DANBURY, CT–Host Western Connecticut State built a double digit lead midway through the second half, then held off a late run to defeat the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth's men's basketball team, 80-72, in the second game of a Little East Conference doubleheader at Feldman Arena Saturday.
The Colonials, who led, 39-26 at halftime, took a 47-26 lead on Phil Starks' three-pointer with 16:36 remaining. The Corsairs came back, using a 7-0 run capped by a three-pointer by sophomore guard Jake Laga (Northampton, MA/Northampton HS) to reduce the lead to 49-36 with 12:44 to play.
Laga's three-pointer with 10:39 remaining cut the lead to 51-43, but jumpers by Leroy Mayers and Michael Jensen allowed WCSU to increase their lead to a dozen points once more. UMD got seven consecutive points on a three-pointer by sophomore guard Mike Rotando (Point Pleasant Beach, NJ/Point Pleasant Beach HS/Bloomfield) and a basket and two subsequent free throws by junior forward Eleazar Clayton (Boston, MA/East Boston HS/Monroe CC) to make it 59-52 with 6:59 left.
Rotando made it 67-62 with four consecutive free throws with 3:27 left and the Corsairs cut it to four on a layup by freshman center Wale Abraham (Lynn, MA/Lynn Classical HS) with 50 seconds to play, but Joseph Groski converted a layup for WCSU 14 seconds later, and the Colonials then five of six free throws to hold off UMass Dartmouth's late rally.
Rotando led the Corsairs with 17 points, junior guard John Genkos (Worcester, MA/Doherty HS) added 12, and Laga and Abraham each had 10. Starks led all scorers with 25 points, Jensen and Luis Bridtter each contributed 13, and Groski had 11 for the Colonials. Abraham had 12 rebounds and seven blocked shots for UMD, while Bridtter and Groski each pulled down 10 for WCSU as the Colonials outrebounded the Corsairs, 40-34.
"We played poorly in the first half, but we regrouped and played well in the second half, and we just fell short," said UMass Dartmouth Head Coach Brian Baptiste. We made a run at them, and Mike (Rotando) and John (Genkos) double teamed the ball and we got a steal, but, unfortunately, our pass didn't have enough on it and they picked it off and got a layup, and that was the play that basically decided the game."
Abraham's improved play was noted. "Wale was outstanding, he shot five for nine from the floor, had seven blocked shots and 12 rebounds, that's an incredible game," said Baptiste. "He was huge. Mike had a good effort for us offensively as well."
The Corsairs dropped to 4-17 and 1-9 in the Little East Conference with the defeat, while the Colonials improved to 5-15 and 3-7 in LEC play with the victory. UMass Dartmouth will return to action when they visit Rhode Island College Tuesday in the second game of a Little East Conference doubleheader. Western Connecticut will visit Eastern Connecticut Tuesday.
UMASS DARTMOUTH BASKETBALL