Tag Archives: men’s basketball

Blue Devils Defeats Wagner

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.”

CCSU Loses In Overtime During NEC-Drenched Schedule

By Nick Rosa

Central Connecticut men’s basketball team had a tough loss last Thursday night at home falling to in-conference rivals the Monmouth Hawks 58-56 in overtime.

Senior Ken Horton posted his ninth double-double of the season in a 16 point 11 rebound effort.  This marks CCSU’s first loss at home this season in Northeast Conference play.

The Blue Devils drop to and 9-10 overall record and 6-3 in-conference record while the Hawks improve to 5-17 and 3-6 overall record in the NEC.  CCSU went on to improve in both overall and conference records after Saturday’s win against Fairleigh Dickinson at home.

This was a defensive game from the start, with the Hawks defense just a bit better this night than the Blue Devils.  CCSU out-rebounded the Hawks 33-26, led by Horton’s 11 and nine on the defensive front,  but they turned the ball over 18 times, leading to 17 Monmouth points.

“We needed to make some good defensive stands, we didn’t.  That’s what it comes down to,” said Head coach Howie Dickenman.  “We have the best defensive team guarding the three.  We hold teams to 29 percent and they came in here and drilled us 11-24.”

Jesse Steele led the Hawks with a team-high 12 points and 4-10, 40 percent, from beyond the arc.  Dickenman said Steele was shooting about 26 percent from beyond the arc this year, so he would have one of those nights. Last year he shot 44 percent.

At the half the Hawks led the Blue Devils 22-20.  CCSU went to the locker room only down two but had some sloppy play in the first half.  Monmouth also had some trouble shooting but was able to stop CCSU during the first 20 minutes.

The Hawks in the first half shot 40 percent from the field and 57.1 percent from beyond the arc, while Central shot 31.8 % from the field and 28.6 % from the 3-point line.

The Blue Devils had some solid bench help going 3-5 from the field in their few minutes of play.  The bench didn’t get as many minutes as they did last home game against Bryant, but were still able to produce.  The Hawks bench played a much bigger role in their production outscoring CCSU 22-14.

The Blue Devils were able to take advantage of their fouls, going 90 percent from the line, while Monmouth was only 69.2 percent.

The second half was much stronger for CCSU, shooting 46.2 percent from the field while Monmouth only shot 36.4 percent.  The big thing, once again, was the three-point shooting where Monmouth 43.8 percent to CCSU’s 20 percent.

CCSU outscored Monmouth 28-26 in the second half.

Tensions were high with 0.5 seconds left on the clock with the Hawks inbounding with a tie game, but a full-court throw ended in a CCSU interception which sent the game into overtime all tied up at 48 apiece.

Heading into overtime, Monmouth led by four after a quick 6-0 run, taking a 54-50 lead.  Central fought back to tie the game at 56 with 46 seconds to play on a pair of free-throws by Horton.

The Hawks answered back with a pair of free-throws by Mike Myers Keitt with 14 seconds to play, taking the 58-56 lead, which ultimately finished the Blue-Devils.

Freshman Kyle Vinales missed a lay-up and the Hawks rebounded.  This forced CCSU to foul with 1.3 seconds remaining against Monmouth’s Austin Tillotson, who missed his free throw.

After a time-out CCSU threw the ball down court in hope of a last second shot, but was caught by Monmouth which sealed their victory.

Vinales added 15 points, three rebounds and four assists, while senior Robby Ptacek had 11 points, four rebounds and four assists in the loss. Ptacek went 5-5 from the free throw line, just adding to one of the nation’s best percentages of 93.7 percent in 95 attempts.

“We gotta put this behind us.  The past is the past,” said Dickenman.  “Everyone contributed to the loss, this is about a team loss, no individual lost this game,” he added.

The Blue Devils have a tough and challenging schedule ahead with eight conference games in a row.  CCSU will be back in action Thursday February 2 on the road against Saint Francis (N.Y.) at 7 p.m.

Blue Devils Beat FDU Before NEC Road Trip

By Nicholas Proch

The CCSU men’s basketball team rebounded from a tough overtime loss to Monmouth last week, beating Farleigh Dickinson 69-62 on Saturday.

