Senior Brandon Peel posted his 11th straight double-double and a season-high crowd turned out to pay respect to head coach Howie Dickenman in his final game at the helm of the Central Connecticut men's basketball program on Saturday at Detrick Gymnasium. Fairleigh Dickenson defeated the Blue Devils, 81-75, in the regular-season finale for both squads.
Peel scored a game-high 21 points, grabbed 15 rebounds and tied a career-high with six assists in 40 minutes of action in his final game in a Blue Devils uniform. Junior JJ Cratit added 17 points and six rebounds, while freshman Austin Nehls added 15 points and seven rebounds. Nehls hit five three-pointers to tie the single-season record for three-pointers by a freshman at CCSU with 71.
Dickenman was honored following the game in front of a crowd that included several former players and colleagues from his time at both Central Connecticut and UConn. In 20 seasons on the CCSU bench, Dickenman collected 282 wins and won three Northeast Conference championships.
Central got off to a fast start as Nehls hit his first two three-pointers of the game and a 10-1 run helped build a double-digit lead. Sophomore Kevin Seymour had a free throw and a jumper sandwiched around a three-pointer by Cratit to open the run. A layup by Peel made it 16-7 before a foul shot by FDU momentarily interrupted the CCSU spurt. A layup by junior Khalen Cumberlander and a jumper by sophomore Mustafa Jones closed the run out and made it 18-8 with 13:34 to play in the opening period.
The Knights would take their first lead of the day with an 11-2 run. A three-point play by Malik Miller opened the spurt, during which the Blue Devils were held to a pair of foul shots. Darian Anderson scored four straight points to close the run out and his layup made it 32-31 with 4:18 to play in the first half.
The teams would trade leads five times before halftime, but three free throws by Mike Holloway gave the Knights a 41-39 lead at the intermission.
Central scored eight straight points early in the second half to build a 57-51 lead. A three-point play by Peel opened the spurt, and a three-pointer by Nehls closed out the run with 13:22 to play.
The Knights retook the lead with eight straight points of their own all scored by Ghassan Nehme. His three-pointer with 11:54 to play made it 59-57.
Central would take its last lead of the day after a three-pointer and a foul shot from Cratit made it 61-59 with 10:58 to play. Fairleigh Dickinson scored five straight to take the lead for good on another Nehme three-pointer. The Knights would push the lead to as much as 76-67 with 4:06 to play.
A three-point play by Cratit with 1:27 remaining got Central within three points, but Anderson hit a trifecta for FDU with 21 seconds remaining to close out the scoring and hold off the Blue Devils, 81-75.
Peel posted his fourth 20-point game of the year with 21 points. Cratit and Nehls were also in double-figures with 17 and 15 points, respectively. Seymour finished with a game-high seven assists, against no turnovers.
The Blue Devils held a 40-38 advantage in rebounding for the game and shot 27-of-63 (42.9 percent) overall. Central was 10-of-22 (45.5 percent) from three-point range.
Earl Potts Jr. led four Knights in double-figures with 17 points. Anderson added 16 points and five assists. FDU shot 30-of-65 (46.2 percent) overall and was 11-of-25 (44.0 percent) from three-point range.
Central closes out the season 4-25 overall and 3-15 in the NEC. FDU improves to 15-14 overall and 11-7 in league play.