The Central Connecticut men's basketball team won its second straight game and fifth in its last seven games, 73-70, on the road at Sacred Heart in the regular season finale for both squads on Saturday afternoon. The win pushes the Blue Devils to 11-18 overall and 7-9 in Northeast Conference play. The Blue Devils will be the #7 seed in next week's NEC Tournament, and will play at #2 Wagner on Wednesday night.
Sacred Heart ends the season 5-26 overall and 2-14 in NEC action. They had won on the road at Mount St. Mary's on Thursday night.
"I'm real proud of this team. We lost a couple players for at least 10 games, and we fought our way back," head coach Howie Dickenman said. "I guess we gutted it out when the games were on the line. Real proud that we came back. Look at some of the things we had to overcome, we finished strong in the final seven games. There was a time it looked like we might miss the playoffs, but we gutted it out. I'm just really proud of this team."
After leading by one at halftime, the Blue Devils fell behind by as many as four after halftime. Vinales led the offensive charge with five threes in the half. He finished with seven threes, one off his career-high, and had a team-high 24 points while adding five assists.
Freshmen Khalen Cumberlander and Matt Mobley combined for 12 points and nine rebounds and made three threes in the win. As a team the Blue Devils made 11-of-24 from three, including 7-of-10 from Vinales. Aside from his threes he had a pair of key assists in the final minutes to lead the team to the win.
Central struggled from the free-throw line, making just 20-of-30 on the day, but junior Malcolm McMillan drained two with 2.2 seconds to play to push the lead to three as the Blue Devils held on for the win.
Central led 29-28 at the half as neither team shot well in the first half of play. Central missed its first 11 shots from the field, but hit 8-of-15 to finish the half and led by one. Vinales had eight to lead the Blue Devils, including a pair of threes. Sacred Heart was just 12-of-32 from the field and made 3-of-12 from three.
Junior Faronte Drakeford had 11 points in just 16 minutes before fouling out. Sophomore Brandon Peel had six points and eight rebounds. Central held the rebounding advantage 39-38, and had seven players with at least three rebounds in the victory.
The Blue Devils are the #7 seed in next week's NEC Tournament, and will play on Wednesday night, March 5, at 7 p.m. at #2 seed Wagner. It marks the third straight season that the Blue Devils travel to Staten Island to face the Seahawks in the first round of the tournament.