In the latter half of a men’s and women’s doubleheader against the Knights (2-19, 1-9 NEC), the Blue Devils (10-10, 7-3 NEC) were able to outlast their opponent and hit shots late in the second period to clinch a conference victory.

Taking advantage of opportunities at the line and being aggressive on the defensive side of the ball helped CCSU break their short two-game losing streak.

The team’s effort can be summed up by a play that happened just over five-minutes into the second half. On a FDU possession, CCSU was able to stop the Knights from shooting the ball on several attempts. The ball was tipped out and then driven back in to the hoop where a final shot from FDU big man, George Goode, was contested by David Simmons resulting in a turnover. Goode played for Louisville last season, starting two games there.

“We never want to lose at home and coming off a home loss we knew we had to pick it up,” said senior guard Robby Ptacek. “… we were able to hold it together with poise.”

While they had no problems defensively early, the Blue Devils struggled to get their offensive game started in the first half, which allowed the Knights to go into the break with a 27-26 lead. Coming back out after halftime, the team took the lead and never looked back.

“We applied more ball pressure today,” said CCSU Head Coach Howie Dickenman. “[FDU] missed shots and I’ve got to give credit to the defense. They went out and challenged shots.”

The team hit 42-percent of their shots, which is about even with their season average, but were able to stay ahead by converting on 25-of-28 free throws.

“We just kept making free throws, which is probably discouraging for the other team,” said Dickenman. “All the time we spend shooting free throws, and I mean a lot of time, we got some pay back today.”

Kyle Vinales and Ptacek hit 16 of their combined 18 from the line, almost all of which came in the second half. Ptacek was able to successfully convert a four-point opportunity at the line, as he was fouled while shooting, a technical was then called on FDU’s Kinu Rochford.

“I was just going out there and playing,” said Ptacek. “I felt my foul shots were on and I knew that if I got to the line I was going to hit them.” Ptacek finished with 21 points and five rebounds all while playing the entire 40-minutes.

Vinales played 36 minutes and added 17-points, four rebounds and four assists. He was able to hit all six of his foul shot attempts in the final minute and a half, sealing the game for the Blue Devils.

The team showed discipline with 30-seconds left in the game on a series of inbounds attempts, something that contributed to their loss at Sacred Heart the previous weekend. They took back-to-back timeouts instead of forcing a pass with FDU playing a tight full-court press.

“At Sacred Heart, that cost us a big game, so coach has been harping on that,” said freshman guard Vinales. “Don’t force anything, don’t get rattled. He told us we had three timeouts at our previous timeout and Malcolm [McMillan] used them both instead of throwing it away.”

“I thought they did a good job of giving us problems inbounding the ball,” said Coach Dickenman. “The key word we used in the last five minutes was ‘poise’. Get it in safely, relax, don’t panic, we’re in good shape, but we’ve got to make sure we do the right things. I think they did.”

Senior forward Ken Horton finished the game with 12-points. He now has 1,808 career points, which puts him within two of the top-ten list of NEC scorers.

From here the Blue Devils will go on the road to face St. Francis (NY) on Feb. 2, Long Island University on Feb. 4 and Quinnipiac on Feb. 8.

“It’s going to be a grind,” said Ptacek. “Every conference game on the road is tough and we’re just going to go in there with positive attitudes and give it our all and hopefully come out on top.”

CCSU Basketball Wins Big Over Bryant; Sweep Bulldogs in Conference Play

By Nick Rosa

The Blue Devils men’s basketball team improved to 7-1 at home this season and 6-1 in the Northeast Conference after defeating the Bryant Bulldogs 69-51 at home last Thursday night.

The win completes the season sweep of the Bulldogs and the Blue Devils go to 9-8 overall on the season.

On Thursday night, freshman Kyle Vinales opened the game with a quick seven points by hitting his first 3-point attempt and then four fast break points for layups thanks to a steal and strong rebound by senior Kenny Horton in the first two minutes of the game to go-ahead 7-2.

At half the Blue Devils left to the locker room with a strong double-digit lead ahead of the Bulldogs 31-20.  Efforts from Horton and Vinales gave the home team an advantage over Bryant.

Horton had six points, nine rebounds, two assists and two steals, while Vinales had 10 points and two steals.  CCSU also had some bench help from Joe Efese and David Simmons going for a combined 5-7 from the field.  Effese made use of his time with seven points while grabbing four rebounds in just 10 minutes of play.

