DARTMOUTH, MA – Senior forward Rashard Rodriguez (Trumbull, CT) tallied a game-high 20 points while shooting a red-hot 9-of-14 from the field but it wasn't enough as the Western Connecticut State University men's basketball team was edged at Little East Conference nemesis UMass-Dartmouth, 80-75, on Thursday evening. Seniors Aaron Samuel (Stratford, CT) and Geary McLeod (New London, CT) added 16 and 13, respectively, for the Colonials while junior guard Ronald Jefferson (Brooklyn, NY) contributed 13.
The visitors finished ahead in rebounds, 37-33, while dominating points-in-the-paint, 44-20. However, the hosts converted six more three-point attempts and shot a staggering 90.2% (20-of-22) from the free throw line. The Colonials went 64.3% (9-of-14) from the stripe.
Four players finished in double figures for the Corsairs. Jake Ashworth led the way with 19, while Atakan Akcam added 16 and a game-high eight rebounds.
UMass-Dartmouth jumped out to an 8-0 lead to begin the contest. Akcam ended the flurry with a trifecta. WestConn would rally to seize an 18-17 advantage midway through the opening half when junior forward Tracy Cleckley, Jr. (Rosedale, NY) canned a three of his own. The hosts would regain the lead to head into the break up, 32-30.
The Corsairs widened the gap to seven early in the second half. However, the Colonials put together yet another run, capturing a 48-45 lead on back-to-back shots from beyond the arc from Rodriguez and Samuel with 14:40 remaining.
The contest would remain close down the stretch. A Cleckley, Jr. layup cut the deficit to 71-70 before UMD's Marcus Azor converted a pair from the charity stripe, making it 73-70 with 1:02 left.
The turning point then occurred when WestConn was called for an offensive foul on the ensuing possession which led to an Ashworth three-pointer from the right wing, extending the hosts lead to 76-70 with 36 ticks on the clock. After the Colonials misfired on a three-point attempt, the hosts sank a pair from the stripe to make it an eight point advantage, cementing the win.
With the loss, the Colonials fell to 9-5 overall and 3-2 in conference play, while the Corsairs improved to 11-4 and 5-1. WestConn returns to action for yet another league tilt when they host Plymouth State on Saturday at 3 p.m.