NEW BRITAIN â€“ The season opener for CCSU menâ€™s basketball may have served as a foreshadowing for what is to come in a season that will be dominated by youth.
Five freshmen played significant minutes for the Blue Devils, and their collective inexperience showed in a 74-59 loss to Hartford at home. CCSUâ€™s offense struggled to find open looks, shooting 42 percent from the field while committing 19 turnovers and missing nine of 19 foul shots.
â€śI thought we rebounded pretty well, but thatâ€™s probably all I could really say,â€ť head coach Donyell Marshall said. â€śWe turned the ball over a little too much and have to work on free throws.â€ť
The Blue Devils showed their youth early, committing four turnovers, including three traveling violations, in the first four minutes of play. The turnovers led to Hartfordâ€™s first five points, which helped give the Hawks an early 5-3 advantage.
CCSUâ€™s defense kept the game close through the midway mark of the first half, but the offense struggled, sinking just two of its first 10 shots, yet trailed by just four after 10 minutes of play.
Despite the early shooting struggles, CCSU managed to grab a 17-13 lead on a three by freshman Trey Tennyson, followed by a baseline jumper and a straightaway three from fellow freshman Jamir Reed, who finished the half with nine points on 4-for-5 shooting. Through the first 19:30 of play, all of the Blue Devils scoring came from their freshmen core.
Trailing by two with less than two minutes left in the half, CCSU took back the lead on a tip-in by senior Jamir Coleman at the rim, and after a steal on the other end, junior transfer Stephane Ayangma banked in a driving layup to put the Blue Devils ahead 30-28 with a minute to go.
Hartford tied it on the next possession and grabbed the lead with eight seconds left on the clock following a steal when a kickout from PJ Henry found Michael Dunne, who nailed a 3-pointer to send the Hawks to the locker room with a 33-30 lead.
CCSU had a chance for one more shot before the halftime buzzer but turned it over once again to finish the half with 10 giveaways.
â€śWe pushed the basketball, but we got selfish, which led to turnovers and gave them some open shots,â€ť Marshall said.
Hartford opened up its largest lead of the game at 42-36 in the early minutes of the second half, but CCSU kept it close thanks to Reed, who continued his efficient night with his second triple of the game to cut the lead in half with 15 minutes left in the game. The Hawks answered right back with Romain Boxusâ€™ second 3-pointer of the half, and later stretched the lead to eight at the foul line after entering the bonus just 7:48 into the second half.
â€śWhen weâ€™re calling fouls in practice and they argue that those arenâ€™t fouls,â€ť Marshall said. â€śWell, they are fouls. So weâ€™re going to do a lot of film watching in the next few days.â€ť
Hartfordâ€™s run continued with two more from the foul line from Henry, as seven straight lifted Hartford to a 49-39 lead with 11:45 remaining in the game. Coleman answered with an old fashioned 3-point play, but D.J. Mitchell and Hunter Marks deflated the home crowd and any momentum for the Blue Devils with back-to-back threes to give the Hawks a 12-point cushion.
CCSU didnâ€™t get closer than a dozen the rest of the way.
â€śWe have a lot of things to work on, but itâ€™s game one,â€ť Marshall said. â€śWeâ€™re not going to harp on it. Weâ€™re going to continue to play and take it one game at a time.â€ť