QUINCY, Mass.- Returning to the hardwood for the first time since December 1, 2012, the Eastern Nazarene men's basketball team picked up a 99-81 non-league victory over Thomas College Tuesday afternoon at the Lahue Physical Education Center.
The victory elevates the Lions to 5-2 overall, including 3-0 on their home court this season. The Terriers see their three-game winning-streak snapped as they drop to 5-3 on the year.
Eric Lynch (Alpharetta, Ga.) led the way with a season-best 22 points on the day as he connected on 7-of-9 field goal attempts while converting 8-of-10 from the charity stripe. Making his first collegiate start, rookie Jaylen Owens (Johns Creek, Ga.) posted a double-double with 15 points and 11 assists to go with four steals. Owens drained a team-high three treys in the win.
Chima Ezeigbo (Roanoke, Va.) and Brian Hard (Weymouth, Mass.) each notched 13 points for Eastern Nazarene. Hard also pulled down nine rebounds to lead the hosts on the glass while Ezeigbo grabbed six boards and recorded three blocks in the game. Mike McCoy (Altamonte Springs, Fla.) and Justin Wagner (Oklahoma City, Okla.) both scored nine points while Aaron Johnson (Roslindale, Mass.) tallied eight points and registered five assists.
The Lions opened the contest with five-straight points before Thomas pulled even at 5-5 in the first minute of play.
Eastern Nazarene responded with a 15-1 run to claim a 20-6 advantage with 17:08 left to play in the first half.
The visitors leveled the score at 44-44 with 3:08 remaining in the opening stanza as Garen Manzo sank a free throw. The home side answered with four consecutive points to reclaim a four-point margin.
The Lions led at the midway point of the contest, 54-46.
Owens paced the home side at the intermission with six assists and 13 first-half points on 5-of-7 shooting from the field, including 3-of-4 from beyond the arc. Hard chipped in with 12 points at the break while also adding a team-high five rebounds.
Alex Jarman (Portsmouth, R.I.) also contributed eight points and five boards in the opening frame while Johnson netted seven points and dished out three helpers.
Eastern Nazarene held a double-digit lead in the second half until the final six minutes as Thomas cut the deficit to eight, 82-74, on a three-pointer by Franklin Salvador.
The Lions stretched the gap to 21 points with 1:42 on the clock as Lynch banked in a lay-up off of a feed from Owens.
Eastern Nazarene finished the game with a field-goal percentage of 54.7% while connecting on 38.9% of its attempts from long distance. Thomas shot 47.2% from the floor in the contest and 36.4% from three-point range.
Eastern Nazarene will continue its home stand with a non-league battle against Daniel Webster January 3 at 6:00 pm.