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CCSU Men’s Basketball Falls To La Salle 85-59

The Blue Devils’ Men’s Basketball team lost its fourth straight match-up on Thursday night, falling to La Salle 85-59 for their first home loss of the season.

“That was a good team out there,” Head Coach Howie Dickenman said. “We had the opportunity to face a good Atlantic-10 team, and I think they’re the best in the A-10.”

CCSU (5-6, 2-0 NEC) knew it had a tough opponent in the Explorers (8-4, 0-0 Atlantic-10), but as everyone noted in the pregame warmups, they would have to face them without their best player, Kenny Horton, who had injured his ankle in practice just a few hours prior to the game. La Salle lost by just seven points to Villanova, and by just four points to Pittsburgh, who are both big programs.

The Blue Devils have seemingly been bitten by the injury bug lately, as they are also without De’Angelo Speech, Shelton Mickell, and Justin Alexander.

“[La Salle] Coach Giannini came up to me after the game and said ‘I’m sorry your best player didn’t play,'” Dickenman said. “But, our focus is to get these guys ready for league play.”

The Blue Devils fell behind early, with the Explorers going on a quick 7-0 run in the first minute and 42 seconds of the game. CCSU would fall behind by double digits with 14:18left in the half, as the Blue Devils had 2 turnovers and 7 missed shots.

As the half continued, so did CCSU’s struggles. It took them nine minutes to break into double digits, but they were already down 26-11 at that point. The abysmal first half would end with La Salle leading by 30 points and not a single CCSU player was in double figures.

“At the half, I didn’t make up any crazy stories about doing this or that and go out there and win the game,” Dickenman said. “I told them that I wanted them to go out there and beat them in the second half, to start over with it being zero to zero.”

The Blue Devils did just that, beating the Explorers 37-33 in the second half. They were led by Kyle Vinales, who had 11 points in the second half, and Robby Ptacek, who added 10 points. Both players would finish with 16 and 14, respectively. Adonis Burbage also added 14 points, while David Simmons contributed 9 points off the bench.

The 26 point margin of victory was the worst that CCSU has seen at home since January 14th, 2010, when the Blue Devils fell by 31 points to Quinnipiac.

The Blue Devils won’t play a game until December 30th at UMass, who they beat 92-63 last year at home. The game against the Minutemen will be their final out of conference match up, as league play will start up again on January 5th versus St. Francis (PA.)

As for Kenny Horton, Coach Dickenman said he would be “shocked” if he wasn’t back for the UMass game.

Men’s Basketball Can’t Handle First Place LIU

By Christopher McLaughlin

Though the CCSU men’s basketball team had one of its better offensive performances of the season, it could not withstand a second-half onslaught by Long Island University.

The Blue Devils (18-11) held on to a two-point lead at the half and even matched its first half totals in the second, but was ultimately defeated 86-72 to finish the regular season.

There was no stopping LIU (24-5). After shooting 36 percent in the first, LIU nearly doubled it shooting percentage, shooting 64 percent in the second half. Despite having four players in double figures, the Blue Devils just couldn’t match LIU’s efficiency.

“They attacked in the second,” said Head Coach Howie Dickenman “Some was a result of us missing shots, but it got to the point where you knew it was going in regardless of who took the shots. When they shot the ball, I started raising my hands to signal it was good before it even went it.”

Neither team scored a point until the 17:30 mark, when LIU got on the board with a lay-up. Ken Horton tied it on a three-pointer the next possession for the Blue Devils, with the teams going back and forth for a few minutes. An LIU three-pointer opened a 10-2 run, but the Blue Devils got a big spark from Chris Baskerville, who scored six straight to cut into the lead.

“Chris is a real lift guy for us,” said Dickenman. “He’s still trying to learn the nuisances of the game, but he gave us a nice lift today.”

With the lead erased, the teams began trading baskets again, this time for the rest of the half. The Blue Devils got another big boost from Horton, whose 14 first-half points helped counter LIU’s balanced scoring.

Horton finished the game with his twelfth double-double of the season with 23 points and 10 rebounds. He finishes the regular season first in the NEC in points averaging 20 per game and second in rebounding with nine per game, only .1 behind the leader. He is also first in blocks and in the top ten of every other category except assists and three-point percentage, a feat no one else in the NEC is close to.