Bryant didn’t help themselves out in the first half by shooting a minimal 25.8 percent from the field and turning the ball over eight times, which allowed the Blue Devils to score nine points off those turnovers.  CCSU countered with 41.2 percent from the field to lead the first half of the contest.

CCSU had a game plan, dominating the Bulldogs in the second half.  CCSU’s defense was able to keep the Bulldogs’ shooting at bay by only allowing them to go 11-28 from the field and 2-14 from beyond the arc.  While CCSU was able to move around the Bulldogs defense shooting 13-27 from the field and 5-12 from the 3-point line.

Overall the Bulldogs finished 19-59 a mere 32.2 percent from the field and 5-25 from the 3-point line, while the Blue Devils outshot them by going 27-61 and 7-21.

The highlight of the game was an alley-oop from Vinales to Horton, where Horton went up and grabbed the ball with one hand and slammed it down with intensity as the home crowd cheered the loudest they did all night.

“He catches everything Kenny, he catches everything,” said Head Coach Howie Dickenman. “He’s like a praying mantis, catches the ball and slams it down.”

Horton added, “He [Vinales] kind of threw it a little far, but I was able to get it and throw it down and that gave us a little spark, a little bit more energy, the whole crowd and everything.  It was good for that to go down.”

The Blue Devils lead by double-digits the whole game, going into half-time ahead by 11 and winning the game by 18 points.

Great performances from Horton, Vinales, and freshman Malcolm McMillan helped move the game in the Blue Devils’ favor.  Horton had 18 points, 11 rebounds, two assists, one block and a steal.  This was his 25th career double-double and on Saturday added to that streak with his 26th with 25 points and 14 rebounds.  Horton also lifted a huge load off his shoulders after hitting his first 3-pointer in his last 20 attempts.

When asked how it felt about finally hitting that 3-pointer, he simply replied with a laugh and a smile, “That was like a big weight lifted off my back, it felt so good, so good.”

Vinales also had a game from the field going 4-7 from the three point line and 7-16 overall with 18 points, a rebound and seven assists.

McMillan also did his part on the court by getting 10 assists without committing a turnover.  The freshman may have scored no points but he helped set the tempo of the game and did his part on the court.

“Every game Kenny comes out and tells me to set the tempo, that’s my job, set the tempo for the team, run the team, especially defensively and lock down that point guard,” McMillan said.  “Scoring I leave it up Robby [Ptacek], Kyle, and Kenny, those guys, that’s their thing. They score and I just give them the ball and play defense.  That’s my job and that’s what I try to do every game,” the freshman added.

Dickenman added to McMillan’s performance by saying, “He wants to please his teammates, he wants to please the coaches. He has Central Connecticut basketball mentality.”

Ptacek had a slow game only shooting 2-11 from the field and missing all five of his 3-point shots, but still produced for the team defensively.  He had nine points, seven rebounds and one assist, while going perfect from the free throw line going 5-5, all in the second half.   The senior is now shooting 93 percent from the line this season, which also ranks him as the second-best free-throw shooter in the nation, as of Thursday night.

“Robby’s defense was better than his offense but not really worried about his offense,” said Dickenman.  Ptacek had six of his nine rebounds come from the defensive side while adding a steal.

The bench also provided some protection with the trio of Efese, senior David Simmons and sophomore Terrell Allen combined to hit 7-of-11 from the field, and had 16 points and nine rebounds in 35 minutes of play, while only committing one turnover between the three.

CCSU’s “Big Three” of Ptacek, Horton, and Vinales managed to score 45 of the teams 69 points and showing why they are a force in the NEC conference to not take lightly.

The Blue Devils will be back in action at home Thursday Jan, 26 at 7 p.m. at Detrick Gymnasium against NEC opponent Monmouth University

Horton and Ptacek Key In CCSU Win

By Brittany Burke

The Blue Devils men’s basketball team remains undefeated in conference play after two games. The 82-80 win over the Sacred Heart Pioneers was secured in the final seconds of a five minute overtime situation last Saturday in Detrick Gymnasium.

With 1:10 left to play in regulation CCSU trailed SHU 68- 65, until Robby Ptacek sunk a 3-pointer to tie the score. With the game tied and headed into the final seconds, the Blue Devil defense took charge while the Pioneers missed two vital 3-point shots of their own.

