On Thursday and Saturday, Central Connecticut State lost their third and fourth games in a row to Mount St. Mary's (79-66) and Sacred Heart (80-66) respectively, essentially eliminating them from the NEC Tournament. Yet, believe it or not, that's not the story.
On Thursday night, with 6:50 left in the second half and Central Connecticut down 65-53 to Mount St. Mary's, Jamir Coleman was called for a "carry", triggering the under-8 media timeout.
The video feed from NEC FrontRow caught Tyler Kohl kicking one of the folding chairs, which flew up and hit Joe Hugley in the face as he sat down in an adjacent chair. Hugley fell to the ground in apparent pain, while Kohl sat down without what appears to be much of a reaction. Unfortunately (or fortunately?) the feed immediately cut to an advertising.
Tyler Kohl remained on the bench for the remainder of the game, while Hugley was apparently escorted to the locker room, where he would remain for the final 6:50. And on Saturday, it was announced that both Hugley and Kohl are suspended from the basketball team indefinitely for "conduct detrimental to the program and university".
It appears the Blue Devils will be playing without their two leading scorers (Kohl is averaging 18.1 ppg and Hugley 13.8 ppg in conference play) for the remainder of the season.
1) Those who have read this blog over the past 10 months know that I'm not prone to hyperbole. With that said, this was an embarrassing moment for a program that has had quite a few of bad moments over the past 10 years or so.
Imagine of Zion Williamson or Grant Williams or Kyle Guy did this on national television? It would have led SportsCenter and would be a topic on every sports talk show across the country.
I highly doubt Kohl was trying to hit Hugley in the face with a chair, but the lack of reaction is concerning. This is your teammate.
2) I have no idea what Hugley's infraction was since it was not caught on camera, but I'm going to assume a) there was some sort of reaction, and b) it was deserving of the suspension. I'm not going to speculate on what happened.
A few words about Hugley; despite being just a junior (and a 2nd year junior at that), he was named a captain prior to the season; he's a Dean's List student; he's a hard worker; and he always has a smile on his face. This is not some bad actor who is an off-the-court problem for Donyell Marshall and his staff.
3) I don't like the way the University has handled this. There's been no official announcement (Bruce Biel broke the news at the beginning of the broadcast on Saturday), and Thursday's game has not been archived on NEC FrontRow (as all games generally are).
Should Donyell Marshall come out and detail what happened? Absolutely not. But it's out there. Again, if this was a major program, it'd be all over the media.
With that said, I support the University's decision to suspend the two players (again, assuming Hugley's infraction was deserving), and while I'd imagine Kohl's career is finished, I look forward to the day that Hugley is back with the team.
4) I've seen talk about the disappointing 2018-19 somehow being Tyler Kohl's fault. I'm not going to sit here and suggest he's been the perfect player...his O-Rating is just 93.7 and there have been times that he completely disappeared from the offense. But I do not believe that the Blue Devils would have been better off these last two years if Kohl had not been there. There have been games where he put this team on his back. I won't pretend to know the dynamics of the locker room, but we've seen what this team looks like without him on the floor, and it hasn't been pretty.
So uh, yeah there was some basketball played. Unfortunately, it wasn't pretty.
On Thursday night, Central jumped out to a 23-14 lead mid-way through the first half, and it looked like they might run-away with a much needed victory. However, as we've seen consistently this season, the offense went cold. Over a six minute stretch late in the first half, the Mount went on a 20-0 run to take a 40-27 lead with one minute remaining. In the second half, their lead bulged to 53-37, and the game was never in doubt.
On Saturday against Sacred Heart, it was a similar story. Central scored the game's first 14 points, yet the Pios then outscored Central 42-21 over the final 14 minutes of the half. The Blue Devils did keep it close in the second half, cutting the lead to four with ten minutes remaining, yet there simply was not enough firepower to get them over the hump.
The causes were more of the same things we've documented throughout the season; an inability to contain dribble penetration, an over-reliance on mid-range jumpers, and a lack of three-point shooting. Not much left to be said at this point.
The player with perhaps the most to benefit with Kohl's absence is Kashaun Hicks. The redshirt sophomore has actually started the past eight games, yet his playing time had dwindled over the period as he was just 3 for 20 from the field in the first seven of those games with more assists than turnovers. However, on Saturday Hicks broke out, shooting 6 for 10 from the field (including this sweet follow up dunk), and also grabbed 9 rebounds. Can he be a guy who can be counted on for offense in 2019-20? The rest of the season should be a nice test for Hicks.
The guy who will likely be next season's leading scorer is Jamir Coleman, and he stayed hot despite the turmoil around him. Coleman had 36 points and 18 rebounds in the two games, and continued to be aggressive looking for his offense.
Ian Krishnan was just 2 for 14 from three in the two games, and continues to be somewhat streaky in conference play. But who knew he could throw it down like this?
I was very proud of the effort on Saturday; guys like Tyson Batiste, Thai Segwai and Karrington Wallace came off the bench to give solid minutes, and there was no quit in this team.
The season's final week begins on Thursday at LIU-Brooklyn, followed by senior night against Fairleigh Dickinson on Saturday.
Believe it or not, CCSU is not mathematically eliminated from the NEC Tournament. Here is what they need to happen:
1) Beat both LIU and FDU.
2) Have Bryant lose road games at St. Francis-Brooklyn and LIU-Brooklyn.
3) Have Fairleigh Dickinson or Robert Morris (or both) tie or overtake St. Francis University for first place.
4) Have Mount St. Mary's lose one of their final two games.
What are the chances that all happens? Somewhere between 0% and 1%. But hey, there's still a chance!