By Christopher McLaughlin
Bloodied and battered, but not broken, the CCSU women’s basketball team upset Long Island University 68-61 on the road Saturday.
It was a very physical game, as both teams battled throughout. In the final minute, Leanne Crockett took an elbow off her nose and was forced to leave the game as blood came pouring out. Despite the elbow, Crockett left her mark on the game in another way.
Crockett finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds while Justina Udenze finished with 19 and 12 to give the Blue Devils (17-10) something it hasn’t gotten all season: two double-doubles in one game.
Though Crockett and Udenze were huge for the Blue Devils, the play of Alexzandria Dowdy allowed CCSU to pick up the tough road win. Her three second-half three-pointers all came at crucial moments and helped keep the lead despite LIU’s (19-9) surge in momentum.
“We had two keys to victory today: taking care of the ball and our transition defense,” said Head Coach Beryl Piper. “We did a great job, we only had 14 turnovers and 17 assists; so a positive ratio. Alex and Justina had 19 points and Leanne had 13 and we really needed that balance.”
Following a senior day loss, the Blue Devils came out with much more energy than they showed on the night they saluted the graduating seniors. Every player showed improvement right from the start and the Blue Devils led for much of the game.
Led by Udenze, who has been on a tear of late averaging 20 points per game over the last five games, the Blue Devils slowly built up its lead. Udenze finished the half atop all scorers with 12 points and helped open up the floor for the perimeter players.
“It’s always important for Justina to get going, said Piper.” “She’s kind of our go-to player. They do a lot of things inside on her and her only committing one turnover this game was a big factor for us.”
After getting killed by Udenze in the first, LIU tried to counter her dominance by sending extra defenders. The double teams did slow her down, but in doing so, LIU picked its poison. Though Piper has been utilizing the inside-out offense the past several games, this was the most effective it’s been. Udenze did a great job picking up the double team and kicked the ball back out to a wide open shooter. Both Crockett and Dowdy knocked down multiple threes during the half, making LIU pay for doubling Udenze.
“In the Sacred Heart game, Justina had a good game, but we weren’t getting anything from our perimeter kids, and that hurts us,” said Piper. “This time our perimeter kids made the shots, and that was huge for us. Having that floor balance makes a big difference.”
CCSU led by 10 in the second half, but LIU wasn’t going down quietly. Ashley Palmer and Kiara Evans did everything they could to will LIU back in the game. Palmer had 13 in the second half and Evans had seven to keep LIU alive.
The lead was trimmed to three before Dowdy hit a three-pointer to keep LIU at bay. However, after a lay-up by Crockett, consecutive three-pointers from Evans and Krystal Wells cut CCSU’s lead to one and swung the momentum in LIU‘s favor.
While the Blackbird faithful were excited and the players were pumped up, CCSU had seniors who have been there before. Unfazed by the turn of events, Crockett drained a three to silence the crowd. Slightly deflated, LIU followed up by missing a lay-up, which led to Dowdy knocking down another three, taking the life out of LIU.
“Usually when we start doing bad and they start coming back we get down on ourselves,” said Dowdy. “I knew we just had to calm down. We had the lead and I knew we could keep the lead.”
A road win against a top team is important this time of the year, especially since the Blue Devils won’t get any home games in the tournament, unless the team plays the eight seed in the finals.
“It’s always good to win but we know it’s one game at a time,” said Piper. “We can’t overlook that, we still have to go out and play a great game.”