Category Archives: Sports

Dorau the [Sports] Explorer: March Madness in Las Vegas

By Kyle Dorau / Sports Editor

Hi, I’m the guy who won two dollars and ten cents. For my first ever foray into true sports gambling, I barely won enough to cover the McDonald’s Crispy Snack Wrap I ate while I watched the game. Spending Spring Break in Las Vegas to me meant one thing. Make some money on my clearly superior sports expertise.

I may have some semblance of sports knowledge, but gambling, not so much. Choosing to get my feet wet by placing a mere five dollar bet earned me a less than encouraging response from the cashier at the MGM Grand. “You do realize that you’ll only win 2 bucks, right?”

With so many bets on the board, it was tough to decide which to select.  Horseracing was less than appealing, because I don’t know anything about it, and if I wanted to, I could drive over to the Off Track Betting locations all around this state.  It had to be a legitimate sporting event.

Being a rabid hockey fan, I had considered betting on my beloved Boston Bruins to defeat the New Jersey Devils. Then I remembered the Devils have this guy named Martin Brodeur in the net, and quickly reconsidered. Not only that, but to me, there’s something just inherently wrong about betting on your favorite team. I don’t know how Pete Rose did it all those years. (Can we just get him in the Hall of Fame already?)

It felt natural to bet on college basketball since it was the rare opportunity to be in Vegas during March Madness. I wanted to bet on a game I had minimal rooting interest in, but knowing I didn’t want to spend my entire afternoon watching for potentially a two-buck payoff, it had to be a specific proposition, and I’m not talking about the ones they were advertising on business cards outside the less-upscale hotels.

Opting to place a prop bet on which team would score 20 points first, the next task was to choose the game. None interested me, until I saw the second-round tilt between Louisville and Siena. CCSU hockey fans will be happy to know I bet on Louisville simply due to my hatred of the Saints, who the Blue Devils brawled with earlier this season.

When Reginald Delk made a layup to give Louisville a 20-14 lead, some people in the sports book hooted and hollered. I walked over to one of the cashiers, sheepishly handed them my ticket, and collected my money.  Mission accomplished. I have bet on sports in Las Vegas.

For those who have never been out there, it really is a heck of an experience. For someone like me who is not the drinking or partying type, even I had an incredible time and was amazed by all that the city had to offer. It is definitely something every one should do at least once in their life.

Speaking of hype, the game of poker has been crammed down our throats on television to the point of overexposure this decade. As someone who’s always been interested in playing, my experience is limited to games with friends, online poker before President Bush (in his infinite wisdom) outlawed it, and the occasional five-dollar buy-in tournament in the Vance dorm basement.

I felt compelled to at least try a shot at a real Vegas tournament. I went downstairs at the Monte Carlo, where I was staying, and put down 50 bucks to enter a sit-and-go tournament. Being the last person to arrive at the table, I felt like I immediately had a target on my back. Maybe it was paranoia, but it’s amazing how much pressure the money puts on you.

I’ve always made fun of poker being televised, primarily on ESPN. Citing the physical shape of most players, the half-baked intimidation tactics and the corny announcers, I dismissed it as a sport and considered the broadcasts a joke.

The epiphany occurred when I pushed all my chips into the middle of the table. The nerves that players have to display is mpressive. Heading into the tournament, the initial goal was just to not finish in dead last. By the time I got eliminated in fifth place, I thought to myself, “Wow, I could have won this thing.”

That’s why I went back the next day. Maybe it was a sense of wanting redemption, or maybe just a budding gambling addiction, but I had to go after it again. It did not go well. I’m a tight, conservative player by nature. The first hand, I tried to bluff like I had a whopper. It did not go well. I lost maybe about half my chip stack on that hand alone.

Tumbling along and getting blinded to death, I was down to my final two chips. I managed to get pocket Jacks, and it was all uphill from there. Several double-ups allowed me to get right back into contention, and each time I went all-in, putting all my chips at risk, my heart beat more furiously. I thought it was going to rip right out of my chest. Somehow, I kept winning and winning until I reached the final two. Severely short-stacked against my Aussie adversary, I managed to double up. We then were dealt the exact same hands twice in a row, and we both took it as a sign that we were equally matched. We split the pot and I achieved a major goal on the trip of finishing in the money at a poker tournament.

Several lessons were learned over the course of the weekend. First, I will now always bet against Siena. Secondly, never use your cell phone at table games. Rookie mistake.

