February 28, 2015



Willimantic, Conn.-Senior guard Eric Alleyne (Watertown, MA) scored a game-high 23 points as second-seeded Rhode Island College was upset by fourth-seeded Keene State, 75-57, in the 2015 Little East Conference Men's Basketball Tournament championship game played at Eastern Connecticut's Geissler Gymnasium on Saturday afternoon.


The victory guarantees Keene State (20-8) a berth in the 2015 NCAA Div. III Men's Basketball Tournament. Rhode Island College was making its ninth straight appearance in the final, having won six titles in the previous eight years. Rhode Island (20-8) had beaten Keene in the 2007 and 2013 title games. The Owls were 2-6 in title games prior to this season.


 "I'm very proud of the effort the guys gave me this season," Head Coach Michael Byrnes said afterwards. "They really wanted to get back to the NCAA Tournament, but we just ran out of gas. I'm proud of the seniors. They represented RIC in a first class manner and will be missed.


The Owls jumped out of the gate quickly as two free throws by senior guard Tom Doyle (Wallingford, CT) put Keene up, 6-1, just 2:31 in to the contest. Keene State increased its lead when a three-pointer by sophomore guard Matt Ozzella (Medford, MA) gave the Owls a 23-9 advantage with 11:22 left in the half.



 Seniors Chris Burton and Eric Alleyne


The Anchormen (20-8) responded and a layup by senior forward Chris Burton (New Rochelle, NY) knotted the game at 31-31 with 2:10 remaining in the opening stanza. The teams traded baskets down the stretch, with the Owls holding a slim, 34-33, advantage heading in to the locker room.


Burton poured in 15 points and hauled in nine boards in the half, while Keene was paced by Doyle’s nine points and seven boards.


The first five minutes of the second half saw back and forth action, with a layup by RIC freshman guard Roosevelt Shider (Meriden, CT) trimming the Keene lead down to four, 43-39, with 15:17 left in the contest.


The Owls took control over the next 5:12, with a pair of free throws by Ozzella giving Keene a 10-point, 54-44, lead with 10:05 left in the half. A pair of free throws by Alleyne with 7:15 left to play cut the deficit to single digits, 58-49, but the Owls outscored the Anchormen, 17-8, over the remainder of the half to win its first title since 2004.


Ozzella scored 18 points for the Owls, while Doyle recorded a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds. Doyle was named the tourney's MVP. The Owls shot 38.6 percent (22-for-57) from the floor, 18.2 percent (2-for-11) from three-point land and 78.4 percent (29-for-37) from the charity stripe.


Burton finished the game with a double-double. He scored 20 points and corralled 11 boards to go along with four steals. Alleyne scored a game-high 23 points and swiped four steals.. RIC finished the game shooting 26.9 percent (18-for-67) from the field, 65.2 percent (15-for-23) from the charity stripe and 24.0 percent (6-for-25) from downtown.