The Central Connecticut men's basketball team won its Northeast Conference opener over Saint Francis , 72-68, on Friday night at Detrick Gymnasium. The Blue Devils shot 56.9 percent from the field and held off a late Red Flash rally to improve to 8-6 overall and 1-0 in NEC play. Saint Francis U, the preseason conference favorite, slips to 6-6 overall and 0-1 in the NEC.
Sophomore Joe Hugley scored a team-high 17 points off the bench to lead four Blue Devils in double-figures. Senior Mustafa Jones had 14 points and seven rebounds, while junior Tyler Kohl added 11 points, eight rebounds and five assists. Junior Deion Bute chipped in 10 points.
Central is back in action on Sunday, Jan. 31, when it hosts Robert Morris at 3:30 p.m.
The Blue Devils would build a double-digit lead in the opening 6:37 of the game. Central scored the first six points of the contest and held the Red Flash scoreless for the opening 5:09. Jones would have two baskets in a run of six straight points, including a jumper to make it 12-2 at the 13:23 mark.
The Red Flash shot just 1-of-12 from the field to open the game, but would convert three-pointers on three straight possessions to get within 14-11 after a trey by Keith Braxton at the 10:40 mark.
SFU would get within two points before an 8-0 CCSU run pushed the lead back to double-figures. Bute hit a pair of foul shots to open the spurt and Hugley and Kohl would hit back-to-back three-pointers to push the lead to 22-12.
The lead would grow to as much as 33-17 after Central outscored Saint Francis U 11-2 over a span of 2:49. Bute would have four points in the run and Hugley would score consecutive baskets, including a dunk, to close the run out at the 3:06 mark.
The Blue Devils would shoot 55.6 percent from the field in the opening half, while limiting SFU to just 27.6 percent, and take a 35-21 lead into the break.
Jones would score four straight points followed by a layup from junior Austin Nehls to stretch the lead to 43-23 with 17:11 remaining, giving the Blue Devils their largest lead of the night.
The Red Flash would cut the deficit to single digits, outscoring Central 13-2 over a nearly three-minute span. Jamaal King had 10 points in the stretch, including a three-pointer to cut the CCSU lead to 45-36 with 13:21 remaining.
Nehls would score five straight points to push the lead back to 52-39 for CCSU. The Blue Devils would push the lead back to as much as 66-48, but the Red Flash would use a late 20-4 run to tie the game. Andre Wolford converted a three-point play to cap a spurt of nine unanswered points to tie the game at 68-68 with 2:13 to play, but Central would never trail.
Hugley would hit two foul shots with 1:17 to play to give CCSU the lead again and the Blue Devils would force SFU into two missed shots. Junior Eric Bowles drew a charge with 6.7 seconds left to give the Central the ball back and Jones would close the scoring with a dunk just before the final horn to make it 72-68.
Central shot 29-of-51 (.569) from the field for the game and was 9-of-12 (.750) at the foul line. The Blue Devils outrebounded the Red Flash, 34-26, and held a 42-34 edge in scoring in the paint.
The win gave CCSU its first victory to open conference play since defeating Bryant, 83-51, on Dec. 1, 2011 to begin league play.
Keith Braxton led four players in double-figures for SFU with 18 points and eight rebounds to go with seven steals and four assists. The Red Flash shot 54.3 percent from the field in the second half to shoot 27-of-64 (.422) for the game.
Central closes out the calendar year with a home game against Robert Morris on Sunday afternoon at 3:30 p.m.