NORTH DARTMOUTH, Mass. -- Junior Jake Laga (Northampton, Mass.) poured in a game-high 25 points, including seven 3-pointers, to lead the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth to a 85-73 Little East men's basketball victory over visiting Rhode Island College this evening at the Tripp Athletic Center.
The Corsairs (15-9) moved into sole possession of third place in the conference standings with an 8-5 mark, while the Anchormen (16-8) slipped to 10-3 in the circuit. UMass Dartmouth avenged an earlier loss to Rhode Island College in Providence to earn a split of the season series.
Laga made seven of his eight field goals from behind the 3-point arc to pace the Corsairs in the scoring column. Sophomore Wale Abraham (Lynn, Mass.) scored 19 points, on 9-for-14 from the floor, while classmate Abi Akanni (Fitchburg, Mass.) and freshman Ryan Walsh (North Dighton, Mass.) produced 13 and 12 points, respectively. Senior Steven Handy (Oak Bluffs, Mass.) came off the bench to chip in with eight points, eight rebounds, and eight assists in his final regular-season appearance at the Tripp Athletic Center. Abraham and Walsh also pulled in eight boards to help the hosts hold a 40-29 advantage on the glass.
Junior Chris Burton (New Rochelle, N.Y.) registered 18 points, on 6-for-13 from the field, to lead three Anchormen in double digits in scoring. Classmate Eric Alleyne (Watertown, Mass.) recorded 11 points and three assists, while senior Mike Palumbo (Providence, R.I.) contributed 10 points, including a pair of triples. Junior Victor Smith (Providence, R.I.) was a factor in the low blocks with nine points and six rebounds.
UMass Dartmouth came charging out of the gates, scoring 18 of the first 20 points of the contest. Both teams exchanged baskets to open the game before the hosts exploded for a 16-point surge, capped by a 3-pointer from Handy. Handy registered seven points during the stretch, while Laga added five. The Corsairs maintained a double-digit advantage for the next eight minutes, 30 seconds before a Burton layup bridged the gap to eight points (32-24). Walsh quickly pushed the lead back to 11 points with a triple on the ensuing possession. Both teams traded baskets down the stretch as the hosts took a 39-32 advantage into the locker room.
UMass Dartmouth converted on its first trip down the court, but Rhode Island College ripped off nine consecutive points to draw even at 41-all. Burton was the offensive catalyst with six points, while Palumbo completed the run with a triple. The next 12 minutes of regulation featured six ties and neither team could build a lead of more than four points.
Burton converted a pair from the charity stripe to trim the Corsairs advantage to two points (68-66), but that would be a close as the visitors would get as UMD unleashed an 11-point barrage. UMass Dartmouth ran its offensive through Abraham on three consecutive possessions and he responded with six straight points to build the lead to 74-66. Following a missed RIC attempt, Laga knocked down a 3-pointer to force an Anchormen timeout. The visitors were unable to stem the tide as freshman Tucker Bouchard (Kingston, Mass.) was fouled going up for a defensive rebound and sank both ends of the 1-and-1 to balloon the lead to 13 points (79-66) with 2:19 remaining on the clock. The visitors were able to cut the deficit to nine points with 1:28 remaining in regulation, but the hosts scored the final six points to seal the victory.
The Corsairs connected on 52.6 percent (30-for-57) from the floor, including 45.5 percent (10-for-22) from long range. The visitors sank 41 percent (25-for-61) of their attempts from the field, including a white-hot 47.8 percent (11-for-23) from behind the 3-point arc.
UMass Dartmouth will return to action at 3 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 22, when the Corsairs travel to Keene State College for the Little East regular-season finale.