DANBURY, CT – Senior forwards Aaron Samuel (Stratford, CT) and Rashard Rodriguez (Trumbull, CT) each tallied 18 points to lead the fourth-seeded Western Connecticut State University men's basketball team to a 97-77 victory over visiting fifth-seeded UMass-Boston in the quarterfinal round of the Little East Conference Championship Tournament on Tuesday night at Feldman Arena. With the win, the Colonials advanced to the semifinal round where they will meet top-seeded host Keene State College on Friday at 5:30 p.m.
Juniors Fenton Bradley Jr. (Mansfield, CT) and Tracy Cleckley Jr. (Rosedale, NY) also netted double figures for WestConn with 12 and 10 points, respectively, while rookie guard Ahmod Privott (Middletown, CT) added 11 on 3-of-4 shooting from downtown. Samuel also tallied team-highs in rebounds (nine) and assists (four).
Sophomore guard Michael Boyd (Malden, MA) paced the Beacons with a game-high 24 points on 10-of-15 shooting from the floor, while classmate guard Charlie Mitchell (Boston, MA) chipped in with 15.
The hosts shot a scorching 59% (36-of-61) for the contest and also buried 92.3% (12-of-13) of their free throws, while holding UMass-Boston to just 42.6% (26-of-61) in field goal attempts and 73.9% (17-of-23) from the stripe. The Colonials moved the ball well all night, dishing out 25 assists, while the Beacons finished with 10.
The first half featured nine lead changes. The visitors opened the game with an 11-3 run. However, the hosts responded with a spurt of their own, seizing a 16-14 advantage on a midrange jumper from Bradley Jr.
After some back-and-forth play, WestConn claimed control with an 11-0 outburst late in the first. Samuel ignited the flurry with a jumper before wrapping up the run with a strong finish off a feed from classmate Eli Rodriguez (Bristol, CT), giving the Colonials a 36-26 lead. They would maintain the advantage at the break, 45-32.
The Beacons rallied early in the second, shrinking the gap to 57-51 when rookie forward Javaris Hill (Lynn, MA) connected on a layup. However, they would not get any closer.
Bradley Jr. took a full-court pass from Samuel and threw down a two-handed breakaway dunk to swing the momentum back in WestConn's favor. Privott and Cleckley Jr. would each tack on corner three-pointers to put the game away.
The Colonials will play in the first game of the afternoon on Friday before No. 2 Eastern Connecticut squares off against No. 3 UMass-Dartmouth at 7:30 p.m. The Warriors had a first round bye and the Corsairs downed No. 6 Plymouth State in the other quarterfinal matchup. The championship game is slated for Saturday at 5 p.m. at Keene State.