by Sean Begin
Despite coming out on the losing end, the opening game Friday night of the 2-14-15 basketball season was not a disappointment for Howie Dickenman.
“I’m really pleased with our effort. I thought we battled for 40 minutes,” said Dickenman following Central Connecticut’s 71-63 loss to Fairfield University Friday night. “Not the result we wanted but proud of the energy, proud of the enthusiasm.”
Friday’s game was the opening contest of the annual CT6 Classic held every year between Central, Fairfield, Quinnipiac, Sacred Heart, Hartford and Yale. Last year Central fell to Yale in the opener.
Dickenman had been stressing rebounding and defense all preseason long and despite being outrebounded 41-35, they allowed fewer points against Fairfield than they were averaging last season.
“I thought we battled. I thought out defense in the second half was a little better in the zone than it was in the man-to-man,” said Dickenman. “We were much more aggressive.”
Part of the aggressive came from sophomore guard Matt Mobley, who spent most of the game driving to the basket and drawing fouls from Fairfield. Mobley visited the free throw line 12 times on Friday, hitting 11 of his attempts.
“That was the plan. I tried to stay aggressive,” Mobley said after the game. “Coach told me to attack the basket, so I did, knocked down some free throws and that helped my game.”
Mobley was 8-for-17 from the floor including 3-for-6 from three-point range, totaling 30 points to lead the Blue Devils. Adding three rebounds and an assist along the way.
“He had a good loosey-goosey practice yesterday and I think it carried over,” said Dickenman of his young player’s performance.
Dickenman stressed driving to the basket for Mobley and fellow sophomore guard Khalen Cumberlander this season to take advantage of their free throw shooting.
The early success bodes well for Mobley’s confidence heading forward.
“Yeah, definitely, it gives me a lot more confidence now,” said Mobley. “Just kind of help me get going into the season, hopefully I can play like this for the rest of the season.”
While Mobley shot well for the night, others struggled to find their rhythm. Senior guard Malcolm McMillan hit just one shot on the night, a three-pointer late in the second half that closed Fairfield’s lead at the time to two-points.
“Malcolm had a tough night. But he handled the ball pretty well,” said Dickenman. “Brandon Peel wasn’t himself. He seemed very tentative. I’m not sure why but we’ll get him going. I’d like to see him get 11-12 shots.”
Peel, a junior forward, looks to be an important key not only defensively and on the boards, but on the offense as well.
He shot just 2-for-6 Friday but brought in nine rebounds, tied for the team high with senior Faronte Drakeford, who was the only Blue Devil besides Mobley to break double digits scoring.
Central had several stretches in the game that kept them close or gave them an edge. They opened with a 8-0 run that forced Fairfield to call a timeout and switch to a full-court press defense in an attempt to break Central’s hot streak. It worked.
Then down by as much as 13 in the second, Central stormed back to pull within two before Fairfield pulled away for the win.
“I think that might be a trademark of our team, never quitting,” said Dickenman. “We came up a little short [tonight] but we didn’t let it get away from us.”
Central lost to Maryland Monday night and next return to the court when they play Towson Friday evening.