BOSTON, Mass. – A Brian Clarke (Miramar, Fla.) layup with 6.6 seconds left on the clock and one final stop by the defense earned men's basketball a 65-64 Little East Conference win over Plymouth State University Monday evening in the Clark Athletic Center Gymnasium on senior day.
With Monday's victory, the Beacons improved to .500 (11-11) overall, 5-7 in the Little East Conference as they closed out their final home game of the 2012-13 regular season. For the Panthers the tough loss dropped their record to 6-17 overall, 2-10 in the conference.
Clarke's game-winning lay-in would cap off a wild final minute of play, which saw the Beacons score seven of the nine points, with five of those coming from sophomore guard Vinny DeLucia (Miami, Fla.). DeLucia sparked the Beacons rally after Plymouth State jumped out to a two-point lead following a deep 3-pointer from Kevin Eisenberg which made 62-58 with 1:13 left on the clock.
On the Beacons next possession, DeLucia pushed up the court and just as he was fouled by the Panthers laid the ball in for a huge two. The reigning conference Rookie of the Year completed the and-1 to make it just a one point contest.
Plymouth State would turn the ball over on their next possession, giving UMB the window of opportunity they needed, and with another amazing lay-up from DeLucia found themselves leading by one (63-62) with 40 seconds left on the clock.
However, the Panthers go-to playmaker Petey Skevas responded right back with a huge play of his own to push his team out in front one last time. Skevas went on to finish the day with 16 points on 7-of-12 shooting and also handed out a game-high nine assists.
Down by one yet again, the Beacons inbounded the ball and immediately went to DeLucia. With two players in his face and time running out on the shot clock, DeLucia threw up a shot that fell just short grazing the front of the rim. Luckily the ball landed directly in the hands of Clarke who was battling in the paint. With the ball in his hands the sophomore big-man laid in the game-winning field goal with less than seven seconds on the clock. One final timeout by the Panthers would set-up what would be the final play of the night. Plymouth State quickly got the ball in play, but was met by a wall of Beacons who prevented them from getting off any type of clean shot as the time was about to expire.
The victory marked the first conference regular season sweep for the Beacons over Plymouth State since the 1995-96 season.
Clarke's second half heroics capped off a team-best 16 points for the sophomore as he went 8-for-11 from the field. He also grabbed seven boards to help the Beacons cause. DeLucia dropped in nine points on 4-of-10 shooting. Junior Rahshjeem Benson (Boston, Mass.) finished with 12 points and a game-high nine rebounds. Seniors Mike Mitchell, Jr. (Dorchester, Mass.) and Yusuke Fukata (Osaka, Japan) combined for 10 points in the final regular season home game of their college careers.
As a team UMass shot the lights out of the Clark Center finishing the night 31-for-60 (51.7%). Plymouth State was also solid all night as they shot 44.3% (27-for-61). In total there was only five 3-pointers made in Monday's contest, all of which belonged to the Panthers. On the glass Plymouth State held a +6 advantage over the Beacons (35-29), but it was UMB's defense, which forced a combined 12 Plymouth State turnovers that made the different. The Beacons also used their size and strength in the paint to account for 50 of their 65 points, with the bench also contributing 18.
Alex Burt was the big scorer on the night as he finished with a game-high 18 points. After Skevas' 16, Uche Nwokeji and Kevin Eisenberg each recorded 10 points. Nwokeji and Mark MacGregor also managed a team-high eight boards as well.
Men's Basketball returns to action on Wednesday when they travel to UMass Dartmouth for a 7:30 p.m. Little East Conference game.