WILLIMANTIC, Conn. – The Eastern Connecticut State University men's basketball team recovered from a disastrous start by scoring the first 14 points of the second half and went on to record its 34th straight Little East Conference regular-season home victory, 61-49, over Rhode Island College Saturday afternoon at Francis E. Geissler Gymnasium.
Ranked No. 22 nationally, Eastern (15-2, 7-0 LEC) missed 16 of its first 20 shots and trailed by as many as 14, and by 12 with 5:28 left in the first half. Down by nine at halftime, the Warriors opened the second half with a 14-point run over the first five minutes that lifted them into a five-point, 37-32 lead.
Holding to a two-point lead with six minutes left, Eastern outscored Rhode Island (4-12, 2-5 LEC) 14-4 the rest of the way to remain undefeated in the conference with its sixth straight overall win and a sweep of the season series with RIC for the second straight year. The Anchormen dropped to 1-7 away from home this year.
Held scoreless and managing only one rebound in eight first-half minutes, junior forward Leonel Hyatt (Greenwich) responded with 11 points and five rebounds in the second half. He was 4-of-5 from the floor and 3-of-4 from the foul line. Sophomore point guard Carlos Gonzalez (Springfield, MA) added ten points, five assists, four rebounds and three steals in the second half.
Over those decisive final six minutes of the game, Hyatt had six points and a rebound and Gonzalez eight points, two steals, an assist and rebound.
Senior forward Tarchee Brown (Rockville) of Eastern led all players with 17 points and 13 rebounds and he also blocked two shots, stole the ball three times, and handed out four assists. Gonzalez scored ten of his 12 points in the second half and also doled out seven assists with four rebounds and four steals. Senior guard Kendall Marquez (Willimantic) moved to within 14 of 1,000 collegiate points with 14 points (4-of-9 from distance) and Hyatt finished with 11 points and six rebounds.
The top team in the LEC in least turnovers, the Warriors gave it away only nine times – three in the second half – while forcing RIC into 12 of its 19 turnovers and 31.8 percent shooting in the second half.
Junior forward Justin Campbell (New Haven), who managed only four points and five rebounds in 37 minutes in RIC's earlier 86-61 loss to Eastern, dominated inside with 15 points (7-of-12 FG) and 11 rebounds and Adham Floyd (Worcester, MA) chipped in 11 points, eight rebounds and four assists.
Rhode Island got out of the gate quickly, putting together a run of 18 straight points to turn a four-point deficit into a 14-point, 25-11 lead with under six minutes left in the first half. While Eastern was shooting 32.1 percent in the half, Campbell was sparking RIC with eight points (4-of-6), seven rebounds and three steals and 6-foot-8 inch junior center Grant Gillis (Jamestown, RI) had seven points and five rebounds.
Gillis picked up two quick personal fouls to start the second half, and was slapped with his fourth with 7:18 left and Eastern up by three, 45-42.
With Gonzalez on the bench much of the half with two personal fouls, Brown and Marquez (two three-pointers) kept the Warriors within striking distance by combining for 19 of Eastern's 23 points, with Brown also grabbing seven rebounds.
Ranked first in the LEC in both scoring and defense, Eastern was limited to its lowest point total of the year, but also recorded its least points allowed this season after keeping RIC to 17 points in the second half.
Eastern hosts Western Connecticut State University in a conference game Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.