PLYMOUTH, N.H. – Senior Nick Pelotte (Bingham, Maine) and sophomore Andreas Pope (Brooklyn, N.Y.) combined on 63 points Tuesday night as third-seeded Plymouth State University shot 66 percent from the field en route to a 112-94 victory over sixth-seeded University of Massachusetts Boston in the opening round of the Little East Conference men’s basketball tournament at Foley Gymnasium.
The Panthers advance to the LEC semifinals this Friday in Danbury, Conn., hosted by top-seeded Western Connecticut, which defeated eighth-seeded Eastern Connecticut on Tuesday. PSU will face second-seeded Rhode Island College in one semifinal, while WestConn meets fifth-seeded UMass Dartmouth in the other semifinal. RIC moved on with an easy win over seventh-seeded Southern Maine, while UMass Dartmouth advanced with an upset victory over fouth-seeded Keene State.
The championship game is slated for Saturday at WestConn., with the winner receiving an automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Championship Tournament.
The Panthers, which snapped a three-game losing skid, improve to 18-8 overall, while UMB, which defeated PSU in Plymouth in overtime 10 days ago, completes its season at 8-18.
Pelotte, Pope and junior Kevin Boutilier (North Andover, Mass.) made 30-of-44 shots combined for the Panthers, who went over the 100-point mark for the fourth time this season and third time this year against UMB. Pelotte made 11-of-19 from the field, including 4-of-10 from three-point range, to finish with a game-high 35 points. Pope connected on 12-of-17 from the field for finish with 28 points and a game-high 14 rebounds, his 15th double-double of the season. Boutilier drained 7-of-8 from the floor, finishing with 16 points and nine boards.
PSU, which ranks eighth in the nation in scoring (88.6 points per game) and 15th in field goal percentage (50 percent), improved in both areas. The Panthers converted 60.5 percent in a 58-point first half, and a red-hot 74 percent in a 54-point second half (20-of-27). Pelotte, who is fourth in the nation in scoring (26.3 ppg), went over the 30-point mark for the sixth time this season and fourth time in the last six games. He is now 13 points shy of 2,000 for his career.
The Beacons, who shot 55 percent in a 61-point first half but only 32 percent after the break, had a balanced scoring attack. Seniors Roger Perry (Roxbury, Mass.) and Eric Summerville (Little Rock, Ark.) and freshman Alberto Paniagua (Lawrence, Mass.) each finished with 16 points, while sophomore Tony Barros (Dorchester, Mass.) added 15 and senior James Hall (Jacksonville, Fla.) came off the bench to chip in with 11.
Both teams started out slowly, as the score was 3-2, UMB, with nearly four minutes gone by. The low scoring didn’t last long, though, as it was 23-23 at the midway point of the first half and the Beacons reached 50 points with three minutes left in the half. UMB finished the first 20 minutes with a 61-58 advantage.
PSU started the second half with a 17-4 run in the first three minutes to open up a double-digit lead (75-65). The Panthers got the lead up to 20 points (90-70) with 11:32 on the clock, and UMB got no closer than 17 points the rest of the way.
Saturday’s semifinal is rubber game in the PSU-RIC season series, with each team previously winning on its home court. The Panthers won 84-81 in Plymouth on Dec. 4th, and the Anchormen took the rematch in Providence on Jan. 22nd, 93-80.
— 30 —