A career-day from senior forward Joe Efese helped the Central Connecticut men's basketball team snap a four-game losing streak with a 80-72 win on the road at Sacred Heart on Saturday afternoon. Efese finished the game with a career-high 21 points and added eight blocks and six rebounds as Central improved to 11-15 overall and 7-8 in Northeast Conference action.
Sacred Heart falls to 9-17 and 7-8 league action with the loss. The Blue Devils will hold the head-to-head tie-breaker with the Pioneers if it should come to that, courtesy of a season sweep of the series.
Sophomore Kyle Vinales led the Blue Devils in scoring with 28 points in the game, 21 of them coming in the second half. Junior Matt Hunter posted his fifth double-double of the season with 10 points and a game-high 11 rebounds. Freshman Brandon Peel was the fourth Blue Devil in double-figures with 15 points, just two off his career-high.
Down 19-14, the Blue Devils used 7-0 run to take a 21-19 lead at 9:24 of the first half. The run included five straight from Vinales. Efese had 11 early points and four boards. The Blue Devil lead reached 27-21 as the run was 13-2 for the Blue Devils with under six minutes to play in the half.
Sacred Heart pulled ahead 32-31 with 2:47 to play on the fourth three of the half from Steve Glowiak. Central led 37-35 at halftime as Glowiak hit his fifth three at the horn.
Efese led the Blue Devils with 13 points at the break, he also had four rebounds. Peel added nine points as Central was 15-of-32 from the field and 1-of-4 from three. Glowiak led all scorers with 15 points at halftime, as the Pioneers were 14-of-36 from the field and 7-of-16 from three.
Central led 48-46 with 11:29 to play in the second half. Vinales had five points to help the Blue Devils hold onto the two-point lead.
The lead stretched to three on a three-point play from Vinales, 55-52, with under eight minutes to play. It reached five at 59-54 on the 19th point of the game from Efese and a driving lay-up from Vinales. The third three of the game from Vinales pushed it to 62-56 with 5:22 on the clock.
The Pioneers cut it to two, 64-62, with 3:23 to play on a pair of free-throws from Glowiak. A jumper from Peel and a pair of free-throws from Vinales made it 70-65 with 2:16 on the clock.
Central made their free-throws in the final minutes to claim their first victory in their last five games. The win gives the Blue Devils the season sweep of the Pioneers.
The Blue Devils will complete the regular with three straight home games, beginning Monday night at 7 p.m. vs. Quinnipiac. They will also host St. Francis University on Thursday, and finish the regular season hosting Robert Morris on Saturday, Mar. 2, at 3:30 p.m.