Men's Basketball Stumbles in Second Half, Falls to Saint Francis U., 80-71

Men's Basketball Stumbles in Second Half, Falls to Saint Francis U., 80-71

The Central Connecticut men's basketball team dropped a Northeast Conference contest, 80-71, to Saint Francis U. on Thursday at Detrick Gymnasium. In a competitive game that featured four ties and 10 lead changes, the Red Flash would use a late run to take control of the game.

CCSU slips to 5-21 overall and 3-12 in the NEC, while SFU improves to 12-14 overall and 9-6 in the NEC.

Saint Francis scored 15 points in the opening 3:42 of the second half to erase a six-point CCSU cushion before Central would come back to take a lead with just over eight minutes to play. An 8-0 run by the Red Flash late would prove to be the difference.

The Red Flash built a 20-14 lead midway the first half following four straight points from Keith Braxton. CCSU would get three foul shots from senior Tafari Whittingham to cut the deficit in half. Central would score eight straight as part of a 11-2 run and junior Mustafa Jones' layup at the 5:19 mark made it 25-22. 

Freshman Tyson Batiste would hit his third three-pointer of the half to give CCSU a 30-24 lead at the 4:19 mark. The shot would cap a 16-4 spurt for the Blue Devils to take their largest lead of the half. 

Saint Francis would manage to get as close as 30-29 before the Blue Devils would outscore the Red Flash, 7-2, down the stretch in the first half. Central answered with five straight on a three-pointer from senior Khalen Cumberlander and two foul shots from sophomore Austin Nehls to push the lead back to 35-29. A jumper by Jones just before halftime gave CCSU a 37-31 lead at the break.

The Blue Devils shot 11-of-26 (.423) from the field in the first half and were 5-of-11 (.455) from three-point range to post their highest-scoring opening period since 41 points at Maine back on Nov. 30. CCSU was 10-of-16 (.625) at the foul line and had an 18-12 edge in rebounding. Whittingham and Batiste led Central with nine points apiece in the half. 

SFU shot 13-of-27 (.481) from the field, but was just 2-of-8 (.250) from the arc. The Red Flash were perfect at the foul line in the opening half, but had just three attempts. Braxton had eight points to lead SFU.

The Red Flash scored the first 10 points of the second half to regain the lead. A layup by Braxton was followed by a three-pointer from Jamaal King. A layup by Isaiah Blackmon made it 38-37 and forced a CCSU timeout with 18:13 remaining. Josh Nebo converted a three-point play to extend the run and push the SFU lead to 41-37.

Saint Francis would extend its lead to as much as 46-39 after a Braxton three-pointer. Cumberlander would account for 12 straight points for CCSU and his three-pointer at the 11:46 mark would make it 53-51.

Nehls' first three-pointer of the night would cut the deficit to 55-54 before a reverse layup from Whittingham put CCSU back in front, 56-55, with 8:11 to play.

The Red Flash would take a 71-64 lead following a 8-0 run with 3:41 to play. Blackmon would hit back-to-back three-pointers and a layup from King capped the spurt to put SFU in front for good. The Blue Devils would be unable to get closer than five points the rest of the way.

Cumberlander would score 19 of his game-high 25 points after halftime. Batiste finished with a career-high 17 points and went 5-of-6 from three-point range, while Whittingham had 13 points and seven rebounds off the bench.

CCSU shot 24-of-57 (.421) overall and was 11-of-22 (.500) from three-point range. Central finished 12-of-18 (.667) from the foul line and had a 31-26 rebounding edge. 

SFU had five players in double-figures led by Braxton's 19 points and eight rebounds. King added 14 points, while Nebo had 13 points. Georgios Angelou had 11 points off the bench and Blackmon had 10 points.

The Red Flash shot 17-of-25 (.680) after halftime to finish the game at 57.7 percent (30-of-52). SFU was 9-of-19 (.474) from the arc and 11-of-12 (.917) from the foul line. The Red Flash had a 22-9 edge in points off turnovers.

The Blue Devils host Robert Morris at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 18. The CCSU volleyball and football teams will be holding a School Supplies Drive to benefit Smalley Academy. Fans are encouraged to bring any school supplies to donate.