Willimantic, CT --- Freshman Kahleb Downing (Middleton, CT) scored 12 points in the first half and was one of five WPI men's basketball student-athletes to score in double digits as the Engineers knocked No. 20 Eastern Connecticut State from the ranks of unbeatens Thursday night, 75-70, in a rematch of this year's Ted Coghlin Memorial Tournament final.
WPI heads into Saturday's game versus Salem State with a 5-3 record and the Warriors, who were the victors on November 18, end the night at 7-1.
Downing, who was 4-for-4 from downtown in the first 20 minutes, finished with a team-best 15 points as he and classmate Dakota Wheeler (Easthampton, MA) combined for 29 of the Boynton Hiller's 42 bench points. Rookie Jake Needleman (Morganville, NJ) paced the starters with 13 points as senior Chris Rodgers (Franklin, MA) and freshman Garrett Stephenson (Townsend, MA) each added 10 for the guests. Wheeler led the way with seven rebounds followed by Downing with six, and Stephenson and sophomore Jake Wisniewski (West Brookfield, MA) with five apiece.
Senior Tarchee Brown (Rockville, CT), the Coghlin tournament MVP, drained a game-high 32 points and grabbed a contest-best eight rebounds. Sophomore Carlos Gonzalez (Springfield, MA) chipped in with 10 points and senior Collin Jordan (Cheshire, CT) pitched in with nine to go with a trio of steals.
The hosts led by as much as five early in the contest. WPI would eventually hold a 10-point lead at the half and a 20-point advantage with 12:15 to play. From there, Brown put home team on his back scoring 15 of his 25 second half points to get the Warriors within striking distance down the stretch. A pair of free throws by freshman Cory Muckle (Westbrook, CT) with just over a minute left made it a two-point game (70-68). Rodgers countered with a pair of freebies and Wheeler added another before Brown narrowly turned a defensive board into three points; however, he missed then converted the second chance layup. Downing then canned the back end of a pair of free throws for the 75-70 final.
While Eastern Connecticut had the advantages off turnovers (19-8), points in the paint (32-30) and second chance points (5-3), the Engineers scored all but 14 of the 56 bench points.
WPI and Salem State is slated for a 2pm start while ECSU hosts LEC foe Plymouth State at 3pm, also on Saturday.