Sunday, March 3, 2013

STOP #8: CCSU 69, RMU 60

STOP #8: Detrick Gymnasium, New Britain, CT
Saturday, March 2, 2013 – 2pm

CCSU BLUE DEVILS 69 (15-13, 9-8), RMU COLONIALS 60 (7-21, 6-11) 


After falling short of the NEC Tournament a season ago, Coach Beryl Piper and the Central Connecticut State Blue Devils were left with an empty feeling once the regular season had concluded. They will not have to worry about such a feeling this season, as the Blue Devils officially  punched their ticket into the NEC postseason party with a 69-60 victory over the Robert Morris Colonials on Saturday afternoon at Detrick Gym.

Saturday was a game that both teams needed and neither could really afford to lose. Central was playing on their home court, on Senior Day, looking to wrap up a playoff spot and to not have loose ends left unsettled going into the final day of the season. On the other side was Robert Morris, a team that was desperately trying to shake off a four game, late-season slide and reestablish themselves in the three team race (with FDU and Bryant) for the tournament’s eighth and final seed. While the NEC Tournament doesn’t officially begin until next Sunday, this ‘Battle in New Britain’ contained all of the essential ingredients for a playoff game. The winner would be one step closer to the ultimate goal, while the chances would grow smaller for the loser to be able to advance and join the field. 
While it was Central’s Jaclyn Babe celebrating her Senior Day, it was her sister, junior Jessica Babe, who was stealing the spotlight from her sibling in the early going. After RMU’s Ashley Ravelli netted the first points of the day with a layup, Jaclyn found Jessica wide open for a ‘nothing but net’ three point basket, just seconds later. Two minutes after that, Jessica drained another triple, giving her two in the game’s first three minutes. CCSU led 10-4, before the Colonials went on a 7-0 run to grab the lead 11-10, getting over the threshold with an Artemis Spanou three. The run was ended with a third Jessica Babe three pointer, sparking an 8-0 CCSU run and giving the Blue Devils an advantage that they wouldn’t let go of for the rest of the afternoon. The three three’s in the game’s first seven minutes tied a single game career high for Jessica Babe.

Robert Morris’ Artemis Spanou is known as a near automatic double-double and can eat up rebounds in bunches. She leads the entire nation in both double-doubles and rebounding on the season. However, two ways to prevent Spanou from controlling the glass are to A) Be extremely physical with her, and B) Make all of your shots so there aren’t any rebounds for her to get. Central was successful in both of those areas in the first half. CCSU made eight of their first nine shots from the floor, and would go on to shoot 41.4% overall in the first half. Senior Jameilia Dillon, making just her second career start, drew the short straw of having to match up against Spanou for most of the afternoon, but held her own in the assignment. In fact, during the postgame press conference, Dillon came in with some of Spanou’s blood marked across her jersey, an indication of exactly how physical the battle had been.

The Blue Devils would go into intermission sporting a 30-28 lead. Jessica Babe scored exactly half of her team’s offensive output, tying a season high with 15 points on five three’s. The five three’s were the most Babe had ever drained in a single game. On the other side, Spanou netted half of her team’s output as well, scoring 14 of the Colonial 28.

The second half featured several runs, with perhaps the biggest being a 6-0 Central run right out of the locker room. The Blue Devils were able to extend their advantage to as many as 16 points in the second half, and led by that margin with about five minutes to go. Robert Morris would make one ferocious run in the final minutes, and were able to cut the deficit to within single digits. But they had too big of a hole to overcome, and the Blue Devils managed to hold on for the 69-60 win. The victory marked the first Central win over Robert Morris since the 2008-09 season.

Jessica Babe led the Blue Devils with a career high 21 points and six three pointers. She would finish with a double-double for the second straight game, pulling down 12 rebounds to go with the 21 points. Not to be entirely outshined, her sister Jaclyn poured in 12 second half points to finish with 18 on the day. Jaclyn also dished out eight assists with no turnovers, a new career high.

