Late comeback falls short for Western in 79-78 loss at Rhode Island College

BOX SCORE

PROVIDENCE, RI (Feb. 14) — The Western Connecticut State University men's basketball team trailed for most of the second half, but a late rally fell one point short as the Colonials fell 79-78 at Little East Conference rival Rhode Island College Tuesday evening.

From the desk of Scott Gibbons - Rhode Island College SID

Senior center Mike Akinrola (Woonsocket, RI) connected on a key layup with 28 seconds remaining to help the Rhode Island College men’s basketball team take down Western Connecticut, 79-78, at The Murray Center on Tuesday night in Little East Conference action.

The frontcourt tandem of Akinrola and senior forward Mason Choice (Newport, RI) combined for 43 points and 16 rebounds to power the Anchormen to victory. Choice led the way with 22 points, five boards, three steals, two assists and two blocks, while Akinrola posted 21 points and 11 rebounds for his fifth double-double of the season, to go along with four assists.

Rhode Island College (19-5, 9-4 LEC) remains undefeated at home (12-0) on the year with the win, and is now locked into a tie with Western Connecticut (19-5, 9-4 LEC) for third place in the Little East Conference with one conference game left to play. Keene State and Eastern Connecticut share possession of first place in the LEC with 9-4 conference records.

“I was really proud of our defensive effort to finish the game in the second half,” said Head Coach Bob Walsh. “Ethan Gaye and Tahrike Carter really set the tone on Eastern’s backcourt, and Mike Akinrola and Mason Choice made huge plays for us down the stretch. Avery King and Steve Roberts gave us great energy off the bench.”

After trailing throughout much of the first half, RIC bounced back in the final minutes of the frame to take the lead after a three pointer from sophomore guard Avery King (Pawtucket, RI) made it, 36-34, with 2:01 left in the half. After senior forward Gary Robinson (Torrington, CT) answered back with a bucket to tie the game, Choice nailed a jumper on the other end with 30 seconds on the clock to send the Anchormen into the intermission with a 38-36 lead.

The visiting Colonials regained the lead in the opening minutes of the second half and soon went up by as many as seven after senior guard Da’Quan Brooks (Atlanta, GA) nailed a trey to put Western on top, 50-43, with 16:18 on the clock. RIC responded with a 10-1 run over the next minute and a half, capped off by a basket from Choice, to take a 53-51 lead with 15:18 left to play. The Colonials would come back to tie the game a few minutes later, as senior forward Michael Kennedy (Newtown, CT) buried a pair of free throws with 10:48 remaining to tie the game at 58, but that would be the closest Western would come to overtaking the Anchormen.

Rhode Island College led by as many as eight down the stretch, but watched its lead trickle down to just one point on several occasions. With 50 seconds left to play, junior guard Ryan Pelletier (Wolcott, CT) drained a pair of free throws to once again cut the deficit to just one, 76-75. That’s when Akinrola tallied his biggest basket of the game; an up-and-under lay-in with 28 seconds remaining that put RIC back up by three, 78-75. After a missed trey from Brooks on the other end, sophomore guard Tahrike Carter (Brooklyn, NY) sealed the victory for the Anchormen by hitting a free throw with just nine seconds left, putting RIC up by four. Brooks sank a three at the buzzer to make it a one-point game.

The Anchormen shot 43 percent from the floor (29-for-67), while holding the visitors to just 38 percent shooting (23-for-61). The Colonials did most of their damage at the free throw line, as they went 23-for-26 (89 percent) on the evening, while RIC shot just 63 percent (15-for-24) from the charity stripe.

The biggest advantage for RIC came on the glass, where it outrebounded Western, 44-38, and also notched 16 offensive rebounds as a team. Akinrola led the charge on the offensive glass for the Anchormen with six offensive boards of his own.

King sank five three pointers for RIC en route to 16 points in the win, while Carter chipped in with 12 points, five boards, and four assists. Junior center Steven Roberts (New Haven, CT) added six points and eight rebounds off the bench.

Junior guard Ethan Gaye (Providence, RI) received high praise for his outstanding defense, particularly on Brooks, who came into the game as the second-leading scorer in Div. III with 28.2 points per game. Brooks did manage to lead the Colonials in scoring on Tuesday with 30 points, but he did it on 8-of-26 shooting (31 percent). Brooks also went just 3-of-13 from beyond the arc, while a good chunk of his points came at the free throw line (11-for-12).

Kennedy and Pelletier each finished with 17 points and six rebounds for Western, while Robinson added four points and eight rebounds in the loss.

In upcoming action, Rhode Island College will close out the regular season at home against Keene State on Saturday, Feb. 18 (3 p.m.) in a game that will play a pivotal role in determining the Little East Regular Season Championship and impact tournament seedings.

Newspaper Box Score

RHODE ISLAND COLLEGE 79, WESTERN CONNECTICUT 78

WESTERN CONNECTICUT (19-5, 9-4 LEC)
DaQuan Brooks 8-26 11-12 30; Ryan Pelletier 5-7 4-5 17; Michael Kennedy 4-8 6-7 17; Mark Redding 2-2 2-2 6; Gary Robinson 2-6 0-0 4; Luis Bridtter 2-7 0-0 4; James Barnes 0-2 0-0 0; Joseph Setaro 0-1 0-0 0; Shawn Mobilio 0-2 0-0 0; Robert Bentil 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-61 23-26 78.

RHODE ISLAND COLLEGE (19-5, 9-4)
Mason Choice 8-21 6-8 22; Mike Akinrola 7-14 7-8 21; Avery King 5-8 1-4 16; Tahrike Carter 5-10 1-2 12; Steven Roberts 3-6 0-0 6; Tom DeCiantis 1-6 0-0 2; Michael Palumbo 0-0 0-0 0; Chris Burton 0-1 0-0 0; Jacob Page 0-0 0-0 0; Ethan Gaye 0-1 0-2 0; Randy Casey 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 29-67 15-24 79.

Western Connecticut........... 36 42 - 78
Rhode Island College.......... 38 41 - 79

3-point goals--Western Connecticut 9-27 (Ryan Pelletier 3-5; Michael Kennedy 3-4; DaQuan Brooks 3-13; Shawn Mobilio 0-1; Gary Robinson 0-4), Rhode Island College 6-16 (Avery King 5-7; Tahrike Carter 1-3; Tom DeCiantis 0-3; Ethan Gaye 0-1; Mike Akinrola 0-1; Mason Choice 0-1). Fouled out--Western Connecticut-None, Rhode Island College-None. Rebounds--Western Connecticut 38 (Gary Robinson 8), Rhode Island College 44 (Mike Akinrola 11). Assists--Western Connecticut 11 (DaQuan Brooks 4; Robert Bentil 4), Rhode Island College 17 (Mike Akinrola 4; Tahrike Carter 4). Total fouls--Western
Connecticut 18, Rhode Island College 16. Technical fouls--Western Connecticut-James Barnes, Rhode Island College-Mike Akinrola. A-381