KEENE, NH – The Keene State College men's basketball team scored 11 straight points to erase a six-point deficit with 14 minutes left and earned a share of the Little East Conference regular-season title with Eastern Connecticut State University with an 81-76 win over the Warriors Saturday afternoon at Spaulding Gym.
By gaining a share of its first LEC regular-season title in 13 years, Keene (18-7,13-3 LEC) is awarded the No. 1 seed based upon tie-breakers and will host the tournament semifinals and final Friday and Saturday. Denied in its bid to tie the conference record of six straight outright regular-season titles, Eastern (19-6, 13-3 LEC) is the No. 2 seed and like, Keene, receives a first-round tournament bye. In Friday's semifinal, Eastern faces the winner of a Tuesday first-round game between No. 3 Massachusetts Dartmouth and No. 6 Plymouth State University. The Warriors swept Plymouth and split with UMass Dartmouth during the regular season.
Keene closes out the regular season with ten straight wins since losing at Eastern 79-66 Jan. 12 and ends a six-game losing streak at the hands of the Warriors, who lost for only the second time in ten games this year on their opponent's court.
In the LEC pre-season coaches poll, Eastern and Keene shared the top spot. Eastern has beaten Keene in the last two LEC tournament title games.
In a game featuring seven ties and five lead changes, Eastern had built a six-point lead early in the second half after trailing by three at the break before the hosts rattled off 11 in a row to go up five and never trailed again. In going scoreless in that stretch, the Warriors had three turnovers, missed both free-throw and both field goal attempts.
The Warriors held a dominant 17-0 advantage in second-half points in the game, but Keene's reserves outscored Eastern's non-starters, 31-10. Four players fouled out in the game, including two Eastern starters and one reserve.
Junior point guard Carlos Gonzalez (Springfield, MA) led Eastern with 25 points, while freshman forward Seth Thomas (Norwich) had 19 points (8-of-8 on free throws) and nine rebounds before being assessed his fifth personal foul. Sophomore guard Cory Muckle (Westbrook) had 14 points and five rebounds and was also 8-of-8 from the stripe. The Warriors shot 32.8 percent from the floor, missing 18 of 22 three-pointers. They scored nearly half of their points from the foul line, where they were 34-of-44.
Keene, which shot 49.1 percent from the floor, got 34 points, seven rebounds and four steals from Ty Nichols, who was 14-of-28 from the floor. Miguel Prieto added 16 points.