Picking up its first LEC win of the season, Southern Maine improves to 7-6 overall and 1-2 in the conference. The Huskies' halted the Owls' two-game winning streak to drop their overall record to 8-4 and 1-2 in the Little East.
Junior Atencio Martin (Kittery, Maine/Traip Academy) led all scorers with 22 points, adding seven rebounds, four assists and two steals. Senior Jose Nouchanthavog (Westbrook, Maine) added 18 points and eight rebounds, and junior Zach Leal (York, Maine) contributed 13 points, seven rebounds and three assists. Senior forward Ben Jackson (Houston, Texas/Bellaire), making his first start of the season, came up big for the Huskies with a career-high 10 points, while grabbing six rebounds and blocking a trio of shots.
Junior Matt Ozzella (Medway, Mass.) and senior Nate Howard (Cheshire, Conn.) each posted double-doubles. Howard had 18 points and 15 rebounds, while Ozzella had 18 points and a game-high 16 boards. Senior Nate Stitchell (Coventry, R.I.) added 15 points, and freshman Ty Nichols (Springfield, Mass./Putnam) scored 10 points in addition to four assists and two steals.
Trailing the Owls by nine, 49-40, after an Ozzella layup, Southern Maine outscored Keene State 15-5 over the next six minutes to grab its first lead of the game since the opening 10 minutes of the first half, 55-54, with 9:06 to play. Six different players contributed to the Huskies' pivotal run, led by four points from Martin and capped by a go-ahead bucket from junior Omar Haji-Hersi (Auburn, Maine/Edward Little).
On its next offensive possession, Southern Maine extended its lead to three points, 57-54, on an offensive rebounds and the put back by Leal, and the game settled into a back and forth contest. Although the game remained a one or two possession game for the final nine minutes of action, Southern Maine never relinquished its lead as the Huskies answered each push from the Owls with timely scores.
An offensive rebound and a layup from Ozzella made it a one-point, 68-67, lead with 1:54 to play, but Leal countered with a jumper for a 70-67 USM advantage with 1:35 on the clock. KSC cut the advantage to one twice in final 90 seconds, but USM got just enough on the free throw line to hold a 71-70 advantage with 22 seconds to play.
Keene State continued to battle and put itself in position to take the win, getting a five-second violation on the Huskies in the closing moments, but USM responded defensively to hold for the win.
Southern Maine returns to action Wednesday (7:30 p.m.) when it travels to Rhode Island College for a Little East Conference game. Keene State hosts Western Connecticut in an LEC game on Wednesday (7:30 p.m.).