QUINCY, Mass.- The Eastern Nazarene College men's basketball team edged Western New England 76-75 Saturday afternoon at the Lahue Physical Education Center.
The Lions reach the 20-win plateau for the first time since the 1996-97 and for just the eighth time in program history as they improve to 20-3 on the year and 13-3 in the Commonwealth Coast Conference. The Golden Bears move to 8-15 overall and 6-10 in league play.
Jaylen Owens (Johns Creek, Ga.) paced the home side with 22 points while adding six assists. Justin Wagner (Oklahoma City, Okla.) connected on five treys to finish with 15 points. Corey Doran (Fairfield, Calif.) scored 10 points and pulled down a team-high eight boards.
Eastern Nazarene dialed up four triples to start the game. Owens drilled two three-pointers while Jeremy Wagner (Oklahoma City, Okla.) and Justin Wagner each nailed one to give the hosts a 12-0 lead 2:28 into the contest.
Western New England cut the deficit to 16-15 with 11:46 left to play in the half as Mike Gelineau converted a pair of free throws.
The Lions regained a seven-point advantage as Alex Jarman (Portsmouth, R.I.) hit the first of two free throws with 8:09 on the clock, 25-18.
The home team increased its lead to double-figures with 3:59 remaining on a one-handed dunk by Doran, 35-25.
The guests netted the final five points of the first half as Eastern Nazarene clung to a 40-37 advantage at the break.
Owens led the hosts at halftime with 10 points while Justin Wagner poured in nine points.
Eastern Nazarene shot 44.4% from the floor in the opening half and 53.8% from three-point range. Western New England posted a field-goal percentage of 44.4% in the first frame while sinking 6-of-11 attempts from long distance.
The Golden Bears tallied the first two buckets of the second half to snag a 41-40 edge.
The Lions strung together eight consecutive points to seize a 48-41 lead.
Western New England leveled the score at 69-69 with 5:12 to go in regulation on a trey by Nick DeFeo.
The visitors built up a four-point advantage on a triple by Nelson Zayas with 2:23 left to play, 73-69.
Eastern Nazarene responded with a three-pointer by Jeremy Wagner to trim the margin to 73-72.
After the Golden Bears answered with a basket by Musa Elsir, the Lions grabbed a 76-75 lead with 40 seconds remaining as Owens tossed up back-to-back layups.
Western New England possessed the ball with less than four seconds on the clock with an inbounding chance on the baseline. The guests' last-second tip-in effort rolled off the rim as Eastern Nazarene eked out the narrow victory.
The Lions finished with a field-goal percentage of 48.2% while draining 13-of-29 attempts from the perimeter. The Golden Bears shot 49.1% from the floor and 60.9% from behind the arc.
Gelineau led Western New England with a game-high 25 points while DeFeo poured in 17 points.
Up next, Eastern Nazarene hits the road to visit league-leader Nichols February 17.