PLYMOUTH, N.H. - The Keene State College men's basketball team went 7-of-23 at the foul line and could not hold onto regulation leads of six with 52 seconds left and five with less than 15 seconds to go before eventually losing to Plymouth State University 72-70 in overtime in a Little East Conference tournament quarterfinal game Tuesday night at Foley Gymnasium.
- Keene State: 10-16
- Plymouth State: 16-10
How It Happened
The Owls rallied from an 11-point first half hole to take the lead early in the second half and wound up leading 57-50 with 6:34 left after finishing a 9-0 run, but could not hold on, going 2-for-7 at the foul line in the final five minutes. Overall in the second half, KSC made just 3-of-12 free throws. Plymouth was not much better, as they made just 3-of-10 in the period and 11-of-22 overall. James Anozie finished his season with a game-high 22 point effort on 10-of-11 shooting to go along with five rebounds. Jeric Cichon added 13 points, four rebounds and two assists, while Sidi Diallo finished with 10 points. Jeff Hunter ended his rookie campaign by pulling down 18 rebounds, easily a season-high, but Keene State failed to win a postseason game for only the fifth time since joining the league in 1997. The Owls had not gone on the road in the quarterfinal round of the conference tournament since 2014, and have done so just three times overall. Plymouth State received 19 points (6-14 FG, 3-5 3-PT) from Jaylen LeRoy and 10 points and eight rebounds from Devin Cooper, who did not play in either regular season meeting. No other Panther scored more than eight, but the home team had seven less turnovers while winning a playoff game for the first time in 15 years. This was the fourth LEC tournament game Plymouth has hosted at home since 2006. The Panthers had lost each of the past three before winning tonight, which advances them to the semifinals Thursday at UMass-Dartmouth.
Keene State scored five of the first seven points and later led 9-7 at the 16:34 mark after Diallo made a three, but it was all Plymouth for a long stretch after that, as they went on a 12-2 run over the next five minutes to establish a 19-11 lead. The burst culminated with a layup from Gerald Fleming and a three by LeRoy. The Owl deficit eventually grew to 11 (24-13) with 8:22 left in the half, but five quick points from Cichon and Edwin Ezedonmwen kept KSC in the game, and the Owls later sliced the deficit to one possession after scoring six points in a row, including Anozie's three-point play that made it 27-24 at the 2:20 mark. He scored again to keep the deficit at three on the next trip, but Plymouth ended the half by scoring six of the last eight points to push their advantage back to seven (35-28). Both teams shot below 40 percent in the opening 20 minutes, but Keene State committed nine turnovers and PSU just three.
In shades of the regular season meeting in Plymouth, the Panthers' lead vanished in an instant to begin the second half, as Jaylen Franklin buried a triple on the Owls' first possession before layups by Hunter and Diallo barely over a minute later completed a 7-0 sprint that took exactly two minutes to tie the game at 35. Keene State took the lead for the first time since it was 9-7 on Hunter's layup with 16:42 to go, but PSU did hit back, as a 9-2 run in less than three minutes gave the hosts a 44-39 edge. Cichon and Hunter scored inside shortly thereafter to make it a one-point game, and from there neither team led by more than three until Anozie scored six points in a span of 1:30, helping propel the Owls to a 57-50 lead with 6:34 remaining. A scoring drought of nearly five minutes then followed as Plymouth got back within one (57-56) with a little over two minutes left, but KSC appeared to be well in control after scoring the next five points. Diallo's jumper at the 1:43 mark put his team up three and, after Plymouth missed two threes on one possession, Nick Redden did not miss from long range, putting Keene State up 62-56 with 52 seconds left. The Owls led by five twice more in the final minute, including 64-59 after Redden went 1-of-2 at the charity stripe with 17 seconds left, but still could not hang on. Joe Simpson put back a miss to make it a one-possession game again at 64-61 with seven seconds left and, after two more free throw misses for Keene State, Plymouth tied the game and forced overtime on LeRoy's banked three with less than a second on the clock. The extra session, which was the second between the two teams this season, saw neither team lead by more than two points. KSC allowed the first basket, but then scored the next four points and eventually led 70-68 with 2:47 to go. However, the Owls never scored again, missing their final three shots. Plymouth tied the game on Manny Alisandro's layup with a little less than two minutes remaining and got what ended up being the winning jumper from LeRoy in the final seconds. KSC had a chance due to a technical foul on PSU following the shot, but missed the free throw and then missed a desperation three to end their season.
Inside the Paint
- Keene State entered tonight 6-1 all-time against Plymouth in the Little East tournament, with the lone loss coming in 2003 at Feldman Arena in Danbury, Conn.
- Anozie ends his junior season with 1,058 points, good for 30th on the all-time men's basketball scoring list. He finishes the year averaging 11.2 points per game on 53.7 percent shooting.
- The loss ends the career of Ben Olson, who finishes with one Little East regular season title (2019), one conference tournament championship (2019), and two NCAA tournament appearances, including reaching the Elite Eight in 2017. The Owls went 71-43 over his four years.
- KSC's season is over. They finished with a losing record for the third time in the Division III era.
- Third-seeded Plymouth State moves on to play at No. 2 seed UMass-Dartmouth on Thursday (February 27) at 7:00 pm in the semifinals. The other matchup will see regular season champion Western Connecticut State University host fourth-seeded UMass-Boston, who eliminated No. 5 seed RIC 89-82.