Men’s Basketball Drops Conference Opener Without Kohl

Patrick Gustavson, Sports Editor

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It was an uphill battle out of the gate for Central Connecticut’s men’s basketball team, as they were without star player Tyler Kohl, who leads the team in scoring, rebounding and assists. The Blue Devils were unable to overcome his absence, falling to Wagner 80-58 in their Northeast Conference opener.

Kohl took an elbow to the head Saturday against Oregon State and still has not been cleared to play.

Despite his absence, the Blue Devils were able to hang with the reigning NEC regular season champions early on, trailing 12-11 at the under 12-minute timeout. But the Seahawks would score 12-straight points before CCSU could retaliate. All in all, Wagner went on an 18-5 run in a six-minute span.

Though the Blue Devils cut the lead to six with just 12 seconds remaining in the half, a Seahawk three extended their halftime lead to nine.

Three-point shooting was the story of the game for Wagner, connecting on a whopping 15 of 35 shots from beyond the arc.

“We think because we’re standing there and that the hand is in the air that that’s a contest. That’s not a contest. A contest is making guys feel uncomfortable and we don’t know how to do that,” head coach Donyell Marshall said of his team’s three-point defense.

The Blue Devils hung with the Seahawks in the early portion of the second half but were unable to get what Marshall called a “killer stop.”

“We felt like if we got three stops in a row once or twice in that second half, we’d have a shot. And we just didn’t get it,” Marshall said.

But it was not the absence of Kohl that led to the loss, according to Marshall. Rather, it was a lack of overall effort and intensity.

“We’ve had good practices without him (Kohl). We move the basketball, we play hard. I just think guys just gave up. We didn’t play hard,” he said.

“Yes, Tyler is a great player, but you’re going to tell me one guy takes away the toughness your team has? I don’t think so. I just think today, we came out and didn’t play tough,” he continued.

One of the bright spots for the Blue Devils was sophomore forward Kashaun Hicks, who scored 14 points, including nine straight late in the first half, a point shy of tying his career-high.

Hicks did not play in the team’s last two games, with Marshall stating what his playing time was contingent on.

“Kashaun’s minutes has always been about how hard he plays. He practiced hard all week and he got the minutes,” Marshall said.

“Every time he’s practiced hard and he plays, he’s had a good game. You look at the Georgetown game, he played well. You look at the Austin Peay game, he played well. That’s where he has to get to. When he plays hard, it always translates to the court. When he doesn’t, it shows on the court.”

The one player that Marshall called a positive was junior forward Joe Hugley, who, despite connecting on just one field goal, scored 14 points, thanks to getting to the free-throw line 17 time. Marshall applauded Hugley’s aggressiveness, as well as his rebounding.

Junior point guard Tyson Batiste continued to take care of the basketball for the Blue Devils, dishing out six assists to just one turnover, raising his season ratio to 45 to 18. This is the third-straight game Batiste has played over 30 minutes. Marshall said the team is still looking for production at the position to alleviate Batiste’s minutes and said backup Thai Segwai played “decent.”

Whether or not the team has Kohl for their Saturday contest at Sacred Heart, Marshall believes there is a lot to be done to improve, citing Jamir Coleman not picking up two early fouls, center Deion Bute not getting “into a wrestling match with everybody just to try to prove he’s strong” and Karrington Wallace needing to finish at the rim.

But Marshall said their success against the Pioneers will come back to their effort and toughness.

“If they play hard, and we don’t match their intensity, we’re going to struggle,” he said.