Pioneers Edged By CCSU, 74-70, In NEC Championship Game

Pioneers Edged By CCSU, 74-70, In NEC Championship Game

March 7, 2007

Box Score

NEW BRITAIN, Conn. (AP) - Javier Mojica scored 25 points, including a late 3-pointer that helped Central Connecticut State beat Sacred Heart 74-70 on Wednesday night in the Northeast Conference tournament championship and earn an NCAA bid.

The Blue Devils (21-11) won their third NEC championship in the last seven years, and will be the only school from Connecticut in the NCAA tournament this season.

The University of Connecticut (17-14), lost Wednesday in the opening round of the Big East tournament Wednesday and will miss the NCAAs for the first time since 2001.

This was just the second time that two Connecticut schools have played each other with an automatic NCAA bid at stake. The first time came in 2002 when CCSU defeated Quinnipiac, 78-71, on the same court.

Central Connecticut ran away with the Northeast Conference regular season championship, going 16-2 in league play and 9-0 at home. But for much of the second half, it didn't look like CCSU would make the field of 65 either. The Blue Devils trailed 56-46 with 10:29 to play.

Mojica, the conference player of the year, gave Central the lead for good, 70-68, on a 3-pointer with 1:36 left.

Tristan Blackwood, who scored 21, hit two free throws with 22 seconds left to secure the win.

Joey Henley scored 22 for Sacred Heart (18-14). Jarrid Frye added 16 points, and Ryan Litke had 12, all on 3-point shots.

Trailing 33-30, Sacred Heart scored the last four points before intermission and the first eight after to take a 42-33 lead.

Both teams looked nervous early. Central Connecticut hit just one of its first six shots from the field, Sacred Heart was just 2-of-6, and the game was tied 4-4 five minutes in.

The lead changed hands 12 times before intermission and was tied seven times, and neither team lead by more than five.

Mojica had 13 first-half points, but hit just 5-of-14 shots from the field.

Sacred Heart's Frye also scored 13 before intermission, hitting 5-of-7 shots, but was in foul trouble much of the second half, and fouled out with 2:58 left.