Mailbag tonight!

Going to the women's game, writing that up, then hitting you with a big mailbag to help keep you entertained during the massive blast of winter coming over the next two days.


This is the 21st time we've broken down a game this season, and the Blue Devils never cease to give us something new to discuss. This time, they tried like crazy to blow a 24-point lead, but managed to hold on for what could be a huge win.
The Blue Devils were very good early and made some big plays late. Wagner also deserves a ton of credit for the way it battled back. Dan Hurley is going to be a force to deal with in this league. Very soon.
So what'd we learn today? Two things. First, Central must get better at dealing with pressure defense. It reminded me of the 05 NEC Tournament all over again. Central nearly got pressed into a loss.
The second was that Central can be pretty tough. The Devils didn't wilt. They got outplayed, sure, but they never checked out mentally. Ken Horton made big plays late, and Robby Ptacek managed to get to the line, where he is like robot specially programmed to make free throws.

Let's go man-to-man

Shemik Thompson: A wild day. He teetered on the verge of a triple-double for a while, and struggled at times late as the Blue Devils turned it over ad nauseum down the stretch. Still, any time your lead guard has 11 rebounds and seven assists, you can't complain too much.

Joe Efese: I don't think Howie Dickenman fully agrees with my assessment that Efese is getting his groove back, but he's starting to come around at least.

Chris Baskerville: I'm going out of order from the box for a reason. Dickenman was right that Efese and Baskerville combined to give Central a great attack from the post. Central's two centers combined for 17 points and 14 boards. A heck of a day.

Devan Bailey: Made free throws and helped Central survive the Seahawks' press. Only two turnovers, but had two steals to help make up for it. Still, he'll have to help Central break some more presses before the year is over.

Robby Ptacek: Probably the single biggest reason CCSU won this one. Fantastic with his shot early and the only player who could dribble through the press and get to the line late. Once there, he made all 10 he tried. He really saved the day.

Ken Horton: You know you're a great player when you go for 13, 6 and 4 and the beat writer gives you grief about a bad day. But you know what I did like about his performance? In the final minute, when he was needed most, he made two great plays. Tough players step up when needed most.

Vince Rosario: Starting to make shots and starting to earn a couple of more minutes.

Terrell Allen: Needs to get some more consistency.


It's a hamstring injury that's keeping freshman De'Angelo Speech out of today's game, according to someone in the know.


In reading the notes for the Wagner preview I'm working on, I see my math was off by a point. Ken Horton is 21st all time in points at CCSU, one point behind Dean Walker for 20th. I think I had him reaching 20th last night.


On a night where so many of the 5-3 teams in the NEC had tough games and Justin Rutty made a surprise return for Quinnipiac, the Blue Devils needed a nice win to keep pace and set up a big one Saturday.
What they got was one of their best performances of the year. The defense was stifling, the offense was flawless and the effort level was at "March" level. Even better, the students packed the building and made Detrick Gym a tough place to play.
With so much good stuff to review, let's get right to man-to-man.

Shemik Thompson: Aggressive and effective. Got to the rim, passed the ball to the open man and led the defense with three steals. Wonderful effort.

Joe Efese: If he can stop the fouls, he can be a huge factor. Made a couple of shots and had a block. He's this close to being back.

Devan Bailey: One of his main jobs is to avoid turnovers, which he didn't do. But his defense is solid and he made another open shot tonight, which is more important than you think. He wants to keep the defense honest, and that shot is a big step in doing so.

Robby Ptacek: Not a great scoring night, but no complaints here. Love the way he went to the glass and the patience he showed with the jumper, getting himself one step closer, then shooting.

Ken Horton: Howie Dickenman called him the best player in the league. I've been saying that for a while now, but I'm running out of possible arguments for anyone else. When he decides to be an inside-out player, there's nothing anyone in this league can do about him.

Vince Rosario: Let's see if those couple of threes start a nice streak for Vince.

Mark LaPorte: Take it to the tin young fella! Sorry, was channeling my inner Raftery. Seriously, nice to see him go right to the goal.

De'Angelo Speech: Made his free throws, but the Devils need more out of him. We're getting to the time of year when coaches start saying things like "there are no freshmen anymore." His highs are very high, but there are still some lows. The good news is there aren't nearly as many as there were in November.

Chris Baskerville: The block: good. A steal: very good. But he needs rebounds. Even if he never scores another point, he can be effective if he hits the boards and gives Central a presence inside.

Terrell Allen: His play at the end of the half shouldn't get overlooked. He got Central some of the momentum it was starting to lose. Great pass by Shemik, great finish (save for the free throw). Cut out the turnovers and we'll be saying more and more nice things about him.

Justin Alexander: The first basket is always the hardest to get. Looked energetic.


Just wanted you guys to know we haven't intentionally stopped filming the press conferences. I know a lot of you have told me you like that feature on our websites. I do too. We've just had some camera issues. Tonight I had to give it back because we needed to reshoot something for Sports page online, which I hope you'll check out. Especially the part where the fat guy talks about CCSU hoops.


It's up and ready to read. Should be an interesting night as the men try and get hot again as we get closer to the stretch run here.


Thought it was time to lighten the mood for a minute and finish up the FDU wrap from Saturday's classic as I'd promised.
The Blue Devils showed a lot of gumption, overcoming both the big deficit and their own horrific shooting to gut out a win. Shemik Thompson's shot, more accurately the ability to be patient and get to the basket, was one of the best plays I've seen in the 5 years I've been on the beat.
Ken Horton was fantastic in overtime, when he was needed most. I've said a few times that he had disappeared late this year, but this was not one of those times. He stepped up when called upon.
Now comes a key stretch in the schedule. If CCSU can clean up and build some momentum heading into those final two road games, the Devils could put themselves in great shape.

But before we get any further into the future, let's go into the past for a second.
Time to go man-to-man.

Shemik Thompson: Ken Horton's twisting, mid-air finish of a botched alleyoop is still the play of the year from a physical standpoint, but Thompson's driving layup was a season-changer. Great poise, great play. Chris Baskerville's pass wasn't exactly Scott Burrell, but it was very good. Vince Rosario's tip and Ken Horton's quick pass made it possible. But Thompson's shot was fantastic. 10 boards, 5 assists and only 2 turnovers make up for the rough early shooting.

