After a 2-2 road trip, the 78s returned home to the Wellness Center at Worcester State University for a Saturday evening showdown against the Zombies of Western Mass Massachusetts.The team debuted their new light blue and black uniforms for the game, with white numbering and lettering. Despite coming back from 20 points down, the 78s would end up falling short to Western Mass Mass, 135-129.
Worcester quickly jumped out in front 4-0 in the beginning of the game. Maurice Horton blocked an intended pass up the court from Western Mass Mass’ Marcel Brown. He then grabbed the ball and passed it to his right to Sam Longwell, who made the long basket.
Western Mass would remain close with Worcester though. Brown made up for his passing miscue and sank a three-point basket to give the Zombies a 24-22 lead with 5:28 remaining in the quarter.
Worcester would quickly tie it as Dimitri Floras scored a layup following a passing sequence from Naadir Tharpe to Mark Cornelius.
Western Mass would retake the lead on a three-point basket from Tylon Smith, making it 27-24. Worcester would then miss two layups. Floras was blocked by Western Mass Mass’ Alex Lovejoy underneath the basket and Kamahl Walker didn’t have enough force on the ball on his shot attempt.
Both teams exchanged points as the clock dwindled down to the final minute of play in the first quarter. Rashad Robinson would go on to score seven of the final nine points for Western Mass in the quarter, as the Zombies would lead by a field goal 36-34.
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The second quarter began with both sides trying to do a little too much. Tony Gallo missed a three-point basket and Kadar Lynch got the rebound for Western Mass . Lynch almost immediately chucked the ball up the court to get it to teammate Petey Skevas.
Gallo intercepted the pass and charged down the court and passed the ball to his right. The pass was wild and was quickly recovered by the Zombies, who dribbled back up the court and added two more points on a layup from Smith.
Throughout the first three minutes of the second quarter, Worcester had trouble getting a good grip on the basketball, as it was slipping out of their hands like a bar of soap. Longwell lost control of it when he was trying to dribble around Skevas in the middle of the paint, Scott Tavares-Taylor made a pass to Domonique Bull, which he couldn’t control, as the ball bounced off his leg.
It was then recovered by Tavares-Taylor who made the pass to Gallo who scored a three-pointer to finally get Worcester on the board in the quarter. Tavares-Taylor then made another pass to Horton, which Horton couldn’t secure, and the ball bounced out of his hands, allowing Western Mass to take it.
Eventually, Worcester’s sloppiness would catch up to them, and Western Mass would take off, increasing their lead by 20 points, 61-41, later on in the quarter. Western Mass would end up leading at halftime, 71-59.
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The 78s were able to close the gap a bit in the third quarter, as Tharpe scored five points within the first three minutes, to make it 74-66. However, the 78s weren’t all on the same page. With just under seven minutes to go, the 78s left Skevas wide open behind the top of the key. Skevas easily made a three-pointer, to make it 83-70.
Worcester then committed two fouls, which resulted in Western Mass scoring four more total points for an 87-70 lead, and Walker committed a double-dribble, which Skevas capitalized on to make a layup and make the score 90-70. Western Mass would keep adding on, and would lead at the end of the third, 101-83.
Tavares-Taylor was quickly fouled as the fourth quarter began. He made both free-throws to make it 101-85. Western Mass would regain their 20-point advantage and would lead 105-85, after a basket from Robinson.
However, Worcester then began to slowly but steadily crawl back into the game. A couple of fouls and a turnover by Tharpe helped bring the 78s to within 11 points, as they trailed 115-104, with 6:47 remaining in the game.
With the crowd back in the game chanting, “defense,” Worcester continued to come back. An offensive foul on Smith gave the ball back to the 78s. On the drive back up the court, Longwell dribbled in the paint, passed the ball over to Floras, who made the layup and was also fouled.
Floras made the extra point, and suddenly, the deficit was cut to seven points, 115-108. After Smith was fouled for Western Mass on the next drive, which resulted in one out of two free throws made, the 78s broke fast, and Gallo scored a layup, to make it 116-110.
Smith and Gallo were both fouled shortly after, which made the score, 119-112. Western Mass would then score two field goals to add four more points, but Longwell hit a three-pointer, to make it 123-115. Tharpe would then hit a layup to pull Worcester to within six, and Skevas was then called for an offensive foul on the drive back down the court.
After a timeout was taken, Tharpe hit a three-pointer to make it 123-120, with 3:35 remaining in regulation.
However, Smith was fouled two more times, which made it 127-120. Gallo would score a layup to put Worcester to within five, but another foul by the 78s put Skevas at the line with 2:28 to go. Skevas made both shots to make it 129-122.
The 78s looked to quickly respond as Horton had the ball. However, it was ripped out of his possession and Robinson dribbled into the paint for Western Mass . Gallo fouled Robinson and Robinson made both shots, to put Western Mass up by nine with 2:07 to go.
On the Worcester possession, Tharpe quickly made a pass up the court to Gallo, who made a three-pointer to make it 131-125. After a Western Mass pass was accidentally booted out of bounds, Tavares-Taylor was fouled with 1:39 remaining. Tavares-Taylor made one of the two shots, to bring Worcester to within five.
With under a minute to go in regulation, the 78s executed a quick passing sequence, resulting in Horton making a layup, to make the score 131-128. Trying their best to avoid fouling, the 78s quickly ran back down the court as the clock dwindled into the final 45 seconds of play.
Skevas dribbled down the court and passed the ball to Matt Petrides. Petrides went for the layup and missed. However, the ball ricocheted right back to him, and he made a huge rebound shot, to make it a five-point game, and make it very difficult for the 78s to get back.
Gallo quickly tried to put Worcester to within two with a three-point shot but he missed. Western Mass got the rebound and Worcester had to foul Smith again. Smith made both shots and put the game out of reach for good for the 78s, as the Zombies held on to win 135-129.
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