WILLIMANTIC, Conn. – Sophomore guard Jake Collagan (Wethersfield) came off the bench to score five points on a three-point field goal and two free throws in a run of seven straight points that built a ten-point lead with nine minutes left and the Eastern Connecticut State University men's basketball team went on to its ninth straight win, 72-56, over Trinity College in a non-conference game Wednesday night at Francis E. Geissler Gymnasium.
Ranked No. 16 nationally, Eastern (18-2) defeated Trinity (13-7) for the eighth straight time. The Bantams lost their third straight to a nationally-ranked team (and face No. 17 Wesleyan at home Friday).
Eastern led by nine at halftime and by 13 three minutes into the second half before Trinity surged back with a 14-4 run – capped by sophomore guard Tim Flynn's three-pointer -- that cut the lead to three, 48-45, eight minutes into the second half.
The Bantams had a chance to tie when the Warriors turned the ball over on their next possession, but Trinity missed three inside shots and lost possession on a shot-clock violation before Eastern senior forward Jacob Collins (Bristol) converted an inside hoop on a pass from senior forward Tarchee Brown (Rockville) that made it 50-45. After the visitors missed a three-pointer, Collagan nailed a three-pointer on another pass from Brown, and following two Trinity turnovers, Collagan swished two free throws that pushed the lead to ten, 55-45, with nine minutes left.
In all, the Warriors used a 20-5 scoring run to pull away from that three-point lead with 12 minutes left. Brown sank a corner three-point falling away and Gonzalez followed with a pair of jumpers as the lead crested at 18, 68-50, with 2:30 left.
Averaging 12 turnovers per game, Trinity commited 22 – twice as many as Eastern.
Eastern equaled its fifth-most three-pointers in a game (10) this year, shooting 37.0 percent from distance.
Collagan led four double-digit scorers with 16 points, with Brown adding 12 and Gonzalez and senior guard Kendall Marquez (Willimantic) 11 each. Collagan was 3-of-4 from distance and 5-of-5 from the stripe. Gonzalez was 5-of-6 from the stripe and had four steals and three assists and the Warriors canned 16 of 20 free throws, 8-of-9 in the second half. Collins contributed eight points (two three-pointers) and six rebounds in 16 minutes off the bench.
Senior forward Eric Gendron had 24 points for Trinity, but the remaining starters were limited to 16 total points. Gendron was 4-of-6 from distance, with two of his three-pointers coming on his first two shots in the opening two minutes and gave the Bantams their largest lead of five points.
The 18-2 start is the best after 20 games in the program's 78-year history and the win streak equals the second-longest under 16th-year head coach Bill Geitner. The Warriors also captured nine straight last year and ran off 13 in a row en route to a 24-6 finish in 2011/12. That team posted a 16-4 record after 20 games.
Eastern hosts University of Massachusetts Boston Saturday at 3 p.m. in a Little East Conference game.