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Men's Basketball: Relishing a Rare Underdog Role, Warriors Rally From 19 Points Down to Shock No. 12 Babson

Seth Thomas connected on nine of 12 shots from the floor and both free throws in amassing a season-high 20 points and pacing the Warriors to a 77-76 upset of No. 12 nationally-ranked Babson College Monday in the first game of the Trinity College Holiday Classic.
Seth Thomas connected on nine of 12 shots from the floor and both free throws in amassing a season-high 20 points and pacing the Warriors to a 77-76 upset of No. 12 nationally-ranked Babson College Monday in the first game of the Trinity College Holiday Classic.
HARTFORD, Conn. -- Having won 20 games in nine of the last ten seasons and a winner of seven of the last eight Little East Conference regular-season championships, the Eastern Connectict State University men's baskeball team has rarely been in a position to be a bonafide underdog, with an opportunity to win a game that it was supposed to lose.
 
Monday evening, it was, and it did.
 
Sophomore forward Sharown Fowler (Springfield, MA) had 12 points and a career-high 12 rebounds off the bench as Eastern erased a 19-point first-half deficit to stun No. 12 nationally-ranked and previously unbeaten Babson College, 77-76, in the opening round of the Trinity College Holiday Classic Monday night at Ray Oosting Gymnasium.
 
Eastern (4-5) faces host Trinity College (7-4) in Tuesday's 2 p.m. championship game. The Bantams routed Regis College, 96-72, in Monday first semifinal.
 
Down by 19, 36-17 with eight minutes left in the first half, Eastern cut the gap to 12 by halftime, then ran off 11 straight points in the second half to turn a two-point deficit into a nine-point, 73-64 lead with six minutes left.
 
The Warriors, who have lost four of their games this year to teams with a combined 35-8 record, held on over the final six minutes to defeat the 2017 Division III national champions, who had entered the game as one of ten unbeaten teams in Division III. 
 
The Beavers (9-1) had closed the nine-point gap to three with 1:33 left, then made it a one-point game with 39 seconds left, but 6-foot-6 inch senior guard  Jake Coolahan -- who led Babson with 27 points --  missed a potential game-winning open ten-footer at the buzzer after the Warriors had missed a shot in the closing seconds.
 
Fowler helped the Warriors' bench to a 20-9 advantage by sinking six of eight field goals and turning the ball over only once in 29 minutes. First-year sophomore transfer guard Tyreice Woods (Hartford) added eight  points, three rebounds and two assists in 26 minutes off the bench. Babson's bench managed only four rebounds while Eastern's contributed 16 in helping the Warriors to a +9 rebounding advantage against the taller Beavers.
 
Sophomore forward Seth Thomas (Norwich) led Eastern with a season-high 20 points (two shy of his career best) and eight rebounds in 32 minutes, while senior guard Jake Collagan (Wethersfield) moved to within 13 of 1,000 points in his collegiate career (three years at Eastern) with 17 points. He also had six assists. Junior guard Cory Muckle (Westbrook) added 13 points.
 
During the important run of 11 straight points, Woods scored six of  his game total of eight points with a go-ahead three-point field goal, and after Muckle sank one from distance, Woods followed with a conventional three-point play set up by Muckle's block and rebound that made it 71-64. Thomas' layup capped the streak and made it 73-64 with six minutes left.
 
Babson equalled its lowest point total of the year. The Beavers had won their first nine games by an average of nearly 20 points.
 
The Beavers played without their leading scorer and rebounder, 6-foot-6 inch senior forward Frank Oftring while the Warriors were without sophomore starting point guard Thomas Close (East Hampton), who missed his first start of the year with an injury sustained Dec. 15.
 
The win moves 18th-year head coach Bill Geitner to within one of his 300th coaching victory -- all at Eastern.
 
Since the Bantams defeated Eastern in 19 of the first 24 meetings in the series, Eastern has beaten Trinity the last eight times the teams have meet, the last three coming on Trinity's home court.