By: Mike Rose
The Golden Eagles men's basketball team has been waiting all season for Tony Arnold to step into the leading role and for the second straight game, he delivered. Arnold followed up his career-high tying 27-point performance on Saturday with a game-high 23 on Tuesday night as Brockport knocked off the Fredonia Blue Devils, 77-73.
The victory marked Brockport's second straight win and second home victory out of the break. It was also the first game for the Golden Eagles since leading scorer Mehki Beckett reinjured his leg. Beckett has been officially ruled out for the remainder of the season so Brockport now more than ever needed Arnold to embrace and excel in his starring role.
Arnold finished the night 7-for-16 from the floor and 9-for-11 at the charity stripe while adding five assists and three steals.
With Beckett's absence now permanent, minutes were up for grabs in the Brockport rotation and Zach Rice took advantage. Rice, who had played under 10 minutes in every game in the new year, posted 16 points on 6-of-8 shooting and 3-of-5 from three-point range across his 16 minutes Tuesday. It was a big game for Rice who has had some growing pains in his sophomore season.
"I just have coaches and teammates believing in me and I just do my thing when I go in the game," Rice said. "My teammates have the confidence to hit me when I'm open and I just have the confidence in myself to keep shooting no matter what."
Jevonny Brown took Beckett's place in the starting lineup for Brockport however they fell victim to another slow start. Fredonia built a lead as large as five midway through the first half before Brockport began to push.
Tyler Cowie stepped up with seven points in an 11-0 run by Brockport as they flipped the margin to a six-point lead with five minutes left in the opening half. The lead would expand to as large as seven before Fredonia battled back late in the half.
The Blue Devils carved up Brockport's defense with back-door cuts before a Tyrese Fuller free-throw made it just a two-point game. Brockport's Nate Severson delivered the final bucket of the opening 20, a three-pointer, that extended the lead to five at the break.
Out of the locker room, Brockport looked poised to run away. Brown and Arnold combined to score the first eight points and the Golden Eagles lead ballooned to 13. Rice also began to heat up in the second half, scoring 11 of his 16 in the final 20. After a pair of Arnold free-throws dropped with 6:21 to play Brockport had opened up its biggest lead of the game of 18. Fredonia however would not go quietly.
The Blue Devils chipped into the lead at the free-throw line, with both teams entering the bonus early on, and remained within striking distance. A lay-up from Kai Woods made the margin just six with 1:44 to play. Cowie came up empty on the other end, missing a lay-up before David Jordan drilled a corner three to bring the Blue Devils within three.
Arnold missed a tough contested triple to give Fredonia a chance to tie it late but Jordan couldn't connect on a three. Brown sunk 1-of-2 free-throws at the line for Brockport and they won the game on defense, holding the Blue Devils to a three-point attempt at the buzzer that came up empty.
Cowie finished with 15 points off the bench for Brockport who got 41 points in total from the second unit. Brown tallied seven points and six rebounds in his first start as a Golden Eagle. Jordan led Fredonia with 18 points while Malik Jemison, who entered Tuesday as the SUNYAC's third-leading scorer, scored 11. Derek Reed provided quality minutes off the bench for the Blue Devils with seven points and six assists.
With the win Brockport (9-5, 5-3) maintains its position in third place in the SUNYAC while Fredonia (5-8, 2-4) falls 1.5 games out of a postseason slot. The win also marks the fourteenth consecutive victory for Brockport against Fredonia.
The Golden Eagles will next be in action on Saturday when they head back on the road to take on the Geneseo Knights (7-8, 4-4). Tip-off is scheduled for 4 p.m. while 89.1 The Point's pregame coverage will begin at 3:45 p.m. or immediately following the women's game.