KEENE, N.H. – The Keene State college men's basketball team scored the final four points of regulation and the first five points of overtime before Eastern Connecticut State University rallied to score the final eight points of the game and post a 68-65 Little East Conference victory Thursday evening at Spaulding Gymnasium.
Eastern (6-7, 2-2 LEC) trailed in overtime until senior forward Jake McCarthy (Berlin) scored inside off an assist from senior guard Jake Collagan (Wethersfield) with 12 seconds left to make it 66-65. Keene State (5-8, 4-2 LEC) then turned the ball over out of a timeout and junior guard Cory Muckle (Westbrook) converted a fast break bucket in the paint as time expired to close out Eastern's seventh win in the last nine meetings with Keene.
Losing out on a chance to take over sole possession of first place in the conference, Keene falls into a three-way tie for first with Rhode Island College and Western Connecticut. Western downed Rhode Island, 89-70 in Danbury Thursday. A winner of its last two LEC games, Eastern is in sixth place in the conference, a half-game behind UMass Boston and UMass Dartmouth.
Collagan, a third-year transfer from Keene, enjoyed his finest game in an Eastern uniform at Spaulding Gymnasium. He led all players with 20 points and also had four assists and four rebounds. He was 6-of-7 from the floor (2-of-2 from distance) and 6-of-8 from the foul line. Sophomore forward Seth Thomas (Norwich) tossed in 18 points with six rebounds, four steals and three assists, and Muckle added 17 points (four three-pointers) and nine rebounds two days after his three-pointer in the final seconds helped the Warriors edge UMass Dartmouth, 87-83, at Geissler Gym.
Eastern led for less than seven minutes in the entire game, but scored the final five points of the first half to cut a 12-point gap to seven at the break. While Keene missed two shots and turned the ball over on its final three possessions of the half, McCarthy put back his own miss with just over a minute left and Collagan turned a rebound and pass from sophomore guard Thomas Close (East Hampton) into a three-point field goal inside the final ten seconds.
Thomas' inside basket off a steal by Muckle pushed Eastern into its first lead of the second half, 50-49, with nine minutes left. The Warriors clung to the lead before the Owls tied the game at 59-all on a steal and hoop by Tony Harris with two minutes left in regulation. On its final four possession of regulation, Eastern failed on two shots and turned the ball over twice. The Owls fared no better, missing a three-pointer and three inside baskets in the final two minutes that forced overtime.
In three previous trips back to Keene as a member of Eastern's team, Collagan had been 5-of-31 (16.1 percent) from the floor for 14 points in 84 minutes. Having scored his 1,000th collegiate point Dec. 31, Collagan moved to within 99 points of 1,000 in an Eastern uniform.
Either Eastern or Keene or both have been involved in the LEC championship game each of the last nine years, the Warriors downing the Owls twice in the last three finals. Eastern had lost four of the last five games on Keene's court, including last year's 72-69 thriller in the LEC title game.
Eastern outscored Keene 24-9 from three-point range and by six from the stripe to offset the Owls' +11 advantage on the boards.Eastern visits Plymouth State University Saturday at 3 p.m. in a conference game at Foley Gymnasium.