Eastern Men's Basketball Wins First Little East Regular-Season Title
BOSTON -- Senior guard Nick Nedwick (Irvington, NY) scored 15 of his game-high 23 points in the second half as the Eastern Connecticut State University men's basketball team won its first Little East Conference regular-season championship with a hard-fought 76-68 victory over the University of Massachusetts Boston Saturday afternoon at the Clark Athletic Center.
In recording its third straight 20-win season and third straight LEC victory in the final eight days of the regular season, Eastern (20-5, 11-3 Little East) earns the program's first LEC regular-season title in 26 years of conference play and with it, its first No. 1 tournament seed.
The Warriors will earn a bye through the first round of the tournament and will host the semifinals and final Friday and Saturday at Francis E. Geissler Gymnasium. The Warriors entered the day sharing the top spot in the LEC with Keene State College, but the Owls sustained a Saturday loss to two-time defending conference champion Rhode Island College, which allowed the Warriors to claim the ouotright title. By winning Saturday, the Warriors nailed down the No. 1 seed, regardless of the Keene-RIC outcome..
Senior forward Hamilton Levy's (Woodbury) three-point field goal six minutes into the second half pushed Eastern's lead to double-digits against pesky UMass (5-20, 1-13 Little East), but the Warriors could not break free. In the final minutes, UMass' 7-0 run cut the Eastern led to two, 70-68, with just over two minutes left before the Warriors connected on the final six points of the game on free throws..
Junior point guard Joe Ives (Avon) came up with two of the biggest plays after the Beacons had moved to within the bucket with two minutes left. The Warriors gave the ball back to UMass and the hosts had a chance to tie, but Ives came up with a steal in the backcourt, then fed junior center Chris Robitaille (Canton) in the lead for an inside basket to make it 72-66 with 1:17 left. After UMB missed two field goals, Nedwick grabbed a defensive rebound and sank two free throws with 34 seconds left, and Ives sealed the championship with two more freebies with 21 seconds left
Eastern never trailed by more than three and took a five-point lead into the lockerrom with an off-balance corner jumper. The second-half lead crested at 14 with just under ten minutes left before the Beacons canned nine of their next 11 shotws and a pair of free throws to pull to within two, 70-68.
Robitaille and sophomore guard Brian Salzillo (North Haven) each scored 14 points for Eastern, with Robitaille leading all players with niine rebounds and Levy adding ten points and seven boards. Salzillo provided a scoring spark off the bench, contributing eight points in the first half on 3-for-4 shooting (2-for-3 from "three).
Freshman guard Vinny DeLucia scored 12 of his team-high 18 points in the second half for UMass, hitting seven of ten field goals in the game...