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Date Posted: 09:44:06 11/22/05 Tue
Author: J.J.
Subject: Breaks elude Devils
In reply to: LarryL9797 's message, "My view From Section 4 , Row D" on 12:25:53 11/21/05 Mon

Nice weekend wrap up by The Herald. How is Tristan? I Really thought he would have done well against JJB. Maybe hold him to 18 instead of 28. Will he play vs. FIU?

BY MATT STRAUB, Assistant Sports Editor

NEW BRITAIN -- If itís true that the breaks tend to even out over the course of a season, then the Central Connecticut menís basketball team is due some good fortune in the near future.

Friday night, less than 24 hours before the Blue Devils were set to take on Northeastern, Tristan Blackwood talked about how he was ready to take on the challenge of defending Jose Juan Barea, the Huskiesí talented point guard. He had just come off his best game at Central, a 17-point effort against Birmingham-Southern.

Then on Saturday night as the Blue Devils took the floor, there he was, in street clothes.

Lenny Jefferson, another guard that would have come in handy against Barea, was sitting on the bench next to him, dressed just as nicely in his suit, serving the second game of a three-game suspension.

Without the two guards and with three starters on the bench for a stretch in the first half thanks to foul trouble, the Blue Devils still led by eight at two different points in the final five minutes. With all of that said, there is plenty of room for optimism after CCSUís split at the eighth annual Mohegan Sun Classic.

Just donít tell that to a Blue Devil squad that was moments away from what would have been a huge early-season win over a well-respected mid-major team.

"(CCSU head coach Howie Dickenman) says no excuses," junior Javier Mojica said. "It doesnít matter whoís out there. We have no superstars. Everyone has to contribute ..it definitely hurt not having Tristan and Lenny and with and Obie (Nwadike) and (Jemino Sobers) and I in foul trouble. We just have to pick it up basically."

While the tough loss on Saturday night was reminiscent of the collapse in last yearís NEC tournament loss to Monmouth, it was by no means as costly. The game at Monmouth marked the end of the season. This time, the Blue Devils have nearly an entire season to rebound.

"I think we can learn from this mistake," Mojica said. "Hopefully we can learn from it and bounce back."

If the Blue Devils put forth the kind of effort they did in the Classic, they should have a good chance to put the Northeastern game behind them.

Justin Chiera played 70 minutes in the two games and made a habit of diving on the floor and making big shots. Mojica fought through a bad shooting night on Friday by grabbing eight boards, then played well on both ends on Saturday. Jemino Sobers showed flashes in the middle, and Obie Nwadike put up his usual numbers. Junior college transfer James Brown made a huge shot late against Northeastern, and freshman John Williams stepped in immediately and played a part.

"If you had told me three days ago that John Williams was going to play (34 minutes), I would have told you that you were full of (it)," Dickenman said. "I thought (he and Brown) were credible."

Perhaps that word best sums up the first weekend of the season. The Blue Devils could have had two wins, and probably should have. What they did do was answer some nagging questions from the preseason. In the process, they gave a very credible performance.

Matt Straub can be reached via email at mstraub@newbritainherald.com

©The Herald 2005

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