Golden Bears' Season Comes to a Close at Top-Seeded Nichols, 73-54

Golden Bears' Season Comes to a Close at Top-Seeded Nichols, 73-54
DUDLEY, Mass.--Senior Dennis Rinaldi recorded his 14th career double-double with 12 points and a game-best 11 rebounds, and junior Musa Elsir netted a team-high 13 points, but Western New England saw its 2013-14 season come to a close Tuesday in the Commonwealth Coast Conference Championship Quarterfinals in a 73-54 loss to top-seeded Nichols at the Bison Athletics Center.

The visiting Golden Bears wind up 7-18 while the Bison (21-5) advance to the conference tournament semifinals at home against No. 4 Salve Regina--a 77-76 winner versus No. 5 Endicott--Thursday night at 7 o'clock.

Ryan Sheehan - who was named both CCC Player of the Year and Senior Scholar-Athlete of the Year earlier in the day - finished with a game-high 18 points to become Nichols' all-time leading scorer with 2,029 for his career.

In addition to Sheehan, Irving Eggleston and Jalen Hurst added double-digit scoring with 17 and 11 points, respectively. Another big contributor was Gustave Koumare who grabbed eight rebounds in the contest.

Seeded eighth in the CCC Tournament, WNE was an underdog against the best team in Nichols history but pulled within 44-37 after senior Ryan Mickiewicz's 3-pointer with 16 minutes and 23 seconds left to play. Mickiewicz was a third Golden Bear to notch double-digits with 11 points.

Nichols opened up an eight-point lead at 9:41 of the first half behind eight points from Eggleston - including a pair of triples - and later converted back-to-back layups to help the Bison build a 14-point lead with 3:19 to go. Koumare closed the half with a layup to send the Bison to the locker room with a 38-28 lead.

After the Bison opened the second half with four-straight points to go back up by 14, the Golden Bears cut their deficit in half behind seven points from Mickiewicz. Eggleston's third triple of the night at 12:49 put the Bison up double-digits, which they led by the rest of the way. Sophomore pushed the Nichols lead to 17 with a layup at 9:12, and then a three from Sheehan with 6:08 on the clock gave the Bison a 66-48 lead.
 
Despite losing the game, the Golden Bears edged out a slight rebounding lead with 40 over Nichols' 38. Sophomore Zack Askew (7 points) and Elsir grabbed six rebounds apiece and Mickiewicz and senior Nick DeFeo (4 points) chipped in five each.
 
However, a big difference in this game was that Nichols had 16 steals while Western New England had only five. The 16 steals were part of 22 turnovers committed by WNE, which resulted in 23 Bison points.
 
Western New England shot 37.5 percent from the field on 18 of 48 shooting and had a free-throw percentage of 78.9 percent going 15 of 19 from the line.
 
Nichols shot 39.1 percent from the field on 27 of 69 shooting and had a free-throw percentage of 60 percent going 9 of 15 from the line.

Notes: Dennis Rinaldi has 633 career rebounds that rank sixth on the WNE all-time list...his 6.9 career rebounding average is 10th in program annals...Ryan Mickiewicz has compiled 331 assists in his four seasons as a starter--good for fourth place in school history...Western New England has made the CCC Tournament every season except for 2010-11.