Bryant Remains a Half Game Out of First after Win Over CCSU - ABC6 - Providence, RI and New Bedford, MA News, Weather

Bryant Remains a Half Game Out of First after Win Over CCSU

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Ken Bell

kbell@abc6.com

Bryant news release...

STARKS, FRANCIS PACE BULLDOGS TO 88-67 WIN TO COMPLETE SEASON SWEEP OVER CCSU

SMITHFIELD, R.I. – For the fifth time this season, five different Bulldogs registered double-digit points while junior forward Alex Francis (Harlem, N.Y.) picked up his seventh double-double of the year to lead the Bryant University men's basketball team to an 88-67 victory over Central Connecticut State University Thursday night.

The win completes the Bulldogs' first season sweep of the 2012-13 campaign and marks Bryant's 17th win of the season, tying the Black and Gold (17-8, 10-4 Northeast Conference) for the biggest season-to-season turnaround in NEC history (15 games) and bringing the Bulldogs just one league victory shy of tying the same mark in NEC play.

Sophomore Dyami Starks (Duluth, Minn.) paced the game with 26 points to mark the eighth-straight contest in which the Bulldogs have featured a 20-point scorer. Francis followed with 18 and a game-best 11 rebounds, also chipping in five assists to compliment his 23rd-career double-double effort. Senior Vlad Kondratyev (Nikolayev, Ukraine) and sophomore Joe O'Shea (Burlington, Vt.) each tacked on 12 points while junior Corey Maynard (Adelaide, Australia) finished the night with 11.

CCSU (10-15, 6-8) was led by 18 points from Kyle Vinales, who was limited to just four second-half points, and 17 more from Matt Hunter.

After little scoring to start the contest, senior point guard Frankie Dobbs (Berea, Ohio) made good on a breakaway layup and the ensuing foul shot to push Bryant's lead to 16-8 with 11:21 left to play in the opening frame, the second three-point play in three possessions for the Black and Gold.

A triple from Vinales would be answered with an emphatic two-hand jam from Kondratyev, but the Blue Devils would thwart the Bulldogs on the next two possessions while scoring layups in return, forcing Bryant to burn its first timeout with the margin closed to 18-15.

It was the closest Central Connecticut would get for the remainder of the game, though, as Bryant would build a nine-point advantage from there to take the clock down to seven to play. The lead wouldn't waver much before a triple from Starks upped the margin to 12 points, 35-23, and the Bulldogs would take their largest lead of the frame just 64 seconds later, 39-26, on a layup by Francis.

A no-look pass from Dobbs fed Kondratyev under the basket for a 42-29 edge with 2:09 remaining before the break, but the sides would combine for just three more points in the frame, as a long Starks three rimmed out on the final shot attempt to send the Black and Gold into halftime with a 43-31 lead.

The Bulldogs started off the second with a bang, as back-to-back dunks from Francis lifted the hosts to a 47-31 lead less than a minute in, and Bryant would get its third slam of the half and fourth of the game before three minutes passed as Kondratyev hammered home his second dunk of the day for a 49-34 advantage.

Coming out of the first media timeout, Starks would sink a midrange jumper despite getting accidentally smacked in the face, converting the and-one free throw for a 57-38 lead at the five-minute mark of the second stanza. The lead would climb above 20 points with 13 to go on a Joe O'Shea triple, 62-41, and a hard intentional foul on Francis would give the home side an extra point and the ball back.

Francis would shake the hit off quick enough to get a huge block going the other way before feeding Starks for a long 3-pointer in transition, forcing the Blue Devils to call a timeout with the score slanted in the Bulldogs' direction, 66-41.

It would take just minutes longer for Francis to pull in his 10th rebound of the outing to complete his seventh double-double of the year, and while the Blue Devils would continue pushing to close the gap, they would be met with little success, and the Bulldogs cruised through the final stretch for the 88-67 final.

"I thought we had a nice blend of inside and outside tonight, and we worked the ball to Alex well," said head coach Tim O'Shea. "He can't be guarded one-on-one 8-10 feet from the basket, and he's got a pro first step. It's natural. You can't teach that, it's just something he has."

The Bulldogs finished the game shooting 53.3 percent, surpassing the 50 percent mark for the 11th time this season and converting at a 50 percent or better clip in both halves for the seventh time. Bryant won the battle on the boards, 41-29, and dished out 17 assists. CCSU finished the game shooting 43.1 percent.

The Bulldogs will embark on their final road trip of the season Saturday afternoon, traveling to Hamden, Conn., to take on Quinnipiac University at 2:00 p.m. before returning home to the Chace Athletic Center for the final three games of the 2012-13 regular season.

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