Feb. 21, 2009
PLYMOUTH, NH-The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth's men's basketball team built a 13-point halftime lead and held off host Plymouth State, 85-76, in the final Little East Conference game of the regular season at the Tripp Athletic Center on Saturday.
The Corsairs, who entered the game ranked 19th nationally in the latest d3hoops.com poll, led by 15 points, 71-56, with 8:17 remaining. They saw their lead reduced to six points, 74-68, with 3:36 left when PSU's Ben Huntington capped a 10-3 run with a pair of free throws. A layup and free throw by junior guard Jeff Macchi (Franklin, MA/ Franklin HS) moments later made it 79-70, UMD, but Ryan Lambert's three-pointer with 2:02 remaining made it 79-73. UMass Dartmouth responded, getting layups from sophomore forward Brandon Stephens (Dorchester, MA/Newton North HS) and junior forward Matt Walker (Brockton, MA/Brockton HS) and closing the game with a 7-2 run which clinched the victory. Junior forward Brandon Shelton made three free throws in the final 36 seconds to help preserve the lead.
UMass Dartmouth got off to a good start, using an 18-6 run midway through the first half to build a 38-21 advantage with 3:01 remaining in the first half. Walker contributed a three-pointer and a dunk, while Stephens and Shelton capped the run with back-to-back treys. A three-pointer and two free throws by Huntington sandwiched around Macchi's layup left UMass Dartmouth ahead at halftime, 42-29.
"It was a tough game," said UMass Dartmouth Head Coach Brian Baptiste. "We had the lead for the entire game, but it was a much tougher game than it was the first time we played them. They did a better job of handling the press, and they made their shots on the other side of the press. They closed the gap in the second half, and we were able to sustain the lead and hold them off. We made our free throws down the stretch, we made some key stops, and we did a nice job on offense of controlling the ball and getting a couple of layups when they were fouling us. We did a good job of holding onto the lead."
Walker led all scorers with 22 points, Stephens added 21, and Macchi and Shelton each contributed 14. Huntington led PSU with 15 points, and Lambert contributed 14. Shelton grabbed eight rebounds, while Bryan Tracy had seven for the Panthers, who out rebounded UMass Dartmouth, 35-31. The Corsairs forced 19 turnovers while committing 12, and shot 57.7 per cent from the field in the second half and 53.2 per cent for the game.
The Corsairs improved to 22-3 and 12-2 in the Little East Conference with the victory, while the Panthers fell to 12-13 and 8-6 with the defeat. UMass Dartmouth will host UMass Boston in a first round LEC playoff game Tuesday evening.