Keene State Upends Men's Basketball in Little East Conference Semifinals

Keene State Upends Men's Basketball in Little East Conference Semifinals

WILLIMANTIC, Conn. – The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth could not hold off a late second-half surge by No. 2 seed Keene State on Friday evening, with the No. 3 seed Corsairs falling 85-67 in the Little East Conference Semifinals at Geissler Gymnasium.

The Basics
Score: Keene State 85, UMass Dartmouth 67
Records: Keene State (19-8, 10-4 LEC) | UMass Dartmouth (17-10, 9-5 LEC)

How it Happened

UMass Dartmouth was paced by senior Chris Mendes (Somerset, Mass.) in the scoring column, who finished with 16 points on 5-of-6 shooting including 13 in the opening frame. He was joined in double-digits by sophomore Atakan Ackam (Ankara, Turkey) and junior Tucker Bouchard (Kingston, Mass.) with 10 points apiece.

For the Owls, the duo of sophomore Ty Nichols (Springfield, Mass.) and senior Jeff Lunn (Nashua, N.H.) combined for 46 points, including 25 from Nichols on 8-of-9 shooting and 21 at the hands of Lunn. 

Both teams battled through a closely-contested first half featuring seven ties and as many lead changes. The Corsairs took their first lead four minutes in on the first of Mendes' four 3-pointers on the game. For the next seven minutes, the score hovered on a possession, until Lunn put the Owls up four. 

Again, UMass Dartmouth countered with four-straight foul shots to keep the margin tight. With five minutes remaining, the Corsairs managed to gather a lead that would last for the remainder of the half, when Mendes again sunk a deep 3-pointer and sophomore Nick Portelance (Fairhaven, Mass.) completed a traditional 3-point play. Moments later, senior Jon Robinson (Chatham, Mass.) upped the Corsairs' advantage to five, but Keene State cut the intermission deficit to just one point at 39-38 in favor of UMass Dartmouth. 

The Corsairs looked sharp early in the second, extending their lead to seven on a layup by Ackam, and the narrow edge held for the next 10 minutes. After Ackam notched a foul shot at 6:56, UMass Dartmouth fell entirely cold from the field and wouldn't find the basket for the remainder of the game. In the meantime, Keene State ignited, going on a 22-0 run by capitalizing on UMass Dartmouth's blunders and close with the 18-point victory. 

Inside the Numbers

  • Currently ranked No. 11 in the Northeast regional rankings, UMass Dartmouth likely closes the season at 17-10 overall, matching its win total from last season and tying for the most since 2009-10.
  • 2017 marks the fourth-straight year that the Corsairs have competed in the conference semifinal round, but UMass Dartmouth hasn't captured the league crown since 2009.
  • After matching Keene State with 18 points in the paint on the first half, the Owls commanded the low post in the second, outdoing UMass Dartmouth 28-16.
  • UMass Dartmouth handed then No. 13-ranked Keene State its first loss of the season on Dec. 3, but the Owls wrap up the series with the final two wins on the season.
  • Keene State defend its league title against top-seeded Eastern Connecticut, which easily defeated No. 5 UMass Boston 86-58 in Friday's earlier semifinal, in tomorrow's LEC Championship contest.