Devan Bailey: Terrific defense on FDU's guards, and he's getting comfortable taking open shots from up top. He doesn't have to make many, just enough to make defenses respect the possibility. The first step towards making that happen is taking it when it's there and nothing better is.

Robby Ptacek: Got to the line again and grabbed some rebounds. His shooting is missing at the moment, but his aggression is back. 41 minutes on a bad leg was good to see, too.

Chris Baskerville: An OK 16 minutes were turned into a great night with one pass.

Ken Horton: 23 points, 10 boards in 45 minutes. He never sat down. That's a kid who wants to be a factor. He's starting to head towards a very special year.

Vince Rosario: Threw himself into the crowd at the end, and it paid off.

De'Angelo Speech: His defense led to a five-second call on FDU that changed momentum and started the rally. Really, this was an incredible game.

Joe Efese: A nice hook shot, a couple of blocks, four boards, good at the line. It's starting to come. Is another big stretch drive in store for Efese like he had last year?

Terrell Allen: Made his only shot and grabbed a board.


The women are playing tonight as scheduled, so I'll be over there. Then we'll do man-to-man tonight from Saturday's amazing ball game.
I think the best thing to do is start getting back into our routine here on the blog, though I meant what I said yesterday. If it helps anyone to leave comments here, feel free. I'll be covering any open memorials that go on, and I'm hoping to have an interesting feature in the days ahead.
But I think the best thing CCSU can do tonight is play ball, so I commend CCSU's call there.


As is often the case with things like this, I got some interesting quotes that I couldn't get into either of my stories. But since I have this space as well, I thought I'd share them with you here, especially considering the subject matter.
Obviously the "he"s are referencing Rich unless otherwise noted.

Senior Jeff Marino:
"It seemed like time stopped. When I was told I didn't know where I was or what had happened. I never thought anything like this would happen. It's very sad. Everyone just can't believe it."

"My mother came downstairs and told me she got an e-mail and said something happened to Rich. I picked up the phone. Jeff Logan had called me. He told me what happened. ... There was just silence on the phone between me and Jeff for like 2 minutes. We didn't know what to say."

"His commitment and dedication towards everything was unbelievable. Everyone fed off of it. But as soon as practice of the game was over, he was back joking around. He was a great person."

"We know that as a team and as a family we'll be there for each other. And we'll always think about Rich as a great guy and a great person."

CCSU coach Jeff McInerney:
"There's no road map. I feel like his father. I have to get through it. I'm not that tough. I'm up and down with it but I have to help get the kids through it. ... We have to love each other and hug each other."

"His effort was tremendous. His practice habits were tremendous. That alone made his teammates better because when you have a player who practices right, it makes everyone follow. I didn't realize before this year what a perfectionist he was. The first year I didn't recognize as much how hard he took defeat. I told him many times not to be so hard on himself. I told him the game's no fun if you're always mad at yourself. He was very hard on himself but a wonderful man."

"Him and Alondre Rush, I got two letters about them from R.A.'s about what great kids they are, leaders, nice people. He's beloved over there [at his dorm]. He made people smile."


Just a couple of quick notes. I asked if Central was planning on changing any schedules this week since schools have been known to cancel games when things like this happen. Paul Schlickmann told me that no such plans were in the works Sunday. I'll let you know if anything changes.

There will be a memorial service at some point this week, though details are still being worked out. I'll let you know when I know the schedule for that.

Finally, the football team plans to honor Royster next season, though it's very early in terms of figuring out how that will happen.

To be honest, I forgot to ask about the football banquet. It's scheduled for Sunday. I imagine it will still be held, though the tone might be drastically different now.


I saw someone commented with a very nice rememberance of Brittany Mariani. I know a lot of students check in here on the blog from time to time, so I just wanted to encourage any of you who want to get your message out to feel free to do so.
If offering this space as a place for you guys to deal with this is helpful in any way, I'd be thrilled to make that my contribution during what is a terrible time for the campus. That goes for other fans who stop by here as well. Parents, coaches, players, feel free to leave notes and comments.


I'll have lots to post and talk about from a day like nothing I've ever experienced after I do all my writing, but I wanted to say this right away.
What Alondre Rush did today was more impressive than any tackle or touchdown ever.
Jeff Marino, Mike Allison and Dominique Rose also handled themselves beautifully.


I started thinking about the man-to-man segment and tried to put Shemik Thompson's play into perspective, but I just don't think it's the right thing to do tonight.
No disrespect to Shemik or his teammates, who pulled off one of the best comebacks I've ever covered today, but breaking down a good defensive play or whether or not the intentional foul is the right call doesn't feel right tonight, at least to me. We will do the FDU Wrap. I don't want to stop doing it now. But waiting until Monday feels appropriate.
So here's what I'm going to do, at least for now at 11 p.m. Tonight, we're going to let this post and the two below it stand as a reminder of what really matters. I'm going to go to the press conference Sunday afternoon, then try and somehow do justice in the paper to two lives lost way, way, way, too soon.
THEN we'll talk about Shemik's shot. It could be a turning point in the season, and there will be plenty of time to talk hoops before Thursday's visit from the Mount. But not tonight.
My deepest condolences go out to the families of Rich Royster and Brittany Mariani as well as to the CCSU players and coaches I worked with all year who feel like they have lost a family member.


A statement from CCSU Director of Athletics Paul Schlickmann:

We extend our deepest sympathy and heartfelt prayers to the families and loved ones of Brittany and Rich. It is a terrible tragedy to have lost two such bright and vibrant people so abruptly. At extraordinary times like these, it is critical for us to support each other as a family and as a campus community. We will do just that.
A statement from Head Football Coach Jeff McInerney:

We lost a member of our family today and it hurts. Rich was a fantastic teammate and a loyal Blue Devil. His love for the game and his love for his teammates were second to none. He will be missed, but his spirit and character will live on in our football program, and his memory will be honored each and every day.


