BOSTON, Mass. – With a quick 8-0 run, which included a pair of 3-pointers from Quadry Allen (White Castle, La.), men's basketball was able to retake control of the scoreboard and never looked back as they capped off a second half comeback to defeat Western Connecticut State University by the final of 68-64 Saturday afternoon in the Clark Athletic Center Gymnasium in a Little East Conference match-up.
Allen's two 3-pointers along with a lay-up from Brian Clarke (Miramar, Fla.) pushed the Beacons out past the Colonials 54-50 with 7:15 left in the second half. The Beacons would then use clutch free throw shooting and solid presence in the paint to hold off the Colonials over the final seven minutes of play. Western Connecticut did manage to tie the score once with less than a minute to play, but clutch shooting by Vinny DeLucia (Miami, Fla.) and Mike Mitchell, Jr. (Dorchester, Mass.) sealed UMB's hard fought win, which they definitely needed to remain in the playoff picture.
With Saturday's victory UMass Boston (9-7, 3-4 Little East) completed the season sweep of the Colonials for the first time since the 2006-07 season. The win also keeps UMB in control of fifth place in the conference standings. Western Connecticut State (4-12, 2-5 Little East) remains in sixth place in the conference standings following Saturday's defeat.
Playing perhaps his best second half of the season was Clarke, who finished with a second half best 12 points to cap off the Beacons late push. The sophomore from Florida was 8-for-14 on the day and finished with four offensive boards. He also tallied a pair of blocks and handed out two assists. Junior center Rahshjeem Benson (Boston, Mass.) also had a big day as he finished with a team-high 15 points, and a game-best 13 boards.
For the Colonials, four of their starting five finished in double-figures, with Luis Bridtter dropping in 16 points, while also collecting 11 boards. Phil Starks led the contest in scoring with 18 points, and also handed out four assists. On the afternoon Starts was 7-of-16 from the floor and 3-of-5 from behind the arc. He also recorded seven rebounds to match teammate Russell Payton.
Trailing by five at the half, UMass came out firing in the second with Clarke and DeLucia each nailing a jumper to make it a one point game. Western Connecticut would manage to hold onto their slim lead throughout the first 10 minutes of play, even with the Beacons right on their heels.
The turning point of the afternoon came when Allen hit a deep three cutting the Colonials lead to one for the final time in the contest. Clarke would then do work on both sides of the court, first collecting defensive board, then nailing the go-ahead lay-up with 7:50 left in regulation. Another missed basket by WCSU would give the Beacons the window they were looking for, as they found a wide-open Allen who drained his second three in less than a minute.
With time running out Western continued to push the pace, but every time they made a field goal, UMB responded with a field goal of-their-own or went 2-for-2 at the charity strip, as they did not miss a single free throw attempt after taking the lead.
UMass continued to prove that they are a second half team shooting 46.9% (15-for-32) over the final 20 minutes of play to make up for their less than stellar 29.0% shooting in the first half. On the day, the Beacons shot 38.1% (24-for-63) from the floor and 30.8% (4-for-13) from three-point range. At the line both teams shot 66.7%. WCSU closed out the loss shooting 42.6% (26-for-61) from the floor and 40.0% (4-for-10) behind the arc on the afternoon. The Beacons won the battle on the glass pulling down one more board than their conference rival (41-40).
Men's Basketball returns to action on Tuesday when they host UMass Dartmouth at 7:30 p.m.