After an exciting win in their exhibition game, the dunks and threes were fewer between for Central Connecticut men’s basketball in the opening week of out of conference games.
The Blue Devils kept things contentious in the first halves of games against Hartford and St. John’s. Both the Hawks and the Red Storm were able to pull away late however, grabbing lopsided victories of 15 and 30, respectively.
While losses are never welcomed, this opening rollout of games is one of the tougher stretches of the schedule for the developing team. With so many new faces on the court, the Blue Devils are foremost trying to establish good chemistry for the ever-important Northeast Conference slate of games.
Head coach Donyell Marshall credits some basketball colleagues for the advice he got following the team’s loss to Hartford.
“Being a head coach, you have a lot of friends around the country that you talk to,” Marshall said. “The number one thing that everybody said to me was ‘don’t worry about game one. The team that gets better throughout the season is the team that’s gonna have the chance to win it’.'”
While Marshall looks towards the development of his team, he does not excuse the loss to Hartford, nor does he attribute it to the youth of the team.
“We have a young team but we aren’t using that as an excuse,” Marshall said. “They’re good basketball players when they play together.”
Last season, the Blue Devils were fourth in the NCAA in free throw percentage, setting a record in the NEC with a 78.2 percent average. After a historic campaign from the charity stripe last year, foul shots have already been detrimental to this year’s group. In the loss to Hartford, CCSU went 10-for-19 (52.6 percent) from the line. Against St. John’s, they shot at just a 15-for-30 rate.
Marshall attributed the breakdown at the line to a lack of focus in practice. He also said these bad performances can sometimes serve as a wake up call, especially for younger players.
“You do need things like this to show them,” Marshall said. “In practice when you tell them to concentrate on free throws and they don’t want to concentrate, this is what turns around and happens.”
“With young guys, they don’t hear you, you’ve got to show them,” Marshall said. “This is one of those times where you have to be able to show them what is going on.”
Freshman Greg Outlaw has been a consistent positive on the scoreboard for CCSU this year. The guard is the lone Blue Devil to score in double figures against Hartford and St. John’s.
After a decent night shooting against Hartford, the Blue Devils only hit the mark on 34 percent of their shots against the Red Storm.
The Blue Devils showed signs of a fast paced offense against Coast Guard in their exhibition game. There were flashes of this offense in both of their games last week, but the notably tougher competition made moving the ball a much tougher task for CCSU.
“We’ve got to realize that we played a division one team today,” Marshall said. “What we did back then was against a division three team. I don’t know if their heads got big thinking that they could come out and it would be that easy.”
Marshall added that this will not be the last challenge the team will have to take on, but rather only the beginning.
“The next 29 of our 30 games are against division one teams,” Marshall said. “We’re not going to win games being selfish, and that’s exactly what happened. We came out and pushed the basketball which I thought we did a good job of. When we pushed the basketball, we got selfish, which led to turnovers which led to open shots for them.”
While Marshall and the Blue Devils would have liked to take home the win against Hartford, this opening to the season “doesn’t define us,” Marshall said. He looks back to recent history for a silver lining in the loss:
“My second year here we lost game one,” Marshall said. “And that was our best year.”
Central Connecticut will continue the out of conference portion of their schedule as they go on the road to take on Arizona State and Massachusetts on Thursday and Saturday, respectively.
“We’re not sitting up here harping on [the losses],” Marshall said. “We’re going to continue to go out there and play. We take it one game at a time.”