HENNIKER, N.H.- The Eastern Nazarene men's basketball team suffered an 80-74 setback to Fitchburg State in the season-opener Friday evening at the New England College Tip-Off Tournament. The Lions slip to 0-1 overall while the Falcons rise to 1-0 on the season.
Eastern Nazarene was led by freshman Justin Wagner (Oklahoma City, Okla.) with 15 points off the bench in his first collegiate game as he drained five three-pointers in the game. Senior Chima Ezeigbo (Roanoke, Va.) recorded a double-double as he poured in 12 points and grabbed 13 rebounds. Mike McCoy (Altamonte Springs, Fla.) chipped in with 11 points and Max Barbosa (Dorchester, Mass.) finished with 10 points and eight assists.
The Lions opened up a 7-0 lead after just 1: 47 of action. The Falcons responded with five-straight points to cut the deficit to 7-5 with 17:50 on the clock.
Mike Ingram-Rubin knocked down a trey with 14:42 remaining in the first period to claim Fitchburg's first lead of the night. Malcolm Dixon followed with a three-pointer to extend the gap to four, 15-11.
Eastern Nazarene battled back to level the score at 22-22 with 8:45 left to play in the opening half as Eric Lynch (Alpharetta, Ga.) converted a free throw.
On the ensuing possession, Fitchburg reclaimed the lead as Tom Henneberry sank a three.
Back-to-back treys from Justin Wagner gave the Lions a 30-27 edge with 7:24 left to play in the half. A lay-up by Dylan Saenz (Port Lavaca, Texas) stretched Eastern Nazarene's advantage to 10, 38-28, with just under five minutes remaining until halftime.
At the half, the Lions held a 46-37 lead over the Falcons. McCoy scored 11 points for Eastern Nazarene in the first stanza while Justin Wagner chipped in with nine.
The Lions shot 51.4% from the floor and 71.4% from three-point range in the opening 20 minutes of play.
Fitchburg netted the first four points of the second half to cut the gap to five points, 46-41.
Henneberry sank a pair of free throws with 13:48 remaining to tie the game at 51-51. Jaylen Owens (Johns Creek, Ga.) nailed a three-pointer to reestablish the Lions' lead and snap a 2:29 scoring drought by both teams.
Fitchburg knotted the contest at 59-59 with 8:22 left to play on a three-pointer by Ingram-Rubin. A pair of lay-ups increased the Falcons' edge to 63-59 with 7:08 on the second-half clock.
The Falcons sealed the win by connecting on 5-of-6 shooting from the charity stripe in the final stages of the game.
Eastern Nazarene finished the contest with a field-goal percentage of 42.9% including shooting 42.1% from downtown.
The Lions will close out play at the New England College Tip-Off Tournament November 17 as they square off against the host Pilgrims in the consolation round at 1:00 pm.