Warriors use 13-3 run to wipe out deficit for seventh straight LEC win
KEENE, N.H. - The Eastern Connecticut State University men's basketball team overcame a nine-point second-half deficit, breaking a late tie with six consecutive points to defeat Keene State College on the Owls' home floor for the fourth straight year, 62-57, Tuesday night in a Little East Conference game at Spaulding Gymnasium.
At left: Trachone Preston
The defending LEC regular-season and tournament champion, Eastern (13-5, 7-1 Little East) retains a share of the conference lead with Rhode Island College, which came from behind for a 56-51 home win over Western Connecticut State University Tuesday night.
The Warriors have won six straight games overall and seven in a row in the conference since an LEC-opening overtime loss at the University of Southern Maine. Keene State (10-7, 5-3 Little East) missed out on an opportunity to pull even with Eastern in the standings. The Owls drop from a share of third place into fourth place.
Eastern led by six at halftime but was outscored 21-6 to open the second half as Keene moved out to it largest lead of nine points, 49-40, nine minutes into the half on a dunk by 6-foot-10 inch senior Rashad Wright. The Warriors countered immediately with a 13-3 run of their own, however, highlighted by the only two three-pointers of the game by junior guard Brian Salzillo (North Haven) and one by freshman guard Trachone Preston (Enfield). Consecutive three-pointers from Salzillo and Preston shot the Warriors back into the lead and with the game tied at 55-all, Salzillo gave Eastern the lead for good with a jumper off a pass from Preston. After Keene missed a three-pointer, sophomore guard Brandon Yarborough (Stamford) sank his only bucket of the game to make it 59-55 with 3:20 left. The Owls missed their next two shots and Preston nailed a jumper with 55 seconds left to make it 61-55.
The LEC team leader in scoring, Keene was held 20 points under its season average by Eastern, the third-best defensive team in the conference. Keene failed on seven of its last eight shots from the floor and three free throws (also being called for a violation on a fourth) over the final 22.7 seconds Tuesday, but remained close by grabbing five offensive rebounds over the last 38 seconds.
Preston led Eastern with 17 points, senior forward Chris Robitaille (Canton) adding 16 points and a team-high nine rebounds before fouling out with 33 seconds left. Junior forward Mike Garrow (Terryville) added 13 points and Salzillo ten. Ranked second nationally and first in the LEC in three-point field goals per game, Salzillo has now collected at least one three-pointer in 23 straight games dating back to last year.. His second three-pointer gave him 59 on the season - one more than his total of last year and the fifth-highest season mark in program history. By connecting on two of three three-pointers, Preston improved his conference-leading three-point percentage to .517 (31-of-60).
Despite playing on its home floor, Keene was whistled for eight more fouls than Eastern, which outscored the hosts by 11 from the stripe. Robitaille was 6-for-9, Preston 5-for-6 and Garrow 5-for-8 from the foul line for Eastern.
Wright led all players with 19 points and 14 rebounds for Keene.
Eastern hosts Rhode Island College Saturday at 3 p.m. in a re-match of last year's LEC tournament final which was won by the Warriors. A victory would give Eastern sole possession of first place and a season sweep of the Anchormen.