The Central Connecticut men's basketball team qualified for its 16th straight Northeast Conference Tournament with an 86-82 overtime victory on the road at LIU Brooklyn on Thursday night. Junior Kyle Vinales hit a three-pointer as time expired in regulation, his second of the night, and the Blue Devils hit 7-of-7 from the line in overtime to seal the victory.
Central improves to 10-18 overall and 6-9 in NEC action, qualifying for the NEC Tournament as either the seventh or eighth seed. Central's seed and opponent will be determined after Saturday's final games in league play. The Blue Devils finish the regular season at Sacred Heart on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. Currently CCSU is tied with Fairleigh Dickinson in the league standings with a 6-9 record. A win on Saturday gives Central the #7 seed in the tournament. If the Blue Devils and FDU end up tied in the standings CCSU also ends up as the #7 seed.
The Blue Devils made 18-of-18 from the line in the win, including 7-of-7 in the extra frame. They also had 22 assists on 31 made baskets. Seven different players had an assist. Freshman Khalen Cumberlander had six and Vinales had five. Junior Malcolm McMillan had four assists and 11 points. Vinales ended the game with eight, with two big threes in the final minutes.
Junior Faronte Drakeford led the offense for the Blue Devils with 25 points, his eighth 20+ point outing of the season. He added nine rebounds and was 11-of-19 from the field. Sophomore Brandon Peel had a career-high 18 points and grabbed eight rebounds. He was 9-of-14 from the floor.
Central trailed by as many as six with 4:48 left in the game, but stormed back on the play of Vinales and Peel. The pair combined to score the final 16 CCSU points in regulation and push the game to overtime.
The Blue Devils led 37-31 at halftime after a solid first half where they shot 50 percent (13-of-26) but made just 2-of-9 from three. Eight different players scored in the half for the Blue Devils, led by 12 from Drakeford. LIU's Gerrell Martin led all scorers with 22 points, scoring 22 of his team's 31 in the half. He was 9-of-14 from the field while the rest of the team was 4-of-20 from the field.
Central led 8-0 early and by as many as 10 on three separate occassions in the half. They had nine assists on 13 total baskets.
The Blue Devils end the regular season on the road at Sacred Heart on Saturday beginning at 3:30 p.m.