Saturday's game at Mount St. Mary's was almost a complete script-flip from the 2OT road win at Fairleigh Dickinson on Thursday. CCSU trailed by as many as 16-points in the first half, yet pulled within 6 by halftime, then outscored the Mount by 15 in the second half to win their second consecutive game and even up their record at 2-2.
In the first half Saturday, the young Mount St. Mary’s squad was straight up on fire from outside. Despite coming into the game shooting 29% from distance on the season, the Mountaineers made 10 of their first 12 three-point attempts en route to scoring 32 first half points. Sure, some of that was the home team getting a bit lucky. However, as has been the case in other games this season, the Blue Devils defense was consistently late to get out on shooters, and the Mount was getting wide open looks. From my untrained eye, it looked like the CCSU defenders were over-helping on dribble penetration, leaving guys wide open on the perimeter.
In the second half, Donyell Marshall decided not to sit by and allow his team to get beat; he went with a smaller, yet quicker lineup, putting Kohl at the 4 and Hicks at the 3, as well as employing some sort of 1-1-3 zone defense. The result? Mount St. Mary’s was just 3 for 15 from three over the final 17:30 of the game.
Offensively, once Mount St. Mary’s got into foul trouble late in the second half, Marshall clearly changed up the game plan and pounded the ball inside to Bute or Hugley, and Kohl also used his size advantage to get to the rim.
So for the second consecutive game, Marshall really mixed up his lineups late in the game. On Thursday, he went big with Hugley and Bute on the floor together. And on Saturday, he went small. He's built a versatile roster, and he utilized it to great lengths to get two wins this past week.
Well, this week Bute was a big reason why CCSU evened up its record at 2-2. On Thursday, he had 13 points and 11 rebounds in 35 minutes, and on Saturday it was more of the same; 17 points and 11 boards in 29 minutes, and the Kenpom MVP of the game. It felt like he got every big defensive rebound over the past two games.
Through four NEC games, Bute has the 4th highest O-Rating in the league at 129.4, the 5th highest offensive rebounding rate (13.5%) and the 5th highest defensive rebounding rate (23.2%). He's also shooting 64% from the field and 77% from the charity stripe. I've theorized that perhaps his surgically-repaired knee was still bothering him, but he looks healthy right now.
A win is a win is a win, but man on Saturday there was some frustrating mental mistakes. In no particular order:
The Mount's Omar Habwe was fouled shooting a three-pointer not once, not twice, but THREE TIMES, twice by Joe Hugley.
The Blue Devils had 10 1st half turnovers (and 10 made field goals), and 15 for the game (22% of possessions). Kohl "led" the way with 6 turnovers, with at least 3 of them on traveling calls (and once for a carry). He also lost track of how many seconds he had to get the ball past the timeline at one point.
The shot selection was questionable, specifically in the first half, as both Tyler Kohl and Jamir Coleman have this tendency to take jumpers just inside the three-point line. Central was 3 for 10 on 2P jump shots.
Tyler Kohl's Almost-Triple Double
Tyler Kohl is amazing...not necessary because he's so good (though he is), but because you can watch him play 38 minutes and severely underrate his stat line. On Saturday, he had a "quiet" 17 points, 8 rebounds and 8 assists, as well as twice telling Mount fans behind the basket to be quiet after made free throws.
Both Mount St. Mary's and Fairleigh Dickinson opted to continually double-team Kohl, and all he did was total up 19 assists on the week. There's probably no one in the league that is more dangerous to double-team than Tyler Kohl is given his passing ability, and I, for one, hope teams continue to do it.
Yeah, six turnovers is too many, but a couple of the traveling calls were at least somewhat questionable. I'd like refs to be a bit more consistent with what is called from game-to-game.
It's also worth noting that Kohl appeared to turn his ankle with about two minutes left. He did return, but had a noticeable limp. Let's hope it doesn't affect him long-term.
Ian Krishnan is officially out of his slump. No, Saturday wasn't his best game; 3 for 8 from three, 13 points in 36 minutes. But he had a personal 8-0 run late in the second half to turn a 60-57 deficit into a 65-60 lead consisting of two three-pointers and two free throws. The freshman made some of the biggest shots this week. Oh and he grabbed six rebounds on Saturday, a season-high. Marshall has shown trust in Krishnan, and he's delivered.
Thai Segwai played 13 minutes on Saturday, his most since playing 13 minutes at Virginia Tech on 12/1. And it may have been his best game in awhile; he had a nice back cut for a layup (and the foul), made a nice dish to Bute who got fouled, and was aggressive in getting to the basket. He's probably the team's best perimeter defender, and will continue to earn minutes because of it.
Joe Hugley is 19 for 20 from the foul line over the last three games after converting all six of his attempts on Saturday. He currently leads the league in free throw rate, and has cut his turnover rate from 21% as a sophomore to 12% this year.
Jamir Coleman played just 12 minutes, easily his fewest of the season. Coleman found himself on the bench for most of the final five minutes and overtime against FDU, and saw just two second half minutes Saturday. It seemed to me he was getting lost defensively, and has largely settled for long two-point jumpers on the offensive end.
Tyson Batiste is tied atop the league with a 2.5 to 1 assist/turnover ratio, after having a 1.6 to 1 rate last year. Quite the progression.
Despite all the Central Connecticut turnovers, the 1.13 PPP was the highest output Mount St. Mary's has allowed since giving up 1.20 PPP at St. John's on 12/5.
Assuming Elgelstad keeps this group together, the Mount will be damn good in two seasons huh? The Mountaineers played six freshman and two sophomores on Saturday, and they have both size and quickness.
CCSU has now risen to #257 in Kenpom after dropping to #287 after the Sacred Heart loss.
All of the Northeast Conference gets the week off, with "Week 3" being played Saturday and Monday.
The Blue Devils return to Detrick Gym on Saturday and host pre-season title favorite St. Francis University. The Red Flash are just 2-2 after dropping a road game to St. Francis Brooklyn Saturday, and haven't played up to expectations. This one is big for both teams.
Taking a longer look, Central Connecticut is favored in each of its next six games (according to Kenpom), which consist of five home games and a roadie at Bryant. If the Blue Devils want to prove they are a title contender, they probably have go to at least 5-1 over that period.