KEENE, N.H. - The cold-shooting Keene State College men's basketball team attempted for a second crazy comeback in as many weekends, but this time came up short as they could not erase an 18-point second half deficit in a 58-55 loss to Western Connecticut State University in Little East action on Senior Day Saturday afternoon at Spaulding Gymnasium.
- Keene State: 10-15, 8-8 LEC
- Western Connecticut: 18-7, 12-4 LEC
How It Happened
The Owls struggled mightily on offense all day, as they shot 31.5 percent (17-for-54) overall, 23 percent (6-for-26) in the opening 20 minutes, and made only 6-of-27 three-point attempts (22%) while putting up their second lowest point total of the year. KSC finished in sixth place in the final Little East standings and will have to travel to play Plymouth State University on Tuesday in the quarterfinal round. A win today coupled with what else happened around the league would have allowed the Owls to finish third. Western Connecticut was not much better on offense, either, as they shot 37 percent overall (21-for-57) and 32 percent (7-for-22) in the second half. The Colonials also made just 6-of-18 from long range and 10-of-23 from the foul line, but held on to win despite scoring four points over the final 6:24. On a day where there were ample possible standings scenarios, those did not apply to WestConn, as they clinched the top seed with a 77-66 win at Rhode Island College Wednesday. Keene State was led by Jeric Cichon, who put up 12 points and nine rebounds. Jeff Hunter and Sidi Diallo each had 10. Jaheim Young had 16 points and Fenton Bradley 11 for the Colonials. The rest of the team scored 31.
KSC got off to an extremely slow start, as they did not score in the game's opening five minutes, but only trailed 5-0. That changed in a hurry, as Nick Redden got the Owls on the board with a three and Diallo followed with a bucket and free throw on the next possession to put the home team ahead 6-5. Two free throws from James Anozie and a layup from Cichon a little over a minute later helped Keene State jump in front by five, as they went from having no points to a 10-5 lead in less than two minutes. However, the Owls then scored just nine points over the rest of the half, a span of 13:07, and wound up trailing 32-19 at halftime. WestConn reeled off nine in a row to turn their five-point hole into a 14-10 lead and never trailed again, eventually going up 30-17 after Bradley's three with 1:47 left until the break.
Keene State found their offense for the moment early in the second half, as they scored six of the first eight points to make it a nine-point game (34-25) at the 17:37 mark and later were within 37-30 on Ben Olson's layup with just under 14 minutes to go. However, the home team then embarked on another scoring drought, as they could not find any points for over four minutes and watched WestConn go on a 9-0 burst that finished with a pair of triples from Jordon Brown for a 46-30 lead. KSC briefly got within 13, but Young's uncontested layup at the 6:24 mark had the Colonials up a game-high 18 points (54-36). Western appeared to be cruising their fifth straight win, but then scored four points over the rest of the game and were 4-for-12 at the foul line in that span. However, unlike last Saturday when Keene State erased a 16-point Rhode Island College lead in the final eight minutes, the Owls could not come all the way back. A Jaylen Franklin three with 6:14 left helped spark a run of 12 consecutive points, making it 54-48 with still 2:42 to go, and KSC had two more chances on the next two trips to get even closer, but came up empty and was back down eight again (56-48) with 1:27 left after two rare makes from the charity stripe for WCSU. Cichon kept the Owls engaged by burying a three after Olson's offensive rebound with just over a minute left and, after just one make at the line for Western, Redden did the same with 31 seconds remaining to make it a one-possession game (57-54). The Owls kept playing the foul game, which continued to pay off, as Legend Johnson made just 1-of-2 at the stripe, keeping the home team within four with 27 seconds to go. Keene State did not shoot on their next trip until there were nine seconds to go, but Cichon did get the offensive board after a Diallo miss and was fouled, making it a 58-55 game three seconds later. After two more misses from the line for WestConn, the Owls had yet one more chance to tie with 5.2 seconds left and the ball, but could not get a shot off.
Inside the Paint
- KSC had not lost to Western Connecticut at home or been swept in the season series since the 2015-2016 season. The Owls, who went 6-8 at Spaulding Gymnasium, had not had a losing home record since 2009-2010. This was just the second time they finished below .500 in Keene in the Division III era.
- Keene State committed 19 turnovers in the game and was outscored 27-13 off miscues. WestConn gave the ball away 12 times.
- The Colonials swept the season series despite shooting 33 percent from the field in the two games. WCSU took the matchup in Danbury 75-67, finishing 21-of-70 (30%) from the floor.
- Before the game, Keene State honored senior center Ben Olson and senior manager Brandon Paul for their contributions to the program.
- Keene State will be the No. 6 seed in the conference tournament, which begins Tuesday (February 25), and travel to play No. 3 seed Plymouth State University in the quarterfinals at 7:00 pm. It will be the first time the Owls are playing a Little East postseason game against the Panthers in Plymouth in program history. PSU moved up the standings today with a 61-54 win over UMass-Boston. KSC won both regular season meetings, including an 89-70 decision at Foley Gymnasium in early January.
- Top-seed WestConn has a quarterfinal bye and will host either No. 4 seed UMass-Boston or No. 5 seed Rhode Island College Thursday, February 27 at 6:00 pm.