Udenze's Late Free Throws Lead Central Past FDU, 76-73
Junior Justina Udenze scored a career high 20 points, including five free throws in the final 33 seconds of the game, to lead Central Connecticut State University to a 76-73 victory at Fairleigh Dickinson (5-9, 1-2) on Saturday. Senior P.J. Wade added a season-best 18 points, on 7-10 shooting, to help CCSU improve to 5-9 overall and 2-2 in Northeast Conference play.
Holding a 39-34 halftime lead, CCSU scored the first eight points of the second period to make it 47-34 with 16:47 on the clock. Junior Kerrianne Dugan started the half out strong with a jumper off of an inbounds play. On the Blue Devils' next possession sophomore Alexzandria Dowdy fed freshman Kirsten Daamen for a layup with a pass wrapped around Daamen's defender. Dugan drove the lane and finished a runner to continue the early second half CCSU stretch. After junior Leanne Crockett blocked a FDU shot she hit Dugan up the court who found Wade in the corner for the two point jumper. Central extended the lead to 17 with 10:31 to play before the Knights began cutting into it.
Sophomore Mariah Laury scored 11 points on a 22-6 Fairleigh Dickinson run that cut the CCSU lead to one at 65-64. After Laury's three-pointer made it 65-64, Crockett connected on one of her two threes in the game to give Central a bit more cushion. Junior Kayla Killian came right back with a long two-pointer which made it 68-66 Central. Back to back jumpers by Laury and Wade kept the lead at two, before Laury hit one of two from the free throw line to get the Knights within one again. The sophomore guard got back to the free thow line on FDU's next possession and made both give the Knights their first lead of the game at 71-70.
That was when Udenze got things done at the free throw line. With 32 seconds to play, she made both attempts to regain the CCSU lead, 72-71. After a defensive stopp by the Blue Devils, Dowdy missed the front end of a one-and-one, and it was Udenze that grabbed the offensive rebound with 15 seconds left on the clock. The junior forward then made one and missed the second, but this time Crockett was there to clean things up as she grabbed her game-best 12th board of the contest. She was then followed and hit one of two from the line. Laury hit another pull up jumper in the lane to cut the deficit to one once more with six seconds to play. Udenze then knocked down the final two free throws to give CCSU the 76-73 victory.
CCSU was firing on all cylinders, as the Blue Devils started the game on a 10-2 run. Crockett finished a layup on a post move from the baseline within the first 15 seconds of the game. She then stole the ball and fed Dugan for a fast break layup to make it 4-0. After one basket by FDU, Dugan gave up an open shot to find an even more open Wade for a wide open three-pointer. The next time down court Wade drove the baseline and kicked it to Dowdy who connected on a three-point shot of her own to give Central the 10-2 lead just 3:23 into the game.
After CCSU built the lead to 12 at 35-23, Fairligh Dickinson went on a 7-0 run to make it 35-30 with just 2:11 to play in the first half. A three ball from Killian was sandwiched in between fast break layups by sophomore Esther Wallace and junior Alyssa Mayrose. The Knights, now with only a five point deficit, held even with the Blue Devils for the rest of the period as Central led 39-34 at the break.
Wade and Udenze led the Blue Devils during the opening frame. The two upperclassmen combined for 21 out of CCSU's 39 first half points. Wade connected on three baskets, including one from beyond the arc, and was a perfect 3-3 from the free throw line as she scored 10 points. Udenze came off the bench to record 11 points in the first half. She hit five from the field, only missing one basket. The Blue Devils continued their hot shooting from Thursday, recording a field goal percentage of 58.3 percent and connecting on four out eight three-point attempts in the half. It marked the best first half shooting by Central this season.
Laury finished with a game high 32 points, on 12-20 shooting, to lead Fairleigh Dickinson. Sophomore Jasmyra Saunders added 13 points, six assists and four steals in the loss. The Knights recorded a 50 percent field goal percentage in the defeat.
Udenze and Wade led the Blue Devils with 20 and 18 points, respectively. Udenze added seven points, while it was Crockett who led CCSU with 12 boards. She added nine points and four assists in 39 minutes of action. Dowdy and Dugan each finished with eight points. The former led Central with six assists, while the latter recorded four helpers in the victory. Central Connecticut got it done on offense, recording a season-best 56.9 field goal percentage.
The Blue Devils, now 2-2 in NEC action, will return home to host Quinnipiac on Thursday, January 14 at 4:30 p.m. CCSU will then welcome reigning NEC Champion Sacred Heart to Detrick Gymnasium for a 1:00 p.m. tip on Saturday, January 16.