Teaneck, NJ - The calendar had yet to turn to March and already the Madness was evident. Central Connecticut edged FDU 67-66 in first round action of the Northeast Conference Tournament. The game at FDU’s Rothman center saw Central Connecticut improve to 8-23 (4-13 NEC) while FDU’s season ended at 4-22 (4-11). Points of emphasis:
Resilience. The score was tied at 6 early. FDU then went on a 9-0 run. At the half FDU held a 34-27 lead. The host Knights increased it to 13 on two Oscar Berry three pointers in the opening 90 seconds of the final stanza. With just over 18 minutes to play the Central Connecticut deficit was 15. Each time, Central Connecticut responded. "I’m proud of our guys," Central Connecticut coach Patrick Sellers said. "We have had four or five games like this. But these guys always fight to the finish. We knew FDU would come out aggressive and trap on defense. We were prepared for their zone but they were physical and got in our passing lanes."
Putting teams away. FDU coach Greg Herenda admitted a problem with his team was finishing the deal. "We have had leads on teams several times during the year," Herenda lamented. "We just couldn’t finish the job. That’s a sign of a young team and the maturation process. You need to know how to finish the job. How to win. We didn’t do that tonight."
Nigel Scantlebury was clutch. Trenton McLaughlin, a freshman guard came off the bench to can four three pointers and each one seemed to prevent FDU from pulling away. At crunch time with the Blue Devils down one and 15 seconds left. The ball was in scantlebury’s hands. Scantlebury did a great job on dribble penetration all game. On this play in the waning moments he began to penetrate and was fouled with just under ten seconds remaining. He canned both free throws. "I hate losing," Scantlebury said in reply to what his mindset was in those final seconds. "I was not going to let my team down. On the line I just had to stay calm and tell myself I do this every day (in practice)."
Falling short. Herenda wanted to get to March. The Knights missed in a most heartbreaking fashion. "It’s frustrating," Herenda admitted. "Knowing you are not going to be playing again this season. I will miss going to practice every day. I feel good for (Central Connecticut coach) Patrick Sellers. He assisted on some of our championship teams. He’s family. For forty minutes he’s the enemy. Now the game is over and he’s family again. I wish him the best at Bryant (in the NEC quarterfinal)."
Numbers. The game was 61 possessions. Central Connecticut held a 110-108 edge in offensive efficiency. On the season FDU showed a 100 efficiency, good for seventh in NEC play while Central Connecticut was at the bottom of the conference with a 95. Obviously both clubs were dialed in on the offensive end.
Nigel Scantlebury led all scorers with 19 points. McLaughlin contributed 14. FDU, with five in double figures, was paced by Brandon Rush’s 15 points. Anquan Hill added 12. John Square jr., Berry and Asley Almonor had 11.
Central Connecticut shot 47% from the game, including 41% from three. FDU was 45% from the floor, 33% beyond the arc. The teams were even in rebounds at 27 each.
In a game with five ties and one lead change, FDU led for 35 minutes. Central Connecticut led for all of seven seconds. Most importantly, the Blue Devils led when the clock showed 0:00.
Former FDU coach Tom Green was courtside doing radio color commentary. In attendance was FDU women’s coach Ang Szumilo and several of her players. Szumilo’s Knights captured the NEC regular season women’s championship and are top seed in next week’s conference tournament.