QUINCY, Mass.- The Eastern Nazarene College men's basketball team suffered a narrow 67-65 to nationally-ranked Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) Saturday afternoon at the Lahue Physical Education Center on a buzzer-beater three-pointer.
The Lions sink to 9-1 on the season with the loss. The Engineers improve to 10-1 overall with the result.
WPI headed into the contest ranked No. 14 in the D3Hoops.com National Poll while Eastern Nazarene was receiving votes.
Jaylen Owens (Johns Creek, Ga.) poured in 16 points and dished out five assists on the day. Lequan Gomes (Fairfield, Calif.) finished with 16 points, eight rebounds and three assists. Justin Wagner (Oklahoma City, Okla.) recorded 10 points while David Eddings (Endicott, N.Y.) posted nine points and five boards.
The two teams traded buckets and ownership of the lead throughout the opening 10 minutes of play.
Eastern Nazarene established a five-point advantage, 22-17, with 8:46 remaining as Anthony Petrilli (Woodland Hills, Calif.) knocked down a deep trey and Eddings banked in a lay-up.
WPI strung together six consecutive points to even the score at 27-27 with 5:22 left to play in the half.
The Lions responded with three straight baskets to reclaim a six-point edge, 35-29. Eddings capped off the 6-0 run with a reverse lay-up after a no-look, over-the-shoulder dime from Petrilli.
The Engineers cut the Lions' lead to 35-32 heading into the halftime break on a triple by Zach Karalis with 37 seconds to go.
Eastern Nazarene shot 51.9% from the field in the first half and 55.6% from the perimeter. WPI sported a field-goal percentage of 38.2% at the intermission while draining 20% of its three-point chances.
Owens paced the home side with seven points through 20 minutes of action while Anthony Petrilli (Woodland Hills, Calif.), Justin Wagner, Eddings and Gomes all notched six points.
The visitors built up a seven-point lead 6:10 into the second stanza after an 8-0 run, 50-43.
After a 3:17 cold spell by both squads, WPI widened the gap to 10 on a trey by Karalis, 53-43, with 10:33 remaining.
The Lions utilized a 14-4 run to claw back and tie the contest at 57-57. Owens sank a mid-range jumper to pull Eastern Nazarene level with 5:05 left to play.
The Engineers regained a four-point lead with 2:50 to go as Clyde Niba knocked down a jumper, 63-59.
With just under a minute remaining, Owens tossed in a layup and drew a foul for a chance at a three-point play. The senior converted the ensuing free throw to narrow the margin to 63-62.
After WPI's Ian Converse drained the first of two free throws, Eastern Nazarene seized a 65-64 edge late in the game. Owens slipped a pass to Eddings under the hoop for a layup attempt. The senior forward rolled in the shot to knot the score and headed to the charity stripe for a three-point play opportunity for the lead. Eddings connected on his lone free throw chance of the afternoon to put the Lions ahead by one.
With less than 11 seconds remaining in regulation, Sean Doncaster drove the length of the floor before dishing the ball to Karalis in the left corner. Karalis drained a three-pointer as time expired to lift the Engineers to their 10th victory of the season.
The loss marks Eastern Nazarene's first non-conference setback since November 16, 2012 – the first game of this year's seniors' careers.
The Lions finished with a field-goal percentage of 49.1% on the afternoon while connecting on 33.3% of their attempts from long range. The Engineers shot 44.3% from the floor and 38.1% from beyond the arc.
Up next, Eastern Nazarene resumes conference play January 5 as it hosts Salve Regina.