Apparently pit bosses frown upon that.  Finally, Poker, as cheesy as it can be at times, is a sport.  The adrenaline I felt playing the game was more than some instances in which I’ve played a traditional sport. And I was just playing a low level sit and go.  Imagine the pressure in the World Series of Poker. A sport based on luck? Maybe. A sport based on nerves, instinct, and practice? Yes.

Women Fall to BU in Season-Ending NIT Macthup

By Kyle Dorau / Sports Editor

BOSTON, Mass. – The Terriers defeated the Blue Devils, 79-60 at Case Gym in the first round of the Women’s NIT.

Sophomore Leanne Crockett and freshman Shontice Simmons each had a team-high 17 points for CCSU, who fell to 18-14 on the season.

The Blue Devils led by three at the half, but suffered a stretch of 6:55 in which they were outscored 16-0. Central was also outscored a total of 41-19 in the second half.

Central shot under 28 percent in the second half, while BU shot over 58 percent, and were four of six from beyond the arc.

“We were just rushing, taking bad shots,” said Simmons.  “Key moments we could have turned the momentum.”

Conversely, the Terriers took advantage of sharp shooting from senior guard Kristi Dini, who was 6-12 from the field, all from three-point range for a game-high eighteen points.

Blue Devils head coach Beryl Piper echoed the sentiments of her freshman point guard.

“It’s a long game,” said Piper. “Obviously momentum plays a role in what you do.”

Once Central’s offense began to sputter in the second half, BU’s took flight. The two offenses could not have performed more differently in the second half.

“They did some things, and we didn’t know how to handle it,” said Piper. The Blue Devils had just nine assists as opposed to 21 turnovers, while the Terriers’ crisp passing led to 20 assists and just 10 turnovers.

Not only did Central give away the ball far more, but those giveaways proved costly, as BU was able to rack up 23 points off CCSU miscues.

Sophomore forward Kerrianne Dugan notched a double-double for the Blue Devils, scoring 16 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. Overall, Central out-rebounded the Terriers 38-25.

Dugan, at the close of her second season at CCSU, put the season in perspective after the contest.

“I think it definitely says a lot about our team and the potential we have for the coming year,” she said. “Coming into it, nobody even thought we would be close.”

Central graduates one player, senior guard Jhanay Harris, who averaged 3.7 points per game this season, while shooting over 33 percent from three-point range.

Boston University ultimately fell to cross-town rival Boston College in the second round of the tournament, 68-53.

Going from 4-25 in 2007-08 to 18-14 this season, Central Connecticut had the best record turnaround in all of NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball.

Season Ends for Women’s Basketball

NIT

By Kyle Dorau / Sports Editor

BOSTON, MASS. –  The Central Connecticut State University women’s basketball team had their storybook season come to a close on March 19 at Boston University.

The Terriers defeated the Blue Devils, 79-60 at Case Gym in the first round of the Women’s NIT.

Sophomore Leanne Crockett and freshman Shontice Simmons each had a team-high 17 points for CCSU, who fell to 18-14 on the season.

The Blue Devils led by three at the half, but suffered a stretch of 6:55 in which the Blue Devils were outscored 16-0.  They were outscored a total of 41-19 in the second half.

Central shot under 28 percent in the second half, while BU shot over 58 percent, and were four of six from beyond the arc.

“We were just rushing, taking bad shots,” said Simmons.  “Key moments we could have turned the momentum.”

Central graduates one player, senior guard Jhanay Harris.

Boston University will face cross-town rival Boston College in the second round of the tournament.

Blue Devils Head to NIT


Peter Collin / Managing Editor

The CCSU women’s basketball team was awarded their first ever trip to the National Invitational Tournament on Monday. The trip to the NIT is the women’s first trip to postseason play beyond the Northeast Conference Tournament. 

The Blue Devils (18-13) were automatically awarded a spot in the tournament after the Sacred Heart Pioneers won the NEC championship over the St. Francis (PA) on Sunday. As the second seed during the regular season, the Blue Devils gained the automatic bid.

Their first match up will be against Boston University on Thursday, March 19, time has yet to be announced.

“Playing in the postseason will be a great experience for our players,” head coach Beryl Piper said in an interview with CCSUBlueDevils.com.  

The Blue Devils finished last during the 2007-08 season and were picked to finish there again this season by the NEC Preseason Coaches’ Poll. 

