BOSTON, Mass. – A total of four clutch free throws in the final 42 seconds from Eastern Connecticut State University guard Mike Garrow and a heads-up defensive stop proved to be the deciding factors as the reigning Little East Conference tournament champion Warriors managed to hold-off men's basketball to take a 73-70 conference victory Saturday afternoon in the Clark Athletic Center Gymnasium.
Eastern Connecticut (10-5, 4-1 Little East) who had a 12-point (40-28) lead going into the second half, managed to just hang on in the closing minutes of play as the host Beacons (8-6, 2-3 Little East) erased the double-figure deficit to take control of the scoreboard around the midway point of the final half.
Proving to be the biggest factor in the Beacons second half rally was sophomore Vinny DeLucia (Miami, Fla.) Of his team-best 23 points, 19 of those came in the final 20 minutes of play to lead all scorers. Setting in motion what would become a very tight and hectic final five minutes, was DeLucia who gave the Beacons a slim-point lead after going 3-for-3 at the line. Unfortunately the Warriors would respond after Garrow's drained a lay-up and Trachone Preston nailed a pair of free throws.
However a huge Jerard Mayes (Boston, Mass.) dunk quickly returned the score to mere one point game. With the Warriors backs up against the wall, they were able to use a 3-pointer from Salzillo and another set of free throws from Preston to retake control in the final minutes, or so they thought.
DeLucia cut the lead back to four on a lay-up, but on the Warriors next possession, Garrow's pushed the deficit back to six after nailing two clutch free throws. UMB would then respond with a three from DeLucia to cap off the sophomore's game-best 23 point performance. The Beacons quickly fouled Garrow's sending him to the line again. He would miss his first before draining his second. With less than 15 seconds to play, Mayes scored another huge basket to make it just a one-possession game.
Another quick foul by the Beacons sent Garrow back to the line. He would make his first attempt this time and miss his second, which was then collected by Mayes. The Beacons looking for DeLucia's long-range shot to tie the game quickly brought the ball up the court.
With now just three seconds on the clock the Warriors double-teamed DeLucia, but the Miami native still managed to get the ball in his hands. Once that happened ECSU fouled the hot shooter allowing their defense to get set-up for what would be the last shot of the contest.
From midcourt, UMB inbounded the ball to DeLucia, but with two players in his face the sophomore was unable to get set as he threw the ball in the air. It would miss just short landing in the hands of Garrow's securing the Warriors slim 3-point victory.
Garrow's clutch shooting at the line capped off a 23 point afternoon for the forward. From the field he went 9-for-15, while at the line he was 5-for-9. The big-man also pulled down a team-best six boards to match the Warriors other big-man Chris Robitaille.
DeLucia's season-high 23 points was the result of his 8-of-12 shooting from the field, which included a 4-for-5 showing from behind the arc. At the line he was a perfect 3-for-3. He also handed out a pair of assists, and had two steals in a team-best 37 minutes of playing time. Rahshjeem Benson (Boston, Mass.) finished second on the team with 14 points, and recorded a game-high seven rebounds.
UMB continued to prove that they are a second-half team erasing the Warriors double-figure lead in just minutes. Playing a major part in the Beacons run was their bench, who accounted for half of the points (35) scored in Saturday's tough loss. Eastern Connecticut on the other hand was dominant in the first half, nailing almost everything they threw-up. The Warriors shot 65.4% through the first 20 minutes of play, while the Beacons shot 56.7% over the last 20 minutes of action.
Like the score, the Warriors narrowly won the battle on the board's as well recording just one more than UMB (28-27). The Beacons finished the game shooting 50% (29-for-58) from the field and 50% (6-for-12) from 3-point land. Eastern Connecticut shot 55.3% (26-for-27) from the floor and 50% (10-for-20) from behind the arc.
Men's Basketball returns to action on Tuesday when they travel to the University of Southern Maine for a 7:30 p.m. conference game.