We'll have much more on this in the days ahead, but wanted to share our first story on the day's tragic events. It's on our web site as well. There's supposed to be a press conference Sunday. I'll have lots of reaction in the next couple of days. It's just starting to pour in now.

Sports Editor
NEW BRITAIN — Central Connecticut junior defensive lineman Rich Royster was one of two CCSU students killed early Saturday morning in a car accident on the Charter Oak Bridge.
Royster, from Ossining, New York, was a 20-year old psychology major. Also killed was Brittany Mariani, a senior psychology major.
The school made counselors available Saturday night in Kaiser Hall and said in a statement that they would be available throughout the week. Plans for a memorial are being finalized, according to a spokesman.
“I’m sure I speak for the entire campus in saying that we are deeply saddened by this terrible loss of promising young lives and we extend our warmest sympathies to Brittany’s and Rich’s families,” said Mark Warren McLaughlin, Central’s Associate Vice President of Marketing & Communications.
Royster transferred to Central from Iona and spent the last two seasons as a Blue Devil. He played in seven games in 2009, when the Blue Devils won their first-ever outright Northeast Conference championship. He was a bigger contributor in 2010, when Central went 8-3 and finished in a tie for the NEC title, just missing what would have been their first trip to the FCS playoffs. Royster finished the season with 22 tackles in 10 games.
According to the Associated Press, the car Royster and Mariani were driving in collided with a tractor trailer.


Junior defensive lineman Rich Royster was one of the two people killed in that accident on the Charter Oak Bridge. Things are obviously pretty crazy around here, so I'm not sure when I'll have reaction or anything.

We'll have our usual basketball stuff here on the blog, but I'm not sure when we'll get to it, and honestly, the results of the basketball games here today are not the most important things here today.

That said, we'll still do the wrap up late tonight. The women won the opener easily.

Monmouth Wrap Up

This was simply just an example of a night when Central says "we have Ken Horton and you don't". This afternoon I said he and Shemik Thompson would have to lead Central to a big win on the road, and that's exactly what they did.

A couple numbers: Ken Horton had his 25th 20-plus point game and has passed Howie Dickenman on the all-time list, and is now tied with Dwayne Jones for 23rd at 1,154. He has a legit chance to break the school's all-time scoring mark next year if he keeps this up.
Shemik now stands at 1,161, 21st all-time.

If the Blue Devils can win at home Saturday, they can start to rebuild the momentum they lost in Hamden last week.

Now, since I still feel lousy and I have to be up very early for the Rock Cats luncheon, let's get right to man-to-man. Hope to see you all Saturday afternoon.

Chris Baskerville: Nowhere near where he was the last couple of nights, but still gave the Devils nearly 20 minutes in the post. Must be better, but we'll give him a pass after how well he did last week.

Ken Horton: Beastly. 28 and 14 with one turnover. 10 of 14 from the floor. 6 of 7 at the line. If he can turn that one block into 2 or 3 while still having those kinds of offensive numbers, he will be the NEC Player of the Year.

Shemik Thompson: Almost exactly what I was asking from him. 12 points and five of just about everything else, except turnovers, of which he only had 2, which he made up for with 4 steals. Great effort.

Devan Bailey: Made his first couple of jumpers and looks more comfortable taking them all of the sudden. Had an early turnover, but so did everyone else. I think Marc Robbins had two in the first 10 minutes.

Robby Ptacek: Still not getting to the foul line all of the sudden, and couldn't make many jumpers tonight. The four steals, however, helped him find ways to contribute despite the offensive struggles.

Vince Rosario: Just glad to see him back after what he went through. My guess is his shot will come back eventually.

De'Angelo Speech: A very solid effort. Defense, offense and grabbing three boards. Central will need more than 10 minutes out of him, but he looks like the Speech we got used to seeing early.

Joe Efese: The sophomore slump continues, but at least he's looking more aggressive. He's getting shots up, and the two blocks were a great sign.

Terrell Allen: A little bit of everything in 17 minutes. With Central's bench getting short, he will have to become a more consistent factor.


It was 11-2 Monmouth. Since then, it's 42-17 CCSU as I type this. That means, since that rough start in which CCSU had 6 turnovers in 8 minutes, Ken Horton IS outscoring MU.


We've gone from wondering if Central was going to score more points than it had turnovers to wondering if Ken Horton can outscore Monmouth. Probably not considering the quick start the Hawks got out to, but the Blue Devils are now rolling behind the redshirt junior forward.
I'll have our complete wrap later tonight.


Just like I was saying this afternoon, the Central leaders are leading. Ken Horton has been on fire, and Shemik Thompson has helped squash Central's early turnover bug. Central on a 27-12 run to take a late first half lead.


Central had six turnovers in eight minutes to start the game, but is somehow close enough to still make this a game. Down 13-6 at the new Dungeon eight minutes in.


Sorry I've been AWOL a couple of days... was sick Tuesday and really busy yesterday. But there's a preview of tonight's game online and in the paper. I think I stumbled upon something there.
A fellow member of the media who doesn't cover Central but follows them told me this week that the team had a big hole in the middle. I said Baskerville had been playing better, and he pointed to his chest.
"The middle in here," he said.
While I'm not ready to call Central heartless, I think my point today was correct. The Blue Devils need their leaders to lead, starting tonight. I know the Blue Devils have leaders, I've seen it. I know Shemik Thompson is tough, and two years ago I saw Ken Horton absolutely take over some games before he got hurt. Now it's time for them to take over the team and get Central a critical road win tonight.
The key is to do it the right way. Thompson must do it by having his typical effiicent game, not by trying to score a bunch of points by forcing offense. Horton must do it by being a defensive force and rebounding well, then playing a patient offensive game (only open threes and lots of work on slips and such).
If the Devils get effective leadership, this should be a win. Guys trying to lead then to win. Guys trying to be heroes don't. The Blue Devils, I think, are old enough to know the difference.


And very nice to see Leanne Crockett hit the big free throw at the end. After she missed the first, I assumed it was in her head, especially after what happened the other night.
The Blue Devils are playing much better of late.


