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M-Basketball: Warriors Pull Away, 87-71

Fifty-one point second half carries them to LEC win over So. Maine

hundleyUSM72_0103.jpg

WILLIMANTIC, Conn. - Senior forward Tyler Hundley (Cheshire) tied his career high with 17 points and grabbed a career-high ten rebounds to pace six double-digit scorers when the Eastern Connecticut State University men's basketball team avenged its only Little East Conference loss of the season with an 87-71 victory over the University of Southern Maine Saturday afternoon at Francis E. Geissler Gymnasium.

At right Tyler Hundley was perfect on eight free throw attempts en route to a game-high 17 points in Saturday's 87-71 Little East Conference victory over the University of Southern Maine at Geissler Gym. (Photo by Krysta Valerio).

With Eastern (12-5, 6-1 Little East) trailing by five at halftime, junior guard Brian Salzillo (North Haven) ignited a 51-point second half with 11 points after failing to score in the first half - hitting all three of his three-point field goals - as the Warriors pulled away for their fifth straight win and sixth straight conference triumph since dropping a 69-63 overtime decision at Southern Maine (10-7, 5-2 Little East) in the conference opener for both teams Dec. 1.

Last year's LEC regular-season and tournament champion, Eastern remains in a tie at the top of the conference with Rhode Island College, which edged homestanding Plymouth State University Saturday, 57-54. Southern Maine falls into a two-way tie for third place with Keene State College, which routed visiting Massachusetts Dartmouth, 89-60 Saturday.

Both Eastern and Southern Maine shot over 50 percent from the floor in the first half and combined on just seven turnovers, but the Huskies nailed eight of 14 three-pointers to post a 41-36 halftime edge. The Warriors outscored USM 19-5 over the first seven minutes of the second half, however, to build an 11-point, 57-46 advantage. The lead never dipped below nine thereafter.

robitailleUSM72_0058.jpgWhile Southern Maine was missing four shots and turning the ball over twice on six possessions over three minutes in the second half, the Warriors scored ten straight points, capped by a conventional three-point play by sophomore guard Brandon Yarborough (Stamford) and Salzillo's first three-point field goal that made it 57-46 with 12:36 left.

At left: Chris Robitaille goes up for two of his 16 points in the first half of Saturday's win over Southern Maine. (Photo by Krysta Valerio)

In outscoring Southern Maine by 21 points in the second half, Eastern shot 68.0 percent and the Huskies only 24.4. In addition to Salzillo's 11 second-half points, Hundley hit six free throws and grabbed nine rebounds in the second half, with senior forward Chris Robitaille (Canton) and senior guard Joe Ives (Avon) adding eight points each on 6-for-7 field goals.
 Senior forward Sean Bergeron and junior forward James Odneal combined for 26 points for USM in the first half, each sinking five of eight field goals. Averaging less than one three-pointer per game this year, Bergeron tossed in four over the first 20 minutes.

Behind Hundley, Robitaille finished with 16 points (7-for-9 from the floor) and seven rebounds in the game, junior guard Mike Garrow (Terryville) 15 points (6-for-8 from the floor) and six rebounds, Ives 12 points and Salzillo and freshman guard Trachone Preston (Enfield) 11 points each. Hundley was perfect in the game with three field goals (all three-pointers) on three attempts and was 8-for-8 from the foul line. He also blocked two shots.

Bergeron and Odneal both had 16 points for Southern Maine - but a total of only six came in the second half  -- with Bergeron adding a game-high ten rebounds. Junior guard Conor Sullivan added 13 points and junior guard Brandon Graham came off the bench for 13 points - all in a stretch of three minutes with his team trailing by 20 in the final four minutes.

Eastern visits Keene State College Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.

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