DANBURY, CT – The Western Connecticut State University men's basketball team reeled off an 18-2 run midway through the second half en route to an 85-75 victory over visiting cross-state rival Eastern Connecticut in a Little East Conference matchup at the O'Neill Center's Feldman Arena on Wednesday night. Senior guard Geary McLeod (New London, CT) paced the Colonials with 18 points, while classmate forward Aaron Samuel (Stratford, CT) chipped in a double-double on 16 points and a game-high 14 rebounds.
The hosts shot a red-hot 51.6% (33-of-64) from the field while holding the visitors to just a 36.6% (26-of-71) clip. WestConn finished with the contest with a 47-37 rebound advantage, while knocking down 43.8% (7-of-16) shots from beyond the arc, while Eastern managed just 22.2% (8-of-36).
Sophomore guard Cory Muckle (Westbrook, CT) led the Warriors with a game-high 23 points, while rookie forward Seth Thomas (Norwich, CT) poured in 21.
Things looked good early as WestConn erupted with an 11-2 spurt to start the game. Senior forward Rashard Rodriguez (Trumbull, CT) collected back-to-back layups to round out the flurry.
However, Eastern responded with a run of their own, seizing a 14-10 lead when senior forward Leonel Hyatt (Greenwich, CT) raced down the lane for a bucket.
The Warriors widened the gap to as many as nine points midway through the first half before the Colonials erased the deficit, knotting the count at 45-45 when Samuel buried a midrange jumper less than two minutes into the second stanza.
The lead would change hands several times until WestConn put together a surge that would ultimately seal the win. Trailing 51-49, Samuel began the barrage when he converted a layup while being hacked and sank the ensuing free throw, putting the Colonials ahead for good, 52-51. Cleckley Jr. rounded out the run, connecting on consecutive three-pointers, stretching the lead to 67-53 with 11:40 remaining.
Shortly thereafter, Jefferson dribbled past a defender for a thunderous right-handed highlight reel worthy jam, sending the crowd into a frenzy. Moments later, junior forward Fenton Bradley Jr. (Mansfield, CT) followed with a two-handed stuff before Jefferson threw down yet another ferocious slam, swinging the momentum in favor of the hosts.
The visitors would not go away quietly though. They sliced the deficit to 80-75 when Thomas sank a pair from the charity stripe with 1:19 left to play.
However, solid free throw shooting down the stretch from McLeod and another rim-rattling slam from Samuel, cemented the win for WestConn.
With the victory, the Colonials improved to 5-3 overall and 1-1 in league play, while the Warriors dropped to 5-2 and 2-1. WestConn returns to action for yet another conference battle when they host UMass-Boston on Saturday at 3 p.m.