But the Blue Devils completed the largest turnaround in NCAA women’s basketball this season, improving by 14 wins from the ‘07-‘08 when they won four games.

It was the Blue Devils first trip to the NEC Tournament since 2005 when Robert Morris defeated CCSU 72-39 in the quarterfinals. The Blue Devils come up short in this year’s NEC Tournament, falling in the semifinals against the Red Flash 73-62.

The Blue Devils are lead by a talented core of young players including sophomore Kerrianne Dugan who was named to the All-NEC second team and freshman Shontice Simmons who was a selection for the NEC All-Rookie team.

Staying Grounded with Jason Page


By Kyle Dorau / Sports Editor

The commercials finish airing and there is minimal buildup. The radio goes from zero to a hundred miles per hour in mere seconds.

“Get ready for four hours of The Back Page in your future!” The man with the booming voice who is shouting those words seems extremely comfortable in the small radio booth in which he stands.

This is how Jason Page welcomes the listeners to his show based out of ESPN Radio 1410 in Hartford.

The program also airs locally on ESPN Radio 1300 in New Haven, and has been around for over a year.

The first time I met Jason Page was in the press box at Arute Field for a CCSU football game.  He strolled in after the game had started, and sat down immediately to my left with the producer of his show, Evan Wilner, in tow.

Over the course of the game, we talked and realized we shared a mutual co-worker. By the end of the game, he was telling me details about his contract negotiations with Clear Channel.

At the time, I thought to myself, “Wow, what an ego.” But in a business like sports radio, ego is an essential tool of the trade. Radio personalities are in charge of hours of show time, they’re the star and what they say goes. They can’t be as successful as Page without a dominant personality.

The ego seems primarily based on pride in his accomplishments and knowledge of the sports world. There are times where he seems self-conscious, but that works in sync with his decisiveness – the same decisiveness that allows him to rant and speak freely in each segment of his program for four hours at a time.

While Page does have the characteristics of a sports talk radio host with his outgoing personality and off-the-cuff opinions, he’s a lot more like the fans than the typical sports media. He openly admits that he would rather be in the stands with fans than be on press row.

He is not a journalist, and doesn’t try to toe that line. He’s a commentator who clearly enjoys his job, even if it is grueling at times.

And comment he does. On anything and everything. Even during our interview, he would comment on anything that caught his eye, or in this case, nose. Someone who apparently overdid it with cologne walked by, and Page paused for a moment.

“God, did he drown himself in that stuff?” he asked, stopping in mid-sentence. “You smell that?” He also managed to interrupt a conversation about the Yankees to point out how terrible the pizza provided by CSU was.

Opinions like those are what make Page polarizing. Those who listen to his show either love him or hate him. What matters to him is the fact that those people are listening.

“People who don’t like me are still listening to me, which is what I like even more,” he says.  “Fine, you disagree with me, but you’re still listening to me, so you must find me entertaining on some level.”

A fan base in particular that he finds opposition from is that of Red Sox Nation. His strong opinions tend to irk Boston fans at times, who accuse him of being a New York homer.

“They can’t be objective, and they hate anybody who is,” he said about Red Sox fans. “All people hear is me knocking on the Red Sox. They won’t hear when I praise the Red Sox.”

Another group who seems to have Page pegged as biased against their team are fans of  the University of Connecticut teams. His criticism of Hasheem Thabeet has been a hot-button topic for Huskies fans in the past 12 months.

It might also be fueled by the fact that Page pays attention to CCSU sports and those of the smaller schools in the area. He regularly interviews coaches from Central, Quinnipiac and Yale on his program.

“There’s something more to Connecticut sports than just the UConn Huskies,” he said. “UConn loves the fact that they have a monopoly on the whole state, and I want to try and break that up a little bit and let people realize that… you’ve got two [other] talented teams in our listening area.”

Those quotes are his honest opinions, and that honesty is what makes Page refreshing to listen to.  The way he carries himself on the air is exactly who he is off the air.

“If you’re phony, people are going to hear it,” he said.

Wilner, the show’s producer, attests that Page is a radio personality in every sense of the words.  “He’s very talented,” Wilner said. “A lot of on-air talent, they can be assholes at times. Jason certainly fits that at times, but there are other times where he’s the easiest person in the world to work with.”

