Sleeping With The Enemy(‘s Local Sports Reporter): Central Connecticut

Many thanks to Matt Straub of the New Britain Herald who blogs all local sports at Blog Central. Also, by the looks of his column picture, he has a solid winter beard going, which we hold heartedly commend at Purple and Gold Nation.

PGN: Who are the best scorers on CCSU? In what ways they can hurt you?

Ken Horton is an inside/out small forward who coach Howie Dickenman still confuses with another player he coached as an assistant at UConn named Donyell Marshall, who went on to a decade-plus career in the NBA. Horton obviously isn’t THAT good, but he’s a terrific player.

Markeys Deans is a tough matchup. He’s just big enough to power past smaller forwards, but can shoot well enough from the outside to draw bigs away from the basket. He’s been playing very well on offense of late. He has scored double-figures in five of the last six games, including a brilliant performance at Dayton Tuesday night.

Shemik Thompson is the floor general, but his shot has been off lately. Robby Ptacek is a good driver and solid shooter. Joe Efese has been out the last three games (all losses), but is a forward who can score with a nice hook shot inside. More importantly, Efese blocks shots amazingly well. If he’s healthy, he can greatly affect the other team’s inside game.

Horton missed all of last season due to injury, has there been any lingering effects?

There were early, but he’s been looking much better recently. He can be pushed around a bit because of his slight build and I think he’s still getting his wind back a little, but his hip looks fine.

No Blue Devil who plays significant minutes is over 6’6. How does CCSU make up for its height deficit?

Coach Howie Dickenman says you rebounding with heart, not height. If you box out correctly, you shouldn’t need to be big to rebound. Central “gang rebounds” as well, trying to just outnumber you to the ball. They hustle and execute, but significantly bigger teams will dominate them inside.

As a CCSU Blue Devil, how do you feel about Duke? Like you’re in their minor league system? Or do you hate them for monopolizing the nickname?

Well, let me clarify that I’m a reporter covering Central, I don’t work for them. I actually went to Northeastern in Boston. People in Connecticut hate Duke for the UConn-Duke rivalry, not because of the nickname thing. By the way, the Great Danes is a fantastic name. And they have my favorite football road PA guy, even if the “UUUUUUUU Albany” thing gets old eventually.

What tempo does CCSU prefer to play? Do they apply pressure on defense?

Central wants to run off opponents misses whenever possible, but its half-court game is getting much more efficient as the year goes on. The Devils run a lot of “the weave,” a series of dribble handoffs around the perimeter that lead to, they hope, a drive to the basket off a screen or an open jumper. If they can get a rebound and sprint, they will. When they were playing their best, the scores were in the 80s and 70s.

Stat for you: Central has won 23 straight when scoring 80 or more and is 39-9 in the last four years when scoring 70 or more.

For the first time in awhile Central has pressed more on defense this season.

With all these swingman body types, who are the rebounders on this team?

Horton, Deans and Efese (when healthy).

CCSU plays four America East teams as part of their OOC schedule, almost half the league. Are you hinting that you’d like to join the AE? Or are you just trying to pad your schedule with sub .500 teams?

Neither. It’s more just playing decent teams from the area. The Albany games are usually really good, and it’s grown into a nice rivalry, particularly with the football tie-in. Hartford is part of the Connecticut 6 (a tripleheader of in-state games at Mohegan Sun Arena) and UMBC used to be in Central’s conference and they’ve played each other for as long as I can remember.

Central actually schedules “up” quite a bit. It has already been to Providence, Dayton and Penn St. this year and has UMass  coming in next month.

Any thoughts on UMBC and Hartford?

Hartford battles like crazy but just can’t score. I have no clue how the Yale game happened. UMBC can’t keep up with teams offensively, but they are probably one of the oldest teams in the country, so if they’re in a tight game late they might be able to pull it out.

How does CCSU expect to fare in the NEC this season?

Anything outside the top four (and a first-round home game) would be a huge disappointment. The Blue Devils have been slowed by a lot of injuries early. I think they’re much closer to the team that started 4-1 than the team that’s lost 3 straight. They haven’t won since Efese got hurt and Ptacek has been slowed by a foot problem.

You lost to FDU. How!? Seriously, we beat them by 26 without a point guard. You’re better than that.

The Knights are starting to get better defensively and slow the game down. They had won three straight before playing UConn. The biggest difference between the CCSU game and the Albany game for FDU is that Albany made FDU take 3-pointers, both with their zone and by getting and early lead. FDU took 24 in the loss to Albany and eight against Central. This matters because FDU might be the worst 3-point shooting team in America.

Central has players who can shoot over a zone, however. They’ve been cold lately, but Horton is dangerous, as are Thompson and Ptacek, from long range. Vince Rosario is nothing but a shooter, but leave him open and he can also shoot. If Central breaks out of a team-wide shooting slump from deep, zones will be ineffective.

What do people do for fun in New Britain? New Britain, pretty grand name for a suburb, isn’t it?

Go to Central games and go to New Britain Rock Cats games. They also can go to the city’s Art Museum and read the New Britain Herald.

What’s your prediction for the game?

Central is coming of its best performance of the year, a 2-point loss at Dayton in which Deans missed an open three that would have won it with about two seconds left. If it’s a backcourt battle, Central has a good chance. Horton remembers his last trip to Albany, right before the injury that derailed his sophomore season and cost him last year. He had 33 that night and battled Ambrose to the buzzer, when Ambrose hit a shot to win it. (Ed. Note: Here’s the write up, Go Timmy!)

If Efese, Ptacek and Rosario are healthy, Central wins by five or so. If Efese is out and Ptacek is limited, Albany could roll.

~ by TheMidRangeGame on December 11, 2010.

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