KSC Basketball Teams Have Much to Play For on Final Day of Regular Season, At Home
The final day of regular-season play in the Little East Conference will not be without drama when Keene State hosts UMass-Boston for a women and men’s basketball double-header Saturday, Feb. 18.
For the men’s team, ranked No. 5 in the nation by D3hoops.com, the excitement will revolve around the Owls’ bid to complete their first undefeated conference campaign. Ryan Cain’s squad is 15-0 in the LEC, 23-1 overall.
The Keene State women, meanwhile, will try to play their way into the LEC postseason tournament, a chance made possible following the team’s exciting 1-point road win Wednesday at Castleton State.
The Owls need a victory Saturday and a Southern Maine win over Western Connecticut to earn the No. 6 seed. The Owls fell to UMass-Boston 66-61 in an earlier matchup this season.
On the men’s side, only three teams in the history of the LEC have enjoyed an unbeaten regular season, and none in the past five years, when Castleton State joined the conference and the conference schedule expanded to 16 games.
Keene State’s road victory at Castleton Wednesday wrapped up the Owls’ fourth outright LEC regular-season championship and first since the 2005-2006 season. Keene State earned a share of the title twice.
Starting next week, led by two of the top performers in the LEC and nationally, the Owls will begin pursuit of their sixth conference tournament title and fifth since 2015.
Senior Jeff Hunter and sophomore Octavio Brito have been lights out for most of the season, at both ends of the floor. Both were on the Bevo Francis Award Top 50 Watch List, which was released earlier this week. Keene State’s leading duo had been named on the original Top 100 list, which was cut in half to the smaller number.
The Clarence “Bevo” Francis Award is presented annually to the player who has had the finest overall season within Small College Basketball.
Hunter leads the conference in rebounds per game (13.5) and field-goal percentage (.622) while Brito is atop the LEC in scoring per game (20.8 points) and 3-point field-goal accuracy (45 percent). The Owls haven’t fired on all offensive cylinders down the stretch but have forced 92 turnovers – or 18.4 per outing – from their opponents in the last five games.
KSC will honor its seniors – Max Bonney-Liles, Jeric Cichon, Tyler Dill, Edwin Ezedonmwen and Nick Redden – before Saturday’s game.
Keith Boucher’s women’s team is 6-5 overall and 4-11 in the LEC.
On Wednesday, sophomore Aryanna Murray’s driving layup with 10 seconds left pushed the Owls to the narrow win. Murray and Valerie Luizzi are averaging 9.4 and 9.7 points per game, respectively.
Murray leads the team in assists (45) and steals (31). The team’s lone senior, Michelle LaBonte, will be honored pre-game as part of Senior Day recognition.
The women tip at 1 p.m., the men at 3 p.m.