Central Connecticut women struggling in closing deficits during skid

Published on Monday, 24 January 2022 21:59
Written by TYLER HETU

@TheTylerHetu

NEW BRITAIN – Playing from behind is nothing new for Central Connecticut’s women’s basketball program this season.

On Sunday, the Blue Devils saw a deficit swell from 13 in the first quarter to as much as 21 before entering halftime.

Resilency and grit saw them claw their way back, finding their open shots falling en route to a third quarter where they scored more points in 10 minutes than they did in 20.

Before they knew it, it was a one-point game again.

But, the Blue Devil women weren’t able to complete the comeback. Mount St. Mary’s shooters were able to step up when needed, out-scoring CCSU enough in the final minutes to pull out a 71-60 win to make Central losers of now four straight.

CCSU’s interim head coach Kerri Reaves said the fight shown by her team was admirable, and is something they’re used to doing and have found comfort in.

"I've always said it, since last year started, we have a really resilient group of kids with being able to fight back when we could have folded," said Reeves. "In years past this could have got out of hand really quick and it's a testament to the locker room. There is confidence to be gained from coming back from 20 points down and getting it to a one-point game."

A comeback effort started to open the second half with Central running off eight unanswered points to bring the difference down to six at 33-27. Scores from inside by Claire Case-Sutherland, Meghan Kenefick and Ashley Berube lit a fire in a team that looked noticably different from the first half.

A pair of threes from Eden Nibbelink and Berube pulled the game to 43-42, with Central on the precipise of completing an effort that looked dire about 20 minutes prior. But, free throws from Kendall Bresee and Jada Lee were followed up by an Isabella Hunt layup score, and before Central could adjust, they once again were back chasing a seven point difference with just over eight minutes left to play.

The closest the game got after that was four points, with Central’s frustration on the floor muted but evident.

“We do learn really big lessons from this, but I think the bigger lesson now is don't get down 13 in the first quarter. They acknowledge that in the locker room, but the fight and the resiliency they showed (Sunday) is a trademark of the program,” Reaves said.

Trailing late, but not entirely out of the game, has been part of Central’s skid. The first of the four-game streak came on Jan. 15 agianst LIU, with the difference wavering around 10. Central chipped a 15-point dficit own to eight in the second half before falling 62-51.

The second came two days later against Sacred Heart, who held the game even but never completely surrendered an advantage. Central’s biggest deficit was 12, bringing it down to three off a Dejah Jankins three with 30 seconds to go. Free throws going the other way put SHU out of range as time expired in a 63-56 loss.

On Jan. 21 Central faced Saint Francis, who had a lead swell to 12 before seeing it get brought down to four with seven minutes to go in the fourth quarter. In the third quarter, CCSU had the game even with 18 minutes left in the game, but never gained the lead. Central lost the game 69-59.

If there’s ever a ‘Groundhog Day’ moment basketball, it feels like Central’s women’s team is living it.

And similar to Bill Murray’s character in the aforementioned movie, the Blue Devils are aiming to work on themselves to escape the cycle.

"It's the turnovers. ... We are going to turn the ball over a little more than other teams because we play (better) in transition so much, but we always need to work on taking care of the basketball,” said Reaves. On top of turnovers, the Blue Devils are looking for stronger shot selection, posting the best percentage from the field since Dec. 5 at 45.3%. “... I thought our shot selection as opposed to Friday (against Saint Francis) was a night and day difference. We took good shots, inside out action, proving to us that we are a multi-dimensional team every time we step on the floor."

Leading the Blue Devils in scoring on Sunday was Berube, who backed down the Mountaineers’ Kendall Bresee to 17 points on 7 of 9 shooting from the field. Berbue has been a big part to keeping Central going, posting double-digit points in 11 games this season.

But it’s not just her who’s comfortable in taking shots when needed. Across the floor Central has shooters, which are key to helping bring Central back into the frey in the top half of the Northeast Conference race with still a calendar month of games to go.

“Our key to victory every day is to have fun. Basketball is a game, you’re supposed to enjoy it, … sharing the basketball and getting the teammate open for shots is important to everybody on the roster,” said Reaves. “Nobody is stepping up and saying ‘I want to be the big time scorer every game.’ They find joy in making their teammates better on every possession and that’s the sign of a good team. I’m really proud of them and the way they played.”



Posted in New Britain Herald, CCSU on Monday, 24 January 2022 21:59. Updated: Monday, 24 January 2022 22:02.