As the buzzer sounded and overtime began, it was the Pioneers who took the lead back with a jump shot from Shane Gibson.

Gibson was an offensive force that the Blue Devils had trouble shooting down in the second half. With just eight points going into intermission, Gibson came back out to the court and exploded with 24 more points, making him the game’s leading scorer.

Gibson opened overtime play and had a total of four points in extra minutes, but it wasn’t enough to hold off CCSU.

The two teams continued to trade shots back and forth, but again CCSU began to trail SHU. Down by three, Ptacek and Kenny Horton were both sent to the line to shoot two free throws. The additional four points gave the Blue Devils the lead and sent the defense back into overdrive.

The game was decided in the final seconds by free throws. CCSU’s biggest break of the overtime came when they led the Pioneers by one with 20 seconds on the clock.

Fouled by Horton, SHU’s Justin Swidowski was sent to the line with his team down one point, but missed both shots as the crowd around him was chanting “air ball.” The Blue Devils remained on top with three more points coming from Horton and Ptacek at the line.

“[The fans] helped us a lot, a whole lot,” said Horton. “It’s only been a couple times that crowd’s really, really been like that and that’s a big boost for us seeing that we have everybody behind us and everybody cheering, everybody doing the little chants. That just gives us that fuel and that fire that helped us pick up our intensity a little bit when we were flat.”

It was the extra attempts taken from the line that really secured the win for the Blue Devils, but it was the free throws that also hindered the team earlier in the game.

“We got a little break when Swidowski came into the game 21 out of 23 from the foul line and he made some earlier and missed them both,” said Head Coach Howie Dickenman. “They had a chance there in regulation and not really a great shot at the end, but it came down to us making foul shots in the overtime, which has kind of been our trademark, but we put stops on them when we needed to.”

At the end of the first half CCSU had gone just 1-1 in free throws while SHU went 8-11. As the game progressed the team fouled more and found themselves at the line more often. In overtime alone CCSU went 7-8 from the line, the only missed shot made by Ptacek in his final attempt.

While SHU had more attempts than CCSU, the Blue Devils were able to take better advantage of the shots they were given, especially in overtime.

Gibson may have been the game’s leading scorer, but again CCSU had three players in double digits.

Horton and Ptacek were virtually even with 30 points, three assists and five turnovers. The two seniors combined for five of the six 3-point shots made, while Horton stepped up defensively with a block, steal and six defensive rebounds.

Joe Efese had 11 points in the game, while Kyle Vinales was kept to a meager five. Vinales has been an offensive powerhouse for the Blue Devils, but the Pioneers shut him down with just one field goal and one 3-pointer made.

“Joe’s had a couple of good games of late,” said Dickenman. “He’s sort of fired up [and] we’re much better when we play with emotion, as I think any team in sports is, but he is showing more energy in practice … he asserted himself and if he continued to get better than that’s a hold that we have in that five spot and maybe were starting to fill that up a little bit.”

The game against SHU was the last conference game for the Blue Devils until Jan. 5 when they play St. Francis (PA). However, the team travels to Michigan State on Dec. 7 to open up a three game road stint. The game will be broadcast on ESPNU, which is channel 33 on CCSU’s cable system.

“We got to go [to Michigan State] and play hard,” said Horton. “All we want to do is go in and show everybody that we can compete and go in and play our toughest. That’s really our mind set to just go in and play tough and show people we’re not just going to lay down because they’re Michigan State … that’s all we can really do … it’s a real big stage because it’s Michigan State, but like Rob said, it’s just another game, we’re going to just play hard and see what happens.”

CCSU is home again three days before Christmas on Thursday Dec. 22 at 7 p.m.

Sports Op-Ed: Men’s Upside Shows With Stronger Post Presence

By Dan Wanat

With a 34 point drubbing of in-state rival University of Hartford, CCSU extended its winning streak to three behind their best overall performance of the year.

Offensively, the Blue Devils shot 62 percent from the field and 64 percent from three as Ken Horton, Robby Ptacek and Kyle Vinales combined to score 69 of the team’s 92 points.

Defensively, CCSU made the Hartford Hawks look like a small child getting lost in Wal-Mart on Black Friday holding them to just 13 first half points.

