Central Connecticut (17-12, 12-6) ended its regular season with a 67-51 Northeast Conference home loss versus Monmouth (17-12, 11-7). Freshman Shontice Simmons led the Blue Devils with 17 points and eight rebounds. Junior P.J. Wade added 14 points and five boards in the defeat. Both players had two steals. CCSU will make its return to the Northeast Conference Tournament on Saturday, March 7. The Blue Devils, who last made it to the league tournament in 2005-06, will be the #2 seed. They play #7 Fairleigh Dickinson at 5:30 p.m. in the Pitt Center on the campus of Sacred Heart.
It was a tale of two halves for the Blue Devils. They shot 17-of-26, a season-best 65.4 percent clip, in the opening half, but connected on a season-low 5-of-30 (16.7 percent) shots in the second half. Monmouth, meanwhile, kept the score tight in the first half with solid offensive rebounding and second chance points. The Hawks shot 13-of-24 (54.2 percent) over the final 20 minutes.
The first half featured six ties and nine lead changes. Monmouth led 13-11 early thanks in large part to nine second chance points off 10 offensive rebounds. Freshman Gabrielle Oglesby hit a three to shift the back in Central Connecticut's favor, but the Hawks responded with back-to-back baskets from senior LaKia Barber. Simmons took over from there for the Blue Devils. The Fort Washington, MD native scored on a reverse layup and then a steal and break away. Those were the first four of 15 points over the half's final 8:33.
After Monmouth tied the game at 25-25, Simmons converted on consecutive possessions to put CCSU in front for the remainder of the half. The Blue Devils led 37-33 at the break.
Simmons went 7-of-7 from the floor to account for her 15 first half points. Wade added eight points on 4-of-4 shooting. Barber and freshman Alexis Scott each had eight points to lead the Hawks. Senior Jennifer Bender added seven points and nine rebounds, including five on the offensive glass. Monmouth finished the half with 15 offensive rebounds and 15 second chance points.
Central Connecticut stretched its lead to 39-33 at the start of the second half, but the Hawks countered with a 10-2 run to tie the game at 43-43. Scott hit a three-pointer to start a 24-8 game-ending run and put Monmouth in front for good. Wade cut CCSU's deficit to 50-47 with 10:31 left to play, but the Hawks scored 12 unanswered points to stretch their lead to 15, 62-47. Senior Jhanay Harris, who was honored prior to the opening tip, ended the Blue Devil drought with 1-of-2 at the free throw line. However, Central Connecticut did connect on a field goal until freshman Christie Leverette hit a three-pointer with 1:48 remaining in the game.
Sophomore Kerrianne Dugan added six points, six rebounds and three assists for the Blue Devils. Bender finished with 16 points and 11 rebounds in the win. Scott had 15 points, and Barber totaled 12 points and seven rebounds. The Hawks finished with 20 offensive rebounds and 19 second chance points. They also outscored CCSU 48-20 in the paint.
Central Connecticut will take on Fairleigh Dickinson in quarterfinal action at the NEC Tournament on Saturday, March 7. Tip-off at the Pitt Center on Sacred Heart's campus in Fairfield, CT is slated for 5:30 p.m. The Blue Devils went 2-0 against the Knights during the regular season. They won 71-57 in New Britain and 71-69 at FDU.