Central Tops Sacred Heart 63-51 to Advance to Northeast Conference Semifinals

Central Tops Sacred Heart 63-51 to Advance to Northeast Conference Semifinals

The Central Connecticut State University women's basketball team advanced to the Northeast Conference Semifinals for the second straight season with a 63-51 quarterfinal victory over Sacred Heart Saturday night in Loretto, PA. Junior Justina Udenze scored 17 points and a career high 18 rebounds, while junior Leanne Crockett recorded 17 points and 13 boards in the victory. Junior Kerrianne Dugan scored her 1,000th career point during first half action. The Blue Devils will now take on second seed Long Island Sunday at 4:00 p.m.

Udenze and Crockett got CCSU out to an early 4-1 lead as the Blue Devils looked to get the ball inside early against SHU. Up only 12-11, Central put togehter a 10-2 run to take a 22-13 lead with 8:02 left in the first half. Crockett and Senior Emily Rose knocked down back to back three-pointers to ignite the run. Junior Kerrianne

Dugan and Crockett then connected on layups to give Central its largest lead of the half at nine. The Pioneers countered when junior Alisa Apo hit two straight from beyond the arc to cut the CCSU lead to three at 22-19 with 6:18 to play in the opening period. The three point advantage stuck until the final minute of the first half when Dugan was fouled in the act of a three-pointer and hit all three from the charity stripe to give the Blue Devils a 33-27 lead at the break.

With nine minutes to play in the first half Dugan scored her first basket of the game, giving her 1,001 points in her career at Central Connecticut. The junior becomes the 15th member of the 1,000 point club at CCSU and is now one of only two Blue Devils to record 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 250 assists in a career.

After Sacred Heart opened the second half on a 7-2 run to cut it to 35-34, CCSU scored the next six points to make it 41-34. Two free throws and a back door layup by Dugan were split up by a put back layup from Udenze, but once again the Pioneers countered. Apo hit two jumpers as Sacred Heart went on an 8-0 run to cut the Blue Devil lead to one at 43-42.

Crockett stopped the bleeding with a drive to the lane, which sparked a 14-2 run that gave the Blue Devils a 13 point lead at 57-44. A reverse layup by Udenze and a driving runner by senior P.J. Wade followed Crockett's bucket. Wade was fouled on the drive and converted on the traditional three-point play.

After two free throws by Sacred Heart's Callan Taylor, Crockett drove the baseline once again and was fouled while finishing in the lane. Crockett knocked down the free throw and Udenze grabbed one of her eight offensive rebounds and finished the put back layup on the ensuing possession. After free throws by sophomore Alexzandria Dowdy and Udenze CCSU had its 13 point lead with 3:16 to play.

Central held on for the 63-51 victory and advanced to the NEC semifinals for the second straight season. The Blue Devils will take on second seed Long Island on Sunday at 4:00 p.m. The Blackbirds defeated Quinnipiac earlier tonight to advance to the semifinals.

CCSU finished with 39.7 percent shooting from the field and held Sacred Heart to 22.8 percent from the floor and only five of 21 from beyond the arc. The Blue Devils handled the Pioneers on the glass, out-rebounding SHU by a mark of 51-36. CCSU tallied 34 points in the paint, while Sacred Heart finished with only 14.

Udenze and Crockett led Central with 17 points, while the former recorded a game and career high of 18 rebounds. It tied Udenze for the fifth best single game performance for rebounding in CCSU history. It was her fifth double-double of the season and marked the 10th for Crockett who added 13 boards in the victory. Dugan finished with nine points and six rebounds.