Coming off of a game in which they turned the ball over a season high 34 times against the Pioneers last Monday night, it’s safe to say that the ball possession was much better on this day. Against the Colonials, Central committed a season low eight turnovers. All five CCSU starters finished in double figures scoring, including Dillon, Kaley Watras, and Kirsten Daamen, who all netted 10 points. Spanou led the field with 28 points and 16 rebounds on the afternoon, her 25th double-double of the season and 23rd in a row. “She had 28 and 16 and we’re saying we did a good job on her,” said Coach Piper. “We did some great things on her. She is incredibly talented.” Spanou and guard Randi Jackson played all 40 minutes for Robert Morris, as once again their lack of depth and short bench proved to be an issue. Under the radar, was a fine defensive effort from senior Anna Gailite, who used her size and her length to her advantage multiple times, in recording four blocks to become the Colonials all-time career blocks record holder.

With the win, Central Connecticut improved to 15-13 and 9-8 in NEC play, officially clinching a spot in the 2013 tournament. The Blue Devils will host St. Francis on Monday night in their regular season finale, and then will be either the fifth or the sixth seed come playoff time. For Robert Morris, their playoff hopes hang on life support. Trailing the Bryant Bulldogs by one game in the standings for the eighth and final playoff spot, the Colonials need to win in Rhode Island on Monday night and then have Wagner upset Fairleigh Dickinson. In that scenario, the Bulldogs and Colonials would finish tied, giving RMU the nod via sweeping Bryant in the season series. 


NEC Front Row archive 

CCSU Game Recap

RMU Game Recap   


1. Jaclyn Babe, CCSU – 18 points, 5 rebounds, 8 assists, 0 turnovers, 3 steals, 35 minutes

2. Jessica Babe, CCSU – 21 points, 12 rebounds, 6-9 3-point FG, 38 minutes

3. Jameilia Dillon, CCSU – 10 points, 3 rebounds, 28 minutes 


The fans were out early at Detrick Gym on Saturday, as the action got started with a “wild card” NEC television broadcast of the men’s Central/Robert Morris game, which was set for an 11:30 a.m. opening tip. Due to the schedule change of the men’s game due to television, the women’s game was moved back an hour to 2pm, from its 1pm originally scheduled start. The early start time did not deter the fans (and apparently neither did the scoreboard) as a packed house stood in place for the vast majority of the Colonial men’s basketball team’s 81-61 victory.

A healthy crowd remained for the women’s game, as CCSU celebrated Senior Day prior to the start of their contest. Having witnessed many Senior Day ceremonies, one unique touch I really enjoyed was the three CCSU seniors acknowledging the Robert Morris seniors and presenting them with flowers. That was a special touch that you don’t see everywhere. From the look of the Colonial player’s faces as they came out to the court to receive their flower, it was a small moment that was a neat surprise and very much appreciated. Central’s own seniors: Jaclyn Babe, Kirsten Daamen, and Jameilia Dillon, were then walked to center court by their parents for special presentations with Coach Piper and the CCSU athletics staff. Another fun part of the in-arena experience was “Cotton Eyed Joe” where the cheerleaders brought out kids from the stands to dance to the song on the court during a second half timeout (I’ll admit, I’m a little jealous I didn’t get picked to go out and dance myself). With the victory, the Blue Devils are now 10-3 at Detrick Gym this season, and 8-1 at home in conference play. 


BRYANT 79, ST. FRANCIS 54 – In perhaps the shocker of the day, the Bryant Bulldogs defeated the St. Francis 79-54 at the Chace Athletic Center. The Red Flash, who scored 100 points on Monday night, were held to just 54 on the afternoon, as the Bulldogs led from wire to wire. The Red Flash didn’t score their first points until 5:30 into the game. Senior Katie Whittington led Bryant with 24 points and 6 assists. Senior guard Danielle Douglas chipped in a season high 18 points, while Naana Ankoma-Mensa recorded a double-double with 10 points and 21 rebounds. Looking to clinch their first ever NEC Tournament berth, the Black and Gold can officially punch their ticket in with a win on Monday night against Robert Morris. 

