Central Connecticut St. snapped a 4-game losing skid on Thursday night, knocking off St. Francis-Brooklyn 78-72. Tyler Kohl led the way with 29 points, 12 rebounds and 5 assists, while three other Blue Devils were in double figures; Ian Krishnan finished with 16 points, Jamir Coleman scored 15 and Deion Bute had 12.
Welcome Back, Tyler
After Saturday's blowout loss to LIU-Brooklyn, Donyell Marshall talked about how Tyler Kohl has been getting frustrated lately, and it showed up in his shooting numbers; he was just 15 of his last 60 coming into the game against SFNY.
On Thursday, Kohl was back to himself; he put the team on his shoulders, especially in the 2nd half, and willed himself to the basket. He finished 9 for 20 from the field...Kohl's never going to be ultra efficient shooting the basketball given how much the team relies on him...and made 8 of his 9 free throw attempts. He had his up-fake game working in the paint, and was all over the boards.
So what changed? Well for one, St. Francis' Glenn Braica opted not to double-team Central's best player, instead utilizing a number of different players to try and D him up. It obviously did not work; generally Kohl had the size advantage and was able to bully his way toward the rim.
But also, Kohl seemed more aggressive in going toward the rim...in recent games, there was a lot of dribbling on the perimeter.
It's no secret that Central Connecticut has struggled at the point guard position this season. I've consistently defended Tyson Batiste, and I love the leadership he provides on the court, as well as his ability to protect the basketball. However, he came into tonight's game averaging just 3.4 ppg in conference play, while his backup Thai Segwai is scoring just 2.6 ppg.
So on Sunday, Kashaun Hicks started in place of Batiste, with Marshall going with a "point guard committee" of Kohl, Coleman, and even Hicks at times. Batiste did still play 24 minutes (Hicks ultimately fouled out), but I thought that the insertion of Hicks allowed for more floor spacing, and prevented St. Francis-Brooklyn from being able to double-team Kohl as frequently.
It's also worth noting that Segwai did not play at all, despite the quickness of the Terrier guards. I'm a big believer in playing your best five players, and I think Marshall did that tonight.
Joe Hugley's Absence
After missing the Robert Morris and Bryant games due to a knee injury, Hugley returned on Saturday in the loss to LIU-Brooklyn. However, he was out tonight due to an unspecified injury, and his status remains up in the air for Saturday.
Hugley's importance to this roster shouldn't be understated; he's really the only other player on the roster outside of Deion Bute capable of playing the 5 for significant minutes, and his ability to stretch the defense gives the Blue Devils a different look.
Tonight, Deion Bute was only able to play 22 minutes due to foul trouble, and Marshall was forced to play Karrington Wallace at the 5 for stretches (18 minutes). Wallace is shooting a respectable 53% from the field, but he's struggled to rebound the basketball and hasn't made a three-pointer since the win over UMass-Lowell on November 13th. It's important Hugley get back healthy, and quickly.
Jamir Coleman Steps Up
No one on this roster frustrates me more than the 6'7" junior from Texas. I feel like he has the skills and athletic ability to be an NEC MVP candidate; he's got size and strength, can jump out of the gym, and has a smooth jump shot. Yet he's seemed to alternate good performances with poor games, and has a tendency to take quick 17-foot jump shots.
Tonight Coleman was just 3 for 9 from the field, but it's what he did on the boards that impressed me. With Hugley out, Coleman grabbed 9 rebounds, and also made all nine of his free throw attempts, including four in the final minute of the game.
He needs to learn better shot selection, but he has the look of a guy who will become CCSU's leading scorer next season.
CCSU's 1.07 PPP Thursday night was their best offensive performance since the double overtime win over Fairleigh Dickinson.
At one point Central was 3 for 6 from the free throw line, and they ended up 21 of 24. They are now 11th in the nation with a 77% FT%.
Remember when Ian Krishnan was 2 for 18 from three in the first two games of NEC play? He's up to 33% from three in league play after making 4 of his 9 attempts on Thursday night, and he really came alive in the 2nd half. He's another guy that needs to work on his shot selection, though he seems to have a knack for making difficult shots.
Central dominated on the boards; 75% on the defensive side, and grabbed 35% of their own misses.
This game featured 73 possessions, which is more than usual for a CCSU game (the LIU game featured 77 possessions, though the Blackbirds like to get up and down and Central was trying to come from behind). It felt like the Blue Devils were making a concerted effort to get the ball up the court quickly before SFC could get their defense set. That'll be something worth watching on Saturday.
The Blue Devils continued to take care of the basketball, with only 13 turnovers (18%).
St. Francis has some pretty impressive player, none more-so than sophomore guard Jalen Jordan. Jordan was 7 of 14 from three on Thursday night, and he's shooting 43% from three on the season.
Deniz Celen was another impressive guy for the Terriers. At 6'8" 234 lbs., he's smooth around the rim, and also picked up a couple of assists.
And finally; is it just me, or does it seem like nothing good happens when Central resorts to allowing the shot (or game) clock to wind down to ~8 seconds before beginning some ball screen action? With under a minute left, that's exactly what CCSU did, and it ultimately ended up in a shot clock violation when Kohl was forced to get rid of it. I feel like they wait too long.
Central Connecticut will take on Bryant on Saturday at 3:30pm at Detrick Gym.
The Bulldogs won at Wagner on Thursday night, and come into this game at 5-4 on the year. It's been quite the turnaround, and just last week Central lost a heart-breaker in Smithfield.
The Blue Devils are one game out of 8th place (both Wagner and LIU are 4-5, and each team has beaten CCSU once already). After Saturday Central heads out on a 4-game roadie. It's difficult to overstate the importance of this one.