WILLIMANTIC, Conn. - Jeric Cichon and Nick Redden combined to make 7-of-9 shots from long range and score 34 points as the Keene State College men's basketball team clinched a spot in the Little East Conference tournament, leading nearly throughout in a 74-60 win over Eastern Connecticut State University Wednesday night at Geissler Gymnasium. The Owls have won two conference tournament titles on that floor since 2015, but had not won there in the regular season since 2012.
- Keene State: 10-14, 8-7 LEC
- Eastern Connecticut: 10-14, 6-9 LEC
How It Happened
The Owls got breakout performances from Jeric Cichon and Nick Redden in the victory, with Cichon setting a new career-high with 20 points on 6-of-12 shooting, 3-of-4 from three and 5-of-6 free throws. He also had four assists, two rebounds and two steals. Redden matched a season-best with 14 points in 16 minutes, making 4-of-5 triples in the process while adding three rebounds and three assists. Jeff Hunter finished with nine points, 10 rebounds, five assists and two blocks for KSC, who with the help of Plymouth State University's blowout win over last place Castleton University, eliminated Eastern Connecticut from playoff contention. The Owls and Warriors had met in the league title game three straight years. ECSU got a team-leading 19 points from Seth Thomas, but he was held to 6-of-18 shooting and 1-of-8 from three. Jake Collagan had 15 points, all of which came in the first half.
The three-ball, and in particular Redden, got KSC going after the Owls scored one point in the opening four minutes, as he tied the game at four at the 15:54 mark with his first triple of the game. His second did not take long, as he connected again on the next possession to put Keene State in front 7-6, and the Owls never trailed again. A three and a layup from Redden a short time later sandwiched around a layup from Cichon helped KSC run out to a 19-10 advantage at the 10:59 mark, completing an 18-6 burst after falling behind 4-1. Three free throws by Jaylen Franklin a little over a minute later still had KSC up eight (22-14), but the Warriors did make a push, as the Owls scored just five points over a six-minute span and saw their advantage chipped to just 27-26 with 3:07 left in the half. KSC had a quick and forceful answer, however, as Redden connected from deep and Miguel Prieto did the same on the next trip to make it 33-26 just over a minute later. The Owls, behind 6-of-10 shooting from deep in the opening 20 minutes, led by nine at the break after Jaylen Franklin's layup in the final minute.
Keene State never really let the Warriors back in the game in the second half. Layups from Cichon and Hunter in the opening two minutes accounted for four quick points, pushing the lead to 39-26, and the Owls were later up 47-33 at the 16:15 mark after Cichon connected twice from three in less than two minutes. Eastern Connecticut hit back by scoring eight of the next 10 points, finishing with Cory Muckle's three, to get within 49-41 with still 13:48 to go, but never got any closer. Ben Olson answered with a layup to make it a double-digit edge again before Hunter and James Anozie scored inside after that for a 56-43 edge with a little over nine minutes remaining. Trailing 58-45, ECSU trimmed their deficit to eight twice more, including 61-53 with 5:17 on the clock, but it was mostly all Keene State down the stretch. Cichon's two free throws made it a 12-point Owl lead with 3:31 to go, and a Sidi Diallo three that preceded buckets from DeVon Beasley and Cichon helped blow the lead out to 74-57 with less than two minutes to go as the Owls cruised to their fifth win in the past seven games.
Keene State shot 44 percent from the floor (24-of-55) and made 9-of-18 from distance and 17-of-23 free throws while committing 14 turnovers, their fewest since January 7. Eastern Connecticut was held to a 39 percent (22-of-57) shooting performance and 6-of-25 from three.
Inside the Paint
- The six-team Little East tournament playoff field has been set, but the only seed that has been clinched is the top spot, which belongs to Western Connecticut State University, who won 77-66 at Rhode Island College this evening. Keene State can finish anywhere between third and sixth. A best case scenario for the Owls would be winning Saturday's game against WCSU while also having Plymouth State University and UMass-Dartmouth win, which would leave KSC in third place due to their 4-2 head-to-head record among the tied teams. Keene State must win in order to have a chance of hosting a quarterfinal game next Tuesday (February 25). A loss would result in the Owls finishing fifth or sixth and going on the road next week.
- Redden has made multiple threes in a game 10 times this season. Nine of those came in the first 12 contests. He has scored 19 points overall in the past two games (25 minutes), both Owl victories.
- KSC has won three of the last four against Eastern Connecticut. The 14-point loss was ECSU's most lopsided home defeat of the season.
- As mentioned, Keene State entertains Western Connecticut (17-7, 11-4 LEC) on Saturday, February 22 at 3:00 pm. It is Pepsi and Fan Appreciation Day, and the Owls will honor senior center Ben Olson and senior manager Brandon Paul before the game.
- Eastern Connecticut ends their season at Castleton (3-21, 2-13 LEC) on the same afternoon.