NEW BRITAIN â€“ The mid-major menâ€™s basketball season is underway, and with a new regime of CCSU menâ€™s basketball now in place, the Blue Devils are poised to bounce back after a slow start to the season.
CCSU downed Holy Cross Wednesday night 73-67, gaining a lead before the half that fluctuated from 13 to four across the second half before CCSU put the game away in the final two minutes of action.
The process of adapting to a new system under first-year head coach Patrick Sellers has been slow, as shown by the 0-5 start to the season, but the Blue Devils are starting to find their footing. The win over Holy Cross comes off a double-overtime loss where CCSU battled its way back against Fordham, but came up short. Before Sunday's loss CCSU picked up its first win of the season in a 64-56 final against Maine. Entering the weekend they sit at 2-6.
The high-tempo, push the floor scheme worked well despiteÂ a size disadvantage Wednesday night. Ten players were worked into the guard-heavy rotation, with nine playingÂ into double digits for minutes.
The work ethic for the team and the personality of them was one of the things Sellers gave light to on Wednesday, saying who they are as people on and off the court have helped make them better players.
"I can't say enough about these guys. Probably the number one thing about these guys is character," said Sellers. "These guys areÂ really good guys, they really work hard and do the stuff in the classroom, in the community and they're playing together. I said to some guys (Wednesday)Â if theyÂ didn't play, come in the gym and get some extra work because there's going toÂ be an opportunity for you. These guys are all good character guys and put a lot of Â work `into it. I'm proud of the way they've been working on and off the court."
Nigel Scantlebury led all scorers in Wednesday's contest with 25 points on 8 of 10 shooting. Ian Krishnan was the next highest in the points column for the Blue Devils with 16 points.
"These guys, like Nigel, he's one of the most energetic, hard workingÂ kids. Always positive, always upbeat," said Sellers. "He's getting payback from all the hard work he's been putting in. Ian, in my 22 years of coaching, he's probably one of those guys who's in the gym more than anybody I've ever coached. ... Those guys, who can see they're getting rewarded for the hard work."
Throwing out the record so far this season, the team is trending towards the vision Sellers and his guys have for the program â€“ which includes some lofty goals.
â€śWe talked about our goals, (the players) will tell you itâ€™s to win the Northeast Conference in the regular season, win the conference tournament and then to win a game or (multiple) in the NCAA tournament,â€ť said Sellers. â€śThatâ€™s the goal weâ€™ve set, thatâ€™s really loft goals. Thatâ€™s what weâ€™re achieving to and weâ€™re trying to work towards. With these non-conference games we want to try to get better every day, every game, and try to make sure our defense and rebounding is solid. â€¦ Weâ€™ve been working for that, and December 29th, our first conference game, thatâ€™s what weâ€™re building to in order to be at our highest point.â€ť
Next up for CCSU is a tough game against New Hampshire, who have opened the season 3-2. The last time CCSU played UNH was on Nov. 19 in 2019, where the Blue Devils lost at time 77-63.
"We've got a tough New Hampshire team on Saturday, so [we're] going to be back on the road. We've got to lock in on the scouting report and have a good game plan for those guys,â€ť Sellers said.