Men’s Basketball Loses Second-Straight NEC Contest

Patrick Gustavson, Sports Editor

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In Thursday’s Northeast Conference opening loss to Wagner, Central Connecticut’s men’s basketball head coach Donyell Marshall chalked it up to a lack of toughness and hard work.

Despite him believing his team “fought to the end,” they were unable to take down Sacred Heart on the road, falling by a score of 73-61.

In the first half, the Pioneers dominated the Blue Devils in the paint, where they scored 20 of their 38 points, in addition to six points from the free-throw line.

EJ Anosike, who entered the game second in the conference in rebounding, was particularly dominant, scoring 10 points while bringing in four offensive rebounds. Six-foot-10-inch center Jare’l Spellman brought in three offensive boards of his own while scoring six points.

But this improved in the second half as the Blue Devils held the Pioneers to just 10 points in the paint for the 20-minute period, which Marshall said was due to better boxing out.

The Blue Devils were also able to cut the lead to six on four separate occasions in the second half, with the latest coming with just over two minutes remaining in the game. But Marshall said due to poor decision making, they were unable to overcome the deficit.

But where the Blue Devils fell short was on offense, shooting a less than stellar 34 percent from the floor and 15 percent from three.

Marshall said the team’s struggles from the floor was due to a combination of shots not falling and poor shot selection.

“Guys miss one or two shots and start pressing themselves,” Marshall said. “They just want to see a shot fall, so they don’t shoot the greatest shots.”

Marshall also said his team needed to do a better job of sharing the ball, as they had just six assists.

“We’ve got to be able to share the ball with the guy that’s open. We can’t do too many one-dribble pull-ups and one-pass shots. We’ve got to move the ball,” he said.

Junior forward Jamir Coleman was the bright spot of the team, leading the way with 18 points on 8 of 18 shooting. The junior college transfer has reached double-figures in four of his last five games.

The team saw the return of leading scorer Tyler Kohl, who missed Thursday’s contest while in the concussion protocol. Though he scored 15 points, just a few below his season average, he shot just 29 percent from the floor while having as many turnovers as assists.

Three-point shooting was once a strength for the Blue Devils, who have now shot just 15 percent from beyond the arc in their first two NEC contests.

One who has struggled is freshman Ian Krishnan, hitting on just two of 18 threes in the last two games.

“I think he can’t let his offense dictate everything,” Marshall said of his freshman phenom. “He misses one or two shots and the first thing he does is put his head down. He’ s a confident shooter. You have to keep your head up, you have to continuously play and believe the next shot is going.”

Marshall believes Krishnan, as well as Kohl, forward Joe Hugley and guard Mike Underwood need to continue shooting through any slumps.

“You can’t make the next one until you take the next one,” he said.

Despite being 0-2 in NEC play, Marshall recognizes there is a long way to go on the season and thinks his team needs to “come together and believe,” and even had some words for possible naysayers.

“The only people that don’t believe and are panicking are the fans out there that don’t believe in us,” he said. “We believe in each other, we believe in this team. Don’t go on the message boards and write how we stunk and what we didn’t do, and then when we start winning, jump on board. Either you’re with us or against us.”

The Blue Devils will look for their first NEC win when they travel to Fairleigh Dickinson on Thursday.