by Tyler Roaix
The Central Connecticut State University’s men’s basketball team opened up its regular season with a pair of close losses on the road.
Just hours before the opening game against Hartford on Friday night, a CCSU official confirmed that head coach Donyell Marshall and assistant coach Anthony Anderson would not be available to coach either weekend game. As a result, assistant coaches Mike Wicoskie and Anthony Ross ran the team.
Central’s season opener featured a lot of back-and forth play, but the Blue Devils fell to the Hawks in overtime 85-84.
Central’s biggest problem was turning the ball over so much. They had 15 turnovers as a team, including several traveling violations that resulted in a lot of empty possessions on offense.
But when CCSU was able to keep possession, they were efficient. They shot 51.8 percent from the field, including 52.4 percent from beyond the three-point arch.
Junior Tyler Kohl, who spent the last two years at Mineral Area College, led the team with 21 points in his Central debut. He added eight rebounds and three assists to give his team a great effort in 36 minutes of play.
Koh had a big second half for Central. At one point, he scored nine of 11 Blue Devil points and was a big part as to why the team was able to force overtime.
“My mindset was just to get the team back in the game,” Kohl said after the game. It was just about being more aggressive, whether it was scoring or passing or rebounding.”
Witcoskie was happy with the way the team played, but stressed the importance of playing well for the full game.
“The struggle was putting 40 minutes together, which is to be expected this early in the season,” Witcoskie said. “We have four new players in our top eight so there will be some struggles early. We just have to take this as a learning experience. It’s a painful one, but we have to get better from this.”
Central then had a quick turnaround, having to travel to New Jersey to take on Rutgers Saturday afternoon. Despite battling all game, the Blue Devils ultimately lost 71-67 and dropped to 0-2 on the season.
Senior Mustafa Jones had a nice game with six rebounds, and his 14 points were good enough to lead all starters.
Kohl came off the bench in this game, but he made the most of it. He scored 22 points and grabbed eight rebounds, which both led the team.
CCSU’s strong shooting carried over from Friday night. They shot 48.1 percent from the field, including 41.2 percent from the three-point line.
For Central, getting into foul trouble was their downfall. They committed 21 fouls as a team, which led to the Scarlet Knights scoring 21 points from the charity stripe.
Simple things like turnovers and fouls are the biggest parts of playing clean basketball. If Central continues to shoot the ball well on offense, and they can clean up their fundamentals, the Blue Devils have a chance to exceed their low preseason expectations.
Central is back in action Friday, Nov. 17 when they’ll travel to take on East Carolina. The game will be televised on ESPN3.