First off, we're hoping the best for Quinnipiac's Ike Azotam, who Tom Moore said after the game was being sent for tests to check for an irregular heartbeat. Usually those things are just from a sickness, but we'll see.

Now, onto less important things, but the reason you're here nonetheless. Let this serve as my public apology to Quinnipiac. I completely underestimated its roster without Rutty. Twyman put on a show in the first half, Johnson led a slew of perimeter players who got to the basket and drew fouls at will and Tevin Baskin emerged as a kid who can help the Bobcats. They let another big lead get away and I'm not ready to give them the NEC quite yet, but those kids played a heck of a game, with energy and execution, and their coach did a masterful job of dragging them to the finish line.

The Blue Devils, meanwhile, continue to struggle in close games. The main culprit today was that they didn't drive the ball enough. That's been the problem in recent losses. Running the weave is fine, but it has to end with a drive once a guard come past the pick. Someone has to turn the corner and get to the hoop. Central has to be more aggressive. That's why it didn't get the foul calls. I don't even have to check the message boards, I can hear the cries about how many more free throws Quinnipiac took. That's because they drove the ball. Referees reward aggression.
The other problem is that Central was allowing that penetration. If you cut the guards off, you don't have to commit as many reaching fouls.

We won't know for another two months, but this could be a loss the Blue Devils look back on with great regret. The chance was there to beat Quinnipiac without Rutty, pass the Bobcats in the standings, get a road win and start the process of making sure they don't have to come back to Hamden.
None of those things were accomplished, and the Bobcats gained a huge sense of confidence. They don't even need Rutty to beat Central, that's what they went home saying. Quinnipiac has shown they can lose to anyone in the league until Rutty returns, so Central could still pass them in the standings, but this was a bad, bad, bad loss.

Let's go man-to-man
Chris Baskerville: The good news is he was spectacular, going for 16 and 14 and giving Central an interior presence. He looks more comfortable by the day, and he gives the Blue Devils a big energy boost. The bad news is that he could have had 20 rebounds had he not tipped so many. Grab the ball! Between the ones he tipped that were caught by a Bobcat and the couple he had ripped away, he easily could have had 20.

Ken Horton: He played every minute and busted his butt. The Blue Devils didn't get him the ball enough, but he needs to stop being so darn nice. There's times when you want to be a team guy and times where you have to say "this guy can't guard me, give me the darn ball."

Shemik Thompson: Struggled with his shot, but distributed well, getting seven assists without a turnover. I'd love to see the aggression towards the hoops start with him, however. He rushed a couple of jump shots.

Devan Bailey: Like I said all year, Devan Bailey is a phenomenal shooter who should be taking all the shots. Ha. Seriously, it was impressive to see him take advantage of the fact that QU left him open all night. Not just because he made the shots, but because he was willing to take them.

Robby Ptacek: He's been so good for so long you have to forgive a bad day but you don't want it to be at Quinnipiac. Tom Moore said his team was trying specifically to take Robby and Horton away, and it worked. Settled for too many jumpers, as evidenced by his failure to take a single free throw.

De'Angelo Speech: Struggled offensively and didn't have a steal. Central only had 3 as a team.

Joe Efese: He does something amazing, then makes a mistake. I almost think Howie Dickenman should let him play through some more mistakes to see if some more time helps him get hot.

Terrell Allen: Saw the floor for a minute for his first taste of the best rivalry in the NEC.

Vince Rosario didn't play, but I wanted to mention again if you missed my last post that he missed the game because of a death in the family. So I wanted to send my best to him, as I know all you Blue Devil fans do.

David Simmons was dressed, but don't get excited. He's still expected to redshirt.


Full wrap up to come, just wanted to fill you in on Vince's absence today. He had a death in the family. When he comes back I'm going to see if he wants to talk about the person publicly, they sounded pretty special.


Those of your who follow the NEC closely probably already knew this, but for those who follow CCSU on a more game-to-game basis, there's big news heading into Saturday's showdown with Quinnipiac.
The New Haven Register reported that QU forward and defending NEC player of the year Justin Rutty had surgery on his elbow Thursday and will miss up to four weeks.
That obviously hurts the Bobcats for now, but could make them a very dangerous middle of the pack team come the tournament if he's back to 100 percent by then.
But they'll have to make it first. The loss to Bryant was a very bad sign. Though, I expect an emotional Quinnipiac team to show up Saturday looking to make a statement.


A critical win for the Blue Devils if ever there was one. Central needed to show it had put Saturday's collapse in the rearview mirror and that it could win on the road.
Check and check.
Throw in the bonus of gaining a game in the standings on Wagner and Quinnipiac (which gave up 50-plus points in the second half to Bryant and lost a 20-point lead) and this was a very productive day for the Blue Devils. I'm still wary of the fact that Central seems to go long periods of time without scoring and struggles at times against the zone, but the Blue Devils were more than good enough on this night.
Justin Rutty didn't play again tonight for Quinnipiac and you saw above what happened. With the reigning NEC player of the year out four weeks, the Devils must seize the opportunity to get a big road win. That would set them up perfectly for another good stretch.
But, first things first. Before we can deal with the future, we must examine the past.
Let's go man-to-man.

Chris Baskerville: It's fitting that he's listed first in the box score I have in front of me, as it makes sure his contribution does not get buried. With Central now thin up front, Baskerville needs to contribute more. He has taken the minutes left by Markeys Deans and made the most of them. Earned a start tonight and it's hard to imagine him not being introduced in the lineup Saturday.

Ken Horton: The numbers were there as usual, but Horton's contributions are also strategic. When he gets the ball at the foul line, the opponent's zone collapses. He was also fantastic at jumping into passing lanes inside, grabbing five steals.

Shemik Thompson: The leader. Seven boards, seven assists, one turnover. Only had 10 points, but a bunch of them came at a key time in the second half when Central was making its run. He picked his spots beautifully.

