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Leal, Starks Lead Southern Maine Over Plymouth State 74-70

Starks scored 14 of his 19 points in the second half as USM outscored Plymouth State 41-33 for the 74-70 LEC win.
Starks scored 14 of his 19 points in the second half as USM outscored Plymouth State 41-33 for the 74-70 LEC win.

PLYMOUTH, N.H.   – Seniors Zach Leal (York, Maine) and James Starks III (Miami, Fla./Miami Killian) each scored 19 points to lead four players in double figures as the University of Southern Maine Huskies defeated the Plymouth State University Panthers 74-70 in a Little East Conference men's basketball game Thursday night at Foley Gymnasium.

            With the win, Southern Maine improves to 9-15 overall and 4-9 in the Little East.  Plymouth State drops to 11-12 and 5-8 in the conference.

            Leal was 6-for-14 from the field and 6-for-6 from the free throw line for his 19 points, adding five rebounds and four assists.  Starks went 7-for-12 from the floor and 5-for-6 from the charity stripe, adding five rebounds, two steals and a blocked shot.  Junior Christian McCue (Hampden, Maine/Hampden Academy) added 13 points, while senior Fred Knight (Hampden, Maine/Hampden Academy) added 10 points and six rebounds off of the bench.

            Senior Jack Preston (Nashua, N.H.) led the Panthers with a game-high 22 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for the double-double.  Sophomore Mike Osgood (Nashua, N.H.) added 16 points and nine rebounds.  Freshman Jaylen Leroy (Manchester, N.H.) and senior Nick MacGregor (Rochester, N.H.) each scored nine points.

            In a closely contested first half, the Panthers edged Southern Maine for the final basket to take a narrow 37-33 lead into the break.  PSU led by five, 35-30, with 59 seconds remaining in the half following a three pointer from Ernie Johnson.  Southern Maine trimmed its deficit to a basket making 3-of-4 free throws over its next two possessions to trail 35-33 with six seconds before the halftime buzzer, but PSU senior Nathan Clarke (Reading, Mass.) scored a layup at the buzzer to make it a two-possession game.

            USM assumed control of the game in the first five minutes of the second half outscoring PSU 11-4 for a 44-41 lead with 15:15 left to play.  Starks was pivotal in the run scoring eight of the Huskies' 11 points. After taking the lead USM never relinquished it, but PSU kept pace with the Huskies and trailed by just four points, 67-63, after a pair of free throws from senior Curtis Arsenault (Berlin, N.H.) with 1:50 to play, but Starks and McCue sandwiched a layup and a three-pointer respectively around another pair of PSU free throws to make with a 72-65 Husky lead with 56 seconds to go.  The Panthers hung around and again pulled to within a basket, 72-70, following a traditional three-point play from Arsenault with 30 seconds on the clock, but McCue sealed the win at the free throw line with two for the 74-70 final.

            Southern Maine hosts UMass Dartmouth on Saturday (3:00 p.m.).  Plymouth State hosts Western Connecticut on Saturday (3:00 p.m.).  Both games are Little East Conference contests.  

- cac –