With the loss, the Hartford Hawks moved to 0-6 on the season losing by an average of 17.1 points per game and scoring an anemic 55.2 points per game, which is good for 332nd in the country.

The Hawks also started four freshmen and have seven freshmen on the roster for what Head Coach John Gallagher deems to be a rebuilding year for the program after losing four starters to graduation.

While Hartford’s winless record and young lineup promotes them to stand behind excuses and lackadaisical play, I give the Hawks credit for working hard and playing with spirit. They came out of the gate like puppies that had just been penned up all day and finally got let out. The team was scrappy, feisty and hard-working with a lively bench standing and cheering every early play.

This excitement and hope was expelled quickly as the Blue Devils finished the half on a 42-7 run putting the game further out of reach then the idea of Kim Kardashian winning a Grammy.

Avoiding the temptation to play down to their winless counterparts, the Blue Devils weathered the early storm and played a relatively flawless first half of basketball. On defense, they played tight man-to-man coverage leading to what became an insurmountable lead for the offensively-challenged Hawks.

On the offensive side of the court, hot shooting complemented the Blue Devils’ great defense as Ptacek and Horton both individually scored more first half points than the whole Hartford Hawks team combined.

As is usual with a Howie Dickenman coached team, different variations of the weave offense were run seamlessly. However, what really caught my eye was the introduction of a new play, at least in the games I’ve seen, that allowed Horton to establish himself in the post.

It’s a simplistic play run by many coaches across the country where the two forwards set up screens to get the guards from the post area out to the wing. The screener then immediately has the post up position and a good angle to receive a bounce pass from the guard.

Again, this play is a basic, foundational type play, but Howie will be able to build variations off of it that will make both Horton and the Blue Devils offense more versatile and tougher to stop.

The lack of a legitimate post presence (Horton spent most of his time near the three point line in the early season games) left me worried about struggling against good defensive guards, but with the addition of this post presence from Horton, CCSU becomes much more efficient offensively.

Now I realize that it is early in the season, but CCSU is already beginning to play some good basketball. Their young, freshmen guards are earning valuable minutes and adding depth to the team as De’Angelo Speech sits with an apparent foot injury.

The defense has shown signs of being suffocating and the sharp shooting guards have shown glimpses of versatility on the offensive end that give fans a lot to look forward to as the season progresses.

The Blue Devils may not have won any awards for beating a winless Hartford team, but the steps being made each game garners optimism for the upcoming conference games.

Blue Devils Soar Past Hawks

By Brittany Burke

A strong first half against the struggling University of Hartford Hawks secured the third straight win at home for the CCSU men’s basketball team, 92-58.

Saturday’s meeting against the in-state CCSU (3-2, 0-0 NEC) rivals was the 41st between the two schools, and the first time the Hawks (0-6) have come to Detrick Gymnasium since 1994. In last season’s meeting in the Connecticut 6, the Blue Devils scraped out a 64-62 win, but this was all about a strong CCSU team.

The Hawks opened up the game early with four unanswered points. It took Robby Ptacek’s two free-throws for CCSU to get on the board after going 0-for-3 in attempts.

“We saw on the board that [UHart was] starting the majority freshmen … even though they are starting freshmen we still can’t take them lightly,” said Kenny Horton. “We were a little rattled at first, they were getting under our shirts, but we tallied and it worked out in our favor.”

Despite the slow start, Ptacek’s three-point shot started a 10-point drive, seven of which came from Ptacek.

The senior guard had a major first half, scoring half of the Blue Devils’ 44 initial points. In the opening 20 minutes alone Ptacek went 7-for-10, 2-for-3 in three-point attempts and was perfect from the line.

He finished the game with 24 points, five rebounds and seven assists, quickly cementing his spot as part of the CCSU “Big Three.”

“If one person on our team is getting hot like Robby was doing early, he was hitting shot after shot, you’re feeding off that,” said Horton. “He was getting us hype and as a team our confidence started to get up, started to pick up momentum. I think that goes with any game if somebody is doing that in any game that gives the team that little fire and you can keep going and I think he did that early for us today and defense picked it up on D so everything just started clicking.”

Following quickly behind Ptacek in the first half was Horton. Horton entered half time with 16 points. The 6-foot-6 Blue Devil was nearly perfect in the first half, sinking all six field goal and three-point attempts. The only blemish in his first half stats was going 3-for-4 from the line.

