If the men’s basketball team had seen a doctor to remedy its four-game losing streak, it likely would have been prescribed a game against Central Connecticut State.
Wednesday night’s showdown with the winless Blue Devils (0-6) provided Bruno (2-5) an opportunity to flex its offensive might and shake off its early season struggles in front of a modest crowd at the Pizzitola Center. The Bears’ 10-point lead halfway through the first half doubled to 20 by halftime, and the differential never dipped below double digits in the second half as the Bears cruised to a 82-64 victory.
Forward Cedric Kuakumensah ’16 did much of the heavy lifting. Bruno’s senior captain stood two inches higher than the tallest of his CCSU counterparts, and it was clear that Kuakumensah planned to capitalize on the size advantage, demanding the ball early and often. His dominance in the paint was reflected in the scorebook, as he finished the night with 21 points, 16 rebounds, four assists and four blocks.
“He was all over the place. He was great,” said Head Coach Mike Martin ’04. But Martin added that expectations are so high for the senior that he did not realize how big a game he was having. “I said after the first half, ‘We need more out of Cedric when he had 17 (points) and nine (rebounds),” he said.
Kuakumensah’s night turned from impressive to historic with 15:23 remaining in the game. CCSU guard Austin Nehls drove down the right side of the line and attempted to float a layup toward the basket. Like so many before him, Nehls had his shot sent in the opposite direction by a Kuakumensah rejection. The swat was number 252 in the senior’s career, tying the Ivy League record for most blocked shots ever.
“It definitely means a lot,” Kuakumensah said of tying the mark, though he quickly changed the focus to the team’s progress. “We still have a long way to go in terms of defense, and I’m just trying to help out the best I can,” he said.
Around Kuakumensah, Bruno’s fast-paced, pass-heavy offense excelled. Jason Massey ’18 finished a couple of fast-break layups as part of an 11-point, eight-rebound night. The team brought its hot shooting from Sunday’s game at SMU back to Providence, as a three-pointer by Justin Massey ’18 and two treys from JR Hobbie ’17 widened Bruno’s early lead.
The most impressive aspect of Bruno’s 42-23 halftime lead was that it easily could have been greater. Martin said he felt the team missed some easy shots throughout the game and could have put CCSU away earlier.
The Bears seemed to rest on their large halftime advantage, opening the second half in sluggish form. The Blue Devils managed to trim the lead to 12 just six minutes into the second half, but Tavon Blackmon ’17 ensured there would be no comeback. In the span of 1:28, Brown’s starting point guard rattled off nine points by himself: a long three-pointer followed by three slashing layups.
“In the second half, we were a little flat and lacked energy, and he gave us life,” Martin said of his floor general.
This season, Blackmon has found a backcourt partner in rookie Corey Daugherty ’19. The two ballhandlers — who interchange at point guard but also occasionally play alongside one other — form a one-two punch much more potent than their small stcatures suggest. The duo combined for 25 points and seven assists, with each scoring in double digits and only turning the ball over one time.
Kyle Haber ’18 emerged as an unexpected source of production Wednesday. After playing just three combined minutes in the first six games and not attempting a single shot, Haber drained his first three attempts from the field against the Blue Devils. He finished the night with seven points.
While CCSU is far from the cream of the defensive crop, Bruno’s 84-point performance showcased an offense with fast players and even faster passing. The Bears tied a season high with 19 assists Wednesday and are averaging 16.4 dimes per game this year. At this point last year, the team was passing out just 8.7 assists per game.
Bruno makes the short trek to Bryant Saturday afternoon in an attempt to continue its winning ways.