I stepped off the fan bus to a cold and windy Staten Island and from the moment I took my seat reserved for CCSU fans behind the Blue Devils bench, I knew it was going to be a long night.
Central Connecticut had beaten Wagner College back on Jan. 17, 73-66, but three and a half weeks later at the Spiro Sports Center, the Seahawks put up 101, the most the Blue Devils allowed all season. Wagner had figured out the CCSU high-paced offense, or Central was getting tired, they led the Northeast Conference in possessions per game with about 77, I believe. They just didn’t have the energy.
While the Seahawks were warming up with defensive drill and putting on a dunk contest of their own, the Blue Devils hung out at their end of the gym shooting around like they were getting ready to play a pick-up game, the energy wasn’t there. When the two teams came back out for their “official” pregame shoot-around, Kyle Vinales and Matt Hunter sat on the CCSU bench for a few minutes, before joining their teammates. The whole team just looked flat and it showed the entire game.
The first half started incredibly slow, CCSU led 6-4 at the 16:21 mark, but that would be the last lead of the game. Wagner was just too long, too athletic and too fired up in front of their home crowd of a little over 1000 at the Spiro Center. Wagner went on a 9-0 run that lasted almost six minutes and you could tell on the faces of the Blue Devils, especially Vinales and Malcolm McMillan, they had no answer.
Central Connecticut pulled to within three with 4:20 left in the first half when Vinales hit a 3-pointer, but then Marcus Burton got hot. The 6-foot guard from North Carolina made four straight free throws and then hit a big 3 to give Wagner a 10-point lead. After two Terrell Allen free throws, Jonathan Williams started his own personal run. Two layups wrapped around a made free throw gave the Seahawks a 13-point lead at the break.
As the clocked was winding down in the first half, Allen got a steal along the sideline, ran the length of the floor and wound up for a huge statement dunk, but was fouled HARD by Williams as the buzzer sounded. Coach Howie Dickenman made his case for a flagrant foul, but no call was made and the two teams entered the locker room.
I think I tweeted that if CCSU was to get back into the game in the second half, they needed to make a run right out of the break…that didn’t happen. They were just as flat and tired as they ever and were literally getting run over. Burton hit back-to-back three’s 39 seconds apart to give the Seahawks a 20-point lead. That’s when I knew the game was over.
Central had run out of gas, no one got a single good look the entire night, Wagner’s defense was too tight. I hadn’t seen Kenneth Ortiz play very much, but there’s a reason he is the 2-time NEC Defensive Player of the Year, he plays as tight as possible and can shoot a little too. Vinales did end the game with 23 points to lead all scorers, but it wasn’t nearly enough, no one else could make anything drop.
The Detrick Gym has gotten complaints lately about how warm it is in there, but I think they do it on purpose, because the Spiro Center was cold and so were the Blue Devils (15-59 FG). Wagner was 27-71, but they had a much easier time shooting over the smaller CCSU squad. They even had a few dunks that caused the home crowd to explode.
The game got so out of hand that both teams put in their rarely used and walk-on players, for CCSU that was Andrew Hurd (much to the delight of the Wagner student section), Erik Raleigh and Greg Andrade.
Central was outplayed in every facit of the game. Wagner was too tall, too long, too athletic and had too much energy, everything CCSU didn’t have last night. It’s back to the drawing board for Coach D. but until then, I’ll make my way over to the CCSU baseball and softball fields…