Loss Trims Eastern's LEC Lead

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WILLIMANTIC, Conn. – After missing ten of 11 shots in the first half, sophomore guard Jake Ashworth  converted three of four in the second half – including the go-ahead three-point basket with 14 seconds left – as the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth stopped the 44-game Little East Conference regular-season home winning streak of the Eastern Connecticut State University men's basketball team, 69-68, Saturday afternoon at Francis E. Geissler Gymnasium.

In a game which featured 13 ties, UMass Dartmouth (14-6, 8-3 LEC) went ahead for good, 69-68,  on the 18th lead change of the game when Ashworth buried a three-pointer with 14 seconds left, and  freshman guard Marcus Azor pulled down the rebound on Eastern's potential go-ahead basket in the final seconds as the Corsairs managed the regular-season split with Eastern for the third straight year.

Leading by one, Eastern connected on one of two free throws with 61 seconds left to make it 68-66. UMD controlled the miss, then was awarded the ball after a missed shot went out of bounds with 35 seconds left. Ashworth then swished his game-winning three-pointer on the inbound to make it 69-68 with 14 seconds left. The Warriors hurried the ball up court by a drive in the paint bounced off the rim and Azor hauled in the rebound with seven seconds left.

Eastern (16-5, 10-2 LEC) did not score from the floor – sinking only three free throws -- after junior guard Carlos Gonzalez' (Springfield, MA) three-point with five minutes left pushed the Warriors into a 65-62 lead. UMD turned the ball over twice in a minute down the stretch, but Eastern could not capitalize, following with a turnover and missing a shot in the paint.

The loss, coupled with Keene State College's 80-59 road win over Castleton University Saturday, cuts Eastern's lead in the LEC to a half-game. The Owls are 10-3 and UMass Dartmouth and Western Connecticut both 8-3.

After missing five of 12 free throws and 14 of 15 three-point attempts in their 74-68 home loss to Eastern two weeks ago, the Corsairs nailed 11 of 13 attempts from the stripe this time and were 6-of-16 from three-point range while outrebounding Eastern by a wide margin for the second time this year, 43-30.

At left: Carlos Gonzalez and his family display the junior guard's 1000-point ball presented prior to the start of Saturday's game.

Eastern got only two points and three rebounds off its bench while UMD was helped by ten points from reserves. Led by sophomore forward Harry Alexander, UMD received 13 rebounds from five reserves, Alexander grabbing nine in 17 minutes.

Senior forward Atakan Akcam  led four double-figures for UMass with 16 points, senior forward Arinze Obiora  adding 15 Ashworth 12 and Azor ten. Behind Alexander, Akcam and Azor each grabbed six rebounds, Obiora five and freshman forward Sean Leahy – who assisted on Ashworth's game-winning three-pointer -- four.

Eastern sophomore guard Cory Muckle (Westbrook) led the Warriors with 19 points – 15 of the points coming from beyond the arc – with junior guard Jake Collagan (Wethersfield) adding 16 points and freshman forward Seth Thomas (Norwich) 14 points and seven rebounds. Senior forward Leonel Hyatt (Greenwich) had nine points and nine rebounds despite dealing with foul trouble. He picked up his fourth foul with 3:30 left and Eastern clinging to a 65-64 lead, then fouled out with 1.2 seconds left.

Eastern visits the University of Southern Maine Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.