January 25, 2014

Corsairs Use Balanced Attack To Edge Panthers

NORTH DARTMOUTH, Mass. – The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth utilized a total team effort this afternoon, as all five starters reached double figures in scoring to help the Corsairs edge visiting Little East rival Plymouth State University, 78-75, at the Tripp Athletic Center.

UMass Dartmouth captured its fourth consecutive contest to raise its overall record to 12-5, including a 5-2 mark in the conference circuit. Plymouth State (9-8) dropped its fourth straight Little East tilt to slip to 3-4 in the league. The Corsairs avenged a 71-61 loss earlier this season to the Panthers in Plymouth, N.H.

Sophomore Abi Akanni (Fitchburg, Mass.) converted on a layup with one minute, eight seconds remaining in regulation to give the hosts their final lead of the contest. Junior Jake Laga (Northampton, Mass.) connected on each of his four attempts from the foul line, including a pair with nine seconds left, to seal the victory for UMD.

Freshman Ryan Walsh (North Dighton, Mass.) led the Corsairs with 14 points, including three 3-pointers, while classmate Tucker Bouchard (Kingston, Mass.) produced 13 points, four rebounds, and four assists. Akanni scored 12 points and dished out four helpers, while sophomore Wale Abraham (Lynn, Mass.) tossed in 11 points and redirected three Plymouth attempts. Junior Josh Castillo (Lynn, Mass.) came off the bench to register eight points, on 3-for-4 from the floor, in just 14 minutes of action.

Junior Shomari Morgan (Manchester, N.H.) recorded a game-high 18 points and five rebounds to pace the Panther attack, while senior Petey Skevas (Wethersfield, Conn.) accounted for 15 points and five assists. Junior Alex Burt (Dover, N.H.) chipped in with nine points, while classmate Michael Elliott-Baltimore (North Lauderdale, Fla.) contributed seven points and five boards.

In a nip-and-tuck affair, the teams were tied a total 15 times and exchanged the lead 14 times in the 60-minute battle. Neither team was able to stretch their advantage past three possessions for the entirety of the contest.

Castillo registered five unanswered points in a 20-second span to give UMass Dartmouth a 37-33 lead with one minute, 36 seconds left in the first half. Following a PSU turnover, Abraham made a jumper in the paint to hand the Corsairs their largest lead of the frame, 39-33, but freshman Curtis Arsenault (Berlin, N.H.) tossed in a layup to send the hosts into the intermission with a 39-35 advantage.

Bouchard opened the final 20 minutes of regulation with a 3-pointer from the right wing to push the UMD advantage up to seven points. The Corsairs maintained the lead for the first eight minutes of the second half, but were unable to shake Plymouth State.

The Panthers clawed their way back into the contest, when Morgan registered six straight points during a 90-second stretch to regain the visitors lead at 58-55. Laga countered with a pair of field goals, but neither team was able to hold an advantage larger than one possession for the next five minutes.

Plymouth State held a brief four-point lead twice down the stretch, but UMass Dartmouth always provided the answer. Walsh sank a trifecta to trim the Panthers advantage to one point, while Abraham erased the deficit with a pair of free throws to give the hosts a 72-71 lead with two minutes, 30 seconds left on the clock. Morgan gave the visitors their final lead with 90 seconds remaining, but Akanni converted in the paint for the 14th and final lead change of the night.

The hosts shot a season-high 59.2 percent (29-for-49) from the field, including a blistering 63 percent (17-for-27) in the first stanza. Plymouth State connected on 52.6 percent (30-for-57) from the floor, while holding a commanding 34-17 advantage on the boards.

UMass Dartmouth will return to action at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, January 28, when the Corsairs travel to Little East rival Rhode Island College (11-6, 5-2). Plymouth State will also be in action on Tuesday night, when the Panthers host intra-state rival Keene State College (6-10, 3-4).