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Men's Basketball Denies Plymouth

Warriors score seven straight in final minutes to post 73-63 win

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WILLIMANTIC, Conn. -- Junior guard Brian Salzillo (North Haven) put the Eastern Connecticut State University men's basketball team in front for good with six minutes left by canning a three-point field goal, then turning a steal into a driving layup to spark a run of seven straight points as the Warriors  defeated Plymouth State University for a sixth straight time with a 73-63 Little East Conference victory Saturday afternoon at Francis E. Geissler Gymnasium.

At right: Brian Salzillo

Returning home for the first time since December 6, Eastern (8-5, 2-1 Little East) overcoming a seven-point deficit eight minutes into the second half to capture its second straight conference win after an opening loss.  Plymouth (2-9, 1-2 Little East)  has dropped its last three.

Ranked fourth nationally with just under four three-point field goals made per game, Salzillo pulled the Warriors to within one, 55-54 with just over six minutes left, then stole the ball and converted a layup to give Eastern the lead for good, 56-55, with six minutes left. Senior guard Tyler Hundley (Cheshire) then connected on his only three-point field goal of the game off a Plymouth miss and senior forward Chris Robitaille (Canton) rebound and senior guard Joe Ives (Avon) drained two free throws to cap the 7-0 run and push Eastern into a 61-55 lead with four minutes left.

After building its seven-point lead, Plymouth was outscored 22-8 the rest of the way.

In 40 minutes, Robitaille led both teams with 19 points (8-for-1), eight rebounds and three blocks and also topped the Warriors with four assists. Salzillo, coming off an all-tournament showing at Franklin & Marshall at mid-week, had 17 points (11 in the second half) with the help of four three-point field goals that stretched his streak to 18 games with at least one basket from long distance. Freshman guard Trachone Preston (Enfield) tossed in 16 points, adding two three-pointers and four free throws in four tries. Salzillo, Robitaille and Preston were  18-for-32 from the floor. Hundley added nine points and seven rebounds.

Five Plymouth players combined for all of the team's points. Sophomore Alex Burt led the way with 17 points, 13 in the second half, with junior Petey Skevas adding 13 points, five rebounds and six assists, senior Stephan Roberts 12 points and five rebounds and junior Mark MacGregor 11 points off the bench, nine in the second half.

After shooting 39.3 percent from the floor in the first half, Eastern countered with 56.5 percent shooting over the final 20 minutes. Ranked seventh nationally with a team three-point percentage of .424, Eastern was 8-for-25 (.320) from long range while Plymouth failed on 12 of 15 tries.

Eastern hosts Massachusetts Dartmouth Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. in a Little East Conference game.

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