Behind another career high from Jordan Rote, (23) the Springfield College men’s basketball team improved to 5-0 after taking down the Keene State Owls 85-79 Tuesday night inside Blake Arena.
“[Ryan] Coburn really is our only true returning starter, so I need to do whatever I can to step up and do whatever I can to help us win, said Rote”
The 5-0 mark is the best start for Head Coach Charlie Brock at the helm and the best for Springfield since the 1997-1998 campaign when the Pride started 9-0.
“That was a good team tonight,” said Brock following the win. “They have everyone back from last year and a lot of their players are cross recruited, so it’s an emotional game.”
“We like playing Keene, we like playing against one of the better teams in the Little East [Conference] as one of our prep games.”
Right from the start, the Owls (4-1) brought the press. With speed and solid passing though, the Pride broke it easily and built an early 20-4 lead.
“That’s the third situation I believe where teams have pressed us in the first half, but we’re able to build such a big lead that they take it off,” said Brock.
“Then in the second half when they throw it back on they’re hoping there’s a fatigue factor, but we pass the ball extremely well and we’re able to take advantage of it.”
Alex Berthiaume and Matt Pascuzzo ran the point for Springfield and again used their speed and passing to break the press.
The Pride shot 51.5 percent in the first half and played strong defense out of the zone that forced Keene into shooting low percentage shots. The Owls shot just 40.0 percent from the field in the first half before heading into the locker room trailing 42-30.
Coming into the game, Brock and senior captain Ryan Coburn (15 points, 11 rebounds) knew how effective Keene State was on the boards as Rashad Wright and Montel Walcott stand at 6 feet, 10 inches and 6 feet, 8 inches, respectively
“The rebounding we knew would be tough, just in terms of matching up with people,” said Brock. “They’re very, very good on the offensive glass. That’s probably their best attribute.”
In the second half, the Owls proved just how tough they were down low. Led by Nicco DeMasco (14 rebounds, 8 offensive), Keene chipped away at Springfield’s 13-point lead (70-57) with 7:32 remaining.
Senior Ollie Hunter brought the Owls to within two after an emphatic three-point play that capped off an 11-0 run for the visitors.
After a time out by Brock following the run, Springfield settled down and never relinquished the lead.
“We started boxing out like we really needed to,” said Coburn. “One of the reasons they were coming back was because of offensive rebounds and we had to stop that.”
Derek D’Amours, Keene State’s leading scorer with 24.0 ppg, hit two big threes during the 11-0 run and finished with a team-high 15 points, but it wasn’t enough.
Coburn and Rote both had blocks late in the game to help seal the win for the Pride.
“I need to whatever I can, especially on the defensive end, [coach] usually puts me on their best shooter,” said Rote.
“We dug ourselves into a heck of a hole, I didn’t think we competed all that hard in the first half,” said Keene State head coach Rob Colbert.”
“They shot the ball extremely well. The second half is how we should have played the entire game and the outcome could have been different.”
Corey Hanlon may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org