Balance, defense lead them to fifth straight conference win, 69-56
DANBURY, Conn. -- Junior guard Brian Salzillo (North Haven) and sophomore guard Brandon Yarborough (Stamford) gave the Eastern Connecticut State University men's basketball team a first-half lift and the Warriors used a 10-1 run midway through the second half to post a 69-56 Little East Conference victory over Western Connecticut State University Tuesday night at the Feldman Arena.
At left: Brandon Yarborough
Salzillo and Yarborough each scored six points off the bench in the first half as Eastern (11-5, 5-1 Little East) took the lead in the first minute and never trailed on the way to its third win in the last four contests against Western (4-11, 2-4 Little East). The Colonials dropped to 1-7 at home while the Warriors improved to 5-2 on their opponents' home court.
Eastern, Rhode Island College and the University of Southern Maine maintained a share of the top spot in the conference with victories Tuesday, Rhode Island College surviving against winless UMass Dartmouth, 70-64, on the road and Southern Maine edging visiting UMass Boston, 64-58.
While Western was missing six straight shots and turning the ball over four times on ten possessions, Eastern rattled off eight straight points in a 10-1 spurt, holding the Colonials off the board for five minutes to move out to a 51-37, 14-point lead on a jumper by Salzillo with eight minutes left.
Ranked second nationally in three-point field goals per game (4+), Salzillo connected on his first attempt from long distance to give Eastern an eight-point lead with 8:31 left. It was the only three-pointer of the game for Salzillo, who has collected at least one in 21 straight games dating back to last season.
Western guard Phil Starks, the top freshman scorer in the LEC with a 12.4 average, was held to one three-pointer and three points until he tossed in two from long range in the final 74 seconds and his team trailing by 19. He finished with nine points.
Senior forward Chris Robitaille (Canton) and freshman guard Trachone Preston (Enfield) led all players in the game with 16 points each for Eastern, with Robitaille amassing his third double-double in the last five games with a team-high 11 rebounds. Each had three points in the 10-1 run, with senior guard Joe Ives (Avon) sinking two free throws in that stretch and finishing with 11 points.
Ives converted all six of his free throws for Eastern to improve his season mark to .871 and help the Warriors finish 21-for-28 in that department and Preston added four steals to improve his team-high total to 18.
Eastern hosts the University of Southern Maine Saturday at 3 p.m. The Warriors opened their conference season with a 69-63 overtime loss at Southern Maine.