PLYMOUTH, N.H. – Senior Mike Walcek (Dover, N.H.) scored 16 of his career-high 31 points from the free throw line Saturday afternoon to lead Plymouth State University to a 92-86 overtime victory over Johnson & Wales University in a non-conference men’s basketball game at Foley Gymnasium.
Plymouth State shot 50 percent from the field and 53 percent from the beyond the three-point arc, but it was the performance at the free throw line that helped seal the win. The Panthers converted 38-of-46 attempts from the charity stripe (82.6 percent), including 19-of-22 in the second half (86.4 percent).
The Panthers also got 20 points from sophomore Ben Huntington (Hampstead, N.H.), who made 7-of-11 shots. Junior Chris Wilkinson (Newmarket, N.H.), who missed the last seven games with an injury, returned to the line-up and finished with 12 points and tied Walcek for team-high rebounding honors with eight apiece, and senior Phil Bourassa (Old Orchard Beach, Maine) chipped in with 11 points and seven assists.
The outcome spoiled a strong performance by JWU senior Japhet Kerr (Mount Kisco, N.Y.), who finished with 28 points. Junior Tirone McCray (Brockton, Mass.) made 8-of-10 shots for the Wildcats and ended up with 20 points, and freshman Darren Faust (Queens, N.Y.) chipped in with 13 points.
PSU maintained the advantage throughout the opening 20 minutes, leading by as many as 12 points (31-19 and 38-26) before settling for a nine-point margin at the break, 41-32. The Wildcats pulled to within two points (47-45) midway through the second half, but PSU got the lead back up to 13 points (63-50) with less than nine minutes on the clock.
JWU would not go quietly. Still trailing by 10 with less than five minutes remaining, the Wildcats rallied to pull to within one point (77-76) with 42 seconds left. PSU hit a pair a free throws with 14 seconds on the clock, but Johnson & Wales forced overtime when Faust converted a traditional three-point play with nine seconds remaining.
The Wildcats took their first lead of the game in overtime, but Walcek brought PSU back, scoring his team’s first 10 points in the extra session on five free throws, a lay-up and a three-point basket. Bourassa and Wilkinson also converted free throws down the stretch in overtime to help PSU pull out the win.
Plymouth State stopped a three-game slide and goes into the break for final exams and the holidays with a 6-5 overall record. The Panthers resume action on Tuesday, Jan. 2, with a non-conference home game against Bowdoin (6:00 p.m.)
Johnson & Wales, 1-7 overall, is back on the court on Saturday, Jan. 6, hosting Norwich (3:00 p.m.)
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