“Kenny was Kenny today,” said Dickenman

LIU finished the season in first place with a commanding lead on the rest of the pack. It has won 10 straight games and appears to be the favorite to win the NEC Tournament. While the team didn’t live up to its standards in the first half, LIU more than made up for it in the second.

A 9-0 run for LIU started the half and the Blackbirds didn’t look back. With the improved play from Shemik Thompson and Robby Ptacek, the Blue Devils kept it close as long as possible. Both players had been struggling recently, but seemed to break out of their slumps in the second half.

Despite the recent shooting woes, Ptacek finishes the season seventh overall in scoring averaging 14.9 per game and Thompson rounds out the top 20 at 12.3. Ptacek also finished first in free throw percentage while Thompson was third in assists and second in steals.

“Shemik showed he is a quality player today,” said Dickenman. “He hadn’t been shooting well, but finished 6-11 today. He played with a spark and I’m pleased to see it. Robby’s game was better, he’s been in a funk and he came out of it. He should be proud, we need him.”

The Blue Devil’s seemed determined to match the offensive output from LIU, but the points began to add up. LIU had a clear size advantage and made full use of it, constantly feeding the ball down in the paint.

CCSU did its best to stop them, but its best often resulted in whistles, as LIU drew fouls. LIU was sent to the line 15 times in the second half. Fifteen free throws isn’t a lot, but considering CCSU was only sent once, it sure seemed like it. Despite everything, the game was still manageable for CCSU, until David Hicks hit three straight three-pointers, all in the exact same spot.

“One player who will remain nameless didn’t get out to Hicks and he made us pay,” said Dickenman.

The third was the dagger and though CCSU never gave up, the game was essentially over. The loss is the third straight for CCSU and its fourth in the last five games. Though the team is limping into the NEC Tournament, Dickenman did take away some positive signs.

“I saw the intensity which has been lacking of late,” said Dickenman. “I saw positive sparks of intensity, focus and ball pressure and I want to build on that. We do have a home game and I know the crowd will be there to support us.”

Now in fourth place, CCSU will take on fifth place St. Francis (N.Y.) Thursday night to kick off the tournament.

Loss to Quinnipiac Drops CCSU to Third in NEC

By Chris McLaughlin

Ken Horton scored 35 of the Blue Devils 67 points. Photo: Adam Tulloch.

Leaving it all on the floor, the CCSU men’s basketball team lost a heartbreaker 68-67 to Quinnipiac in what could have been a preview of the NEC tournament.

Despite yet another MVP performance from Ken Horton, the Blue Devils (18-9) couldn’t overcome the rest of the team’s ineffectiveness on offense. It was Quinnipiac (19-8) 67, Horton 35 with the rest of Blue Devils chipping in 32 points in CCSU’s final home game of the season.

Horton’s 35 points were a career high. He not only scored more than half the points that both teams put up, but he also more than doubled the next highest scorer in the game and almost quadrupled of CCSU’s next highest scorer. Add in nine rebounds, four blocks and two steals to his already inflated stat line, and its clear no player in the NEC is as valuable to their team as Horton. Even though the rest of the team struggled, the Blue Devils still had a chance to win.

“There wasn’t any flow to the game,” said Head Coach Howie Dickenman. “We had a tournament type atmosphere, but we didn’t make plays when we had to. Ken didn’t have a supporting cast, and with how poorly we shot it would have been thievery in the first degree if we won.”

Since it was the last home game of the year, it was also Senior Day for the Blue Devils. Honored before the game, Shemik Thompson and team manager Matt Stevens, took part in the final home game of their careers. With a packed house full of energy, the Blue Devils final home game of the season got underway. Riding the energy, Horton scored the first six points for CCSU, including a fast break dunk that brought the crowd to its feet.

“If I play with a lot of energy, the guys kind of feed off me and we’ll pick it up another level. Today that didn’t happen but we will correct our mistakes,” said Horton.

After getting elbowed in the face, Thompson went to the foul line for his technical free throws. In what summed up the game best, Thompson missed both of the free throws. The chippy play didn’t stop there.

