The Central Connecticut men's basketball team won its conference
opener in overtime on Saturday, topping Monmouth 54-50. Central
was led by sophomore forward Joe
Efese who had a game-high 15 points and added seven rebounds.
The Blue Devils, who started the season 3-0 before falling to Penn
State on Monday night, are 4-1 for the first time since the
beginning of the 2001-02 season.
The overtime victory is the 15th in 20 games under head coach Howie Dickenman, who is in his 15th season at his alma mater.
Efese's 15 matches his career-high, and his seven boards also match the most he has ever had in his two seasons. Junior Ken Horton added nine points and 14 rebounds, also a career-high for him.
Senior Markeys Deans had a huge game, including a three-point play in overtime that helped seal the victory and put the Blue Devils up four. Deans finished the game with 12 points, seven rebounds, four steals and three blocks.
Central led by as much as nine in the second half, 38-29, with nine minutes left in the game. The Hawks answered with a 13-2 run over the next five minutes to take a 41-40 lead with under three minutes to play. It was the first lead since they held a 3-2 edge after their first basket of the game.
The Hawks run reached 17-3 and the Blue Devils went more than four minutes without a point as Monmouth took a 45-41 lead with just over a minute to play. Junior Vince Rosario came off the bench and hit his second three of the game to cut it to one. After Monmouth missed a shot on its next possession, Efese was fouled and went to the line with five seconds remaining. He hit one of two free-throws and forced overtime.
The Blue Devils never trailed in the extra frame, taking a 50-46 lead after a pair of free-throws by senior Shemik Thompson. After the Hawks tied it at 50, Thompson hit one of two free-throws, and then Deans used his old fashioned three-point play to put Central up 54-50. The Hawks would not score another point.
Monmouth was 0-for-7 from three in the overtime period, and shot only 29.5 percent from the field in the game (18-of-61). The Blue Devils hit on only 15-of-50 from the field, but made 19-of-26 from the line and outscored the Hawks by nine points at the charity stripe.
Thompson finished the game with 11 points, six rebounds and four assists in the win. He was 6-of-8 at the line. Efese finished 7-of-9 from the free-throw line and also blocked three shots.