By Derek Turner
The Wagner Seahawks came out of halftime scoring six straight points to give the visitors a four point lead, but Kyle Vinales hit back-to-back threes firing up the Detrick Gymnasium crowd and the Blue Devils would not look back.
“I hit the second one and the crowd got into it a lot; it gave us energy,” said sophomore Kyle Vinales.
The game went back and forth for most of the first half as there were eight lead changes and until 5:25 left in the half, neither team had led by more than four points. Matt Hunter led the Blue Devils in the first half with 11 points and seven rebounds as the Odessa Junior College transfer continues to fill up the stat sheet night in and night out. Hunter got the scoring started with a layup and then a three getting CCSU out to a 5-2 start.
Malcolm McMillan and Adonis Burbage would get in on the action early with a jump shot and a three respectively to give Central a 10-6 lead. Wagner would then come back to take an 11-10 lead on a layup by their leading scorer Kenneth Ortiz. The rest of the half was a game of runs. The Blue Devils went on a 7-2 run over the next five minutes to take a 17-13 lead, but Wagner answered right back with four straight points to tie the game at 17. CCSU would gain their largest lead of the first half with 3:37 remaining after an 11-2 run capped by an NBA range three pointer from Vinales as the shot clock expired. Josh Thompson of Wagner would answer with a three ball of his own, but Burbage fired right back. Eric Fanning hit one for the Seahawks which would begin a 5-0 run to end the first half. The Blue Devils entered the locker room up 33-31.
The Seahawks came out of the break firing as Ortiz, Johnathon Williams and Latif Rivers would drop in two points to give Wagner their largest lead of the game 37-33 early in the second half. Vinales then hit the two biggest shots of the game. Back-to-back from beyond the arc cut the Wagner lead to one and then a mid-range jump shot by Joe Efese caused Wagner to take a timeout.
“Those are the situations where we need a player to step up,” said head coach Howie Dickenman on his lone senior Joe Efese.
CCSU was in the midst of an 18-4 run which lasted 6:32. A layup by Hunter at the midpoint of the second half tied the largest lead of the night for Central as they led 53-43. Ortiz and Rivers followed with five straight made free throws, including three at once by Rivers when McMillan fouled the shooter on a three point attempt. Ortiz hit a three 43 seconds later to cut the Seahawk deficit to two. Central Connecticut did not pull away, but they kept a safe distance for the rest of the game, never letting Wagner within four points.
After missing their first four free throws of the game while only taking one in the first half, the Blue Devils hit 14 of 23 in the second half, far from their 77.4 percent on the season, good for 6th in the nation, but it was good enough down the stretch as Central Connecticut defeated Wagner College 73-66 in front of an announced crowd of 2217 in Detrick Gymnasium Thursday night.
“We were a little tense at the end, because we weren’t making our free throws, but we did and we stopped them and we got rebounds and forced some turnovers down the stretch,” said Dickenman.
Kyle Vinales led all scorers with 30 points while adding six rebounds and five assists; he was 8-17 shooting and 4-8 from long range while dropping in 10-14 free throws. This is the 3rd time this season and fifth in his career Vinales has gone for at least 30 points and the six rebounds is a career high. Hunter followed with 13 points and eight rebounds while Burbage and Efese each dropped in 10 for CCSU.
Brandon Peel continues to pull down the rebounds adding eight in the game and is averaging 10.8 per game in Northeast Conference play.
“Inside we strive ourselves on being tough, not really letting anyone in there, grabbing rebounds, and mostly backing these guys up if anyone gets behind them,” said forward Matt Hunter.
Kenneth Ortiz led the way for Wagner with 18 points and six assists with Eric Fanning and Latif Rivers contributing 13 and 12 respectively. The only rebounder in double-digits on the night was Orlando Parker with 11; a high school teammate of CCSU’s Adonis Burbage at Orlando Christian Prep.
“That was a real good win for us, because it dropped them to where we’re at and their a real good team,” said Vinales. “Coach D said it was probably one of the biggest games we’ll play all year, we certainly took on the challenge.”