EMMITSBURG — After their win-streak reached eight games on Thursday night, most Mount St. Mary’s fans assumed it would reach nine on Saturday against the last place team in the Northeast Conference, Central Connecticut State. Those hopes were exiled when Chris Wray’s potential game-winning half court shot clanked off the rim, giving the Blue Devils a 54-52 upset victory at the Knott Arena.
With the Mountaineers trailing 54-52, Kahlen Cumberlander had a chance to put the game away for Central Connecticut State with two free throws, but he missed both attempts and Wray rebounded the ball with 2.6 second left.
After the rebound, he took a few dribbles and unleashed a half-court shot that went begging.
The final minute was unfortunate for Wray. After a missed 3-pointer by Elijah Long, Wray rebounded the ball and missed the put-back attempt, not once, but twice.
“I feel like both of [those shots] should have went down, but it’s just how the ball rolls sometimes.” Wray said. “It should have never got to that point. I don’t feel like I held the team accountable, held myself accountable, enough to be prepared for this game.”
Mount St. Mary’s (12-13, 10-2) got off to a promising start, opening the first two and a half minutes on a 9-0 run capped by a 3 from Junior Robinson. Central Connecticut Coach Donyell Marshall then called a timeout and switched to a 2-3 zone that suppressed the Mountaineers offense.
Mount St. Mary’s took a 31-28 lead into halftime after a jump shot by Blue Devils’ Tyson Batiste right before the buzzer.
The Mountaineers, similar to the first half, opened the first five minutes of the second half with a 12-0 run that padded their lead to 43-28.
Central Connecticut State countered with a 15-4 run, cutting their 15-point deficit down to 47-43 with just over five minutes to play.
The Blue Devils took the lead for good, 50-49, after Austin Nehls drilled a 3 with 1:17 to play.
Finding themselves down 54-49 with 13 seconds to play, Greg Alexander’s 3 brought the Mountaineers within two with 13 seconds left.
The Mountaineers’ didn’t any closer, faltering down the stretch to only muster nine points in the final 14 minutes.
Mount St. Mary’s shot a lackluster 22.2 percent from deep (6 of 27).
“I felt like we were playing like we were trying to deliver the knockout blow every single time down the floor, and that’s really not how basketball’s played,” Mount St. Mary’s coach Jamion Christian said. “We took way too many 3s against the zone.”
The Mountaineers were led by Long with 10 points. Wray added six points and 11 rebounds. Mawdo Sallah contributed eights points, six blocks and eight rebounds.
Cumberlander had 14 points and eight rebounds for the Blue Devils (5-18, 3-9).
Mount St. Mary’s will look to recover next Thursday against Robert Morris, the start of a four-game road-trip.
“We’ve got to really look ourselves in the mirror and just correct the things,” Christian said. “We don’t have anything that’s glaring, we’re a team with a lot of strengths.”