NEW BRITAIN - The Central Connecticut State men’s basketball team found itself in trouble when Fairleigh Dickinson was sent to the foul line with 10 seconds left Thursday night.
And after Kaleb Bishop made both free throws to give the Knights a 65-65 lead, it looked as though it would be another close loss for CCSU.
But those 10 remaining seconds were all the Blue Devils needed.
Tyler Kohl passed the ball off to Deion Bute for a game-winning slam dunk with three seconds remaining to lead CCSU to a 66-65 victory.
“At that time, we were just trying to win,” said Bute, who finished with a career-high 22 points. “When they went up one, I basically said, ‘we’re going to get this bucket, we’re going to win this game.’ Everyone kept a cool head. We executed, god was with us and we got the job done.”
The Blue Devils, however, could have made the ending of the game easier on themselves.
In the last 20 seconds, they missed five free throws. On the night CCSU was 8-for-14 at the line.
“We have to make free throws, we can’t let that come back and bite us,” CCSU head coach Donyell Marshall said. “The problem is we fix the turnovers and then we get to the free throws. Once we’re able to put everything together, we’re going to be a hell of a team.”
Along with Bute’s game-high 22 points, Mustafa Jones had 14 points with six rebounds while Kohl had 11 points.
At the start of the second half, the Blue Devils went on a 6-2 run including baskets from Kohl, Bute and Shakaris Laney.
Six minutes in, CCSU extended its lead to eight when Bute brought the ball up to the basket for a layup to extend the Blue Devils lead to 41-35.
The Knights’ Jahlil Jenkins then hit a layup, but not before Jones would bring the ball to the basket for two. Fairleigh Dickinson responded back with a 3-point shot from Edge, cutting the lead to four.
Jones hit another shot for two right before Fairleigh Dickinson would go on a 4-0 run, putting the Knights within a basket (47-45).
Both teams traded baskets back and forth until the Blue Devils took a seven-point lead with nearly seven minutes left in the game. Kohl made a vital 3-point shot to keep CCSU from treading water.
The Knights went on an 8-2 run in the span of 3½ minutes cutting the deficit to three (60-57) at the 2:05 mark.
With 55 seconds on the clock, Kohl fouled Darnell Edge to set him up for two shots at the foul line. Edge made both, putting the Knights within one.
“Honestly I was thinking the games over,” Marshall said. “We have a great player in Tyler who knew that they were going to come to him and he dumped it off to Deione, Deion gets the dunk.”
CCSU jumped out with an early 5-3 lead over Fairleigh Dickinson to begin the first half, including a 3-pointer from Eric Bowles.
Then, Bishop hit a jump shot to cut the Blue Devils’s lead by one. But Kohl gave CCSU a bit of insurance when he made a 3-point goal extending its lead to five (9-4).
Fairleigh Dickinson’s Mike Holloway Jr. made a layup to tighten the gap but Bute responded with a layup of his own to sustain the five-point lead.
Jones grabbed a rebound and handed the ball off to Talek Williams for a slam dunk to give the Blue Devils a 7-point advantage.
CCSU was able to hold the seven-point lead up until the last five minutes of the first half.
Laney made a layup for a lead of six, 27-21, but Edge made returned with layup for the Knights as Holloway made back-to-back free throws to cut the deficit to two at 27-25.
Bowles stole the ball for possession and brought it to the basket for two. In the processes, Fairleigh Dickinson’s Tyler Jones fouled Bowles bringing him to the free throw line for one. Bowles made the basket to extend the Blue Devils lead. Just 30 seconds later, Austin Nehls sank a three with 1:20 left in the half for a six-point lead.
Holloway hit a basket for two to end the half to send CCSU into the locker room up 33-29 and set the stage for an exciting second half.