Well, nothing like snatching defeat from the jaws of victory!
Up 74-69 with the ball, Central Connecticut was on the cusp of securing the most impressive win for the Northeast Conference to date. All they had to do was take care of the basketball and knock down free throws right?
Loyola Marymount then went on a 7-0 run, capped off by two free throws by Zafir Williams with just over three seconds left, and the LMU Lions won their 6th straight game to begin the season.
The Final Minute
Let's go over that final minute, shall we? Again, the Blue Devils were up 5, inbounding under Loyola Marymount's basket.
0:57: Turnover by Joe Hugley
This wasn't exactly Hugley's fault; Loyola Marymount employed their full-court press, but threw in a wrinkle; face guarding Tyler Kohl so that he could not get the ball. With no true point guard on the floor, it was left to Kashaun Hicks to get into the offense and he um...well, he couldn't. With the shot clock winding down, he was double-teamed well beyond the three-point line, and he made a questionable pass to Hugley who traveled.
It was at this point that I thought Marshall should have brought in Thai Segwai, as the Blue Devils were really struggling with the ball pressure. No offense to those guys, but Hicks and Jamir Coleman are not point guards. They needed a steady presence at this point in the game.
0:49: Markusson made layup, plus foul (Hugley). Made free throw.
With Deion Bute in foul trouble, it was up to Joe Hugley to defend the 7'3" Markusson. The big man got deep and had an easy 3-footer. But you can't foul there! Sure, it seemed the referees were anticipating fouls last night and were trigger happy, but if you're Joe Hugley you just have to go straight up there. With that, the lead was cut to two.
0:39: Turnover by Kashaun Hicks
Again, no point guard in the game and Tyler Kohl never touches the ball. Hicks raced up the right sideline, got caught in no man's land as a double-team was coming, and threw the ball to the middle of the court where James Batemon was waiting.
0:35: Layup by James Batemon
And of course, a steal at halfcourt like that is going to lead to a layup on the other end, and that's exactly what happened. Batemon was dynamite last night, and it seemed like he never missed a shot in the paint. Tie game.
However, with 35 seconds remaining, the Blue Devils had the opportunity to hold for, effectively, the last shot. Worst case scenario, they go to overtime right? Wrong.
0:05: Missed Three-pointer by Kohl. Foul on Kashaun Hicks.
The Blue Devils took the air out of the ball until about 9 seconds, when Kohl went right off a ball screen. Unfortunately, time ran out for him to make a play and he had to take a contested jumper. It probably wasn't great execution, but oh well; overtime it is...
But wait! Inexplicably, the Blue Devils crashed the offensive boards as if they were losing rather than tied. Easy foul call, as it looked like more than one Blue Devil went over the back there.
0:03: Two made free throws by Zafir Williams
0:01: Missed half-court shot by Tyler Kohl
Kohl drew rim. But alas, it didn't fall. Game over.
Jumpin' Joe Hugley
Given the added depth on the roster this season, it's felt like Joe Hugley has had a difficult time finding his role; is he a skilled 5? A stretch 4? There's been times when Marshall turned to Karrington Wallace for extended minutes, with Hugley on the bench.
However, with Bute in foul trouble most of the night last night, it was the perfect time for Hugley to have his best game of the season; 21 points on 6 for 7 from the field (5 for 5 from the free throw line) in 21 minutes.
Joe was awesome, making big shot after big shot, something he had a knack for last season as well. What's more; his presence forced Markusson away from the rim on the offensive end, which opened up lanes to the rim for the Blue Devils.
Hugley is now shooting 48% from three on the season, and his O-Rating is up to 125.2 (it was 104.9) last season. If he could just avoid fouling.
Remember when I questioned whether Loyola Marymount suddenly had this new ability to shut down three-point shooting, or if it was just kind of flukey?
Well...whatever it is, CCSU had no issues making shots. The Blue Devils continued their hot shooting; 10 for 20 from three and 14 of 16 from the free throw line.
On the season, Central Connecticut now has a 59% eFG%, which is 14th nationally. 14th! And their 45.6% 3P% is 6th in the country. 6th!
It's here to stay folks; this team can knock down shots with the best of 'em.
But That Defense
But not to be outdone, Loyola Marymount made shots as well; mainly inside the three-point line. They were 20 for 33 on two-pointers, and also made 18 of their 23 free throw attempts.
CCSU had no answer for Batemon (26 points), who drove the lane at will. Batiste did an adequate job on him early in the game, but once he got going he couldn't be stopped.
At least three times the Blue Devils fell asleep on fake dribble handoffs, which led to three wide open Batemon layups. That sort of thing can't happen.
A running theme in the Four Factors; CCSU puts up really strong shooting numbers, yet the offensive rebounding rates and turnover rates continue to be a problem.
And suddenly, at least in the last two games, it's foul issues. Loyola Marymount and Florida A&M combined for 58 free throw attempts in the last two games. That's a lot!
I tend to think that's a blip rather than an issue that will continue. Will be something worth watching.
13 turnovers in 62 possessions; it could have been worse, I guess. More than a few of them were offensive fouls, however, and not careless mistakes. And some of those offensive fouls seemed questionable at best.
The Blue Devils also struggled to rebound the ball yet again; LMU grabbed 37% of their offensive rebounding opportunities.
I feel like we take it for granted, but Tyler Kohl continues to be great. 22 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, and numerous big shots in the second half. I feel like he falls in love with the jump shot a little bit too much, but we're picking nits at this point.
A tough one for Ian Krishnan; 6 points on 2 for 10 from the field. He'll be fine.
It was nice to see Harrison Kay get some minutes, given that he's from the Los Angeles area. There were about 45 people in the stands, and probably 20 of them were friends and family of the big man.
James Batemon is really good.
Markusson is really tall.
The Blue Devils return home to take on Pine Manor College on Sunday. Programming note: there will be no preview of that game. I understand the need to schedule non-D1s, especially around the holidays, but I still don't have to like it.