What happens when two teams with a high volume of new players are pitted against each other? Apparently a double-overtime, back-and-forth, anyone-can-win-this kind of game.
As the third and final game of the Connecticut 6 Classic, the Hartford Hawks and Central Connecticut State Blue Devils took to the court before the previous game had finished packing up. Clearly they were excited to start the season. Picked to finish last in their conference, CCSU didn't seem like much of a threat.
Much like Hartford, CCSU also has only one senior, and both took the spotlight for their teams. Hartford's Taylor Dyson poured in 17 points and CCSU's Brandon Peel tallied 15.
At least for Hartford, the newer and younger players are actually pushing the standard of the team. Dyson assumed he would be taking on a much bigger role as the lone senior, but that's not the case.
"Coming in I thought I had to step up a lot more than I actually have," Dyson said. "Our freshman have come in and been really competitive, and they've actually pushed me to another level too. I feel they kinda help me out as much as I can help them out."
While both seniors proved an important tool to their teams, it was the underclassman that pulled each team together. The Blue Devils' Khalen Cumberlander (19 pts, 12 reb, 8 ast) was only two assists shy of being the first NEC player with a triple-double since 2010. Mustafa Jones went from an average of 1.6 points per game to scoring 13 against the Hawks and being much more comfortable with himself on the court.
Jalen Ross and John Carroll both proved their worth to the Hartford squad. Carroll, a slated replacement for big man Mark Nwakamma who graduated at the end of last year, has stepped up his game. Scoring 15 points and bringing in nine rebouds, he threw himself into some big shoes and he's slowly learning to fill them. Ross, whose freshman year nabbed him an average of 1.4 points per game, went 6-for-8 from the floor, totaling 14.
Both teams travel for their next game Sunday. Hartford will be traveling to Missouri to play Saint Louis, while CCSU has a shorter trip to play Penn.