The Central Connecticut women's basketball team was edged by Bryant, 55-53, in the final NEC regular season game of the season on Monday night in Smithfield, RI. The Blue Devils trailed by 14 points with 8:46 left to play in the game, but came roaring back and had a chance to tie or win the game on their final possession. A tough layup attempt by sophomore Aleah Epps rimmed out as the final buzzer sounded and Central was unable to complete the comeback to spoil Senior Day in the Chace Athletic Center.
The Blue Devils finish the regular season with an 18-11 overall record and 14-4 mark in NEC play. Bryant improves to 21-8 on the season and 14-4 in the NEC with the victory. With the loss to Bryant, the Blue Devils share the NEC regular season championship with the Bulldogs, but CCSU will remain the number one overall seed in the upcoming 2015 NEC Tournament. The regular season championship is the first in program history for Central.
Bryant opened the game on an 11-0 run and held the Blue Devils scoreless for the first 4:53 of the game.
The Blue Devils would respond, however, and went on a huge 15-4 run over the next 10 minutes to tie the game 15-15, with 6:06 to play before the break.
The Bulldogs then answered with a quick 7-0 run of their own, including five from senior Jenniqua Bailey to stretch their lead back out to 7, 22-17, with under four minutes to play in the half.
Kayla Miller then took over and scored eight-straight points for CCSU to close out the half with an 8-2 Blue Devil run, but the Bulldogs entered the locker room with the advantage, 24-23.
Both teams turned the ball over nine times each and neither team shot over 30.0% in the half. Central connected on just 28.1% (9-32) of their shots from the field and Bryant was slightly better hitting 29.0% (9-31) of their attempts from the floor.
In the second half the Blue Devils took their first lead of the game, 25-24, on their opening possession of the half with a layup from junior TeJahne Malone. The Blue Devils would make it 27-24 after a jumper from redshirt freshman Lauren Wolosik on their next trip to take their largest lead of the game, but would never lead again.
The Bulldogs exploded for a 15-2 run from the 12:28 mark to 7:43 to play, fueled by nine points on three-straight triples from Bryant freshman Ivory Bailey to retake control of the game.
However, Central didn't quit and made things very interesting over the final four minutes. The Blue Devils used a quick 8-0 run as they picked up the pressure and forced three-straight Bryant turnovers, making it a three-point game (54-51) with 1:35 to play after Epps made a layup off one of the turnovers.
Jenniqua Bailey would hit one-of-two free throws after a foul to make it a four-point Bryant lead with a minute and a half left on the clock.
On the next CCSU possession Musgrave drove hard to the right side and hit a layup to make it a two-point game. Central would then force another huge turnover on the next Bryant possession to setup the final possession for the Blue Devils.
With the shot clock turned off and 16 seconds to play, Epps received a screen from Malone at the top of the key. She drove right and pulled up, but the Bryant defender didn't bite on the ball fake. Epps had to get creative with the clock winding down and tried a scoop shot off the hip of the defender. Her attempt caromed off the side of the rim and Bryant snuck away with the 55-53 victory.
Musgrve led CCSU with 11 points on four-of-13 shooting from the field, including two-of-six from behind the arc. She also made one-of-two free throw attempts. Harrington was the next highest scorer for the Blue Devils with nine and dominated the glass with a career-high 13 rebounds.
The Blue Devils finished the game shooting 32.3% (20-62) from the floor, including 25.0% (3-12) from three. They were 90.9% (10-11) from the charity stripe.
Bryant shot 34.5% (20-58) from the field, including 20.0% (3-15) from distance. The Bulldogs connected on 70.6% (12-17) of their attempts from the line.
Central controlled the glass in the game and out rebounded Bryant 46-37, but the Blue Devils turned the ball over 20 times en route to 21 Bryant points.
The Blue Devils will return to action at home with the quarterfinal round of the NEC Tournament on Sunday, Mar. 8. Central will play LIU Brooklyn at 2 p.m. inside Detrick Gymnasium. Tickets for the quarterfinal game will be availiable tomorrow on CCSUTickets.com.