Providence, R.I.-Sophomore forward Chris Burton (New Rochelle, NY) posted a team-high 13 points and was one of four Anchormen to finish in double-figures as top-seeded Rhode Island College knocked off eighth-seeded UMass Dartmouth, 62-58, in the first round of the 2013 Little East Conference Men's Basketball Tournament played at The Murray Center on Tuesday night.
With the win, the Anchormen (23-3) advance to face fourth-seeded Southern Maine in the semifinals, which will be held at Rhode Island College on Friday night (6 p.m.). It marks the fifth time in the last seven years that RIC has hosted the LEC Tournament. In the other semifinal matchup on Friday, second-seeded Eastern Connecticut will battle third-seeded Keene State (8 p.m.).
Meanwhile, despite a hard-fought effort against the Anchormen for the third time this year, the Corsairs (5-21) see their season come to an end with the loss.
"We weren't really ourselves tonight, but we found a way to win," said Head Coach Bob Walsh. "I'm proud of the way we stayed mentally tough despite playing poorly. This time of year the most important thing is the result. We're hosting the tournament for the fifth time in seven years and our guys should feel great about that."
Burton added a team-high eight rebounds to go along with his team-high scoring effort and a game-high four steals as the Anchormen dominated the glass on Tuesday, outrebounding the Corsairs, 50-38, and hauling in 24 offensive rebounds as a team.
Senior guard Ethan Gaye (Providence, RI) recorded 11 points and seven rebounds, while classmate guard Tahrike Carter (Brooklyn, NY) registered 11 points, five rebounds, three assists and two steals. Junior guard Tom DeCiantis (North Kingstown, RI) chipped in with 10 points and seven boards, while freshman forward Ryan Lawton (West Warwick, RI) pitched in with five points and five rebounds in a career-high 18 minutes of action.
Freshman forward Wale Abraham (Lynn, MA) led UMass Dartmouth with 12 points and six blocks, while sophomore guard Jake Laga (Northampton, MA) tallied a game-high 14 points to go along with six rebounds in the loss. Junior forward Elezar Clayton (Boston, MA) finished with seven points and nine rebounds, while junior guard John Genkos (Worcester, MA) and freshman forward Abi Akanni (Fitchburg, MA) each contributed with eight points.
The Anchormen jumped out to an early, 9-3, lead over the first 2:34 of the game as DeCiantis paced the attack with five points. UMD came back to climb within three, 13-10, at 14:20 as Laga drained a trifecta.
Moments later, Clayton made a layup and Genkos sank a three to tie the contest, 15-15, with 12:33 left. The lead was tied four more times until Carter made a layup to make it, 27-25, with 2:13 left. Gaye followed with four more points as the hosts closed out the first 20 minutes holding a six-point, 33-27, advantage.
After the hosts stormed out of the break with back-to-back buckets to take a quick 10-point lead, the Corsairs bounced back to cut the deficit to five with 11:48 to play, capped off by three straight points from Laga. However, the Anchormen soon responded to once again extend their lead to 10 following a three-pointer from Carter with 9:26 remaining in the frame. Yet, Laga drained another trey moments later to trim the deficit to five, making it, 53-48, with 7:48 on the clock.
After back-to-back RIC baskets gave the hosts a nine-point advantage, UMD rallied to cut the margin to four thanks to a layup from Akanni that made it, 58-54, with just 3:10 to play.
Sparked by a relentless defensive effort down low from the Corsairs, the Anchormen missed six straight shots in the paint on a trio of offensive possessions over the next two minutes before Gaye gathered an offensive rebound with 1:07 to play and finally converted on a layup opportunity to give RIC a 60-54 lead. Trailing by six, the Corsairs knocked down two of four free throw attempts in the final minute to cut the deficit to four, but failed to get any closer.
Rhode Island College shot 34 percent (25-for-73) from the floor, 23 percent from beyond the arc (3-for-13) and 56 percent (9-for-16) from the free throw line. UMass Dartmouth shot 38 percent (20-for-53) from the field, 36 percent (5-for-14) from downtown and 65 percent (13-for-20) from the free throw line.
The Anchormen corralled 13 steals as a team and forced the Corsairs into 18 turnovers, compared to just 15 turnovers of their own.