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By Corey Pollnow
Joe Efese, the lone senior of the men’s basketball team, was honored on Saturday afternoon in his final game at Detrick Gym where they lost 81-61 to Robert Morris, the regular season champions of the NEC.
Central concluded the regular season with a 9-9 NEC record, which earned them the seventh seed in the NEC tournament and a road game versus Wagner Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the first round. “I can’t go out like a coward. I’ve got to step up and play like a man,” said Efese. CCSU split the regular season home and away with Wagner, but their most recent meeting on Feb. 14 at Wagner was a 101-82 loss, albeit Vinales scored 42 points.
A disappointed Efese was blunt and said his performance was “soft,” RMU was “physical” and the team “didn’t match their level of intensity.”
He finished the game with six points and three rebounds in 21 minutes.
“It hurts. I wanted to play good for my family,” said Efese. “That’s the first time my family saw me play all year. I wasn’t playing my game, I wasn’t being aggressive. I only took five shots and I wasn’t calling for the ball, I wasn’t rebounding. I didn’t do a lot of good things out there.”
Head Coach Howie Dickenman said he was unsure why the team played flat and without the intensity that was noticeable during the four game winning streak prior to the RMU game.
“There is a sign in our lounge that’s encased in glass that says, ‘no excuses,’” said Dickenman.
The Colonials leading scorer, Karvel Anderson, didn’t suit up for the game because of a wrist injury, nonetheless RMU had no difficulty scoring. The Colonials had five players in double digits and were led by Russell Johnson who finished the game with 20 points on 8 for 14 shooting.
Central was within striking distance in the first half until the Colonials went on a 9-0 run in a little over a minute. All nine of the points came from Coron Williams on three-point attempts. Suddenly the Blue Devils were down 18 points and seven minutes still remained in the first half. Central never recovered and RMU remained relentless, even stretching the lead to 24 points in the beginning of the second half.
It wasn’t a fluke that the Colonials hit 12 of their 27 threes. They lead the NEC in three-point field goal percentage – 38 percent—and also in threes made – nine per game. Their ability to shoot from behind the perimeter in transition stifled the Blue Devils.
On the other hand, the Blue Devils three-point shooting was dismal – two of 19 – and RMU’s ball pressure on the perimeter wreaked havoc, causing 19 Central turnovers.
In the first meeting of two meetings between Central and RMU, the NEC’s leading scorer Kyle Vinales had 34 points. However, in the regular season finale he was held to 11 points on three of 15 shooting. Coach Dickenman praised Matt Hunter, who filled up the stat sheet and led CCSU with 17 points, nine rebounds, five steals and three assists.
Efese remained positive about the upcoming game versus Wagner despite losing by 20 points, only minutes earlier.
“I’m bitter to lose on my senior day, but I’m going to bring everything I’ve got to the tournament,” said Efese. “I know everyone is going to be ready. We’ve been playing good the past four games and everybody’s been clicking.”
Dickenman was honest in his criticism of his team.
“They dismantled us and took away everything we tried to do. They out hustled us, took away our shooting,” said Dickenman. “They got into our grills and made sure we didn’t get good looks at the basket.”
But he viewed the loss as a blip on the radar in the grand scheme of things and he remained optimistic.
“I talked about 30 percent negative and 70 percent positive in our post-game talk,” Dickenman said. “If we do come to play [in the tournament], it may get interesting.”