The Dolphins are off to their best start in nearly three decades, improving to 4-0 with an inspired, come-from-behind win over non-conference FDU-Florham, 69-64, in a matinee played this afternoon at the Sports & Recreation Center. The win gives the Dolphins their best start under 21-year Head Coach Tony Petosa, who are off to their best entry to a season since 1981-82, when they started 11-0 under Evan Pickman. The Devils slipped to 1-4 with the loss, squandering a 17-point lead in the effort.
Mired in poor shooting, the Dolphins started the opening stanza shooting below 25%. The Devils capitalized on the Dolphins’ woes. Calling for time down, 8-6, with 15:03 left, the visitors went on a numbing 22-7 run over the next 10 minutes of play, spearheaded by FDU’s Adam Katz and Will Green who combined for 14 of the points in that span. CSI, meanwhile shot just 18% (3-for-17) during the span, missing a pair of freebies as well. With 1:30 to play in the first half, FDU rocketed to their biggest lead, as a Derek Hall driving layup gave the Devils a commanding 35-18 advantage, and after a Jordan Young lay-in for CSI, FDU’s George Twill’s free-throws advanced the Devils to the same 17-point margin with :48 to play.
From there, CSI seized momentum. The fury was enough to cut the Devils’ lead to 11 points, 37-26, at intermission, as a Louis Valdes layup was followed by a pair of free-throws and a driving layup by T.J. Tibbs to close the half.
The Dolphins didn’t let down in the second stanza, as the team kept pushing into the lead before turning the game around. After a Ricky Fetske put-back put FDU up 41-29 with 18:57 to go, the Dolphins dropped an unbelievable 22-0 run on the Devils spanning the next 8:47. CSI shot 10-for-12 (83%) on the run, all but erasing the erratic first half shooting that plagued them. The Dolphins also forced 10 FDU turnovers in the stretch, part of 26 on the night for the Devils.
For their part, the Devils, refused to go silently after that. Although CSI never relinquished the lead, following a FDU timeout, the visitors pulled together a 12-4 run to close to 55-53 with 6:34 to play. After a Valdes turnover, FDU’s Joe Missale rattled a three-pointer in-and-out that could have given the Devils back the lead, but CSI raced the other way and David Hughes caged in a lay-up to extend CSI’s lead and the Dolphins never were a possession away from losing the lead again.
FDU closed to within a basket on two occasions, but both times in the waning moments, the Dolphins buried their free-throws to pull ahead and cushion the lead. FDU missed their final five shots from the floor as CSI held for the five-point win.
For the Dolphins, Tibbs topped all scorers with 24 points, adding four rebounds and two steals. Hughes scored 12 for the Dolphins along with Jordan Young, while Bloochy Magliore rounded the game with 11 points. Dale Taranto, rallied to post eight points, eight rebounds, and a game-high six steals. FDU was paced by Hall’s 18 points, while Katz chimed in with 12 markers.
CSI shot 42% for the afternoon (29-69), while FDU finished at 43.1% (25-58). FDU won the war on the glass, out-rebounding the Dolphins, 45-32, but CSI answered by forcing 26 FDU turnovers, next to just 13 for the home team.
The win was impressive in a lot of ways, perhaps none more than in the Dolphins assuming a 4-0 start since 1981-82. Head Coach Tony Petosa was a senior at Farrell High School that year, ready to spend the next four years as a player at CSI, where he won three championships as a player, and three more as a coach over the next 24 years (as an assistant and head coach).
“It’s always hard to have such a good start year after year because we find ourselves playing national-caliber teams in opening year tournaments and in the schedule in general,” said the coach, who raised his career win total to 311 this afternoon. “We’re showing mental and physical toughness out there. We have weaknesses and we haven’t figured it all out yet, but we are willing to work hard and I think to be 4-0 against the teams we’ve played against is saying a lot.”
For the fourth consecutive time, CSI also had to overcome a deficit to post victory. The Dolphins have never led at halftime this season, and the 17-point first-half hole is the largest lead they’ve overcome this decade.
“I hope it’s not our calling card,” said Petosa, of the Dolphins’ penchant for having to come from behind to win. “The bottom line is I don’t think we played well in the first half at all, but we kept the game within reach and had a few things break right for us along the way. It was a big win for us, because we woke up and refused to quit.”
For CSI, the team will next take to the road to face York College in its CUNYAC opener, Thursday, December 2, at 8pm.