It had been a rough season for Central Connecticut’s men’s basketball team. It was the sixth consecutive losing season for the Blue Devils and their third straight having six or less wins.
However, the Blue Devils were able to finish their season on a high note with an impressive second half comeback, defeating St Francis-Brooklyn 62-53.
At halftime, the Blue Devils were down 34-32 having watched another lead disappear. It appeared to be yet another collapse by the Blue Devils.
Although, CCSU was able to start the second half off strong by taking the lead, only three minutes into the second after consecutive baskets by Mustafa Jones.
“I think the guys responded in the second half, we started slow and I didn’t do too well offensively. So I had to do other things like take charges and get some big rebounds and steals,” said Cumberlander on the teams second half surge.
A few minutes later Nehl’s hit three pointer to make it 43-36, and from there, the Blue Devils held on to a commanding lead.
With under three minutes left in the game, Khalen Cumberlander drove to the right baseline and made an impressive over the head pass to Jones for the wide open dunk, making 59-53 to seal the victory for the Blue Devils.
It was the final home game of Khalen Cumberlander’s career. Cumberlander currently ranks 29th all time in CCSU scoring. Although his stats were not as impressive, he made key contributions on both sides of the floor to spur the comeback.
“It’s bittersweet. It’s my last game in Detrick Gym, I emphasized to the guys just how important this game was to me, Tafari and Tidell to go out on a win in front of our home crowd,” said Cumberlander on his message to the team before the game.
Donyell Marshall’s first season was marred by inconsistent performances. A feat he himself is frustrated in.
“When you have the competitiveness that I have and you’ve only won six games obviously you’re not happy. Especially when you can go back and look at four or five games we could’ve won,” said Marshall on his first season as a head coach.
“I think if you look at our team we went 2-17 in our first nineteen games or something like that. And now we’ve won four in our last nine right now. We’ve gotten better and thats why we do this. The guys have gotten better and the guys continue to work hard, even today when we were officially eliminated they could’ve given up, but they wanted to end this on the right note,” said Marshall on the team’s improvement this season.
“I told them before last game that I appreciate them accepting me as their new coach at the beginning of the year. They made me learn. That’s when you know you have a team, not only when they’re willing to learn but that they made the coach learn. They made me learn about myself and the fight that I have to have. Obviously your frustrated we lost 13 in a row at one point, but I guess the thing that helped me was I was with Golden State where we lost 11 or 12 in a row as a player.”
While he only has been a part of the team for less than a year, he credits Cumberlander for his successful transition as the Blue Devils head coach.
“This is KC’s (Khalen Cumberlander) last home game, which is bittersweet for me. He accepted me right away. It wasn’t ‘Coach I’m the man this is what they ran for me’ or whatever. He asked me what I needed from him and I told him I just needed him to get better everyday, play harder, and be a leader and he accepted that role,” said Marshall.
Despite the rough season, Marshall believes the team will improve in the 2017-18 season. Although the Blue Devils will lose Cumberlander and Tidell Pierre, he believes in his current players as well as the incoming recruits.
“Our freshman will be a lot better next year. I also think the recruits you have coming in are some damn good recruits. So we’ll have the talent that will be able to play a lot more,” said Marshall on his outlook for next season.