QUINNIPIAC 66, LIU BROOKLYN 45 – Quinnipiac continued their undefeated NEC regular season with a 66-45 victory in Brooklyn over the Blackbirds. QU is now one win away from becoming the sixth team to complete a conference regular season undefeated and also setting a new NEC single season wins record with 27. The Bobcats used a balanced attack, with 10 players reaching the scoring column, led by Brittany McQuain with 13 points. QU only held a two point lead at the half, but managed to pull away with a 16-0 run over a seven minute span during the second half. 

MONMOUTH 85, WAGNER 57 – Monmouth’s “Super Six” seniors stole the show on their own Senior Day in helping to lead the Hawks to a 85-57 victory. Seniors Alysha Womack, Carly Thibault, Abigail Martin, Adrianna Allen, Betsy Gadziala, and Gabby Singer combined for 61 points. The Monmouth senior class has contributed to 72 wins, including 46 in NEC play, with a pair of championship game appearances. The Hawks shot a season high 54.7% from the floor, and were able to pull away with a 32-5 run that started the second half. 

MOUNT 70, FAIRLEIGH DICKINSON 62 – Clinging to a 56-54 lead with less than eight minutes to go, the Mount outscored FDU 14-8 the rest of the way, including a perfect 6 for 6 from the charity stripe in the final 3:45, to earn the victory by eight. Sydney Henderson led the Mountaineers with 14 points and added 6 rebounds. The Mount can host a tournament game for the first time since the entire quarterfinal and semi-final rounds were held at Knott Arena back in 2002, if they can win at Monmouth on Monday night. 

SACRED HEART 57, ST. FRANCIS BROOKLYN 53 – After St. Francis upset the Pioneers on their home floor back in the conference opener in January, Sacred Heart returned the favor with a 57-53 victory over the Terriers in Brooklyn Heights. The Pioneers led by as many as 23 points in the second half, but things got interesting down the stretch as the Terriers made a valiant comeback attempt. Down 53-32 with 10:29 remaining, the Terriers unleashed a 17-0 run to get within 53-49 at the three minute mark. SFC got to within 55-53 with just 16 seconds left, but Ericka Norman made a pair of free throws to clinch the victory for SHU. Pioneer sophomore Gabby Washington led all scorers with 20 points on the afternoon. The two teams have now split the season series, and will have a rubber match in the quarterfinal round of the NEC Tournament next Sunday.  


The 2013 Northeast Conference regular season concludes on Monday night with a full slate of action. With one playoff spot still to be clinched and five spots in the standings still to be sorted out, there will certainly be plenty to play for around the league on Monday night. Our NEC WBB Road Trip Blog will be making a special weeknight stop at the MAC in West Long Branch, NJ for a crucial season finale showdown between Monmouth and Mount St. Mary’s, with home court in the NEC Tournament up for grabs. The Hawks can clinch the number three seed with a win, ensuring not only a home game but also ensuring that they would avoid top seeded Quinnipiac in the first two rounds. Should Monmouth lose, they could fall anywhere from third to fifth, with a fifth place finish sending them on the road for the quarterfinals. On the other side, Mount St. Mary’s hasn’t hosted a tournament game since hosting the entire tournament quarters and semis in 2002, but they can wrap up a home game with a win in the finale.

In addition to the 'Mammoth Matchup' at Monmouth, the Quinnipiac Bobcats will play for the sixth unbeaten regular season in NEC women’s basketball history when they take the court in Brooklyn Heights against the St. Francis Brooklyn Terriers. Also, the LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds will host Sacred Heart, FDU will square off with Wagner, Bryant and Robert Morris will battle for their playoff lives in Smithfield, RI, while the CCSU Blue Devils welcome in the St. Francis Red Flash. In Sunday’s game preview story we will post all of the WBB tiebreaking scenarios. Monday, in addition to live coverage from courtside at the MAC, we will be following all of the games and bring you the exclusive first look at the tournament once all of the teams have been seeded and paired up for the quarterfinal round. Keep checking back here as the NEC WBB Road Trip Blog will have you covered for everything you need to know for the final day of the regular season and the 2013 NEC Women’s Basketball Tournament.

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