NEW BRITAIN - The first half of the CCSU men’s basketball team’s game against Mount St. Mary’s was tight throughout and featured a lot of three-point misfires from the Mountaineers. Mount St. Mary’s hit its first four three-pointers in the second half, though, and its offense as a whole woke up in a big way as the Mountaineers extended their lead to as big as 13 early in the second.
The Blue Devils were able to fight back and cut the deficit to as little as four in the middle of the half, but in the end, that flurry from the Mountaineers coming out of halftime was the difference in a 77-68 loss for CCSU Saturday afternoon.
The Blue Devils have now lost 10 straight games.
“The second half has been a big problem for us all year,” CCSU head coach Donyell Marshall said. “We continue to come out after the half and I don’t know if it’s because the guys are playing defense on the other side of the court, away from the coaches, but it’s something we have been trying to figure out.”
“I think we just have moments in games where we show how good we can be,” senior guard Khalen Cumberlander said. “But we have too many let downs and in the beginning of the second half, that was a huge one.
Cumberlander had a huge game in the losing effort for the Blue Devils. The senior finished with a game- and career-high 26 points and at one point in the second half, scored eight straight points, helping CCSU to get the deficit down from 12 to four. Cumberlander was very successful at getting inside and finishing at the rim but on this day, he didn’t have much help.
“I knew that I could beat my guy off the dribble,” Cumberlander said. “I was doing it all first half and coach told me to keep going to the hole because it was working. It’s nice to have a career high, but I’d much rather have two points and win than 26 and lose.”
Austin Nehls was the only other CCSU player to score in double-figures in the game, as he had 13 and added seven rebounds. Nehls, however, shot just 4-10 from the field and 1-5 from beyond the arc.
Miles Wilson paced Mount St. Mary’s, as he had a team-high 21 points while shooting 67 percent from the floor. Junior Robinson and Chris Wray also had big games, as they had 13 points apiece.
The Blue Devils shot the ball very well from the field against the Mountaineers, as they hit 48 percent of their field goal attempts, but the defensive end was the difference. Mount St. Mary’s made 51 percent of its field goal attempts, 38 percent of its threes and had 10 offensive rebounds.
“The defensive end was a problem, especially in the second half,” Marshall said. “Look at Khalen specifically. Yeah, he had 26 points and he was great offensively, but he wasn’t there on the defensive end. The whole team didn’t do the little things well and in close games, that will end up costing you.”
The two teams played the entire first half within four points of each other and Mount St. Mary’s was able to take a 30-27 lead into the break thanks to a Junior Robinson three pointer.
The Mountaineers missed their first eight three-point shots of the game before Jones’ make at the end of the half, but were able to stay in the game because of their advantage on the glass. CCSU was out-rebounded 21-16 in the first half and Mount St. Mary’s was able to get several key offensive boards to keep its offense afloat amid the poor perimeter shooting.
The Blue Devils didn’t shoot much better than the Mountaineers in the first half (44 percent from the field), but were able to score six fast-break points, which was triple what Mount St. Mary’s scored in that category in the opening half.
Cumberlander had a big hand in keeping the game close in the first half, during which he had eight of his 26 points. The senior could have had an even bigger half but missed three of his five free throws.
CCSU drops to 2-13 on the season and 0-4 in NEC play with the loss. Mount St. Mary’s improves to 5-12 with the win and is now 3-1 in conference play.
Michael Woolfson can be reached at (860) 801-5203 or firstname.lastname@example.org