On Saturday, Jan. 21, the Keene State men’s basketball team took on UMass Dartmouth in Little East Conference (LEC play, defeating the Corsairs in the final seconds from a tip-in by junior Dizel Wright to give the Owls the lead in their 90-86 win).
The Owls received an overall scoring performance from sophomore Ty Nichols with 23 points, six rebounds and six assists.
As Nichols was the Owl’s leading scorer, senior Matthew Ozzella contributed with his ninth double-double this season with 20 points and 12 rebounds.
Senior Lucas Hammel added 14 points, and junior Jaquel Edwards added 11 points. Senior Jeffrey Lunn, who missed 10 games this season due to an injury, went 7-for-8 from the free throw line and had 15 points off the bench.
The men’s basketball team got off to a slow start, as Nichols made a three-pointer to take a 6-4 lead over the Corsairs.
Shortly after, the Owls fell behind when Umass Dartmouth’s Joshua Imadiyi scored to take a 15-9 lead in the early minutes of the first half. UMass Dartmouth continued to score on the Owls with just under 10 minutes in the first half.
The Owls responded to the Corsairs by taking a 17-4 run with a top of the key three-pointer by Hammel with under five minutes remaining in the first half.
First-year Jake Collagan came into the game, taking a three-point jumper off the backboard that would go in with only seconds remaining, giving the Owls a 44-40 lead at halftime.
The Owls remained in the lead over the Corsairs in the opening of the second half, as Ozzella drained another three-pointer and an additional basket in the paint on the very next possession that would give the Owls their 54-48 lead five minutes into the second half.
Ozzella continued to score as he had a putback on Nichols’ miss at the 10-minute mark, giving the Owls a comfortable 10-point lead. The Owls encountered trouble on defense as the Corsairs took a 13-2 run over Keene State killing clock time and proceeding to take a 65-64 lead.
In the final minutes of the game, the Owls and Corsairs went back-and-forth, but Edwards went to the free-throw line, sinking both free throws for a 70-67 lead.
It would next be the Corsairs turn as they scored six points and took back the lead from the Owls with almost seven minutes left. Hammel came down on the next possession and sunk a three, but UMass scored and went to the free-throw line, making two more points and taking a four-point lead with only five minutes remaining.
In the final stretch, UMass Dartmouth’s Imadiyi and Josh Nelson continued to score with jump shots on the Owl’s defense, leading 84-81 with 2:30 minutes left in the final half.
Nichols stepped up and took charge of the Owl’s offense, extending his 20-point game, as well as reaching 20 points for the seventh time this season. Nichols went to the free-throw line, keeping the Owls within one point and next completing a three-point play to give the Owls a 86-84 lead with only one minute to play.
UMass Dartmouth’s Nelson tied the game once again for the last time with two successful free throws from the line with seconds remaining. The Owls went to their hot hand of the night, Nichols, who missed a layup with 30 seconds remaining, but Wright rebounded and tipped the ball back in off Nichols’ miss.
The Corsairs remained to fight back, but fell short off a missed shot. KSC’s Lunn contributed two more free throws to make it a two-possession game. UMass Dartmouth ran out of time, and the Owls held onto the win.
The Owls will now continue their season with a 12-5 record and 5-2 record in LEC play. Keene State is tied for second place with Umass Dartmouth, both 5-2 in the LEC.
Keene State will play home in the Spaulding Gymnasium on Jan. 25 against Eastern Connecticut State University. Tip off begins at 7:30 p.m..
Travis Thuotte can be contacted at email@example.com