Horton ended the game with 20 points and eight rebounds.

CCSU led UHart 44 to 13 going into halftime, exploding after the initial minutes. While the Blue Devils have a young back bone to turn to, the team’s starting veteran core was no match for the young Hawks.

Entering intermission the Hawks had more turnovers than points, and was shooting a 22.2 percentage with no free-throw attempts.

“We have a Big Three, I guess it’s kind of developing into a Big Three with two seniors and a freshman,” said Head Coach Howie Dickenman. “In less than three minutes in the second half Kyle [Vinales] had 12 points and one of them his foot was on the line, so when he gets going talk about streaky, and Robby, he’s just having a great year he had seven assists last year he had a total of 51 in 31 games and he had seven assists today…

While Horton and Ptacek had an explosive first half, the two stepped back, and the third member of the “Big Three” stepped up. Vinales had only three points to begin the game, but ended as the game’s point leader with 25.

“You got to tip your hat when you have Horton, Ptacek and that young kid Vinales,” said UHart Head Coach John Gallagher. “Those three guys get 69 points and on our scat report the first thing was take away these three guys. You know [they’re] good when you’re trying to stop guys and they’re still scoring.”

Both the Blue Devils and Hawks had strong second halves, gaining 48 and 45 points respectively, but the deficit built up in the first half was too much for the Hawks to overcome.

CCSU had the win sealed, but Blue Devil Mark LaPorte still managed to sink a three-pointer with three seconds to go, pushing the team score to 92.

The Blue Devils won all three home games and now head to the road to open conference play at Bryant. The quick road stint comes to an end on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. when CCSU comes back home to take on NEC opponents, Sacred Heart.

Led By Horton, Men’s Basketball Is Ready For Tournament Run

By Kenny Barto

“It’s Time, March 7th, 2012.”

That’s the message that appears on the back of the CCSU men’s basketball team’s practice jerseys. The date marks the Northeast Conference championship game, which the Blue Devils fell just short of last year with a 69-67 semifinal loss to the eventual champions, Long Island University.

“Motivation, inspiration,” Kenny Horton said of the meaning of the message they wear on their backs. “It a reminder every day of what we’re working for, March 7th, we want to get to the championship game, we want to win and get ready for selection Sunday on March 11th.”

Horton is the leader of the CCSU squad that enters the 2012 season predicted to finish third in the NEC. At practice last Thursday, Horton went 9-12 from three-point range, and 18-28 overall. The 6-foot-6 senior from Ossining, NY is carrying a lot of baggage, however.

According to the Hartford Courant, Horton is accused of punching his ex-girlfriend, Ronnie Caruso, in the face outside of a New Britain bar. He has a January court date and the Department of Athletics would not comment any further on the situation.

Still, Head Coach Howie Dickenman spoke volumes about just how good Kenny Horton is. The rest of the NEC seems to think so as well, as he was named to the preseason all-conference first team.

“He’s ridiculously good,” Dickenman said. “He has the green light if he wants to shoot 20 three pointers per game and he has the ability to do that provided that he’s got an open shot…I want him to shoot the three pointer if he’s open, and if he doesn’t for one reason or another, I tell him that he’s hurting the team.”

Horton shot 37.6% from beyond the arc last season, which led the team. His overall field goal percentage was 49.2% and led the team with 35.4 minutes per game. Horton also led the Blue Devils in rebounding with 275. The next highest was Shemik Thompson with 159.

“We can’t count on Kenny for everything, even though he’s by far our best rebounder,” Dickenman said. “We’d like somebody to beat him out for rebounds, but that’s highly unlikely. He’s catching everything, it’s like he has glue on his hands, he just comes up with everything.”

The Blue Devils had a full squad practicing with all 14 roster players being subbed in and out during a simulated game. Dickenman said that CCSU could go “9 or 10 deep” in a single game, something important to a Blue Devils squad that has only had seven or eight regular contributers in prior seasons.

“Dave [Simmons] and I were talking about it a little bit,” Horton said. “It was the first time that he’s guarded me and I lit him up a little bit. It’s competitive and we push each other out there. I would rather him guard me more than anyone else because he’s an aggressive player that goes out and pushes me every day.”