Devan Bailey: If Thompson is the leader, Bailey is the glue. He does the things that don't show up on the sheet but are critically important. He gets the ball past traps. He defends the other team's best perimeter player. He makes sure the ball goes to the right place, and he provides a sense of calm.

Robby Ptacek: Central didn't drive the ball well against LIU, but did so Thursday. Ptacek led the way, getting to the lane for his pullup and drawing a host of fouls. Howie Dickenman was not happy with Ptacek's rebounding, but he scored the ball very well and was aggressive on offense.

Vince Rosario: Only played two minutes, didn't get a shot up. I hope for his sake that he doesn't get down after the other night. I don't think he will. He'll be back.

De'Angelo Speech: Nothing spectacular, but he needs to continue to provide energy and, more importantly, rest for a thin team.

Joe Efese: Time to make the leap. After a bad start to the year, Efese has progressed to a solid contributor again. Now it's time for him to get back to where he was at the end of last year.

Terrell Allen: Plenty of time for him to become a factor as a Blue Devil. But it wasn't tonight.


You should see a preview online or in the paper ahead of Thursday's big tilt with SHU. Should be another doozy. We'll find out a lot about Central's mental toughness tonight.
I'll be there with plenty of stuff during and after the game.
Back to our chat yesterday, one of the things mentioned was new ideas. I hope you like the new look of the blog (thanks to Brad for helping with it as always). What else would you like to see?


Just wanted to take a second and thank everyone who was a part of our live chat today. We went for an hour and probably could have kept going. I'm always nervous that those aren't going to go over big, but you guys came through.
Thanks to all of you for your continued support, to Brad Carroll for helping me make it happen, and all the people at Central (and one in particular) who let me pump them for extra info lately so today would be good.


Here's where to go today to chat about CCSU. We're going to try and get up at 2 pm, but hang tight a minute if we're having any technical issues.
Can't wait to see you all there. By the way, if you come I promise to answer a specific question I get a lot that I finally got a firm answer on tonight. How's that for a tease?

Don't forget the chat

Tommorow at 2 p.m. If you can't be there live, send me questions to

If you can be there, go to this link:

And thanks again to Brad for hosting this for us.

LIU Wrapup

Well we saw some of Central's flaws shine through tonight. The Devils need a third ballhandler. They need to avoid foul trouble by not letting players get by them and forcing them to make bad fouls on recovery attempts. The pressure defense needs to get back to scoring points.
And they need to penetrate zones, not become limited to shooting over them.
And they need a fourth scorer to develop. Not another 15 point guy mind you, but someone who can take some heat off of Central's trio.
I didn't have a problem with Vince Rosario taking the last shot. Shooters are shooters, and they don't think about the last six shots. My objection came from how quickly they took the shot. 23 seconds left, there's still plenty of time to try and work the ball to Ken Horton or Rob Ptacek.
The kid tried to make a play, so you can't get on him too much. He just didn't make the right play.
Still, Vince Rosario was far from the reason Central lost this one. To figure out why this happened, let's play man-to-man.

De'Angelo Speech: Looks like he can be that emergency ball-handler as he develops. 4 assists. Added 4 boards and a couple steals in 20 minutes. Can't complain there.

Joe Efese: Coach Howie Dickenman has a quick hook with Efese as he continues to try to drill into his head the need for consistency from the sophomore. But I think it's starting to work. He's coming along again.

Devan Bailey: Just couldn't stay out of foul trouble long enough to be effective on either end of the floor. Which is a shame, because he's been really good of late. The last turnover was not a thing of beauty, either.

Robby Ptacek: For a half he looked like he wa on his way to a record-setting day. But he disappeared down the stretch. LIU focused heavily on he and Horton, so it wasn't like they stopped trying. But he was needed late.

Ken Horton: Same thing. On the surface, his game was amazing. 31 points, fantastic shooting percentages. But if you check the play-by-play, you won't find his name connected to too many positive plays in the final nine minutes. Again, it's hard to fault a guy who scored 31 points, but he needs to get the killer instinct back. His last basket came with 9:12 left.

Vince Rosario: Keep shooting Vince. Shooters shoot and Central doesn't have many long-range threats. If I'm a coach I'd rather have a guy try too hard than not hard enough.

Shemik Thompson: His first game without the mask. Eight assists and three turnovers. More importantly, he seemed to raise his game in the final minutes. He and Rosario were the only aggressive Blue Devils late.

Chris Baskerville: I take that back. Baskerville attacked the rim whenever someone got him the ball in the final minutes. He's getting more minutes and starting to make an impact.

Terrell Allen: Needs to be better, not only to earn more time, but to take some heat off of Speech.

Bad finish

The Blue Devil offense collapsed against the LIU zone down the stretch and Central takes a 72-67 loss, the first of the year at Detrick.
Howie Dickenman said the team was "disappointed but not discouraged."
We'll do the full wrap later tonight.

Hanging in

sorry I haven't blogged much in this one, been a very busy day.
Central, thanks to Horton's outside shooting and Ptacek's solid play, the Devils lead by seven midway through the half.
And as a type that, LIU cuts it to four, then Horton's 3 puts Central back up 7.
It's been that kind of second half. Thankfully the kids are getting to play now.

Another big start, but trouble too

Good news: CCSU men up 16-8 midway through the first half.
Bad news: Shemik Thompson and Devan Bailey, the two main ballhandlers, both have 2 fouls.
Surprising news: They're both in the game.

Schedule stuff

Remember, both teams are home Saturday. Ladies start at 1, guys at 3:30. Your friendly neighborhood beat guy knew that, but still managed to botch it in the paper today.
Also, LIVE CHAT TUESDAY at 2! Get your questions ready. If you can't be there, go to and leave me a question.

PF updates

Markeys Deans has in fact left the team for personal reasons, which I've been assured are not legal. He was fun to work with during some of the offseason clinics and such and will be missed on the floor, as you can never have too many bigs.
If Chris Baskerville continues his emergence and Joe Efese can get some consistency going, the Blue Devils will still be fine at that position.
Joe Efese was limping around last night, but I didn't get the impression it was too serious, so I didn't go crazy on the blog like I did with the Ken Horton cramp heard 'round New Britain.

