On Saturday afternoon in Moon Township, Central Connecticut St. put together its best 40-minutes of basketball since before Thanksgiving, knocking off the first place Colonials by nine.
The First Half
After a slow start for both teams (the score was tied 5-5 eight minutes into the game), the first half saw a few runs; Central outscored RMU 8-0, then RMU immediately went on an 8-2 run. However, CCSU closed the first half strong, taking a 31-26 lead into the locker room.
The first half was all about Tyler Kohl; after scoring just three points on two field goal attempts in the first match-up between these two teams, Kohl looked to take over the game early...and boy did he.
The do-everything senior scored 18 points before intermission on just 12 field goal attempts, and did it in a variety of ways. He knocked down two three-pointers, both of them well-guarded by Matty McConnell, got into the lane, and also had the mid-range going.
All told, Kohl poured in 23 points, grabbed 7 boards and had 5 assists (all in the second half). You want to nit-pick? Kohl did have 7 turnovers, and was "just" 6 for 9 from the foul line. But while others struggled, he put this team on his back like only he can. Stud.
The Second Half
Robert Morris outscored CCSU 20-9 over the first 7 1/2 minutes as the combination of Matty McConnell and Cam Wilbon gave Kohl some trouble on the offensive end, while the Colonials got hot offensively. However, that's when the Blue Devils' supporting cast stepped up.
After going just 1 for 7 from the field in the first half, freshman Ian Krishnan scored ten points (4 for 6 from the field), while Joe Hugley (13 points, including two huge three-pointers) and Jamir Coleman (7 points on 5 field goal attempts) each stepped up.
For the game, the Blue Devils had four guys in double figures; Kohl, Hugley (15), Krishnan (14) and Deion Bute (11). Plus, Bute had 11 rebounds, while Hugley chipped in 7, and Jamir Coleman had 8 points and 8 boards.
One of the adjustments that has led to St. Francis University's hot play lately has been due to head coach Rob Krimmel going with his best 5, which just so happens to include 4-guards.
I had openly wondered if/when Donyell Marshall would go with the same idea; it's obvious that CCSU's best five players are Kohl, Krishnan, Coleman, Hugley and Bute. Sure, positionally those five may not fit, but Tyson Batiste hasn't offered a ton of offense, Kashaun Hicks has struggled since being inserted into the starting lineup, and the other bench players (Michael Underwood, Karrington Wallace, Thai Segwai) have had moments but have largely been inconsistent.
Well, with 6:12 left and the game tied, Marshall went and did it...and it worked! "The Lineup", as I am now dubbing it, closed on a 20-11 run.
The pros? Well, rebounding for one, but also there's enough spacing giving the shooting ability of Kohl, Hugley, Krishnan and Coleman, and there's plenty of rim protection of the defensive end.
The cons? Not enough quickness, as Hugley would have to frequently guard a perimeter oriented forward (which contributed to his fouling issues last season), and a lack of ball handling.
I think the trade-off is well worth it, and am excited to see if Marshall utilizes this lineup more frequently as we move forward. One of my favorite things about Donyell Marshall has been his willingness to try different lineups depending on the opponents. He's not married to having any specific group of players on the floor at one time.
CCSU has now scored over 106.8 PPP in three of their last four games (all three games were won). In their four games before that, their best output was 0.99 PPP.
Their 56.4% eFG% was their best shooting game since the win over Fairleigh Dickinson on 1/10 (62.3%).
Robert Morris was just 7 for 31 (22%) from three, and CCSU held Josh Williams to just 2 for 10.
CCSU got to the line 21 times (making 15), compared to RMU attempting just 16 from the charity stripe (making 11). That's not supposed to happen at home. An one of those attempts were due to a Matty McConnell "and 1", when replays showed that Deion Bute never even touched him.Love those anticipatory calls.
I love how Joe Hugley can go from freezing cold to on fire in the matter of minutes. Joltin' Joe was 1 for 5 from three on Thursday night, and missed his first 3-point attempt on Saturday. However, his 3-ball with 11:20 left cut the RMU lead to just one, and his second of the day with 4:36 left may have been the back-breaker, as it pushed the CCSU lead to 8. He's had a knack for big shots in his almost 2-year career, and Saturday was no different.
I can't let him off the hook without getting on him for fouling Malik Petteway on 18-foot jump shots not once, but twice. Also Tyler Kohl fouled Matty McConnell on a three-point attempt. However, Ian Krishnan was fouled on a three-pointer of his own, which went in.
Jamir Coleman was relatively quiet (just 3 for 6 from the field), though he came up big on the boards (he's averaging 9.5 rpg over the past four games).
There was another example where Coleman tried to get cute around the rim, rather than just going up strong. If I were 6'7" 215 lbs. and could jump out of the gym, I'd be trying to dunk on everyone.
Kashaun Hicks again got the start, but played just 14 minutes (4 in the second half). Over his past four games, all starts, he has more than twice as many turnovers (7) and fouls (10) than he does made field goals (3), and is 0 for 4 from three. I like the floor spacing he provides, but he needs to take care of the ball better.
After starting on Thursday with Deion Bute out, Karrington Wallace did not appear in this one, nor did Thai Segwai (4 games in a row). Plus Mike Underwood, who is just 2 for 8 from the field since that 16-point game at home against RMU (and one of them was a banked in three-pointer), played just two minutes.
The Blue Devils pulled into a tie for 7th place with Bryant and LIU-Brooklyn, and believe it or not there are just six regular season games remaining. As it stands now, CCSU would be left out of the NEC Tournament thanks to tie-breakers.
On Thursday night, CCSU heads to Staten Island to take on Wagner in a revenge game. The Seahawks destroyed CCSU 80-58 on opening night (I've typed that so many times I have it memorized, which says something about my life), though Tyler Kohl was not available for that game due to concussion protocol.
Wagner is 6-6 in the league, and it's a big one...though they're all big ones from here on out.