by Patrick Gustavson
Following a tough six-game stretch that saw Central Connecticut’s men’s basketball team lose to more than half of their Northeast Conference opponents, they finally broke through, defeating Robert Morris on Saturday night by a score of 65-58.
The win comes on the heels of a devastating loss against Saint Francis (PA) on Thursday, a game that saw a great deal of improvement from their previous five losses. The Blue Devils even took the Red Flash to overtime.
Following a 12-point deficit at halftime, the Blue Devils roared back in the second half, tying the game at 45 with eleven minutes remaining. The remaining minutes were a back and forth battle that saw the lead change hands multiple times.
The Blue Devils had a three-point lead following a timeout with 21 seconds left. However, Jamaal King of the Red Flash hit a stunning three-pointer with just five seconds remaining, second the game to overtime.
The back and forth nature continued in overtime, but a few missed layups cost the Blue Devils, leading to their 77-71 defeat.
One thing to note from the defeat: junior guard Austin Nehls reached 1,000 points in his Blue Devil career, the 37th player to do so in school history.
This leads into Saturday’s contest against Robert Morris. The Colonials dominated the Blue Devils in their first meeting in a 14-point victory.
The team hung around throughout the first half, trailing by seven at the break. The Blue Devils played poor defense, with multiple players in foul trouble. Leading scorer Tyler Kohl also went scoreless in the first 20 minutes.
However, the second half was all the Blue Devils, coming back from the deficit, and taking the lead for the first time since the early minutes with eight minutes remaining.
The team’s improved defense was a key to the victory, with the Colonials going ice cold from the field in the late minutes of the game, shooting just a meek 32 percent the entire game.
Despite the scoreless first half, Kohl managed to lead the Blue Devils in scoring with 17 points to go with ten rebounds and seven assists. Senior forward Mustafa Jones had 14 points of his own, and center Deion Bute reached double figures with 12.
The win is a possible season-saver for the Blue Devils. Following the losing streak, they sat just one game ahead of Sacred Heart, with the tie-breaker going to the Pioneers (should they be tied). With Sacred Heart taking on Bryant on Thursday, the Blue Devils needed a win to keep their hopes alive, and this win did that.
Each NEC team has just two games remaining. To make the conference tournament, their magic number sits at one; they will clinch either with a victory, or a Sacred Heart loss. The only way to they miss the tournament is if they lose out, and Sacred Heart wins out.
The Blue Devils return home for their final two games; the team is 7-3 at Detrick Gymnasium this season. They have a tall task ahead, trying to defeat Wagner (the number one team in the conference) on Thursday night.
They will then take on Saint Francis (BK) on Saturday, on senior day.
Following the impressive road wins, the chances that CCSU makes the NEC tournament for the first time in four years is looking more and more likely.