Big correction and a reminder

In my story in the paper, it says Central plays LIU Monday. That game is Saturday afternoon. There's a women's game Monday night. But both teams play SATURDAY IN NEW BRITAIN.

Also, have I mentioned Live Chat Tuesday at 2 p.m.? Or that you can send questions to if you can't be there live?

SFNY Wrapup

Well, it wasn't pretty but it got done. St. Francis tried to ugly it up a little bit, but Central overcame that. The Blue Devils weren't able to turn their pressure into easy points, and the concern becomes what happens when they are forced to play a half court game. 20 turnovers wasn't a good sign, but they got it done by preventing SFNY from scoring and then having Robby Ptacek shoot them out of trouble.
LIU came into tonight in the top 10 in the country in points, so Saturday's game should be a better pace for Central: a track meet.
But let's get through tonight first. Unlike the Blue Devils, we'll play man to man.

De'Angelo Speech: Still bothered by the wrist, and still turning the ball over too much. But also still trying to turn the energy up, which is his job.

Joe Efese: Really looks like he's back. Three blocks and eight points to go with five boards. Impressive showing. He'll be especially important if Markeys Deans is out for a length of time.

Devan Bailey: Another terrific defensive effort. Combine his ability to shut down the other team's best scorer with his knack of avoiding turnovers and you have a solid point guard. I think we've discovered who will take the term "The General" from Shemik Thompson someday.

Robby Ptacek: If he shoots like this, Central doesn't lose. He's just in a zone right now. It will be interesting to see if he keeps this confidence next week, starting with the trip to Fairfield.

Ken Horton: Didn't shoot well, but was aggressive and active, as evidenced by 14 rebounds and a block and a steal. If he had made a few of the bunnies he missed, it easily could have been a 20 and 10 night. By the way, something that's flying under the radar a bit: He's on pace to make a real run at CCSU's scoring record.

Vince Rosario: Grabbed four rebounds in 11 minutes. He continues to try and develop into more than just a shooter, but making some outside shots is the key to him succeeding.

Shemik Thompson: A quiet night for the current General, but that says a lot about his maturity. He knew his job tonight was to get out of Ptacek's way and he did so.

Mark Laporte: One of these days, he's going to drill a shot. If it comes at home, watch out. Classy move dribbling out the clock at the end and not chucking up a shot to get on the scoreboard.

Chris Baskerville: One of the more intriguing lines of the year. His 11 minutes sure were eventful. 4 points, 5 boards, 5 fouls.

Terrell Allen: Not much to speak of statistically, but any time a bench player can give you 9 or 10 minutes, it helps the big guns get some rest.

Justin Alexander: Well, we know the big fella can make free throws.

The rout is on

Central up 16 midway through the half. 19 now as Robby Ptacek just hit another three. He has 23.
I'm gonna go write now. We'll have your full wrap up tonight, and I'll jump back on here should developments warrant. Central about to get its 5th straight in a loud Detrick Gym.

Halfway home

Central up 37-21 at the break.
Robby Ptacek has 14 for CCSU on 6-for-8 shooting.

Another good start

Sorry for the delay in writing, been a wild day.
Still no Deans, but it hasn't been a problem for the Blue Devils. Robby Ptacek might have a career high by halftime. He has 14 and Central leads 30-19 late in the half.

Leftover UMass questions

Whew, and I thought I was going to have a full day off!
The mailbox lit up today, and many of the questions were timely, so I didn't want to hold them for the chat.
By the way, see the live chat details below! And if you can't make it, email me a question at and let me know it's for the chat and we'll throw it up there.

Now, for today's mailbag.

Q: Could you give us an update on Markeys Deans. He started in CCSU's first 11 games, but then played just 1 minute vs. Brown and missed the UMass game. Also, any updates on David Simmons.

A: Deans played great early in the year, but began to slow down. My own personal theory is the quicker pace didn't suit him, but there was a definite drop off. You also had to figure he was going to cool off eventually. He carried Central for stretches early in the year.
He missed the UMass game for what coach Howie Dickenman called "personal reasons."
Now, that's one of two things. Either he had something going on that needed to be addressed and if that's the case we wish him well, or the time away was a kind of head-clearing thing. There was a prominent player a few years back who missed a game early in the year because he was unhappy about things going on with his role and such, but that player went on to come back and have an incredible year.
So it wouldn't surprise me if this was something like that. Again, that is PURE speculation. I'll have more before the SFNY game Thursday. My gut says he'll be back and contribute before the year is over.
As for Simmons, I wouldn't be surprised if he's back at some point, but it won't be this year. At least that's the last info I was told. Before the season I thought we might see him again this year, now I'm pretty confident he won't be seen this season.

Q: Maybe you can give us some input on the debate about whether or not the UMass game was a quality home game on the schedule and a big win in school history. As I said in the threads, for this old timer UMass coming to Detrick Gym is a dream come true and the added bonus of a victory is a dream realized. In my opinion every fan or alum that calls themself a fan of CCSU Blue Devil basketball should have been excited about this game. January 3, 2011 was a special night on the schedule and I'm really confused how some people can downplay it. Any thoughts?

A: Well let me start by saying I haven't been to in a few days (been quite busy as I hope you've been seeing in the paper and on here), but I think I get the gist of the discussion.
I probably will be accused of being on the fence, but you're both right.
Was UMass the biggest name to come to Detrick in some time? Yes. Was it a huge win? Absolutely. Central beat an A10 team by 30. There was more media buzz about this one than any game in a long time and I've gotten more questions about this game than I have about anything since March 2007. It was great exposure and the kind of game CCSU needs to play, and if they can do it at home even better. And getting nearly 2,200 for a non-league game while the students are on break is impressive.
It also set Central up, IF it can dominate in NEC play, to avoid the "First Four." The Blue Devils are a Deans missed three away from being 2-0 vs. the A-10, and that and 14-15 league wins should keep the Blue Devils out of the play-in games come March.
However, there are reasons to downplay it. UMass is in the middle of a downturn, though the Minutemen did scare the heck out of a ranked UCF team not long ago. Let's also make sure we remember that Marcus Camby hasn't played for UMass in 15 years. UMass is still an A-10 team and it has to be considered a great win for Central, but this UMass team isn't the Camby squad.
Ken Pomeroy's cpu rankings as of 3 a.m. Thursday as I type this project UMass to finish around .500 in the A-10. While beating a .500 team in a potential multi-bid league is impressive, it's not earthshattering.
The win was huge for PR and morale and could pay dividends in March, but it was UMass, not UConn or U-Dub.

