an 18-point first-half lead to corral its fourth straight conference win after an opening loss. The victory is the seventh straight for Eastern over UMass Boston (8-6, 2-3 Little East) on the Beacons' home court and seventh straight overall against UMB.

Eastern retains a share of the top spot in the conference with Rhode Island College and the University of Southern Maine, with Keene State College dropping a game back of the leaders with a 58-55 road loss to Rhode Island.

A winner of three in a row and four of its last five, Eastern roared to an 18-point lead 12 minutes into the game, but the hosts cut the gap to 12 by the half, and after trailing by 11 six minutes into the second half, put together a 14-2 run over four minutes that vaulted them into the first lead since the opening minute, 53-52, with ten minutes left.
 
A UMass free throw broke the final tie of the game with just over five minutes left, but the Beacons failed to capitalize on a chance to make it a three-point lead when they missed an inside shot off an Eastern turnover. Garrow rebounded the miss and took a return pass from freshman guard Trachone Preston (Enfield) at the other end to put the Warriors in front for good, 62-61, with just over four minutes left. Preston later swished two free throws off a steal from senior guard Tyler Hundley (Cheshire) to make it 64-61.

In the final four minutes, Preston and Garrow combined on eight of ten free throws, and junior guard Brian Salzillo (North Haven) applied the death blow with his fourth three-point field goal of the game with 2:16 left that expanded a one-point lead to four.

Eastern's 18-point first-half lead came largely due to the three-point marksmanship of  Salzillo and Preston, who combined to connect on six of seven three-pointers in the first half and fuel the team's torrid field goal mark of 65.4 percent. Each finished with four three-pointers, with Hundley chipping in two as the Warriors made good on ten of 20 attempts from long range.

Garrow shared game-high scoring honors with a season-high 23 points - tying his career high. He was 9-for-15 from the floor and shared team-high rebounding honors with senior forward Chris Robitaille (Canton), both with six. Preston, last week's LEC Rookie-of-the-Week, doubled his season scoring average with 18 points, hitting five of seven field goals (4-for-5 from "three") and all four of his free throws. Salzillo had a three-pointer in his 20th game over two years and matched Preston with 18 points. Senior guard Joe Ives (Avon) handed out a career-high seven assists.

UMass, which started two players standing 6-foot-9 inches tall, got 23 points from sophomore guard Vinny DeLucia and 14 points and a game-high seven rebounds off the bench from team scoring leader Rahshjeem Benson, a 6-foot-8 inch junior. Benson turned the ball over seven times, however, in 23 minutes.

On the season, Preston is shooting .519 from three-point range and Salzillo .442 with an average of 4.1 made per contest; Preston is shooting .795 from the foul line, Salzillo .842 and Ives .859; and Robitaille has sank .551 percent of his field goals.

Salzillo entered the game ranked second nationally in three-point field goal made per game (4.08) behind Grinnell sophomore Jack Taylor (6.25), who left his team's last game Wednesday after six minutes of play due to injury and did not play in his team's contest Saturday.

Eastern visits Western Connecticut State University in an LEC contest Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.

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