WILLIMANTIC, Conn. -- The University of Southern Maine men's basketball team was as cold as Eastern Connecticut State University was hot in the opening nine minutes, as the Warriors raced to a 21-point lead and cruised to an 89-42 victory on the final day of the Little East Conference regular season Saturday afternoon at Francis E. Geissler Gymnasium.
While Southern Maine (5-20, 3-11 LEC) was off target on 14 of its first 15 shots, No. 11 nationally-ranked Eastern (22-3, 13-1 LEC) was burying nine of its first 16 in putting the game away early with a 23-2 lead en route to its fifth straight perfect LEC home regular season and its 38th consecutive LEC regular-season home win over six years. With the win, Eastern set program regular-season records for wins and winning percentage (88.0).
In the first half, Eastern shot 60.6 percent – 9-of-18 from distance -- and USM managed a first-half shooting percentage of 16.7, coming up empty on all 12 of its three-point field goal attempts in the half.
Prior to the game, Eastern was already assured of its fifth straight LEC regular-season title and the No. 1 seed, while USM was also assured of a No. 7 seed and a first-round LEC tournament road game against No. 2 seed Keene State College at 7 p.m. The Warriors will host No. 8 Plymouth State University Tuesday at 7:30 p.m., and with a win, would host the tournament semifinals Friday (5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.) and final Saturday at 5 p.m.
On Seniors' Day Saturday, Eastern started its five seniors, who combined for 52 points, 32 rebounds and 13 assists in an average of 23 minutes. The senior quintet of guards Collin Jordan (Cheshire), Brenden Young (Amston) and Kendall Marquez (Willimantic) and forwards Tarchee Brown (Rockville) and Jacob Collins (Bristol) remained intact for the first six minutes, amassing a 13-2 lead.
At right: Sergio Martin-Acuna (25) of Southern Maine has a front-row seat when senior Jacob Collins put the finishing touches on the team's 51-point first half with this dunk. The Warriors closed the regular season with an 89-42 victory on Seniors' Day at Geissler Gymnasium. (Photo by Nick McAneny)
Collins (7-of-12 FG) led both teams with 16 points and pulled down six rebounds while Brown had 14 points, equaled his career-high of 16 rebounds, and handed out five assists. Jordan chipped in six points, four rebounds and four assists, Young five points, three rebounds and three assists (and drew offensive fouls in the opening minutes of each half), and Marquez 11 points, three rebounds and two assists. Marquez sank three of Eastern's 14 three-point field goals to extend his streak to 12 games.
Freshman center Ian Nagle came off the bench to lead USM with seven points and also grabbed four rebounds.