Trailing by 20 in the second half, the Central Connecticut men's basketball team cut it to five points in the final minutes, before falling 87-77 to Wagner in the quarterfinal round of the Northeast Conference Tournament on Thursday night.
With the loss the Blue Devils end the season 13-16 overall. They were the seventh seed in the tournament and travelled to play second seed Wagner.
Senior Ken Horton
led the offense with 25 points and grabbed nine rebounds in the final game of his career. He also added three assists and a pair of steals in the loss.
Freshman Kyle Vinales
added 16 points, and classmate Shelton Mickell
had nine late points to help lead the late comeback. Senior Robby Ptacek
had 10 points and five rebounds in his final game for CCSU.
Central led 13-11 early, but an 11-0 run by the Seahawks gave the home team a 22-13 lead that they wouldn't give up for the rest of the game.
The Blue Devils climbed to within five at 34-29, following an offensive rebound and bucket from junior Joe Efese
. Wagner responded and would lead 40-30 before a bucket before the buzzer from Horton.
After starting the game 6-of-10, Central hit just 5-of-21 from the field in the final 14:12. They were just 3-of-12 from three in the half.
Wagner hit 15-of-31 in the half, and 4-of-10 from three, to take the eight point lead. They forced nine Central turnovers and turned them into 11 points before the break.
The Seahawks scored the first eight of the second half and built their lead to 48-32. It stretched to 52-34 as the Wagner run reached 12-2 to open the half.
After the lead reached 18, freshman Malcolm McMillan
hit back-to-back threes to cut it to 60-48. Six straight from the Seahawks, including the second three of the game from Latif Rivers, made it 66-48.
A jumper from Vinales cut the Wagner lead to 78-64 with just over five to play in the game. A three from Vinales, and two free-throws from senior Robby Ptacek cut it to 80-69. Ptacek shot the free-throws off a technical foul on the Wagner bench.
Central cut it to 10, 82-72, with under four to play. With 2:04 on the clock Ptacek hit two more free-throws to cut it to eight. After an Efese block, Mickell hit a three to make it 82-77.
Wagner hit a pair of free-throws and scored five straight points to push it back to 87-77, the eventual final score.
Horton's 25 push his school-record total to 1,966. Ptacek's 10 push his total to 1,531, the 10th highest total in school history. He moves to fifth all-time on the NEC scoring list.
Vinales ends his spectacular freshman season with 520 points, the most ever for a freshman in school history. His 71 threes is also a freshman record.