Both Wilner and Page worked in the sports department at Sirius Satellite Radio before coming to Hartford, and their working relationship continues to evolve as time goes on.

“He allows me a lot of freedom,” says Wilner.

Page has carried a torch for smaller schools like CCSU and Quinnipiac in the time that The Back Page has been on the air.

Howie Dickenman and Tom Moore, the head coaches for each school’s Men’s Basketball program, each do a weekly interview with Page on the air.

Page described Howie as very “old-school,” and “the antithesis” of Blue Devils Football coach Jeff McInerney, who is widely recognized as more media-friendly.

He recalls the story of how he was approached to book Coach Mac as a guest by CCSU’s Sports Information Director.

“Tom Pincince called us up and he was like, ‘you guys should have Coach Mac on during the season.’ And I was like, ‘Good lord, it’s CCSU Football for crying out loud!’”

Page remembered how McInerney’s personality won him over.

“The first day we talked to him, he came in the studio. As soon as he walked out, I looked at Wilner and said, ‘We’ve got to have him on every week.’ He’s such a character, and he makes you want to have him on.”

In a market where there is a clear demand for sports, The Back Page is a locally driven show which touches on national issues.  It’s an alternative to New York or Boston stations that ignore Connecticut, or local talk stations that only have time to discuss sports for an hour or two a day.

His focus on Central is a major reason to tune into The Back Page. College students are not typically the target demographic for sports talk radio, especially in this age of iPods and mp3 players.

“We’re fun. It’s a fun show. It’s not typical X’s and O’s sports radio,” Page said. “If you’re the pocket-protector-wearing sports geek who wants to talk about the backup tight end on the New York Giants, you’re not going to want to listen to this show.”

Dorau The [Sports] Explorer: Bilas Misses Big Picture for Big Dance

 

By Kyle Dorau / Sports Editor

In the CCSU Men’s Basketball media guide, freshman guard Robby Ptacek said the reason he chose to play here at Central was “for a chance to play in the NCAA Tourney.”  If Jay Bilas of ESPN has his way, Ptacek will never set foot in the Big Dance.

I understand that part of the ESPN-ization of the world means that their talking heads are the singular voices for movements like this, but the absurdity of Bilas’ plan to improve the quality of the NCAA Tournament is vocal enough where he can be referenced as its leader.

Bilas has encouraged the idea that the top 65 teams be included in the tournament, eliminating the automatic berths from each conference.  His arguments in defense of doing so are all fatally flawed.

So how exactly would we go about selecting the top 65 teams?  Maybe we should use the current polls in place combined with computer selection?  The BCS is a joke.  If the NCAA Tournament goes to that formula, it would be regressing in entertainment value.  We clamor in the fall for a playoff system in football, and here in basketball season, we have that coveted playoff system, and now we’re in danger of screwing it up.

According to his article, Bilas says the argument in favor of automatic bids “is a sentimental one.” While there may be a hint of truth to that, it is far more an argument against exclusion, inequity, greed, and monopolization.

So I ask, if automatic bids are removed from the NCAA Tournament, then what the hell are all the players here at CCSU playing for? 

When I stormed the court with hundreds of other fans in March of 2007, it wasn’t simply because the Blue Devils won the Northeast Conference, it was because they were going to the big dance and the players that worked so hard were finally going to get their shot on the national stage.

Sixteen total conferences would have their automatic bids revoked under Bilas’ plan, including the NEC. He cites each small conference’s lack of success in March Madness, which is a part of what makes the tournament so great.

It means West Cupcake University from the South-Central Great Lakes Athletic Conference gets their opportunity to play against the best that the NCAA has to offer. 

They have the same road to take to a National Championship as all the other teams.  Six wins, and congratulations, The West Cupcake Fightin’ Bunny Rabbits are your National Champions. 

Let’s not overlook the aspect that nobody will talk about. Once again, sports becomes about the almighty dollar. Of course the BCS conferences would love to keep small conference teams out of an NCAA Tournament that would quickly become their own personal playground. 

There would not be any true upsets, because the vast majority of teams in the field would be from major conferences that have a far larger recruiting base than mid-majors and schools from small conferences.

Part of the famous line from The Shawshank Redemption is “hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things.” When Central made it into the Tournament in 2007, obviously there was less than a slim chance that the Blue Devils would win. In fact, I expected the team to lose by a lot more than 21 points.

What kept running through my mind leading up to the game against Ohio State was the fact that Central still had a chance.

