NEW BRITAIN - As the CCSU menâ€™s basketball team entered its final game of the season on Saturday afternoon mired in a five-game losing streak and without its leading scorer in Tyler Kohl, head coach Donyell Marshall asked his Blue Devils to put up a fight against Fairleigh Dickinson and end the season on a high note.
â€śWe were just trying to play as hard as we could and get an upset,â€ť Marshall said. â€śWeâ€™ve faced some adversity in the last week or so, so we just wanted to play as hard as possible.â€ť
CCSU played hard and turned a 13-point deficit into a five-point lead in the second half, put the Knightsâ€™ 3-point shooters had an answer all game, as FDU came away with a 70-58 win to spoil the Blue Devilsâ€™ Senior Day.
The Knights, who entered the game as the best 3-point shooting team in the NEC at 39.4 percent, drilled 12 of their 23 3-point attempts to erase CCSUâ€™s comeback. A 3-for-4 stretch from downtown in the second half proved to be the deciding run for FDU, with two of those threes coming from Darnell Edge, who shot 4-for-6 from beyond the arc.
â€śThat obviously hurt,â€ť Marshall said. â€śIt seemed every time we cut the lead down they hit a big three, or when we took a lead they hit threes in transition. They hit them at the right time, and thatâ€™s what happens when you have great ball movement.â€ť
The Blue Devils had taken the lead three minutes into the second half thanks to Tyson Batiste and Chris Williams, who both were playing motivated for different reasons. Batiste, playing his final game as a Blue Devil, opened the second half by scoring a layup and drawing a charge, which led to a 3-pointer by Williams in transition. Williams, finding rare playing time with Kohl and junior Joe Hugley out due to suspensions, followed his triple with an emphatic dunk to give CCSU its first lead of the game and erupt the Blue Devilsâ€™ bench.
â€śThat was exciting,â€ť Batiste said of Williamsâ€™ performance, as the junior finished with a team-high 14 points. â€śChris didnâ€™t get as many chances to play as he wanted to this year, so to see him scoring out there was fun. I know it meant a lot to him. Heâ€™s going to be riding that high for the next three months.â€ť
Unfortunately for CCSU, the high during the game lasted just moments.
After Williams struck again with a steal and a one-handed slam on the other end, the Knightsâ€™ shooters went back to work behind Edge, scoring five straight points to tie the game, and they would take the lead for good minutes later.
Without Kohl and Hugley, suspended since last Thursdayâ€™s loss to Mount St. Maryâ€™s after a scuffle in front of the CCSU bench, the Blue Devils struggled to find offense to keep up with FDUâ€™s shooters. When the teams met earlier in the season, in a thrilling double overtime win for CCSU, Kohl and Hugley had combined for 51 points, but left a void on Saturday.
The Blue Devils struggled at the start without two of their top scorers, going scoreless through the first 4:55 of the game while Edge, Kaleb Bishop and Brandon Powell all connected from beyond the arc for the Knights to give FDU an early 11-2 lead.
The lead grew to 11 minutes later on yet another FDU 3-pointer, but the Blue Devils responded with six straight points to pull within five, a deficit that would hold through the end of the first half.
After the Knights thwarted the CCSUâ€™s brief comeback, Bishop converted a 3-point play with 2:36 left to put FDU up by 14, its largest lead of the game, before Elyjah Williams fittingly sealed the game with a three at shot clock buzzer with one minute left.
The shot for Williams marked the sixth Knights player to connect from beyond the arc.
After the 3-pointer by Williams, Marshall brought in substitutions for Batiste, Deion Bute, and Kashaun Hicks, who all walked off the CCSU court for the last time.
â€śIt meant a lot coming off (the court) with everyone standing up, and coming to the bench one last time,â€ť Hicks said after contributing 10 points in the losing effort. â€śIt felt unreal. Itâ€™s the end of something great.â€ť