Dave Simmons returns to the Blue Devils after a one-year hiatus. The long-armed, 6-foot-5 senior from Syracuse, NY wasn’t enrolled at CCSU during the fall semester last year, but returned for the spring semester. He spent most of the second half of the season out of uniform, but he did suit up for the last few games.

“Dave brings that toughness, he brings that spark,” said Horton. “You have to play tough against him because if you don’t, he’ll out-muscle you, out-rebound you.”

The three forwards will likely be made up of Horton, Simmons and Joe Efese. The guards could be De’Angelo Speech and Robby Ptacek. Coach Dickenman didn’t favor any one freshman, but said they are all working hard.

“They aren’t playing like freshman,” Dickenman said. “But, that doesn’t mean when the lights go on they won’t make mistakes. They need to make those mistakes, that’s how they get better.”

There is more height available on the bench for the Blue Devils. Sophomore Justin Alexander, who saw limited playing time, is 6-foot-9, and freshman Erick Raleigh from Philadelphia, PA, measures in at 6-foot-8.

The Blue Devils open up against a tough opponent in Yale. They will face off on Friday night at Mohegan Sun Arena at the Connecticut Six Classic.

“I want them to be nervous,” Dickenman said. “I told them, they’re going to have trouble breathing. They’re going to have rubber legs when they run out there, but they need to be ready for that.”

CCSU will have an interesting out of conference schedule this year, with home matchups against Yale, Army, UMBC, Hartford and La Salle. Their road matchups are at Niagara, Michigan State, Brown, Northwestern and UMass.

“We have a pretty good schedule this year,” Dickenman said. “We almost added Maryland to that list, but it didn’t work out. We might try to go down in the same area next year as it seems we might add two more kids from the D.C. area, but we also added Michigan State and Northwestern on there, which will be tough games.”

As for the message on their practice jerseys, it’s something that has been in place for years. But, the last time a date was on them was when the ‘Selection Sunday’ date was on them in the 2006-2007 season. In that season, the Blue Devils went 16-2 and won the NEC in front of a national audience.

Men’s Basketball Remains in Second Place After Victory

By Christopher McLaughlin

It was the tale of two halves as the CCSU men’s basketball team (14-7) withstood Wagner’s (10-11) furious onslaught to come out on top 75-71.

The Blue Devils led by as many as 24 points, but went ice cold from the field in the second half, which spurred Wagner‘s comeback. Robbie Ptacek led all scores with 25 points, and went 10-10 from the foul line to save the Blue Devils from its second home loss of the year. Before the game, CCSU was tied with Wagner for second place in the NEC. Now the Blue Devils are in sole possession of second place, and are only one game out of first.

“We were fortunate to make our free throws, because we only played 30 minutes of basketball,” said Head Coach Howie Dickenman. “I’m disappointed with how we played, but I’m glad we won. I know that we will be better from this.”

Though Wagner got off to a 6-0 run, CCSU’s pressure defense soon took over. Even the first few baskets were all heavily contested, as the Blue Devils came out determined to shut down its NEC rival early. Ptacek caught fire on offense and it wasn’t long until CCSU caught up and tied the game.

The Blue Devils continued to harass Wagner’s shooters causing them to miss everything, and CCSU capitalized, gaining a double digit lead. During the first half, it appeared that Wagner just couldn’t handle the defensive pressure or match the Blue Devils intensity. Though Shemik Thompson took a while to get going offensively, there wasn’t a person on the court who played harder. Thompson was dominate on the boards snatching up everything that came his way, finishing the half with eight rebounds, leading both teams. Even on defense it appeared that Thompson was everywhere doing what the coach loves most: creating havoc.

The first half ended with the Blue Devils up 44-27 and the game seemed over. Wagner just didn’t seem to want it as much as CCSU.

“We played terrific in the first half,” said Dickenman. “Ptacek opened up on fire, and I’m very pleased with the play from Joe Efese and Chris Baskerville.”

Despite trailing big, Wagner came out of halftime with a new found intensity and appeared determined not to just roll over. However, the Blue Devils hadn’t gone into coast mode just yet and still made Wagner work. CCSU still brought the pressure on defense and forced turnovers that they were able to convert into points on the other end. Efese had his way down low and Ken Horton started to pick it up.

