ecc men’s final: molloy at bridgeport Knights drop heartbreaker in ECC final
BRIDGEPORT — It’s doubtful a previous University of Bridgeport men’s basketball team could have been as disappointed as the one that left Harvey Hubbell Gym after Sunday’s ECC final.
The No. 4-seed Purple Knights had just knocked off the tournament’s No. 1 seed the day before at Hubbell and now were again inside the friendly confines for the final against No. 3 Molloy. The Knights jumped out to a 14-0 lead, still owned a 17-point lead with 10 minutes remaining in the second half and seemed on their way to the title.
But Molloy’s Mike Torre’s put-back in the final second sent the game into overtime where Curtis Jenkins capped off a terrific game in leading the Lions to a 90-86 victory, one that ended UB’s season one win away from an NCAA berth for a second consecutive year.
“Right now, it really hurts,” said UB’s Dennis Green, who led the Knights with 19 points. “We were up (17), at home and we lost in the final last year, too. It definitely hurts . . . a real empty feeling.”
There were several reasons for UB’s collapse:
Foul trouble. Six UB players had two fouls at halftime, including All-ECC forward Bakary Camara, who eventually fouled out after scoring six points while taking just two shots.
The play of Molloy’s 1-2 punch of tourney MVP Nick Corbett (25 points) and Jenkins (28 points, 16 rebounds).
UB’s free-throw shooting. The Knights were 14 for 27 (52 percent) from the line, 6 for 17 after halftime and 0 for 4 in overtime.
“The missed free throws really hurt,” said Bridgeport coach Mike Ruane, who was looking for his 11th NCAA Tournament berth in his 19 seasons at UB.
The second half troubles began with the Knights (18-13) leading 61-44 at the midway point. Then a technical foul was called on the Knights’ Eric Rankin. That resulted in a five-point play for the Lions (21-9) cutting it to 64-54.
“I think the technical changed the momentum,” Ruane said. “We still had a good lead, but we got a little too emotional.”
Molloy coach Charles Marquardt believes it was a tactical change that led to the turnaround.
“Our offense was really struggling so we took the stress off the offense and started getting stops,” Marquardt said after the program earned its first NCAA berth in his 25 seasons. “Then we started hitting shots and took off.”
Trailing 79-77 in the final seconds, Jenkins drove to the basket and missed the layup, but Torre was there for the tip-in to send it into overtime.
UB still led 86-85 with under a minute remaining but a Corbett floater with 50 seconds remaining put Molloy in front for good.
Hashem Abbas had 15 points, Vakas Igbal had 14 points and nine rebounds and Rankin and Jayden Iturmendi each had 11 points for UB.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Corbett earned MVP honors, but Jenkins (28 points) made the difference in the game for Molloy with seven of his 16 rebounds coming off the offensive glass.
“(Bakary Camara) fouling out was big because we rely on Bak to crash the boards, and he could’ve made a difference on the last shot (on Molloy’s Mike Torre’s put-back basket that sent the game into overtime).” — UB guard Dennis Green