GORHAM - Senior guard Lee Vazquez (Attleboro, Mass./Wonsocket (RI)) nailed a buzzer-beating three-pointer from well beyond the arc to lead the Westfield State University Owls to an 80-79 win over the University of Southern Maine Huskies in a non-conference men's basketball game Saturday afternoon at Hill Gymnasium in Gorham, Maine.
With their third straight win the Owls improve to 9-1 overall. The loss snaps a three-game winning streak for Southern Maine and drops its record to 6-3 overall.
Vazquez scored a team-high 22 points to lead four Owls in double-figures. Senior forward Ryan White (Philadelphia, Pa./Franklin Learning Center) added a monster double-double with 18 poitns and 14 rebounds, while senior forward Matt Devine (Pembroke, Mass.) and senior guard Ken Reed (Mission Hill, Mass./Reading) each scored 13 points. Devine grabbed eight rebounds and Reed had six steals.
Southern Maine senior guard Alex Kee (Bath, Maine/Morse) led all scorers with a career-high 29 points on 7-for-14 shooting including four three-pointers. Junior guard Conor Sullivan (Scarborough, Maine) added 17 points and five rebounds. Junior guard Brandon Tomah (Princeton, Maine/Calais) added 16 points, five rebounds, four steals and three assists.
Trailing by as many as 18 points midway through the first half, Southern Maine rallied to within a possession of the Owls, 41-38, at the halftime break. White had 10 points and 10 rebounds in the opening stanza to pace the Owls who finished the first half shooting an outstanding 52.9 percent (18-for-34), while Sullivan scored 12 of his 17 for the Huskies.
A three-pointer from Tomah knotted the score up at 41 points each in the opening minute of the second half before both teams settled in for a grind over the next 12 minutes. Following Tomah's three, the Owls and Huskies exchanged baskets and despite six tie scores over the next eight minutes, Westfield State never trailed. After one of two free throws from Devine with 8:19 to play, Westfield State led 57-55, before Kee scored on a layup for a 57-57 game.
Kee's layup was the first of nine unanswered points for the Huskies as USM assumed a 64-57 lead with 6:12 to play. Kee figured heavily in the 9-0 run scoring seven of the Huskies points on a layup, a three-pointer and a pair of free throws.
The Owls countered with a quick 5-0 spurt on a layup from Devine and a three from Vazquez to pull within two, 64-62, with five minutes left as both teams again battled back and forth. The Owls pulled to within a point of the Huskies three times over the next three minutes and trailed USM 71-70 after a Devine layup with 1:54 remaining.
USM extended its lead to five points, 77-72, with 28 seconds to play on a 6-2 run on six of seven free throws, including four from Kee, before Vazquez found White in the paint for a short jumper to trail 77-74 deficit and 21 seconds to play. Forced to put the Huskies on the line, USM made one-of-two free throws on its next possession to lead 78-74. Sophomore forward Dan Johnson (Belchertown, Mass.) then hit a clutch three with five seconds to play for his only points of the game to give the Owls life. Sending Southern Maine to the free throw line again, the Huskies made the second of two to lead 79-77 before Vazquez launched his game-winner.
USM returns to action on Saturday, December 29 against Claremont at the Salem State Holiday Classic.