'KEENE, N.H. 01/23/06 - Keene State and Plymouth State University will renew their long basketball rivalry at Spaulding Gym on Tuesday night. The women's game begins at 5:30 p.m. followed by the men's contest at 7:30 p.m.
Both games will have a bearing on the Little East Conference standings. The men's game will help break a three-team log jam atop the standings, while the KSC and PSU women's teams are looking to secure a spot among the top-four and gain a home tournament game.
No one said it was going to be easy for the Owl men. Undefeated in the LEC heading into last week, Keene State (11-5, 5-2 LEC) has dropped consecutive conference games to Eastern Connecticut (83-74) and Rhode Island College (75-67) and now finds itself tied with Plymouth State (12-4, 5-2 LEC) and UMass-Boston (10-6, 5-2 LEC) for the top spot in LEC.
"The kids are competing, but I have to coach better," said KSC Coach Rob Colbert. "The scout is out and teams know how to stop some of our players. We need to find new ways for guys to get touches and shots in places they can do something.
"It wasn't like we missed a lot of shots against Eastern Conn. and Rhode Island College," he added. "We weren't able to get some of our usual shots. So this one's on me."
After a tough stretch, Plymouth State appears to have righted its ship with a three-game winning streak. Colbert gives PSU coach John Sheinman credit for the Panthers' turnaround. "John has done a tremendous job," Colbert said. "He lost two players (Nick Pelotte and Andreas Pope) and found a way to redesign that team. They've faced their share of adversity and came through with flying colors.
Tuesday's game will also be a battle between the league's top offensive and defensive teams. Keene State lead the LEC in scoring offense (87.9 ppg) while Plymouth tops the conference in scoring defense (67.2 ppg)
The Owls are led by the trio of David Sontag (17.4 ppg), Sean Sullivan (12.9 ppg), and Matt Hickey (10.0 ppg) while the Panthers counter with the duo of Mike Walcek (14.9 ppg) and Kevin Boutilier (14.4 ppg).
After a pair of road losses, Colbert is looking forward to his team's return to Spaulding Gym. "I don't remember what our home colors uniforms look like," said Colbert with a grin. "It's nice to be back."
Fourth and fifth respectively in the LEC standings, the Keene State (9-8, 4-3 LEC) and Plymouth State (6-9, 3-4 LEC) women's teams are looking to position themselves for tournament play.
After dropping four straight, including a pair of LEC contests, Keene State came away with a much-needed conference win over R.I. College (65-49) on Saturday.
According to KSC coach Keith Boucher, poor shooting turned into a team epidemic. "Confidence is such a tentative variable with athletes and I just think they lost the confidence in themselves as individuals and that filtered through the whole team," he said. "Fortunately, I saw some good signs on Saturday."
"We've done some extra shooting, so hopefully we've gotten over the hump," said sophomore guard Danielle Graveley. "We're going to give it everything we have tomorrow."
Keene State is led by Sarah Begnoche (12.4 ppg) and Bri Barnes (11.0 ppg), while Plymouth State looks to junior guards Ashley White (12.2 ppg) and Colleen Mahoney (10.5 ppg) to generate the team's offense.
PSU snapped a two-game losing streak with a victory over Western Conn. (60-55) on Saturday.
"One thing about Plymouth is that they always come to compete," Boucher said. "Hopefully, we'll do the same and that makes for a great game."