It might have been a one in a million shot, but they had the opportunity to be the first ever 16 seed to defeat a top seeded team. They even stood on the same ground as the 64 other teams to win a national title, if you ignore the running joke that is the play-in game.

The beauty of the setup is that a powerhouse one or two seed is rewarded for a good season with first round game against a lower-tier team. The Tournament in its current format is the ultimate meritocracy.

If a team did not get in, they have nothing to blame but their body of work, not a team from a one-bid conference.

Even with 31 bids being considered automatic, that allows for 34 other teams to get in.  We’re supposed to believe there are more than 34 true contenders for a National Championship?

If automatic bids are removed as a qualifier for the NCAA Tournament, that undying hope, that opportunity for a bonafide miracle to occur will forever disappear. Not just for CCSU, but for all the teams in the NEC and every other conference that may not be as high-profile as the BCS schools.

But that’s okay, Mr. Bilas. Just take away everything that the Men’s Basketball team is playing for here at Central. 

Ignore the dream of Robby Ptacek and hundreds of other players at smaller schools across the country. You keep doing that and we’ll keep ignoring your plan to “improve” the tournament. If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it.

Saints Baptize Blue Devils

By Christopher Boulay / Asst. Sports Editor

CCSU women’s lacrosse dropped their home opener at Arute Field against Siena, by a score of 15-9 on Sunday afternoon.

The Blue Devils (0-4) went down 2-0 early due to goals by Siena’s Dierdre McQuillan and Caitlin Mikel. After the early stumble, CCSU surged to score four goals in less than four minutes, to take a 4-2 lead with Courtney Mooney, Alexa Smead, Lyndsey Mastandrea and Ashley Perkoski cashing in.

Coach Rachel Tringali was pleased with the Blue Devils’ early efforts on all fronts. “We played the best first half this season,” she said.

“We did a great job in transition.”

Lindsey Rosecrands led the scoring for the Saints (2-1), scoring four goals and adding two assists. Mikel and McQuillan each scored hat tricks, Courtney Highsmith and Allie Kain each scored two, and Ryan Tierney scored a second half goal.

For the Blue Devils, Stephanie John, Mastandrea and Perkoski each scored two, while Smead, Mooney and Michele Conway all scored one.

The game fluctuated throughout the first half, with four ties and two lead changes.

Siena’s (2-1) Kristin Concordia made 10 saves for the Saints, while Blue Devils goalkeeper Alice Lee had 20 saves in a losing effort.

“We have a great goalie in Alice Lee, but sometimes we rely on [defense] too much,” Tringali said.

CCSU’s dependence on defense would come back to bite them, as they gave up four goals because of unsuccessful clears during the match, finishing 12-16 in clears, while Siena was a perfect 6-6.

The Saints were able to pull away in the second half, with Courtney Highsmith scoring what would be the first of four-straight goals for the Saints, and put the game out of reach. Siena outscored CCSU 6-2 in the half.

“We came out flat in the second half and we couldn’t recover. We couldn’t find our groove. We didn’t capitalize when we had to,” Tringali said.

Tringali also formulated what the Blue Devils will have to do to carry the strong first half play into a 60-minute effort.

“We need to maintain more possession on attack and [have] more ball movement on attack,” she said.

CCSU received six yellow cards in the game, while Siena received two. The Saints outshot the Blue Devils 41-20, and CCSU also lost the turnover battle, committing 25 to Siena’s 19.

“Turnovers hurt us. Sometimes we try to force things instead of allowing things to flow,” she said.

CCSU played Quinnipiac Tuesday in their Conference home opener. They will be in action again at Arute Field on March 18 against Detroit Mercy at 7 p.m.

William Paterson Single-Handedly Defeats Blue Devils

By Kyle Dorau / Sports Editor

Central Connecticut Ice Hockey had its season come to an end at the hands of William Paterson in the Super East League Semifinals. The Blue Devils fell 4-1 to the Pioneers, who won all three games between the two teams this season.

Senior goaltender Craig Height made 28 saves and Mike DiClemente scored Central’s lone goal in a losing effort. Joe Dabkowski and Rob DiClemente each earned a helper on the only CCSU tally. The Pioneers utilized a two-goal third period to put the game away.

