Freshman Kyle Vinales scored a game-high 27 points, and the Central Connecticut men's basketball team narrowly posted its first-ever over a Big Ten opponent on Saturday afternoon. Northwestern held off the Blue Devils by a final score of 70-64, despite the gritty effort from CCSU.
"I thought if we could get a stop at the end we would be good, and have a chance to come down and make a shot," head coach Howie Dickenman said. "But we didn't get that stop." The Blue Devils were down two with under 20 seconds to play, but the Wildcats hit a late basket to make it a four-point lead.
Vinales scored 27 to lead all scorers. Senior Ken Horton posted his third double-double of the season and the 21st of his career. He scored in double-figures for the 36th straight game, and moved into fourth place all-time on the CCSU scoring list with his first three of the game. He passed Bill Reaves (1,647) on the list. He currently has 1,660 career points, 75 shy of becoming the school's all-time leader.
"Rebounding was good, defense was good, everything was good except for the final score," Dickenman said. "Often this year we have been a 20 minute team. I told them at halftime, down one, that we needed to focus and concentrate....we had a lot of positives out there, a lot of positives."
The Blue Devils trailed 5-0 to open the game, but led 12-9 after 12-4 run. After NU climbed back to lead 13-12, Central rattled off eight straight points to lead 20-13. The led 23-17 after the second three of the game from Horton.
Northwestern scored the final nine points of the half and led 30-29 at the break. Central went the final 4:58 without a field goal after taking a 29-21 lead.
NU hit 1-13 from three to start game but a three at the buzzer gave them the one point lead. It marked just the second time this season the Blue Devils have trailed at halftime (Michigan State).
Vinales had 15 first half points to lead both teams. Horton added six and the Blue Devils held a 22-19 edge on the boards.
Central led 36-33 to open the second half, following a three-point play from senior Robby Ptacek. Northwestern would answer with six straight points to claim a 39-36 at the first media timeout.
A second three-point play by Ptacek cut the Wildcat lead to 44-42 with just over 12 to play. The lead climbed to 50-44 for Northwestern after the Wildcats hit their fourth three of the half. They were 4-of-6 from three to start the half.
A quick spurt by the Blue Devils cut the lead to 50-49, after Horton grabbed his 10th rebound of the game and hit a basket on the other end.
After the lead climbed to seven, five straight from Central made it 56-54 with under six to play. A long three from Vinales, his fourth of the game, cut it to 58-57. A running jumper by the freshman made it 60-59 with under three on the clock, but the fourth three of the half by Reggie Hearn pushed the lead back to four.
Off a Blue Devil timeout, Horton hit his third three of the game to cut the lead to 63-62 with 1:33 on the clock. A three-point play from Hearn moved it to 66-62 with under a minute to play, but Ptacek hit two free-throws to cut it to two.
Norhwestern got a running jumper in the lane with 14.5 on the clock to push it back to four, 68-64. Central turned it over on its next possession.
Vinales had 27, Horton added 15 and his 11 rebounds and Ptacek finished with 17 points.
The loss drops the Blue Devils to 5-5, and is the third straight. Northwestern is now 9-1.
The Blue Devils are off until Thursday night, when they will host LaSalle at home at 7 p.m. CCSU is 4-0 at home this season.