After making a lay-up and drawing a hard foul, Horton got in the face of Tevin Baskin and was promptly given a technical. Later in the half, Quinnipiac’s Dave Johnson was also given a technical for arguing with a referee. Once again, Thompson missed both of the free throws that came with it.

“We feel that the foul line is out best friend,” said Dickenman. “Free throw, F-R-E-E throw, so we tried to take advantage and for the most part we did. When you go to the foul line for four technicals that’s great, but we couldn’t convert.”

With Horton’s 16 first-half points, the Blue Devils went into halftime with a slight lead. The lead didn’t last long into the second however, and Quinnipiac began to pull away.

Going on an 11-4 run, the Bobcats brought its lead up to 10 at the 12:20 mark. A timeout was called and put a halt to Quinnipiac’s rising momentum.

Sparked once again by Horton, CCSU quickly tied the game up with only Horton being able to generate any offense. Even with the momentum back on CCSU’s side, the team could not pull away. The defense was there for the Blue Devils, but the offense wasn’t. As a team, CCSU made only 17 field goals, 10 of which Horton’s.

“I’m not sure if I can ask for more from Ken, he scored more than 50 percent of our points, rebounded, blocked shots, made 13 of 14 free throws, but he didn’t get a lot of help.” said Dickenman.

With the clock winding down, CCSU trailed by one and had a chance to walk away with the win. Dickenman drew up a play for Horton, but good defense from Quinnipiac forced him to heave up a prayer well beyond the arc. The shot missed and Thompson grabbed the rebound and despite being knocked to the ground no foul was called and the game ended.

“I was hot during the game so I wanted the ball,” said Horton. “I got a clear shot but it didn’t go in.”

Though the Blue Devils are locked in the tournament, this loss bumps them from second place. CCSU is tied in the conference with Quinnipiac, but lost the season series with them.

“We had a chance to lock up second place tonight, but now were in a dog fight,” said Dickenman. “We have to get back to doing what we do best and that’s making shots.”

The Blue Devils will look to rebound from its second home loss of the season and regain some momentum before the tournament. The team travels to New York on Thursday to take on St. Francis before finishing out the regular season at Long Island University.

CCSU Men Hold Off Sacred Heart

Devan Bailey led CCSU with 5 assists on Thursday night. Photo: Adam Tulloch

By Chris McLaughlin

It was a nail biter in a boring sort of way as the CCSU men’s basketball team hung on for a 57-56 victory over Sacred Heart Thursday.

With both teams struggling offensively, the game was close throughout. While defense was a factor, both teams missed shots that normally would fall.

Neither team lead by double digits, but the Blue Devils (18-8) stayed on top for the majority of the game. Down one in the final seconds, Sacred Heart (9-17) had time for one last chance to pull off the upset, but was unable to do so, missing the final shot.

“Well it wasn’t picturesque,” said Head Coach Howie Dickenman. “We lacked the poise we are accustomed to having, it was very un-Blue Devil like. The way we played it’s a wonder we’ve won 18 games, but we escaped, and we won, that’s what the final score said anyway.”

Both teams got off to a slow start with neither team scoring in the first two minutes of play. Things picked up once the teams settled into the game, but points were still hard to come by in the first half. The Blue Devils shot just 26 percent in the first half and Sacred Heart was only slightly better. Even foul shots weren’t going in, as neither team shot for a respectable percent from the charity stripe.

“We didn’t play our best and we know it, but we did win the game so it’s on to the next one.” said Ken Horton.

Each time a team got a run going it was matched. While CCSU slowly built up a nine-point lead, Sacred Heart erased it before the Blue Devils could score again. With the game tied, Vince Rosario hit a three pointer to give CCSU the lead. Since Sacred Heart only brought the lead to one, the three pointer would be the difference in the half and ultimately the game.

“We made a lot of silly mistakes,” said Dickenman. “We missed shots we shouldn’t have but we have to give Sacred Heart credit. They were almost eliminated from the tournament but still played as hard as they always play.”

When the second half started, so did the offense. Both teams came out with a chip on their shoulder and shots that clanged off the rim before swished through the net. After being limited in the first half offensively, Ken Horton came out strong in the second and took over the game for a struggling CCSU. Horton was feeling it and knocked down four three-pointers in the second half to keep Sacred Heart at bay. He finished with a game high 18 points, including 14 in the second half.

