NEWPORT, R.I. – Junior Devin Thompson and freshman Drew Coveney both scored a game-high 22 points as visiting University of New England men’s basketball rallied from down 18 in the first half to win, 89-78, over Salve Regina University in Commonwealth Coast Conference action at the Rodgers Recreation Center Saturday afternoon.
The Nor’easters sweep the season series from the Seahawks and now hold a two-game edge over Salve Regina for the final playoff bid with four games remaining on both schedules.
UNE improves to 6-15 overall and 4-10 in CCC play; SRU drops its fourth straight to fall to 5-16 overall and 2-12 in the league.
Freshman Evrim Ozkan (Istanbul, Turkey) made a layup on the first Nor’easter possession. Junior Chris O’Keefe (Lexington, Mass.) drained his first of two 3-pointers to give the hosts the lead. Salve Regina went on a 31-11 run over 11:29 in the first to build its 18-point lead.
O’Keefe was joined by his four other starting teammates with multiple baskets in the run – senior Eric MacKinnon (South Easton, Mass.), junior Barrett Hanlon (Hopkinton, Mass.), sophomore Nicholas Bates (Danvers, Mass.), and freshman Adam Quinlan (East Walpole, Mass.). Freshman Rodney Morton (Malden, Mass.) came off the bench to hit a 3-pointer.
Before the half was finished UNE had its own 22-5 run to close within one (36-35), but O’Keefe converted an offensive rebound into the last basket of the opening period.
Thompson had two 3-pointers and a tip-in during the first-half Nor’easter run. Sophomore Andy Kalu (Randolph, Mass.) also had a 3-pointer before the break.
The visitors scored the first four points of the second half to take a one-point lead, 39-38, before Quinlan’s free throws and MacKinnon’s two 3-pointers gave Salve Regina its largest advantage of the final period (46-39).
A 12-3 run for the Nor’easters over three minutes included a fastbreak layup for Mano Senthil (Clifton Park, N.Y.) and a 3-pointer for Gavin Dibble (East Marion, N.Y.) for a two-point lead, 53-51 with 12:08 on the clock. Bryce Boggs’ (Hyde Park, Mass.) layup at 8:55 capped a 10-2 run for the Seahawks who led by six, 61-55.
Thompson, Coveney, and Kalu connected on back-to-back-to-back 3-point baskets from the corner in front of the Nor’easter bench with just 1:15 elapsing, as University of New England jumped ahead for good.
The next 11 points (in favor of UNE, 6-5) were all from the free-throw line, and 27 of the final 41 points came courtesy of the charity stripe.
Both teams connected on nine 3-pointers apiece over the two halves. Salve Regina had four players in double-figure scoring, led by Hanlon’s 21 points. The junior guard also had eight rebounds and five assists. Bates had 12 points and eight rebounds to share game-high honors in that category with Hanlon. MacKinnon and O’Keefe both finished with 11 points.
Salve Regina may still qualify for the CCC postseason and will look to win on the road Wednesday at Eastern Nazarene College. UNE travels to Gordon College for a 5:30 p.m. tip-off against the Scots.