UNCASVILLE, CT – Despite leading by as many as 12 points during the second half, the Hartford Hawks fell just short in their season opener against Central Connecticut State (1-0), losing 64-62 in the middle game of the Connecticut 6 Classic at Mohegan Sun Arena.
Despite the disappointing result, new Hartford head coach John Gallagher found plenty of positives to draw from his team’s performance, starting with the effort the Hawks displayed.
Asked about the result, Gallagher responded, “I expected to win, but I look at it like this: I’m a process guy, I look at the process. We didn’t get the win – didn’t get the result – and part of the process is good results, but we got the effort.”
Leading Hartford (0-1) in effort – and almost everything else – was senior forward Morgan Sabia. Sabia posted career highs in both points and rebounds with 23 and 13, respectively. Perhaps even more importantly, Sabia was fueling Hartford’s rallies and interrupting the Blue Devils’ attempts to cut the deficit.
The Hawks were in control on the boards for most of the evening, which stands in sharp contrast to the subpar rebounding performance Hartford has been known for the past several years. Hartford hands corralled 17 of 42 available offensive rebounds (40%), while allowing CCSU only 6 of 28 at the other end of the floor (21%).
Yet Hartford ended up on the wrong side of the result. 17 turnovers were a factor – Gallagher noted, “I feel great about our defensive side of the ball and our rebounding numbers, I don’t feel great about our turnover numbers,” – but fouls were also a major concern.
The Blue Devils’ second-half comeback was fueled by 21 free throw attempts; the Hawks would manage just five after halftime. The resulting 12-point discrepancy was enough to erase even Hartford’s largest second-half lead, and from there, a couple of bounces in the wrong direction were all CCSU would need.
Still, Gallagher wasn’t about to panic over one close loss. While admitting that, “It’s two things when you coach college basketball, you teach players how to play and you teach them how to win. Right now, that second thing is the concern,” the new head coach offered another observation, one that hints at his team’s ultimate goal.
“Do they hand out NCAA watches on November 13? No, that’s why I’m so excited about this group and this program.”