Strong Second Half Boosts Colonials Over UMass Dartmouth

NORTH DARTMOUTH, Mass. – Western Connecticut State University utilized a 15-6 run in the latter stages on the second half to break open a one-point contest en route to a 93-85 victory over the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth this afternoon in Little East men's basketball action at the Tripp Athletic Center.

Sophomore Jeremiah Washington (Bridgeport, Conn.) led four Colonials (12-6, 5-4 LEC) in double figures with a game-high 25 points, on 10-for-12 from the field. Junior Joseph Groski (New Milford, Conn.) posted a double-double with 12 points and a game-high 18 rebounds. Sophomore Ronnie Underwood (Bridgeport, Conn.) poured in 18 points, while senior Joseph Setaro (North Haven, Conn.) finished with 11 points. Freshman Bobby Bynum (New Haven, Conn.) handed out five assists for the visitors.

Sophomore Abi Akanni (Fitchburg, Mass.) produced a season-high 22 points, on 8-for-12, to pace the Corsairs (12-7, 5-4). Freshman Ryan Walsh (North Dighton, Mass.) recorded 17 points and five assists, while junior Jake Laga (Northampton, Mass.) netted 15 points. Freshman Tucker Bouchard (Kingston, Mass.) registered all 10 of his points in the second half. Sophomore Wale Abraham (Lynn, Mass.) pulled in nine rebounds, while redirecting six Western attempts.

Bynum converted on his only field goal of the afternoon to spark the Colonials decisive run with nine minutes, 14 seconds remaining in regulation. Junior Jengodji Gates (New Haven, Conn.) answered a UMD basket with a 3-pointer, while Washington scored four consecutive points to give the visitors a 75-67 lead. The hosts answered with four quick points, but freshman Kendall Marquez (Willimantic, Conn.) knocked down a pair of field goals and Underwood drilled a jumper to increase Western Connecticut's lead to 10 with 3:15 left on the clock.

UMass Dartmouth would not go quietly as the Corsairs countered with a layup from Laga followed by a pair of free throws from Bouchard to trim their deficit to six points with just over two minutes to play. The Colonials were able to seal the conference victory from the foul line, converting on their final eight attempts over the final 90 seconds of regulation.

Western Connecticut opened the contest with seven straight points to take an early advantage. The Colonials led by as many as nine points, but UMass Dartmouth used a 9-3 run to whittle the deficit to just one point, 23-22. Akanni powered the surge with five points, while Laga drained a triple.

The Corsairs took their first lead of the game with seven minutes left in the half, when Akanni sank one of his four 3-pointers to put the hosts up 30-29. Walsh sandwiched a trifecta and a lay-up between an Akanni free throw to build UMass Dartmouth's advantage to seven points with five minutes, 23 seconds left in the stanza. Western tried to stem the tide with a pair from the charity stripe, but Laga capped a 6-0 spurt with a jumper to hand the Corsairs their largest lead of the afternoon, 11 points, with just under three minutes remaining in the half. UMD entered the intermission with a 45-39 advantage.

UMass Dartmouth shot 41.7 percent (30-for-72) from the field, including 50 percent (10-for-20) from behind the 3-point arc, while Western connected on 51.4 percent (37-for-72) from the floor. The Colonials enjoyed a 48-37 advantage on the boards.

UMass Dartmouth will return to action at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, February 4, when the Corsairs travel to Tufts University for a non-conference contest. Western Connecticut will host Westfield State at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 6.