There are 4 or 5 others in the que, but I'm going to hang onto them in case we need a few extras for the chat (I know afternoon can be hard for you folks with real jobs).
Again, for questions, and read below about the live chat, which is Tuesday at 2 on Brad Carroll's Gameday site.

Live chat!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Have I mentioned we're doing a live chat?
Well guess what? Now I have details!
We're going to aim for Tuesday at 2 p.m.
To get there, go here:

Thanks to Executive Sports Editor (and fellow Jets fan) Brad Carroll for making it happen, and for you guys for always showing enough interest to make this worth doing. Brad and I were shocked at how many people chimed in last time, and I'd love to get an even bigger response.
Anything CCSU sports related is on the table. Obviously it's now the heart of hoops season, but football, baseball, soccer, whatever you want you want to talk about is fine with me. Even if you want to know about me or the business. Let's try and keep it CCSUish, however. No one cares what I think about the Red Sox rotation.

Live chat!

We're going to shoot for Tuesday at 2 p.m.
I'll post details, I think we're going to do it through Brad's blog again because he has the equipment, though we'll try and link it through the Herald's site (I'm not the guy to ask on how this works).
If you can't make it, send me an email ahead of time ( and I'll post it. But I'd love to see you all there. Last year's went really well, it was the third most popular chat the Herald's sports department has done I believe.

Righting a wrong

I mistakenly deleted a perfectly reasonable comment on the last post I wanted to publish, so I'll rehash the point so it gets seen.
The person wanted to bring up that athletics programs, especially smaller ones, shouldn't "waste money" on sports.
She had perfectly reasonable studies, but I'd point out that many studies have shown that schools that have big years in sports often see their applications sky rocket, allowing them to be more selective and get better students, actually increasing their profile.
And, right or wrong, whenever a place like CCSU (it could be any school for that matter) is mentioned in the paper, it gets the school's name out there. Schools that don't have sports teams don't get mentioned as much, making it harder to promote their academic programs to anyone except students who were already interested in them.
I'm not saying any of this is good or bad, and I'm pretty sure this isn't the right place for the discussion, but I didn't want the person who left the comment to think I was censoring it. I hit the wrong button through instinct since I thought it was the spam I often get until I got to reading it.
Feel free to leave it again if you'd like.

I've got mail!

From Matt M., our most consistent e-mailer. (The gauntlet has been thrown down Blue! You too JJ, pick it up!)

Q: Matt...I've been watching CCSU for the last ten seasons and I consider myself a pretty knowledgeable basketball guy. I've never seen a better performance than last night. What's more, I've never seen a more dominant stretch of basketball than these last three games. Not the Corsley teams, not the Javy/Blackwood team, nothing. It was obvious that Horton, Ptacek and Thompson were the three best players on the floor last night. I was stunned and amazed. I'm now convinced that the only team that can beat CCSU is CCSU.
Can you provide insight to any conscious style changes by Howie? The Pressure D is obvious, but they are attacking the paint unlike ever before on offense and the kick outs are really doing wonders. I still think Shemik is the MVP of this squad...he's doing EVERYTHING.

A: I can confirm Matt is a pretty knowledgeable hoops fan.
To your first statement Matt, I've begun the process of asking around about a more dominant performance. The only one in my time covering the team (I go back to 2005) that comes close is in 07-08, when they beat Delaware on a Saturday afternoon in a blizzard. It was 50-18 at half.
This, coming against a better team in front of a packed house, I'd say was more impressive.
As to a better stretch? Non-league you might be right. But Central won 12 straight league games in 2007. That was pretty impressive, too.
I agree with the other statements except for CCSU is the only team that can beat CCSU. Can they beat everyone left on their schedule? Yes. But Quinnipiac, LIU, Robert Morris and SFNY are all going to have something to say about that as well. Plus, Central is going to have to play a road game again at some point. League road games are not easy.
Central is not going to win its next 19 games. I'll make that bold prediction right now. (By the way, I'm 0-for-3 on bold predictions so far this season, so maybe they will.) But can Central set itself up to win 3 games in March? Yes.
Therein lies the key. I do believe that Central would be close to a lock if it gets the 1-seed and plays 3 tourney games at Detrick. It's going to take at least 15 NEC wins to get the 1-seed. That means CCSU must got 14-2 in the league the rest of the way. That's NOT easy.
I'm not saying Central can't win the league if it's the 2 or 3, but getting the 1 makes things much easier.
As to the strategic differences. I think you're seeing more sets this year. The weave is still there, but Central branches out a bit more at times. More importantly, the pressure defense is creating more fast break chances, and you don't need to call a play when you have a run out or a 2-on-1.
I think having the Joe Efeses and Chris Baskervilles of the world playing well and letting Ken Horton float outside is another key. The reason Central has more drive-and-kicks this year is that there are more people to kick it to now that Horton is back and Shemik Thompson has found his form.
Last year, you could sag back and dare this team to shoot threes. Heck, you could do that up until the first week of December. The Devils are still far from a great shooting team from long range, but they are starting to get good enough at it to draw defenders. That's all it takes. You don't have to be a great 3-point shooting team, just good enough to make it a weapon. It's like the long pass in football. You don't have to do it every play, just enough to make a safety think you might do it.
Howie Dickenman has HEAVILY stressed the pull-up jumper this year as well. Just watch Ptacek, as it's his favorite shot. Up fake, one dribble to get the defender off his feet, stop and shoot. He and Shemik are very good at it. Where they take the shot is also key. Getting to 16 feet or so, right around the elbow, is especially useful. If you can get by your man and get to that spot, then make a big come out and contest your shot, you can then dump it down low. Ken Horton has done this repeatedly during this streak. Get to the foul line, draw the defense up, dump it to the block.
There will still be times when Central can't do some of these things. Slow it down against this team and make them work for shots, that's the scouting report I'd guess. That's why I thought the stretch and the end of the half was so huge. UMass told Central to beat it in the half court and the Devils did just that.
If they can do that AND still utilize the press, then yes, they will be the only team on the schedule that cane beat them. But that's a big if.
There's 16 to go.

