KEENE, N.H. - Kenzie Bennett canned a three to bring the Keene State College basketball team within 38-36 with three minutes to go in the third quarter, but the Owls were outscored 19-6 the rest of the way as Rhode Island College handed them a 57-42 conference defeat Saturday afternoon at Spaulding Gymnasium.
- Keene State: 7-16, 6-8 LEC
- Rhode Island College: 20-4, 12-3 LEC
How It Happened
The Owls fell behind 9-2 quickly after Sophia Guerrier's triple capped a RIC opening surge in the first six minutes, but rallied to tie the game after one and hung around until a 2-for-9 (22%) shooting performance in the final 10 minutes allowed the Anchorwomen, who are in a battle with Eastern Connecticut State University for first place in the Little East, to pull away quickly. KSC was led by Lilly Shlimon's 12 points on 6-of-12 shooting and four rebounds, but she was the only Owl to reach double-figures. Jordyn Burke had seven points, three rebounds, two assists and two steals, while Abby Grandmaison (3-6 FG) and Kenzie Bennett (2-3 3-PT) each had six. Rhode Island College's Sophia Guerrier made 7-of-13 from the floor and scored a game-high 17 points. Fataya Larry added 11 points and 10 rebounds.
After trailing 11-4 with 3:25 left in the opening quarter, Keene State staged a rally, as Grandmaison started the 7-0 burst with a jumper before Shlimon capped it with a pair of layups in the final 53 seconds to forge a tie through one quarter despite KSC going 0-of-3 from deep and 3-of-6 at the foul line. The Anchorwomen once again gained separation over the opening six minutes of the second, as a string of seven straight points turned a one-point game into a 23-15 lead for the visitors at the 4:25 mark after layups on consecutive possessions by Izabelle Booth and Jordyn Gauvin. Grandmaison and Hailey Derosia answered by doing the same less than a minute later as Keene State sliced the deficit in half, and eventually made it 24-21 on Shlimon's drive to the hoop at the 2:41 mark. The teams exchanged four-point runs before the break, with buckets by Shlimon and Derosia in the last 57 seconds keeping it a 28-25 game at the break. The Owls shot 7-of-16 (44%) in the second quarter, but did not make a three in the first 20 minutes.
That changed quickly - just 1:07 into the second half - when Bennett connected from deep to tie the game for the first time all afternoon. However, KSC never could find enough offense to get a lead, as Larry made 1-of-2 free throws on the other end and Guerrier followed with a triple for a four-point (32-28) RIC lead at the 7:26 mark. The edge eventually grew to 38-31 a little over two minutes later after Guerrier scored two straight baskets, but KSC had a response, as Burke's layup and Bennett's trey made it 38-36 with 3:01 left in the third. Brooke Young missed a jumper on RIC's next trip, giving Keene State a chance for their first lead of the game, but Derosia missed from distance. Maci Dorantes then did not miss her own try as the Anchorwomen expanded their lead to five (41-36), which it remained heading into the fourth.
A layup by Guerrier and three from Young in the opening minute of the final quarter quickly pushed RIC's lead to double-digits, and Keene State's offense then struggled to generate anything, as they did not score again until 2:43 remained in the game and were trailing 56-36 at that point. Overall, Rhode Island College scored the first 15 points of the fourth to salt away what had been a close game. The Anchorwomen connected at a 44 percent clip after halftime - the same they shot in the first half - but KSC cooled way down, shooting only 24 percent (6-for-25).
Inside the Paint
- Shlimon has scored 36 points over the past three games, twice shooting at 50 percent or above. She was also the only Owl to reach double-figures in the first head-to-head meeting with Rhode Island College.
- Keene State leads the all-time series 25-19, but has lost the last four matchups.
- The Owls have lost seven times when holding the opposition under 60 points. KSC's scoring defense is fourth in the league, holding opponents to 57.7 points per game.
- The University of Southern Maine also fell (75-65 at home against Castleton University), leaving Keene State still ahead by one and a half games in the race for the final playoff spot. While the Owls have two games left, USM has just one - next Saturday at UMass-Dartmouth.
- The Little East had three teams in the initial regional rankings released this past Wednesday (Eastern Connecticut - No. 5, Rhode Island College - No. 9, UMass-Boston - No. 10).
- Keene State travels to Eastern Connecticut State University (19-4, 12-2 LEC) on Wednesday, February 19 for a 5:30 pm start. The Owls can lock up a playoff spot with one more win or one more Southern Maine loss.
- Rhode Island College wraps up their regular season on the same night at home against Western Connecticut State University (8-14, 3-10 LEC). The Anchorwomen can still finish in first place, but do not control their own fate, as they will need Eastern Connecticut to drop at least one of their final two games.