The Central Connecticut men's basketball team fell to top-seeded Wagner, 73-61, on Wednesday night at Staten Island, NY. The Blue Devils would cut an 18-point deficit to six late in the second half, but the Seahawks would hold off the late rally. Sophomore Joe Hugley 16 of his game-high 22 points after halftime to lead CCSU.
Central closes the season with a record of 14-18, while Wagner improves to 22-8.
"I thought that was a hard fought game and I am personally proud of our players," head coach Donyell Marshall said. "It is a bunch of guys who've never played in the NEC tournament before. This (Spiro Sports Center) is a tough place to play and I think we had them sweating a little bit. This is a team (Wagner) that knows how to play together, they know how to make the right plays at the right time. We just made one too many mistakes and they were able to pull away with it. It was a hard fought game from both teams and Wagner is a heck of a team - that's why they are regular season champs."
Hugley finished 6-of-12 from the field and 5-of-9 from three-point range. He also had four rebounds and two steals. Junior Tyler Kohl added 15 points with four rebounds, three assists and two steals and a block. Junior Austin Nehls scored 10 points with three rebounds and two assists.
Junior Tyler Kohl scored CCSU's first nine points. He would score five unanswered, capped off by a three-pointer at the 15:15 mark to give the Blue Devils a 9-7 lead.
A pair of foul shots by junior Deion Bute would tie the game 14-14 at the 9:00 mark before Wagner came back with seven straight points. Blake Francis scored the final four points of the spurt to make it 21-14 with 7:36 left in the period.
Central got a three-pointer from junior Austin Nehls and two foul shots from senior Mustafa Jones to cut the deficit to two points, but Wagner would manage to maintain the lead. A layup by Nigel Jackson would give the Seahawks a 34-28 lead heading into the intermission.
CCSU was limited to 7-of-18 (.389) shooting in the first half with nine turnovers, but hit four three-pointers and went 10-of-19 at the foul line to keep the margin close.
Wagner scored six straight early in the half to push the lead to double-digits. Two foul shots from Romone Saunders with 16:21 to play made it 43-31.
The Seahawks would stretch the lead to as much as 59-41. An Elijah Dave three-pointer with 10:47 left made the largest margin of the night.
The Blue Devils would start a rally led by sophomore Joe Hugley who scored 12 straight for CCSU in one stretch. A layup by Kohl would open a 9-0 run, closed out by seven unanswered from Hugley to make it 59-50 with 7:01 to go.
Nigel Jackson would hit a three to end the CCSU run and push the lead back to 12 before Hugley followed with five straight points. Blake Francis would hit a foul shot before a layup from Jones would make it 63-57 with 5:02 to go.
A three-pointer by JoJo Cooper and a jumper by Saunders would make it 69-58 with 1:39 to go to end the Central threat. Hugley would hit a three-pointer to close out the scoring for Central. He scored all 16 of his second-half points in the final 8:31 of the game.
Central was in the NEC Tournament for the first time since 2013-14. Its last four appearances have all ended with losses at Wagner in the quarterfinals.
CCSU finished the game 15-of-43 (.349) from the field and 8-of-19 (.421) from three-point range. The Blue Devils were 23-of-29 (.793) at the foul stripe.
Wagner shot 24-of-49 (490) from the field and 10-of-22 (.455) from the arc. The Seahawks held a 34-27 rebounding edge and forced 15 CCSU turnovers.
Cooper led four Seahawks in double-figures with 20 points and seven assists, while Saunders had 18 points and 10 rebounds.
Central finished 14-18 on the season, marking its most wins since 2010-11 (19).