Blue Devils Soar Past Hawks

By Brittany Burke

A strong first half against the struggling University of Hartford Hawks secured the third straight win at home for the CCSU men’s basketball team, 92-58.

Saturday’s meeting against the in-state CCSU (3-2, 0-0 NEC) rivals was the 41st between the two schools, and the first time the Hawks (0-6) have come to Detrick Gymnasium since 1994. In last season’s meeting in the Connecticut 6, the Blue Devils scraped out a 64-62 win, but this was all about a strong CCSU team.

The Hawks opened up the game early with four unanswered points. It took Robby Ptacek’s two free-throws for CCSU to get on the board after going 0-for-3 in attempts.

“We saw on the board that [UHart was] starting the majority freshmen … even though they are starting freshmen we still can’t take them lightly,” said Kenny Horton. “We were a little rattled at first, they were getting under our shirts, but we tallied and it worked out in our favor.”

Despite the slow start, Ptacek’s three-point shot started a 10-point drive, seven of which came from Ptacek.

The senior guard had a major first half, scoring half of the Blue Devils’ 44 initial points. In the opening 20 minutes alone Ptacek went 7-for-10, 2-for-3 in three-point attempts and was perfect from the line.

He finished the game with 24 points, five rebounds and seven assists, quickly cementing his spot as part of the CCSU “Big Three.”

“If one person on our team is getting hot like Robby was doing early, he was hitting shot after shot, you’re feeding off that,” said Horton. “He was getting us hype and as a team our confidence started to get up, started to pick up momentum. I think that goes with any game if somebody is doing that in any game that gives the team that little fire and you can keep going and I think he did that early for us today and defense picked it up on D so everything just started clicking.”

Following quickly behind Ptacek in the first half was Horton. Horton entered half time with 16 points. The 6-foot-6 Blue Devil was nearly perfect in the first half, sinking all six field goal and three-point attempts. The only blemish in his first half stats was going 3-for-4 from the line.

Horton ended the game with 20 points and eight rebounds.

CCSU led UHart 44 to 13 going into halftime, exploding after the initial minutes. While the Blue Devils have a young back bone to turn to, the team’s starting veteran core was no match for the young Hawks.

Entering intermission the Hawks had more turnovers than points, and was shooting a 22.2 percentage with no free-throw attempts.

“We have a Big Three, I guess it’s kind of developing into a Big Three with two seniors and a freshman,” said Head Coach Howie Dickenman. “In less than three minutes in the second half Kyle [Vinales] had 12 points and one of them his foot was on the line, so when he gets going talk about streaky, and Robby, he’s just having a great year he had seven assists last year he had a total of 51 in 31 games and he had seven assists today…

While Horton and Ptacek had an explosive first half, the two stepped back, and the third member of the “Big Three” stepped up. Vinales had only three points to begin the game, but ended as the game’s point leader with 25.

“You got to tip your hat when you have Horton, Ptacek and that young kid Vinales,” said UHart Head Coach John Gallagher. “Those three guys get 69 points and on our scat report the first thing was take away these three guys. You know [they’re] good when you’re trying to stop guys and they’re still scoring.”

Both the Blue Devils and Hawks had strong second halves, gaining 48 and 45 points respectively, but the deficit built up in the first half was too much for the Hawks to overcome.

CCSU had the win sealed, but Blue Devil Mark LaPorte still managed to sink a three-pointer with three seconds to go, pushing the team score to 92.

The Blue Devils won all three home games and now head to the road to open conference play at Bryant. The quick road stint comes to an end on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. when CCSU comes back home to take on NEC opponents, Sacred Heart.