“When I missed those free throws in the first I kind of took myself out of the game, so coming out in the second half I wanted to make sure I was aggressive and made my shots, and luckily I was able to,” said Horton.

Like the first half, however, Sacred Heart was there to match whatever the Blue Devils had done. Once again, CCSU jumped out to a nine point lead but it quickly vanished. Though Sacred Heart responded to CCSU’s runs, it couldn’t make up the difference the Blue Devils’ three-pointers gave them. CCSU connected on nine three-pointers while Sacred Heart only four. In a game where CCSU shot from a lower percent, the nine threes were crucial.

“Vince made three three-pointers, Ken made five, and we needed every one of them,” said Dickenman.

With 25 seconds left, Sacred Heart began its last drive of the game, down only one. Instead of looking for a quick shot, Sacred Heart dribbled the clock down in an attempt to hit the game-winning buzzer beater. This allowed CCSU to settle on defense and put the pressure to Sacred Heart. With no time left Nick Greenbacker forced a contested three and bricked it.

“We didn’t make good decisions with the opportunities we had, but when it came down to when we had to make a stop I thought we did a good job, and forced them to shoot the ball with the last person they wanted to shoot the ball,” said Dickenman.

Already a lock for the NEC tournament, the Blue Devils will continue to battle for home court advantage as the season winds down. With only three games left, the Blue Devils play its final home game against Quinnipiac before closing out the regular season in New York.

Bryant Takes Rematch in Overtime Against Blue Devils

By Chris McLaughlin

Despite the late game heroics of Shemik Thompson, the CCSU men’s basketball team saw its seven game win streak snapped, falling to Bryant 85-80 in overtime on the road Saturday.

While the Blue Devils (17-8) were able to defeat Bryant (9-17) last Wednesday at CCU, the rematch didn’t treat them as well.

Bryant controlled much of the game, but after Head Coach Howie Dickenman received a technical foul, the Blue Devils battled back. With a chance to tie in the final seconds, Thompson knocked down a three-pointer and sent the game to overtime. Though CCSU jumped out to a quick lead in OT, Bryant was able to respond and come out on top of this closely contested rematch.

“You saw two different teams than the two that played last time,” said Dickenman. “Last game we took it to them, but this game they took it to us.”

During the last game, Bryant was very successful shooting the three early, but the Blue Devils were able to shut them down. On Saturday, CCSU did not. Bryant was able to connect on seven threes in the first half, missing only five. After being shut out in the previous game, Bryant guard Frankie Dobbs led the Bulldogs with 10 points, including two of the three pointers.

“We were late getting out on shooters and late on our rotations,” said Dickenman. “Last game we were able to shut them down, but we couldn’t in this game. We looked lethargic on defense and we were missing that energy and emotion.”

The Blue Devils struggled on defense in the first half and if Ken Horton didn’t have another MVP type performance, they could have been blown out. Horton finished the half with 15 points, almost half of the team’s total.

Like the last game, Horton was able to score at will down in the thin Bryant front-court. Going 7 of 8 for the half, he kept CCSU afloat, as Bryant shot lights out. Horton finished the game with his tenth double-double of the season, collecting 27 points and a career-high 16 rebounds.

“If you take away the performance from Horton, the rest of the starters were 11-44 for the game. We really can’t ask for much more from him,” said Dickenman.

Though the game was manageable going in to halftime, Bryant began to pull away at the start of the second half. The Bulldogs brought its lead up to 10 and frustration began to set in on the Blue Devils.

When a charge was called a blocking foul against the Blue Devils, Dickenman erupted, and was assessed with a technical. As the crowd was going nuts, the Blue Devil players met in the center of the court to regain composure.

Before Bryant had all day to shoot its threes, now the Blue Devils were there with pressure. Prior to the technical Robbie Ptacek settled for jumpers, now he drove the lane for contested dunks. Before Thompson’s contested threes rimmed out, now they fell right in. It wasn’t long before CCSU brought the lead to one possession.

“I obviously didn’t get T’d up on purpose, but I think the effect was positive,” said Dickenman.

