By Nick Rosa
Senior Ken Horton had a career night last Thursday at home with a personal high of 39-points to go along with 13 rebounds, five assists and six steals as the Blue Devils went on to overpower Mount Saint Mary’s 78-63.
CCSU is now 13-15 overall and 10-8 in the conference after their victory over Wagner on Senior Day Saturday at home. They rank seventh going into the tournament next Thursday against Wagner.
Horton’s 39 points marks the fourth-best single game performance in school history along with surpassing 1,900 career points in the win. He was 15-20 from the field, 4-8 from beyond the arc, and 5-7 from the free-throw line.
When asked if he knew he was on a record pace Horton simply said, “Records are cool, but I’d rather have a championship.” His teammate, freshman Kyle Vinales set a freshman school record for most three-pointers in a single season with 69.
The only time in the game that CCSU trailed was when the Mount’s Julian Norfleet started the game with a three pointer. Vinales answered back with a three of his own, which began the Blue Devils 9-0 run. CCSU didn’t look back as they finished the high-scoring first half with a 41-33 lead.
Great offense and defense sparked one of CCSU’s best performances of the year. They assisted on 24 of 30 baskets, which was their second-highest assist total this year.
The team also only turned the ball over seven times to 12 team steals, while Mount Saint Mary’s suffered due to their sloppiness and had 14 turnovers to only two steals.
Passing the ball was another key factor that seemed to throw the Mount Saint Mary’s players off guard, giving many open looks for Central’s shooters.
“One of the keys to the game tonight was executing on offense and making the extra pass and not forcing up shots, “ Horton said. “Kyle was making good passes, Kyle, Robby [Ptacek] and Malcolm [McMillan], and they set it for us, and finding people.”
Head Coach Howie Dickenman was pleased with their performance. “Tonight you saw Central Connecticut at their best,” Dickenman said. “We were very unselfish, we set good screens and I really don’t think there was one questionable shot by any of our players. We were able to drive the ball up the court and thought our defense was pretty good,” he said.
CCSU shot 53.6 percent from the field (30-56) and 50 percent from the three-point line (8-16), while Mount Saint Mary’s shot 47.7 percent from the field (21-44) and 31.6 percent from the three-point line (6-19).
Coming into the second half, the Mount cut it to five points after shaking off an 8-2 run to make it 53-48 with 13:11 left on the game clock. This didn’t faze the Blue Devils as Horton took a deep three, missed, and hustled back in to grab the offensive rebound and put it in for two, which started another 9-0 run. He was also fouled on the play but was unsuccessful for the three point play. Horton scored seven of those nine points.
This put the Mountaineers in a hole too deep to climb out of as the Blue Devils had yet another big 8-0 run to close out the visiting team. Ptacek scored six of those eight points. This was CCSU’s ninth home win of the season.
Horton led the team followed by Vinales with 13 points, 11 assists, and two steals for his first career double-double while Ptacek finished with 17 points, three rebounds, and three steals.
The Mountaineers were led by Norfleet with 20 pints and by junior Raven Barber with 14 points and nine rebounds.
“Kenny was the man tonight,” said Dickenman. He also mentioned what Head Coach Matt Henry from Mount Saint Mary’s said when they were shaking hands, “If Kenny Horton plays that way you’ll win the NEC tournament,” and Dickenman didn’t disagree with him.
With impressive double-digit victories their past two games, the Blue Devil’s will enter tournament as the seventh seed with momentum on their side as the NEC’s begin Thursday.