Sacred Heart Pioneers (9-16, 4-10 NEC) vs. Central CT State Blue Devils (17-8, 10-4 NEC)
Game #26 - Thursday, February 17, 2011 - 7:00 pm - New Britain, CT - Detrick Gymnasium (2,654)
The Storyline... The Sacred Heart Pioneers head up to New Britain on Thursday night to take on the Central Connecticut State Blue Devils. The Pioneers are looking to snap a four-game losing streak after dropping both games to Quinnipiac during Northeast Conference Rivalry Week. SHU turned the ball over a season-high 24 times in a 55-48 loss at home on Monday to the Bobcats. Quinnipiac held down leading scorer Shane Gibson, forcing him into a one-for-11 night matching his season-low with three points. On the flip side, freshman Louis Montes turned in the first SHU double double of the season with 12 points and a career-high 14 rebounds. CCSU saw their seven-game win streak ended last time out, losing 85-80 in overtime at Bryant. The Blue Devils have already secured a spot in the NEC Tournament and are 10-1 at home this season.
Sacred Heart - CCSU All-Time Series... The instate rivalry goes back to the Division II days for both Sacred Heart and Central Connecticut State. The Blue Devils lead the series 29-17 and owns an 19-9 record against the Pioneers since SHU joined the NEC in 1999-2000. The Blue Devils took the first meeting this season, winning in Fairfield, 88-75. Sacred Heart and Central have met five times in the postseason. The Blue Devils knocked the Pioneers from the NEC Tournament three times including winning the 2007 NEC title against SHU. Sacred Heart ousted CCSU from the 2008 and 2009 tournaments.
The Coaches... Dave Bike (Sacred Heart '69) is in his 33rd year as the head coach of Sacred Heart. He has a career record of 504-459, ranking him 20th among active coaches. Only Jim Boheim of Syracuse as spent more time coaching at one institution. He led the Pioneers to eight NCAA Division II tournaments and his 1985-86 team won the national championship while finishing 30-4. Bike was named the national Coach of the Year by the NABC following the title game. Howie Dickenman (Central Connecticut State '70) is in his 15th season as the head coach at his alma mater. Dickenman is the second longest tenured head coach in school history and carries a 234-204 career record with 154 career NEC wins. He is a four-time NEC Coach of the Year award recipient and has led the Blue Devils to three conference titles. He has led CCSU to 13-straight NEC Tournament appearances heading into this season, the longest active streak in the league.
On the Upcoming Slate... Sacred Heart heads to Bryant for their final road game of the season Saturday afternoon. The game is being broadcast live on MSG Network.
Scouting the Blue Devils... CCSU comes in at 10-4, all alone in second place in the NEC standings having already clinched a spot in the postseason tournament. Junior Ken Horton leads the NEC in scoring and rebounding, averaging 19.1 points and 8.9 points per game. Fellow junior Robby Ptacek is sixth in the league in scoring at 15.7 points per outing. Senior point guard Shemik Thompson is the top assist man in the league at 5.16 helpers per game and he ranks second in steals with 48 (1.92 pg). The Blue Devils have one of the NEC's top-ranked defenses, allowing a league-low 65.2 points per game.
Last Meeting with CCSU... 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 on January 13th. The Pioneers had 11 of their 20 turnovers in the second half and allowed a season-high 88 points in the loss. Sophomore Shane Gibson poured in 27 points on 10-of-18 shooting including five three's. He 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. CCSU opened the game making 10 of their first 13 shots building a 21-11 lead nine minutes in while forcing the Pioneers to use three of their timeouts during that span. The Pioneers went to the three to fuel their rally, hitting four-straight from downtown on a 16-0 run. SHU shot 53.8% (15-28) in the first half and eight-of-12 from behind the arc. 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 and the Blue Devils pulled away, running their lead to 80-65 over a four minute stretch with a 13-3 run. Ken Horton led the way with 27 points while Robby Ptacek hit for 25 points. 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.
Last Time Out... The Sacred Heart Pioneers turned the ball over a season-high 24 times while Quinnipiac closed out the game on a 7-0 run to pull out a 55-48 win Monday night to sweep the Northeast Conference Rivalry Week series for the second-straight season. QU's James Johnson scored all 12 of his points on four second half three's, none more important than his final two in the closing minutes to break a 48-48 tie and help deliver the win. The Pioneers held Quinnipiac to just 33.9% (21-62) shooting and outrebounded the Bobcats 39-38 but couldn't overcome their 24 miscues. QU used SHU's mistakes to the tune of 21 points at the other end. Sacred Heart was led by freshman Louis Montes turned in his first career double double and the first by a Pioneer in nearly a year. Montes scored 12 points and pulled down a career-high 14 rebounds. Jerrell Thompson scored 13 points with five rebounds in the loss; the Pioneer's fourth straight and fifth in their last six games. Shane Gibson was held to just three points, matching his season-low, making just one-of-11. Justin Rutty led Quinnipaic with 13 points and seven rebounds. The Bobcat's 38 rebounds were split down the middle, 19 at each end.
Montes Cracks the Starting Five... Freshman Louis Montes was the third Pioneers freshman to crack the starting lineup this season and he responded with a pair of strong outings. Montes is coming off the first double double by a Pioneers this season with 12 points and a career-high 14 rebounds in Monday's loss to Quinnipiac. It was the first double double by Pioneers since last Feb. 13, 2010 when Liam Potter had 10 points and 10 rebounds vs. St. Francis (NY). Montes scored nine of his 11 points in the first half in last Wednesday's loss at Quinnipiac when he earned his first career start. Montes became the ninth Pioneer on the roster to earn a starting nod this year. Senior Jerrell Thompson and sophomore Shane Gibson have been the only two constants in the starting lineup this season. Head coach Dave Bike has used nine different lineups in 25 games this season.