Missing do-it-all senior Tyler Kohl to an unspecified injury, the Central Connecticut State Blue Devils struggled mightily in their NEC season opener Thursday night, falling to Wagner 80-58.
An early 11-0 Wagner run put the Seahawks comfortably ahead for much of the first half, though a late Blue Devils rally cut the lead to six with 12 seconds left before halftime. However, a Devin Liggeons three-pointer just before the buzzer seemed to take the air out of CCSU, as they never got closer than 7 points the rest of the game.
No Kohl, No Bueno
Let's be honest; it'd be difficult for any team to win when you take away a guy who averages 18 points, 6 boards and 4 assists per game. But Kohl means more to this team than his stat line; his 30.4% usage rate is 2nd in the NEC to Raiquan Clark of LIU, he's the best passer on the team, and he's the one guy CCSU has who can go get his own shot.
In the two games CCSU played without Kohl (he played just two minutes at North Carolina A&T), the Blue Devils scored 0.86 PPP (NCA&T) and 0.83 PPP (Wagner). They need him.
Luckily for Blue Devil fans, it doesn't sound like a long-term thing. While there was no update on the type of injury, Bruce Biel did say during the telecast that Kohl may be back on Saturday. Hopefully is absence is short.
The Three-Point Barrage
The Seahawks were 15 of 35 from three on Thursday night, with Elijah Davis, Romone Saunders, Chase Freeman, and Nigel Jackson each knocking down three each.
Donyell Marshall has built a roster full of wings with size, however there's a significant lack of guard-level quickness on the roster, and it's showing up in an inability to cover the perimeter. Wagner was taking, and making, wide open three-point shots Thursday night, and it always seemed like the CCSU defense was chasing after the ball in every half-court possession.
Wagner's 1.14 PPP was their best offensive output in any game against a D1 opponent this season.
Where'd the Shooting Go?
The hot shooting start for Central Connecticut feels like eons ago. Thursday night, CCSU was just 3 for 20 from three, and shot just 37% overall. Sure, part of that was the Wagner defense, and part of it was the injury to Tyler Kohl.
However, when a key player is out, other guys need to step up, and that simply did not happen against Wagner. Ian Krishnan was 4 for 13 from the field, including 2 for 10 from three, and forced a handful of ill advised shots. Jamir Coleman was 3 for 8 from the field and Joe Hugley was 1 for 7 (and also missed 5 free throw attempts).
The one player who who kept CCSU in it in the 1st half was Kashaun Hicks, who scored 15 points on 5 for 7 shooting before halftime.
Yes, Joe Hugley struggled from the field, but no one can question his effort. Joltin' Joe got to the free throw line 17 times (uncharacteristically missing five of them), and also had 9 rebounds. He did what a captain is supposed to do.
Tyson Batiste played 31 minutes, his third straight game with 30+ minutes, chipping in 6 assists against just 1 turnover. He now has 45 assists and 18 turnovers on the season, and while he doesn't score much, he's done more than an adequate job this season at the point guard position.
Wagner made 15 three-pointers and just 7 two-pointers in this game, which is definitely good for efficiency.
CCSU came into this game shooting 77% from the charity stripe, which was 15th nationally. However, after making just 17 of 28 Thursday night, they dropped to 40th in the country at 75.2%. Ouch.
I don't mean to pick on him, but Thai Segwai was 0 for 1 from the field, missing a layup, and is now just 1 for 10 on layups this season, and 3 for 20 overall.
Bashir Mason may be the most impressive coach in the Northeast Conference. His guys are consistently tough, and they're just a headache to play against.