Central Connecticut turned the ball over on its first six possessions of the game, not even attempting a field goal until the 15:35 mark of the first half, and things didn't get much better from there in an 80-69 defeat to first place Robert Morris.
The Blue Devils, who are now in a tie for 8th place at 2-4, held a lead in this one for exactly 27 seconds, and never got closer than 7 points in the second half. For the third time in six NEC games, CCSU scored fewer than 0.88 PPP, and what once looked like one of the best shooting teams in the nation is now ranked ninth in the NEC with a 47.2% eFG%. But none of those facts tell the full story of this one.
Tyler Kohl Goes MIA
Look, no one has been as complimentary as I have of Tyler Kohl, except maybe Ron Ratner and the NEC Office. In fact just last week I wrote that I'd probably take Kohl first in a draft of current and former Blue Devils.
However, after missing all nine of his field goals in the 2nd half loss to St. Francis University (3 of 16 overall), Kohl put up his worst stat-line in a Blue Devil uniform: 1 for 2 from the field (both 3-pointers), 5 rebounds, 5 assists and 5 turnovers in 30 minutes.
I will not pretend to know what happened, but I'll tell you what it looked like to me; Tyler Kohl stopped looking for his offense. There were times when he passed up 10-12 foot jumpers and there were possessions where he simply just stood along the perimeter without even looking to get open. I'm not suggesting he quit on his teammates, as he was still active defensively and on the boards, but the effort we have grown accustomed to was not there.
After picking up an offensive foul with 7:08 remaining and Central down 56-45, Donyell Marshall had apparently had enough; Kohl went to the bench and never saw the floor again. This comes two days after there were obvious frustration among teammates.
After the game Marshall declined to comment on the reasoning for the benching, but this will certainly be something to monitor.
Jamir Coleman Comes to the Rescue
I can't remember a player more enigmatic than Jamir Coleman has been this season. When he scored 21 points on 9 of 14 shooting at Providence back in December, I thought that Coleman looked more like a Big East player than a Northeast Conference guy. Then, sometimes he just disappears; he scored just 7 against Wagner without Tyler Kohl, then scored 9 points total in CCSU's two wins last week.
On Monday, Coleman looked like a guy who could fill the high-usage scorer role next season; a career-high 27 points on 10 of 19 shooting (7 of 8 from the free throw line), 9 rebounds and just 1 turnover. With Kohl taken out of the game, Coleman used his athleticism to get to the rim almost at will, and had the mid-range game working.
Sure, he did take some questionable shots but here's the thing; someone has to. Coleman took it upon himself to try and keep this team in the game, and he nearly did it.
Insert House of Cards Underwood Pun Here
...or Carrie Underwood, or even Underdog (Bruce Biel stole that one).
Whatever nickname you'd like to bestow on the CCSU freshman, Underwood had quite the coming out party on Monday afternoon; after having not scored at all this season, he knocked down four three-pointers in the first half, effectively keeping the Blue Devils in the ball game.
Underwood came to Central with a reputation as a knock-down shooter, and we finally got to see it. He's got a quick release and a high-arcing shot, and man is it pretty. Can he become a bigger part of the rotation going forward?
I'm not convinced he has the quickness to guard perimeter players in the NEC, nor the size/strength to defend small-ball 4's. However, if he can knock down three-pointers he will (deservedly) see more playing time.
Ignoring Deion Bute's non-consequential layup at the buzzer, only Coleman and Underwood made more than one field goal.
After the first media timeout, CCSU only turned the ball over 12 times the rest of the game.
Tyson Batiste had a rough one; 2 points, 3 assists and 5 turnovers. He hadn't turned it over more than once in an NEC game this season, but Batiste struggled with the Colonials pressure.
Joe Hugley missed this game with a knee injury. I'd assume it's not too severe; he didn't appear to be limping, and he was able to finish the game on Saturday. Hopefully he's back Thursday.
Andy Toole can flat out coach. Not only do his teams defend like hell, but the progression individual players seem to make from year-to-year is unrivaled in the NEC.
CCSU heads to Smithfield Thursday to take on Bryant, which upset St. Francis University on Monday afternoon.
There's a lot of basketball left, but the Blue Devils need to start winning basketball games awfully soon.