February 22, 2014

Bouchard Nets 34; Owls Edge Corsairs

KEENE, N.H. -- University of Massachusetts Dartmouth freshman Tucker Bouchard (Kingston, Mass.) netted a career-high 34 points, but Keene State's Tom Doyle sank the game-winning 3-pointer with 32 seconds remaining in regulation to give the Owls a 96-95 victory over the Corsairs this afternoon in the Little East Conference men's basketball regular-season finale at Spaulding Gymnasium. 

UMass Dartmouth (15-10) and Keene State College (8-16) will meet again in just three days in the quarterfinals of the 2014 Little East Men's Basketball Championship tournament.  The sixth-seeded Owls will travel to the third-seeded Corsairs at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 25. 

Bouchard connected on 10-of-16 from the field, while making all 10 attempts to record the most points in a single-game by a Little East Conference men's basketball player this season, putting an additional marker between the 33-point performance by junior Jake Laga (Northampton, Mass.) against Brandeis University on Nov. 19, 2013.  Sophomore Abi Akanni (Fitchburg, Mass.) and freshman Ryan Walsh (North Dighton, Mass.) each scored 19 points, while senior Steven Handy (Oak Bluffs, Mass.) produced 13 points off the bench to complete the UMass Dartmouth contingent in double digits.  Akanni pulled in a team-high six rebounds, while Walsh handed out four assists.

Keene State also put four players in double figures in scoring, led by Nate Howard's double-double of 20 points and 11 rebounds. Tre Tripton was one point off the team-high, converting on 9-for-15 from the floor, while Doyle chipped in 14 points.  Nick Fragola finished with 10 points.  The hosts held a 48-31 advantage on the glass.   

The final eight minutes of regulation was a see-saw affair with three ties and 10 lead changes.  Handy converted on a traditional 3-point play to hand the visitors a four-point lead (90-86) with just over three and a half minutes left on the clock.  The hosts quickly responded with a lay-up from Tripton and a pair of foul shots from Matt Sherlock to forge a 90-all tie. 

Laga regained the Corsairs advantage with a jumper, but Doyle countered with a triple to give the Owls a one-point lead with 89 seconds left in regulation.  Walsh answered on the ensuing possession with a 3-pointer of his own to give UMass Dartmouth its final advantage of the contest with 53 ticks left on the scoreboard.  Keene State continued to ride Doyle's hot hand down the stretch as the junior drainer the decisive shot from behind the 3-point arc.  The visitors had two changes to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, but their attempts fell short in the waning seconds of regulation.    

The Corsairs utilized their long distance shooting, hitting six of their first eight 3-point attempts, to take a 21-12 lead just five minutes, 30 seconds into the game.  Two free throws by Handy provided the visitors with their largest advantage on the contest, 31-16, with 10:55 left in the first frame.

Doyle connected on a jumper on Owls next possession, kickstarting a 21-6 run over the next six minutes.  Jeff Lunn snuck in to put back the rebound off a KSC missed free throw, and after layups from Tipton and Jaquel Edwards, Howard brought the crowd to their feet with a thunderous alley-oop dunk from Tipton.

UMass Dartmouth recovered to take a 47-43 lead at halftime, as Akanni drained consecutive jumpers and Bouchard made two free throws.

The Corsairs shot 44.3 percent (31-for-70) from the field, including 43.5 percent (10-for-23) from behind the 3-point arc.  The Owls connected on 52.2 percent (36-for-69).  UMass Dartmouth forced 15 turnovers on eight steals to hold a plus-five rating in the turnover battle.