Down three with 18 seconds left, the Blue Devils faced a difficult situation: Foul or play defense. Dickenman went with the latter and the full-court press forced a bad pass causing a turnover. Now with seven seconds left, the Blue Devils went with a play similar to the one used against Fairleigh Dickinson to send that game to overtime. Chris Baskerville threw the ball down court, where it was picked up by Thompson who ran beyond the arc and sank the shot.

CCSU rode that momentum and jumped out to a four-point lead, but then went ice cold. In the final two minutes, the Blue Devils didn’t score once and Bryant capitalized. Led by Dobbs and Cecil Gresham, Bryant closed out the game with a 9-0 run.

“It was a disappointing game, but they deserved to win,” said Dickenman “They made a lot of threes, and it was the type that, when they shot them, you knew it was going in.”

Following this tough loss, the Blue Devils will look to regain momentum in the next two games by coming back to Detrick Gymnasium, where they are 10-1.

Horton’s Performance Helps Blue Devils to NEC Win

By Christopher McLaughlin

Backed by an MVP-caliber performance from Ken Horton, the CCSU men’s basketball team routed conference opponent Bryant 71-55 Wednesday.

Posting his NEC leading ninth double-double of the season, Horton led the Blue Devils (17-7) to its seventh straight victory. Horton led everybody with 23 points and 11 rebounds. While that would be enough to garner support for the NEC MVP award, Horton didn’t stop there. His six blocks and six steals may have put Horton as the leading candidate for the award, showing his ability to dominate a game on both sides of the court.

“Lots of guys on the floor helped me get open and I was able to knock down the shots,” said Horton. “I’ll do whatever it takes, whatever they need me to do I’ll do.”

The atmosphere was electric as the game tipped off in front of a packed Detrick Gymnasium. Fans brought energy for this televised game and the Blue Devils responded by jumping out to an early lead.

“Very good crowd tonight,” said Head Coach Howie Dickenman. “It’s very nice to have a crowd like that. Like my father always said, ‘It pays to be a winner.’”

After a timeout, however, CCSU started to get overwhelmed by Bryant’s barrage of three pointers. Bryant (8-17) caught fire from beyond the arc knocking down five three-pointers to put the Bulldogs up 24-14.

“We had to bring the pressure,” said Horton. “Coach said we didn’t bring pressure for the first nine minutes, but we made an adjustment and cut down on their threes.”

The adjustment worked, as Bryant wouldn’t make another three-pointer for the half. Without the threes falling at the other end, CCSU was able to close the gap and eventually take the lead while going on a 14-0 run.

The Blue Devils continued to feed the ball down low as Bryant lacked a post presence to stop them. CCSU outscored Bryant 20-8 in the paint for the first half and with the lead in hand the Blue Devils never looked back.

“I talk often about our goal of 40 minutes of misery,” said Dickenman. “For the first nine minutes, for whatever reason, we didn’t pressure, so I have to settle for 31 minutes of misery.”

The first half ended close at 31-29 and the Blue Devils came out in the second to prove it shouldn’t remain that way.

Horton’s performance set the tone for the rest of the team. It wasn’t long until the game was out of reach for Bryant. The Blue Devils led by as many as 24, showing no mercy on defense, with nine steals and five blocks in the second half.

“We showed a spark in the second half, but I wish it was for 40 minutes,” said Dickenman. “Ken just gets better and better, we’re really spoiled by him. Our core three has really flourished and its been a really fun year. Even without the winning its fun to be around the guys.”

While he had the stats backing him up before the game, Horton’s performance may have solidified him as the MVP. Leading the NEC in points and barely trailing in rebounds, it will be difficult to find reasons to give the award to somebody else.

“I won’t say Horton’s the MVP, but…I wasn’t nodding that was just a crick in my neck,” said Dickenman.

The Blue Devils remain one game out of first place in the NEC behind Long Island University. Both teams seem to have forgotten how to lose as they have both won at least five straight. While not yet in first, the Blue Devils have at least clinched a spot in the NEC tournament.

Knowing the importance of home court advantage, the Blue Devils will continue to battle for first place. CCSU will go to Rhode Island to rematch Bryant on Saturday and will return home next week to face Sacred Heart and Quinnipiac.