CCSU reached the Semifinals by defeating the Montclair State Hawks by a score of 6-2 at the neutral site Albany Country Hockey Facility. Central’s offense was powered by Joe Dabkowski’s four-goal effort. Craig Prema and Mike DiClemente each chipped in a pair of assists as the Blue Devils scored two goals in each period en route to the win. Other scorers for CCSU included Jeff Pease and Matt Williams. Carmine Vetrano got the start in net and made 34 saves to earn the victory.

The Blue Devils once again made their presence known in the Super East awards. Senior forward Mike DiClemente was the Super East Player of the Year, recognizing a regular season that saw him average more than two points per game while putting up 20 goals and 59 points. Excelling off the ice, Joe Dabkowski, Craig Prema, Brett Holmes and Michael Joy all were named to the All-Academic team. Finally, freshman forward Jeff Pease was selected to the Super East All-Rookie team.

The Blue Devils will be heavily represented in the first ever ACHA Division II All-Star Challenge. The event pits all-star teams from leagues around the country against one another in the first week of April. Players from the Blue Devils on the team include the top line of Joe Dabkowski and the DiClemente brothers, defensemen Kevin Butler and Ryan Beaulieu, as well as goalie Carmine Vetrano.

The Pioneers were blown out 8-1 in the SECHL Finals by Siena. The same score that the Saints put up on CCSU a year ago in the League Championship. Siena won the Super East for the second consecutive year. They swept the season series with the Blue Devils this season, outscoring Central 17-1.

Dorau The [Sports] Explorer: Women’s Turnaround Impressive, Not Over Yet

By Kyle Dorau / Sports Editor

Technically the season is not over for the Central Connecticut State University women’s basketball team. That is the only technicality when it comes to the remarkable turnaround they achieved this season. Last year, they had a record of 4-25 overall, with three of those wins coming in the Northeast Conference.

This season, they finished 18-13, earning the second seed in the NEC Tournament. They now wait to see if Sacred Heart defeats St. Francis (PA) in the conference finals. If the Pioneers are victorious and advance to the NCAA Tournament, Central Connecticut will represent the NEC in the Postseason WNIT.

The drastic improvement, which was the largest in the nation this season, starts at the top. 1987 CCSU alum Beryl Piper began her tenure here at Central last year coming out of New Britain High School. Moving up from a lower level is what makes it so pleasurable to cover Piper as a coach.

She understands that the media is here to do a job and can only help a team. She doesn’t look at it like some coaches at the collegiate level, as some sort of hassle.

She is humble, soft spoken, yet confident and straight forward. She has surrounded herself with strong assistant coaches, and their collective attitudes trickle down to the players. The team has certainly matured in the past year, and is still fairly young. The team is losing just one senior, Jhanay Harris, who started eight games this season. With such a young team going through the growing pains of recent years, they have experienced life as a bottom-feeder and are now ready to ascend to the top of the NEC. Just like their Men’s Basketball counterparts here at CCSU, this team will be very good next year and even better the following season.

Shontice Simmons is a dynamic run-and-gun point guard who, with a little maturation, has the potential to be first team all-conference. Leanne Crockett is a talented rebounder who can lead the NEC in boards. The rest of the team fits the roles that are needed to perfection.

My recent columns have highlighted the negative, and it is such a relief to focus on such a positive story. Rarely do I ever invoke the name of the 1980 Olympic Hockey miracle on ice in comparison to other teams, but this season was exactly that; Miraculous.

We have been blessed here at Central to have several feel-good stories in recent years. From Javier Mojica’s career and his NEC Tournament Most Valuable Player award, to the Men’s Soccer team and their shocking run to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen two years ago, there has been no shortage of things to be proud of athletically here at CCSU.

We may be in the shadow of a national powerhouse in basketball, but that takes nothing away from Blue Devils athletics. Some may just accept it and root for the Huskies, and that’s fine. They do an exceptional job marketing their teams. Others may lament that fact, suffering from and inferiority complex and referring to UConn as the “evil empire”.

I choose to just enjoy the ride. The CCSU Women’s Basketball team was difficult to watch last year to say the least. After losing 100-41 to USF in their opening game, we figured it was going to be another long season. But less than a week later, they got a victory. The wins began to mount quickly and impressively, as the Blue Devils won six straight conference games, making believers out of all of us. I’ve never been happier to be proven wrong. It was an exciting transformation to watch in person.

For once in my CCSU career, I’ll be rooting for the Pioneers, because for all their efforts this season, the Blue Devil women deserve a shot to represent this school on a national stage, as well as get more post-season experience. It will prepare them well for the inevitable success that is on the way.

