by Patrick Gustavson
Following an impressive win to open Northeast Conference play, Central Connecticut’s men’s basketball team fell to Robert Morris on Sunday, by a score of 71-57, in what head coach Donyell Marshall called the team’s worst loss of the season.
The Blue Devils struggled in multiple areas, shooting just 33 percent from the floor, and allowing the Colonials to connect on 40 percent of their three-point attempts.
Only two players reached double figures for the Blue Devils. Center Deion Bute had 14 points and eight rebounds, and forward Mustafa Jones added 12 points of his own.
When asked if he liked anything about his team’s performance, Marshall credited Bute and freshman guard Talek Williams for playing hard, but bluntly followed with: “Other than that, no.”
Though the Blue Devils didn’t hold the lead after the opening minutes, they were still in the game at halftime, trailing by just 10 points. However, the Colonials came out strong in the second half and quickly extended the lead to 20 before the under 12-minute timeout.
Marshall feels the poor performance carried over from Friday’s game against St. Francis (PA), a game that almost saw them blow a 20-point second half lead. “It goes back to the last five to eight minutes of the St. Francis PA game. It doesn’t just go from this game. It starts then. We were turning the ball over, we were lackadaisical. St Francis PA was able to come back, and it carried over into this game. We only have one day of prep. You can’t really go out and do a lot in that one day. Maybe we’re not mature enough to come in and focus on the next team without legit practice,” he said.
He also believes poor practice habits from the previous days contributed to the team’s shortcomings, saying: “I think it has to do with the last couple days of practice. You play the way you practice, you practice the way you play. Since we’re winning this year, I don’t know if we let that get to our head. We ran into a team that was going to play hard.”
“We think we’re cool, and we’re talented, and we can do everything one on one. It starts in practice. You can’t just walk out on the floor and think ‘I’m here,’” he continued.
Marshall clearly intended to light a fire under his players, hinting at a possible overhaul to the starting lineup and distribution of playing time, saying: “Tomorrow, there is no first or second team. We’re going to rearrange that. You’re going to play off your practice, how hard you practice and how hard you play. We’re going to put guys out there who are going to play hard. Guys who want to go out there for the team and not for themselves.”
Despite the team having won more games than last season, Marshall knows that the team cannot get ahead of themselves due to the wide-open nature of the NEC, citing Sunday’s slate as an example of the unpredictability within in the conference.
“Yes, we won more games than we did last year. Yes, we’re 1-1. We started 0-2 last year, I think we started 0-7 in the conference. We’re better record wise, but we’re not as good as we think we are,” he said.
“We’re talented, but we don’t work hard. The message is that we’re going to continue to suffer losses like this playing this way.”
The Blue Devils, now 1-1 in the NEC, kick off three straight in-conference road games on Thursday against Fairleigh Dickinson, before taking on Mt. St. Mary’s and St. Francis (BKN). The team’s next home game is Saturday January 13, against Bryant.