Live chat

How's Tuesday for you guys for the chat?
We'll work it the same way as last year, where if you can't get on live, email me a question ahead of time and I'll post it. We'll probably do it through Brad's Gameday site again, but I'll post all the details ASAP.
For now, just think of good questions. It'll be mostly hoops obviously, but football and anything else CCSU related is on the table.
Tuesday. Chat. Questions.

UMass wrap up

One phrase has been going through my head all night, and it's what I've used with the people I've talked to already about tonight's game.
I have no explanation for what just happened.
I gave Central a better chance tonight than most. CCSU is great at home, has been playing beautifully on defense and UMass isn't the Camby-led UMass squad anymore.
Still, these are the Minutemen that nearly knocked off nationally-ranked Central Florida just days ago. These are the Minutemen who nearly beat BC and who just beat BU by 17.
There is no way that should have happened.
And I don't mean that in any way negatively towards the Blue Devils, who, as I said, have been great of late. But still. 92-63?
I think part of it was that, especially after the intentional foul, UMass quit. It at first reminded me of CCSU's game at Providence, but then I remembered that Central led that game in the second half and trailed by 10 or so when they looked like they packed it in. UMass was down 25 early in the second half when it was still trying.
The Blue Devils shot incredibly well, though I think they relied a bit too heavily on the outside shot. UMass went zone and befuddled Central for a time, but not for long,
Defensively, the Devils were brilliant, as they have been throughout the homestand. Great stuff.
With that said, and since I have to be at the ITBD building at 7:30 for a breakfast including Howie Dickenman and Beryl Piper, let's get right to it. UMass went zone, but at Blog Central, we always play man-to-man.

Joe Efese: Only played nine minutes (I'll find out more about that tommorow), but we effective while in there. The two blocks were especially noteworthy.

Devan Bailey: Spectacular defensively (three steals) a distributor offensively (seven assists, 1 turnover). Becoming much more than a minutes eater. If he could ever score.... well he has two years left.

Ken Horton: 24 points, seven rebounds, and might have been the second best player on his team tonight. If he can make threes without getting trigger happy, NEC teams will have no answer for him.

Vince Rosario: Made up for his three turnovers with two steals. Made a big shot in the first half. Not a great game, but better than he's been. I think the hip is coming around.

Robby Ptacek: Phenomenal night. 26 points. 8-of-14. Got to the line 8 times and stuck them all. Aggressive without being a ball hog. Seven rebounds. Couldn't ask for much more.

Shemik Thompson: It's rare that a 24-point, four-assist night gets overlooked, but this one nearly was. 8-of-11 usually works.

Mark Laporte: The joint erupted when he tallied his first point of the year.

De'Angelo Speech: avoided a scare when x-rays showed he did not have a broken wrist, which is what was being taped pre-game. Still has the turnover bug, but had great energy again. Too many fouls, however.

Chris Baskerville: Has earned more run of late and is making the most of it. He a really nice steal and score during the 17-0 run to ice the game. Becoming a factor again.

Terrell Allen: One of Central's eight steals. He's going to be a player someday.

One update

lots to come tonight, but wanted to mention this: Markeys Deans was excused tonight for personal reasons, according to Howie Dickenman.

That'll do

Shemik Thompson scores on a long inbounds pass. Moments later he's intentionally fouled on a breakaway. He makes two at the line, CC keeps the ball. Robby Ptacek hits Ken Horton for a layup. Central leads 59-34 with 14:56 to go and any hope of a UMass rally seems lost. Not that too many people in the building are complaining.
By the way, this building has to be 80 percent full, which is amazing for a non-league game while the kids are on break.
I'm gonna go do my writing duties, will check in again if something drastic happens. Barring that, see you for the wrapup tonight.

Hanging on

The Minutemen have seemed like they were making inroads, and stylistically they are, but Central keeps the margin around 20. It's currently 19 with 15:38 left.
Unless UMass can do something drastic soon, they will run out of time, regardless of how Central plays.

Starts like this

I was just asked if this is was best stretch in a non-conference home game I could remember. I've been doing this here since 2005, and the only thing I can think of off the top of my head is the Delaware game that Central led 51-18 at halftime.
Anyone have a better one?

Stunning start

Central scores two straight fast break buckets, has forced 7 turnovers, and is 10-for-14 from the floor and holds a stunning 29-9 lead at the 11:57 mark of the half.

Random note

That only I would be interested in, but the UMass coaching staff is wearing matching golf shirts, like you'd see at a holiday tournament or in Maui.

Great start

1) Speech just checked in so he's ok.
2) CCSU is shooting 7-for-11, including 3-of-4 from distance (and Ken Horton just made a 3 so add 1 to each) and Central leads 22-9.


Everyone is accounted for. Speech came out late, looks like he was getting his hand wrapped.
Vince Rosario is starting, however, and I bet you those two things are related.
Joe Efese starting for Markeys Deans, who is not here now that I look. Could just be illness like it was for Justin Alexander last week. He's back in uniform tonight.
More to come. Let's play the game.

Scouting report

So I was going to give you the info I've looked up and into about UMass, but figured it'd be easier to just let you hear it from the horse's mouth. Here's a really good breakdown from the Springfield Republican's Ron Chimelis.

Checking in

Quick preview for Monday's game is up. I'll post some thoughts here Monday as I can.
This is probably the biggest non-conference home game they've played since I've been on the beat since 2005. Should be a fun night. Judging by some of the buzz I've heard and from the interest I've seen, this should be a big house for a winter break game.
If the students make an appearance it could be packed. We'll see.