NEW BRITAIN - The Central Connecticut State womenâ€™s basketball team failed to start its home schedule the way it wanted to after dropping a nail-biter against Fairleigh Dickinson.
The Blue Devils fell 55-54 on Saturday in their home opener after going back and forth with the Knights throughout the fourth quarter, but were unable to hold on at the end after allowing the game-winning bucket with 24 seconds to play. CCSU led for the majority of the first half before playing a more tightly game in the second half.
â€śOne of the glaring stats is the rebounding,â€ť Blue Devils interim head coach Kerri Reaves said. â€śWe got outrebounded and thatâ€™s not typically who we are. We really attack the glass on both ends. The winning play of the game was an offensive rebound, so we really have to make sure we hit the boards [Sunday].â€ť
CCSU was outrebounded 46-34 in the contest, including 14 offensive rebounds for Fairleigh Dickinson that materialized into eight points. The Blue Devils only scored one second-chance basket in the contest, which is something they will look to correct moving forward.
â€śI think our rebounding on both ends of the ball and the hustle plays, it doesnâ€™t take skill to get a hustle play, you just need to have more heart,â€ť senior Emma McCamus said.Â
The score remained 51-50 in favor of the Knights for nearly four minutes until Lindsey Mack knocked down a baseline floater to add two points to the lead. On the ensuing possession, Ashley Forker missed a 3-pointer on the left wing, followed her shot and made a left-handed layup to come within one point. The Blue Devils followed a stop on the next possession with a layup from Jamey Napoleon on a fast break.Â
Each team then called timeouts back-to-back before the Knights took their final lead of the game on a short jumper in the paint from Sierra Deangelo. CCSU looked to retake the lead in the final 10 seconds, but the shot it ended up with was Belle Lanpher driving into a crowd on the right side, which ended unsuccessfully.Â
â€śWe need to rebound the basketball and stop being so hesitant,â€ť Reaves said. â€śI thought we passed up a lot of shots today that we need to really take [Sunday]. Itâ€™s easy to take shots when you know youâ€™re going to be able to get offensive rebounds and you get kind of tight when people arenâ€™t offensive rebounding. I think we played a little bit tight today. [Sunday] weâ€™ll loosen up a little and take open shots and rebound the basketball.â€ť
Leading by two, FDU opened the fourth quarter with a 3-pointer from Mack and layup from Deangelo, forcing the Blue Devils to call a timeout. Ashley Berube knocked down a three from the top of the key right out the time out and McCamus drilled a triple from the right wing on the next possession to cut the deficit to one.Â
Deangelo responded immediately with a mid-range jumper, and the Knightsâ€™ three-point lead remained untouched for more than two minutes when McCamus found the bucket on a drive. McCamus said the key to hanging with a team in a close game is focusing on each possession as its own.
â€śI think itâ€™s [about] taking it one play at a time,â€ť McCamus said. â€śGetting one stop and then coming back the other way and getting one bucket.â€ť
The Knights scored two quick buckets to start the second half with a lead and held CCSU without a score for the first three minutes of the quarter until Lanpher connected with Forker under the basket with a long pass on a fast break. Both teams locked down on defense out of halftime as Fairleigh Dickinson ended the third quarter leading by two after outscoring the Blue Devils 10-8.
McCamus came out ready to score as she christened her final season at the Detrick Gymnasium. A layup, a mid-range jumper and a three-pointer on consecutive possessions from McCamus gave CCSU a lead it would not relinquish in the first half.Â
McCamus led all scorers at half with nine points, all of which came in the first quarter. The opening frame also saw six-point performances from Berube, who scored the Blue Devilsâ€™ first two baskets of the game, and Dejah Jenkins.Â
â€śI think everyone was just getting to their spots, making the extra pass, shooting the shots that we can shoot and shoot at practice,â€ť McCamus said.
Jenkins knocked down two shots from behind the arc, including one that extended their lead to eight points at the end of the quarter, before a pair of free throws from Fairleigh Dickinsonâ€™s Taylor Chrystian to end the quarter down six.Â
Napoleon scored right out of the gate to start the second quarter with an underhand layup on the right side and Forever Toppin followed that with a 3-pointer on the next possession, stretching the Blue Devilsâ€™ lead to 11.Â
â€śI think we moved the ball pretty well in the first half,â€ť Reaves said. â€śI liked our energy and our effort in the first half. We played very unselfish basketball in the first half. In the second half, we kind of got into a little lul there and then we couldnâ€™t get ourselves out of it. I love the way our team sticks together, weâ€™re there for each other every single possession, every single timeout, everything.â€ť
An 8-1 run from Fairleigh Dickinson brought the game within three points, highlighted by five points and a long range shot from Chloe Wilson. Scores Berube and Toppin pushed the lead back to seven, but five straight points from Maria Roters ignited a 7-0 run for the Knights to enter halftime tied.
These two teams will run it back Sunday for the second part of the two-game series at the Detrick Gymnasium at 6 p.m., giving everyone an instant opportunity to work on the mistakes they made the day before.Â
â€śWe definitely need to rebound better,â€ť Berube said. â€śMore offensive rebounds so we can get more second chance points. We need to score more too.â€ť
Matt Hornick can be reached at (860) 973-1811 or firstname.lastname@example.org