The CCSU menâ€™s basketball team returned from more than two weeks off directly into one of its biggest challenges of the year, back-to-back road games against Bryant, the Northeast Conferenceâ€™s hottest team to start the 2020-21 season.
After losing both games in decidedly different fashions, the road trip to Smithfield, Rhode Island can be described, at best, as a learning experience for the Blue Devils who are now 2-7 on the season. While Bryant showed how its variety of scoring threats and face-paced style of play make it challenging for opponents to keep up, CCSU showed how small its margin for error is if it wants to compete.
â€śThey want to score, and we know if we can go in there and play the defense that weâ€™re capable of playing, talking, and finishing with rebounds, we know we can score as well,â€ť head coach Donnyell Marshall said ahead of the games. â€śI think this is going to be a game, whoever is willing to sit down on the defensive end and get the stops is the team thatâ€™s going to actually win.â€ť
The Bulldogs defense was definitely a difference maker in both games because even when the Blue Devils were getting consecutive stops, Bryantâ€™s defense stopped any large runs from building by consistently forcing CCSU into difficult shots. The Blue Devils shot just under 40 percent from the field over the two games and failed to convert on offense enough to hang in these contests.Â
Marshall said one of the keys to his teamâ€™s success would be stopping any early runs from getting out of control, but Bryant asserted itself early in the first game, going up 18-3 to start and leading by 20 in the first half en route to a 93-68 win. CCSU stayed with the Bulldogs in the first half of their second game, trailing by just five at halftime, but failed to capitalize on open scoring opportunities that could have made that deficit even smaller or given it the lead.Â
The Blue Devils also appeared to be unprepared for the versatility of Bryantâ€™s offense. Led in scoring by guard Michael Green III, CCSUâ€™s focus on Green may have unlocked the other Bryant players.
â€śTake away the deep range shots, we know they can shoot it really well,â€ť junior Tre Mitchell said before the games. â€śTheir point guard is the head of that team so just try to contain him as much as possible and try to have other guys make the plays.â€ť
While Green did score 14 and 16 points in the two matchups, it was Peter Kiss and Chris Childs who stood out from the Bulldogsâ€™ offense. Kiss, who finished the first game with a triple-double and posted a career-high 27 in the second game, contributed in every facet of the game and Childs made nearly half of his three-point attempts and scored 39 points in the series.Â
Having a variety of scoring options is how CCSU is trying to build its offense as well, but they failed to generate quality shots nearly as well as their opponent. The Blue Devils know how important ball movement is to succeeding in this style and Bryant put on a clinic of how to use quick and efficient passing to move defensive players out of position.Â
The Blue Devils were also down junior Ian Krishnan and sophomore Myles Baker who were scratched shortly before Thursdayâ€™s game. CCSUâ€™s roster only has 11 players start, so losing two people who log at least 20 minutes per game made facing a challenging opponent that runs a fast-paced offense even more difficult.Â
The details of why Krishnan and Baker did not play were not disclosed, so there is a chance they could be back for their Jan. 14 contest at Sacred Heart. While the weakened roster showed glimpses of potential, having a complete team will certainly boost CCSU in the direction of its third win this season.
Matt Hornick can be reached at (860) 973-1811 or firstname.lastname@example.org