FAIRFIELD, CT (January 13, 2011) – It was a tale of two halves for Sacred Heart Thursday night as the Pioneers saw their six-point halftime lead erased as Central Connecticut State put up 54 points in the second half on the way to an 88-75 win in the William H. Pitt Center. The Pioneers had 11 of their 20 turnovers in the second half and allowed a season-high 88 points in the loss falling to 7-9 overall and 2-3 in the Northeast Conference.
Sophomore Shane Gibson (Killingly, CT) poured in a career-high 27 points on 10-of-18 shooting including five three's. Gibson has scored 20 or more points in six of his last seven games. Gibson buried four-of-five from behind the arc in the first half and helped fuel a 16-0 run that erased an eight point deficit and gave the Pioneers a 40-32 lead.
"They went inside in the paint and did what they wanted," stated head coach Dave Bike. "I was a little suprised that we actually shot better then them tonight but that didn't make any difference. They outplayed us. They had a strategy that worked and we got beat by a better team today."
"We ended up with 75 points and that's not bad, except it's real bad when you look up and the other team's got 88. We needed to get to the foul line more tonight. You turn around and they made nine more then we took and 11 more total."
CCSU (10-6, 3-2 NEC) opened the game making 10 of their first 13 shots building a 21-11 lead nine minutes in while forcing the Pioneers (7-9, 2-3 NEC) to use three of their timeouts during that span. SHU pulled within a bucket at 23-21 at the 7:48 mark after Gibson buried his first two three's on consecutive possessions. The Blue Devils quickly answered with a 9-3 spurt to push the lead back to eight, 32-24, with 6:09 left in the half.
The Pioneers went to the three to fuel their rally, hitting four-straight from downtown on a 16-0 run. Gibson hit his third to pull the Pioneers within 32-29 and freshman Louis Montes (Brockton, MA) tied the game at 2:57. Gibson and senior Jerrell Thompson (Plainfield, NJ) followed suite and the Pioneers were up 38-32 with two minutes left. Junior Stan Dulaire (Bloomfield, CT) ended the run with a lay-in and the Pioneers went up 40-32 with 28 seconds left. Two Ken Horton free throws ended the scoring in the first half sending SHU to the locker room up six.
SHU shot 53.8% (15-28) in the first half and eight-of-12 from behind the arc. Coming into Thursday's game, CCSU had allowed opponents to make just 10 of 60 from three in their four NEC contests this season.
The Pioneers opened the second half cold offensively and CCSU took advantage tying the game at 44-44 with a 10-4 run over the first three minutes. With the game knotted at 48-48, the Blue Devils took the lead back for good on a Shemik Thompson put back. Consecutive three's from Horton and Robby Ptacek put Central up 63-56 with 10 minutes to play. SHU cut it to five on a Thompson dribble drive lay-up with eight minutes left, 67-62, but that would be as close as the Pioneers would get.
The Blue Devils pulled away, running their lead to 80-65 over the next four minutes with a 13-3 run. CCSU used the Pioneers 20 turnovers to the tune of 23 points at the other end and did much of their damage around the rim with 46 points in the paint. Horton led the way with 27 points while Ptacek hit four 25.
Sacred Heart shot over 50.0% for the second-straight game, making 29-of-56 but managed just one-of-seven from behind the arc in the second half. Central Connecticut made 50.8% of their shots Thursday night, hitting 32-of-63 and made 19-of-23 at the free throw line.
Thompson added 15 points with six assists for the Pioneers.
"We just have to shake this off and focus on the next one," commented Gibson. "We are going to go hard in practice tomorrow and hopefully get this one on Saturday."
The Pioneers return to the court on Saturday afternoon playing host to the Bryant Bulldogs in game two of a double header with the SHU women. Tip-off is slated for 3:30 pm.