Blue Devils Overwhelmed by Pioneers in 101-67 Loss

In the hours leading up to the Central Connecticut men’s basketball game against Sacred Heart on Thursday, word began to circulate that Ken Horton would not be in the lineup due to a concussion.

Things only got worse from there. Sacred Heart made fifteen three pointers as they decimated CCSU on their home floor, 101-67.

It was the worst home loss in years for a Central team that is floundering down the stretch.

“Tonight, it was just an overall poor performance on our part,” said Central head coach Howie Dickenman. “We need to find some intensity. If we keep this up, we’re playing ourselves out of the playoffs for the first time in 11 years.”

Pioneers’ guard Corey Hassan torched the Blue Devils for a gamehigh 21 points on eight of thirteen shooting. Five other players scored in double digits for Sacred Heart, who improved to 10-6 in the Northeast Conference. The Blue Devils fell behind early and were never able to recover.

Each of the first five CCSU offensive possessions resulted in a turnover. Sacred Heart capitalized on those turnovers, jumping out to a 9-0 lead in the first 3:10 of play.

“They had nine points before we even took a shot,” said Dickenman. “We were never able to recover. We were never even close to recovering, to be honest with you.”

Central’s struggles with turnovers were compounded by the accurate shooting of the Pioneers. Sacred Heart shot over 62 percent from the field in the game, was 60 percent from beyond the arc, and senior forward Joey Henley made all six of the team’s free throws.

Amidst all the negatives, Central did get some much-needed life from freshman guard Kyle Desmarais. The Montreal, Quebec native came into Thursday night averaging just over five minutes of playing time per game. He made an impact immediately, scoring seven points to lead all CCSU scorers in the first half. By the end of the evening, he had played 29 minutes, scored a career-high 11 points, all while tacking on four rebounds, three assists and three steals.

“Kyle gave us a spark coming off the bench,” Dickenman said. “He just kind of reacted and was very energetic.”

Shemik Thompson, who had a team-high 13 points on the night, also was complimentary of Desmarais’ play.

“I know he got me going,” said Thompson. “He definitely stepped up. He plays hard.”

Thompson was once again the most consistent Blue Devil on the floor, grabbing a pair of rebounds and dishing out two assists in a losing effort. His effort did not match his stat line, in large part due to his teammates’ struggles to finish.

Central shot just 33 percent from the field in the first 20 minutes, almost half of what Sacred Heart was shooting. Once again, just like the previous week’s upset at the hands of FDU, missed lay-ups proved costly for the Blue Devils.

“Even though we started bad,” said Thompson, “if we made those lay-ups that we missed, then we would have been right in the game.”

Central never led at any point in the game, while Sacred Heart found themselves up by 19 after just the first half. The Blue Devils trailed by 15 in the first half, found a way to whittle the deficit down to 4, but coul

d muster no further comeback.

It was a far cry from the game at the William H. Pitt Center in January in which Central lost 77-69. The Blue Devils were able to bounce back from such a crushing defeat on Saturday, as they took down St. Francis (NY), 78-73. An undermanned CCSU team missing Ken Horton, Tamir Johnson, and Chris Baskerville was able to overcome the short bench to get a key win and clinch a NEC Tournament berth.

“There was a little bit more pressure, with eight players and needing a win, there was a bit more, but not a lot,” Thompson said. “With three people out, we had to step up.”

Freshman Robby Ptacek and senior Marcus Palmer each contributed a team-high 17 points in the victory, while sophomore David Simmons posted a double-double with 16 points and ten rebounds. Simmons played a key role down the stretch as Central tried to preserve the lead. With a two-point lead, Shemik Thompson was fouled with just 11 seconds left. He missed both free throws, but Simmons was able to grab the offensive rebound, and was fouled.

Despite shooting just under 52 percent from the line on the season, he knocked down both free throws to ice the victory for CCSU.

“This was a statement game for ourselves,” said Simmons. “We are normally a great team at home.”

Central hosts Monmouth on Senior Night this Thursday at 7 p.m., before closing out the regular season at in-state rival Quinnipiac on Saturday in a key NEC match up. With the split this past week, CCSU is now 13-14 overall and 8-8 in the conference.

 

-Kyle Dorau, Sports Editor: ccsurecorder.sports@gmail.com