Things were still going well for the Blue Devils and its victory seemed assured. Then all of a sudden, as if somebody just flipped a switch, all of the intensity, pressure and focus for CCSU was turned off . The teams reversed roles and CCSU was thrust into an unfamiliar position. Instead of bringing the pressure on defense the pressure was brought to them and they struggled mightily from the field, going almost 15 minutes without a field goal.

“We felt like we had the game in our hands,” said Ptacek. “We got too comfortable and lost control. We played to not lose rather than to win.”

The 20 point lead dwindled quickly and Wagner kept attacking. Led by Tyler Murray, who had 19 second half points, Wagner brought the lead down to as little as four. Though CCSU was severely limited on offense the players continued to get fouled and go to the line, making 18 of 21. If it wasn’t for free throws the lead would have vanished completely. A game like this adds meaning to the term charity stripe. Wagner continued to attack down to the final second, but CCSU had done enough to hold on.

“In the second half we lost our offensive aggressiveness,” said Dickenman. “Other teams haven’t pressured us much and we weren’t ready for it. What they did to us is what we do to other teams. We were fortunate to survive their onslaught, but the bottom line is we still won.”

The Blue Devils have now won four straight, and will look to use that momentum, when they go to Pennsylvania to play the next two games before returning home to face Bryant on February 9th.

Overcoming Deficits, Men’s Basketball Clinches Win in Final Minutes

By Christopher McLaughlin

The CCSU men’s basketball team overcame two separate double digit deficits and a closely contested final minute to defeat the University of Hartford 64-62 at Mohegan Sun Arena.

Despite being outscored in the paint 34 to 12 and outrebounded 39 to 31, CCSU made big plays that allowed the team to come out on top.

“It was evident it was our first game, but when push came to shove we made the big plays,” said Head Coach Howie Dickenman.

CCSU got off to a slow start scoring just 10 points in the first 14 minutes of play. The starters seemed to struggle finding their rhythm as only Shemik Thompson made more than one shot in the first half.

The Blue Devils trailed by as many as 14 points in the first half before a crucial five-point play brought them back into the game. The play began with a three-pointer by freshman De’Angelo Speech. A foul away from the ball led to two free throws.

That play proved to be the spark CCSU needed, as Vince Rosario came off the bench to make an impact by hitting a couple of threes.

“I give a lot of credit to Hartford,” said Dickenmen “They took it to us in the first half and we were lucky to only be down by five. Our starters were sub-par, and our bench had to carry us. The effort was there but so were the mistakes.”

Led by Senior Forward Morgan Sabia, Hartford increased the lead to 43-31 in the second half as CCSU went four minutes without a point. Sabia finished the game with 23 points and 13 rebounds to lead in both categories.

After a steal by Thompson, CCSU ended the drought with a jumper from Devan Bailey. The hustle plays made by both Thompson and Rosario allowed CCSU to cut the lead to four. Hartford scored two quick baskets, but the defensive play of Speech prevented the lead from growing.

“Speech set the tone for us on defense,” said Dickenman. “He had a big steal that led to two free throws that kept us in the game.”

With the lead back to four, Thompson knocked down a three that cut the lead to one. On Hartford’s next possession freshman Terrell Allen rejected a lay-up attempt by Anthony Minor to keep the lead at one. A foul on Sabia sent Ken Horton to the line to give CCSU the lead.

Sabia continued to put in work as he put Hartford up by three before Thompson drained another three-pointer to tie the game at 57.

“I felt confident when I took the shot,” said Thompson. “If somebody had to take the shot it might as well have been me.”

After a block by Speech, CCSU was able to take the lead on foul shots.

CCSU went up by as many as four before a three by Joe Zeglinski cut it to one. With .4 seconds left, Thompson stepped up and sunk the first free throw before intentionally missing the second to run the clock down and win the game.

“We played sloppy throughout the game, but we showed that we had a mental toughness. We didn’t fold after going down big and we showed we had depth with our bench play,” said Dickenman.

While Dickenman was disappointed with the mistakes his team made, he knows they will get better as the season progresses.

“We will get better game to game, practice to practice, any time you get a win wearing road jerseys it’s a good sign,” said Dickenman.

Following the win against Hartford, CCSU travels to West Point to play Army on Nov. 15. They will stay on the road facing University of Maryland, Baltimore County and Penn State before playing the first home game of the season on Nov. 27 against Monmouth.