December 7, 2013



Willimantic, Conn.-Despite a 26-point scoring effort from senior guard Nyheem Sanders (Pawtucket, RI), the Rhode Island College menís basketball team fell to Eastern Connecticut, 77-74, on Saturday afternoon at Geissler Gymnasium in the Little East Conference opener for both squads.


In the opening minutes of the first half, Rhode Island College (4-4, 0-1 LEC) stormed ahead of the Warriors, 8-2, behind four points from both Sanders and sophomore center Mike Neal (Pawtucket, RI). However, Eastern Connecticut (7-1, 1-0 LEC) responded with back-to-back treys from sophomore guard Trachone Preston (Enfield, CT) and senior guard Brian Salzillo (North Haven, CT) to tie the score, 8-8, with 16:04 on the clock.



 Senior guard Nyheem Sanders


After Eastern jumped ahead of RIC by three following a trio of free throws from Salzillo at the 15:35 mark, the Anchormen answered back with a 9-0 run to make it, 19-13, with 12:32 remaining in the frame. Sanders keyed the scoring burst for the visitors with four of the nine points, while senior guard Michael Palumbo (Providence, RI) capped off the run with a basket in the paint.


Spearheaded by five straight points from Salzillo, the Warriors rallied to regain the lead, 21-19, at the 10:27 mark and eventually pushed the margin to four behind a layup from freshman forward Hugh Lindo (Enfield, CT) with 9:33 on the clock. Yet, the Anchormen once again pushed ahead of the hosts, this time with 11 unanswered points, capped off by three free throws from Sanders, to capture a 28-23 advantage with 7:19 left in the half.


As the two Little East Conference rivals continued to exchange baskets down the stretch in the first half,  Eastern Connecticut gathered some momentum and eventually took a 33-32 lead at the 3:26 mark, courtesy of a three-pointer from Salzillo. However, the Anchormen went on to outscore the Warriors, 7-6, through the final three minutes, sending the two squads into the intermission knotted at 39.


The Anchormen opened the second half with a full head of steam, as the visitors started the stanza on a 12-2 run to take a 51-41 lead with 14:47 on the clock. The scoring run was keyed by junior guard Eric Alleyne (Watertown, MA), who recorded five of RICís first 12 points in the frame.


Trailing by double-digits, Eastern Connecticut recovered from its early second-half slump and followed with a scoring burst of its own. Through the next nine minutes, the Warriors outscored the Anchormen, 20-10, and went on to tie the game at 61 with 5:30 remaining in the half. Junior forward Brandon Yarborough (Stamford, CT) capped off the run with a pair of free throws, while Salzillo keyed the outburst with a trio of three pointers.


RIC jumped back out in front of Eastern, 64-61, following a three-pointer from junior forward Chris Burton (New Rochelle, NY) at the 5:10 mark, but quickly fell behind, 69-64, with just 2:17 on the clock after the Warriors rattled off eight consecutive points. It would prove to be the last lead of the game for the Anchormen, as although the visitors were able to cut the deficit to just one point on two separate occasions in the final two minutes, they couldnít muster enough offense to overtake the hosts, en route to the three-point setback.


Aside from the scoring outburst from Sanders, who also chipped in with four rebounds, two steals and two assists, Burton contributed with 10 points, four steals and two rebounds.


Alleyne finished with nine points and three assists, while Neal also chalked up nine points. Palumbo chipped in with seven points off the bench, while senior guard Tom DeCiantis (North Kingstown, RI) corralled a team-high nine rebounds to go along with four points, two blocks and two assists.


Salzillo paced Eastern with 24 points, which included six three-pointers, to go along with three rebounds and three steals. Preston registered 22 points, seven rebounds and four assists, while senior guard Mike Garrow (Terryville, CT) added 11 points, four rebounds and three assists. Lindo hauled in a game-high 16 rebounds to go along with four points and two blocks.


The Warriors dominated the glass on Saturday, gathering a whopping 39 rebounds, compared to just 24 for RIC. Eastern finished with 16 second-chance points, largely due in part to the squadís 13 offensive rebounds.


Keyed by a stingy defensive effort, the Anchormen forced 18 turnovers on the day and totaled 20 points off of those miscues, while coughing up the ball just 11 times themselves.


RIC shot 45 percent (25-for-56) from the floor, 33 percent (7-for-21) from beyond the three-point arc and 71 percent (17-for-24) from the free throw line.


Eastern shot 42 percent (21-for-50) from the field, 36 percent (8-for-22) from downtown, and 79 percent (27-for-34) from the charity stripe.


In upcoming action, Rhode Island College will host Salve Regina on Tuesday, Dec. 10 (7:30 p.m.).