Saturday evening, Central Connecticut State won an unexpected close game against Division III Arcadia University 79-72. It's the second straight season the Blue Devils have struggled with a D3 opponent in an exhibition game, as CCSU beat NYAK 65-62 back in November 2nd, 2017.
The game was relatively ugly from the start, as CCSU struggled offensively in the half-court, and had a difficult time handling dribble penetration on the defensive end. But that doesn't mean the game was without some bright spots.
Freshman Ian Krishnan came into the program with the reputation as a knock-down shooter and relentless competitor. He put both attributes on display immediately, scoring six of the team's first nine points on two athletic layups (one which he got fouled), and a three-pointer.
When it was all said and done, Krishnan finished with 25 points on an electric 77% eFG% in 31 minutes, including 5 of 8 from behind the three point line. He took over at times, and seemed to knock down a shot every time CCSU needed points.
Donyell Marshall hasn't had a ton of luck with freshmen recruits in his previous two seasons at the helm, but it looks like he found a special player in Krishnan. None of what occurred Saturday evening appears to be a fluke; his jump shot is smooth, and he has the athleticism to get to the rim.
Krishnan did seem to injure his right leg (thigh?) early in the second half, and was noticeably limping the remainder of the game. I was surprised Marshall let him return to the game given that it was just an exhibition, but I'd expect him to be fine going forward.
The Veterans Struggle
Coming into the season, there were three players who I had zero concern about; Tyler Kohl, Deion Bute, and Joe Hugley. So, of course they come out and combine for 8 turnovers and 12 fouls in 61 minutes.
Kohl, specifically, looked out of sorts right from the get-go. He struggled with his shot (2 for 7 from the field, including 0 for 3 from three), and in addition to four turnovers, had his pocket almost picked a few times with some sloppy dribbling. He did make plays; he finished with 8 assists, and perhaps is dealing with some rust after missing a lot of practice time due to a broken hand.
Bute began the game with an easy post-up over a much smaller Arcadia defender, and it looked like he might put up some big numbers. Instead he finished with an adequate 11 points on 4 of 5 shooting, but never seemed to affect the game as one might expect; he had just two rebounds and one block, as well as a couple of ugly fouls.
Hugley, meanwhile, picked up a couple of bad fouls immediately after checking into the game in the second half, and never got off the bench again after that, finishing with three points and two rebounds in 10 minutes. Fouling was a major issue for Hugley last season, and the team needs him to stay on the floor.
Am I concerned? No. All three will be fine.
The Point Guard
In my game preview, I said: "I still believe the best possible outcome is Batiste earning the job; he's a veteran (the longest tenured Blue Devil) who knows what Donyell Marshall wants, plus he's a leader who has the intangibles to run the team."
Well, it appears Batiste has won that job, at least as of October 27th. He played 27 minutes, showing a steady hand at the point. His numbers won't blow you away; 8 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists and 1 turnover; but they are exactly what the team needs. And not to be overlooked; after finishing last season 3 for 18 from the foul line, Batiste knocked down all four free throw attempts Saturday night, swishing all four. Great to see.
Ultimately, CCSU performed adequately offensively; 1.13 points per possession, thanks primarily to Krishnan's offensive outburst and 27 free throw attempts (they made 23). But 14 turnovers in 70 possessions against a D3 team that was not playing pressure defense is...not great. Nor is a 26% OR% against a severely undersized opponent.
However, the worst struggles Saturday were defensively; allowing nine offensive rebounds and committing 22 fouls while forcing just 10 turnovers was downright terrible. The Knights finished the night scoring 1.04 PPP; I'd sign for that at Hartford on November 6th, but not against a Division III school. The Arcadia guards had no problem getting by the Blue Devil guards, and there were multiple times Arcadia players had free runs at offensive rebounds. Getting outscored 30-18 in the paint is not a good look.
Jamir Coleman had a nice debut; 18 points and 6 rebounds. While he did struggle from the field (4 for 11), his athleticism and versatility will give NEC teams a headache.
Thai Segwai was the first and only guard to come off the bench; 22 minutes, 5 points, 3 assists and 0 turnovers. He's not much of a shooter, but I thought he played strong defense and took care of the basketball.
Marshall went big multiple times in this game; at one point, his lineup consisted of Segwai (6'1"), Kohl (6'5"), Coleman (6'7"), Hugley (6'7") and Bute (6'9"). And despite that, they played man-to-man defense the entire game, though I wouldn't be shocked if Marshall broke out the zone from time to time like he has done in the past..
Kohl remained on the bench over the final four plus minutes of the game, despite having just four fouls.
Marshall went with a 3/4 court zone press late in the first half. It didn't go well, as Arcadia ended up with a layup.
Karrington Wallace played 17 minutes, finishing 1 for 4 from the field with one thunderous dunk and a couple of long jumpers that seemed to be curious shot choices.
Kashaun Hicks, Will Ellis, Harrison Kay, and Donyell Marshall Jr. all earned DNP: Coaches Decision. Hicks and Ellis, specifically, are head scratchers.
Chris Williams was the only player in street clothes for the Blue Devils. There was no obvious sign of injury.
At Hartford on 11/6, as the Blue Devils kick off the 2018-19 regular season.