It’s that time of the year, when every team gets a clean slate. No matter how bad your favorite team was during the non-conference season, they were 0-0 in the NEC standings before 7 pm. The real season for a one-bid conference like the NEC starts now! Onto the action…
Robert Morris 79, Sacred Heart 70
On the back of Karvel Anderson, Robert Morris won their fifth straight game against Sacred Heart and now leads the all-time series 17-8. After a slow start in the game, the Colonials grabbed a 21-20 lead midway through the first half, and after a couple of lead changes, never relinquished the advantage. Sacred Heart did get close late, but back-to-back baskets by Anderson – who had a career high 36 points on 15 of 19 shooting – guided Robert Morris to a key road victory on NEC opening night. Andy Toole now owns a 40-15 regular season record as the Colonials’ head coach.
Mostafa Abdel-Latif didn’t miss a shot (8 of 8) for the Pioneers, registering a double double with 17 points and 12 rebounds while only committing two fouls. After Abdel-Latif’s excellent performance, however, no other teammate had a noteworthy game. De’von Barnett (12 points, 3 rebounds) and Louis Montes (11 points, 3 rebounds) were the other two Pioneers to score in double figures. Sacred Heart, at times, was stagnant against RMU’s 2-3 zone, consistently settling for long three-pointers or trying to simply pass through the zone coverage. Phil Gaetano was most guilty of the latter, as evident by his game high eight turnovers. While some of those long-range bombs connected, a 7 for 20 performance from downtown typically won’t get it done. On the flip side, the Colonials made 10 of 15 from behind the arc, with Anderson and Lucky Jones combining for nine of those makes. No other Colonial had more than six points in the victory, although an aggressive/slashing David Appolon provided a much-needed spark for Toole in the first half. He had six points on 3 of 5 shooting.
Wagner 88, Central Connecticut 59
With Kyle Vinales out indefinitely with a broken finger, the CCSU Blue Devils were blown out in New Britain as a red-hot Wagner couldn’t miss from the perimeter. In all, the Seahawks connected on 12 of 20 threes – after hitting 11 of those rainmakers in the first half. Jay Harris and Marcus Burton were responsible for seven of those treys and combined to score 32 points. It was Wagner’s second straight effort where they held their opponent to under 60 points and 0.80 ppp. Bashir Mason used 12 players in the fast paced (151 total possessions) game.
For CCSU, this was the 10th game of the season where they’ve allowed more than 1.00 ppp. In those games, the Blue Devils are an unsightly 1-9. It didn’t help that the offense shot 36% and committed 20 turnovers. Malcolm McMillan had 10 points, six rebounds, and five assists in the loss. This is the first time since 2010 that CCSU has dropped 10 games this early in the season.
Bryant 77, Saint Francis (PA) 67
Alex Francis scored a game-high 23 points to go along with eight rebounds, as Bryant lead coast-to-coast to defeat SFU in their home opener. Corey Maynard, the de facto conference “stat stuffer” with CCSU’s Matt Hunter out for the season, had 18 points, seven rebounds, two assists and four steals in the win. Bryant scored 1.20 points per possession (ppp) because they took care of the ball (13 assists to eight turnovers) and shot 49% from the field. Tim O’Shea used a short bench throughout, as only six Bulldogs played more than 24 minutes in the game.
Rob Krimmel’s Red Flash did a respectable job scoring the ball (1.01 ppp); in fact, it was the first game of the season where Saint Francis shot better than 45% from the floor. A 10 of 17 performance from downtown kept SFU within striking distance, but 17 turnovers inevitably did them in. After a rough first half with only one point, Earl Brown recovered to finish with 10 points and 11 rebounds, giving him his sixth double double in the last seven games. Despite his best efforts, a 17-point deficit to Bryant at the half was too big of a hole for the offensively challenged Red Flash to climb out of. They’ve now lost at least five in a row for the second time this season.
St. Francis Brooklyn 78, LIU Brooklyn 64
The Terriers snapped their six game losing streak to the Blackbirds by winning the first 2014 installment of the Battle of Brooklyn. Glenn Braica’s crew, now 10-6 on the season, dominated LIU on the glass, 52-28. After one half of play, SFC actually had more offensive rebounds (20) than LIU had total caroms (14). Ben Mockford and Jalen Cannon combined to score 49 of the Terriers’ 78 points in the victory. Brent Jones dished out 12 assists versus only two turnovers. Through his last 11 games, Jones has a superb assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.7.
For more on this game, read John’s recap.
Fairleigh Dickinson 85, Mount St. Mary’s 79
For the second straight season, FDU knocked off the Mount on NEC opening night, this time in New Jersey in front of a sparse crowd at the Rothman Center. Nevertheless, Greg Herenda’s team pulled out the tight contest, thanks to the efforts of Sidney Sanders, Jr. and freshman Matt MacDonald. They had a career high 32 and 21 points, respectively. The Knights only made 43.8% of their shot attempts, but were an excellent 29 of 36 from the charity stripe with the aforementioned MacDonald making 11 freebies. A 13 point FDU advantage at the line was clearly the difference in the back and forth affair.
Once again, Julian Norfleet led the Mount with 24 points on 12 shots, as well as nine assists, three boards, and two steals. Rashad Whack chipped in with 23 points and five rebounds. Gregory Graves secured a career high 10 rebounds off the bench for Jamion Christian. The Mount’s bench outscored FDU’s reserves 18-7, but it hardly mattered with Sanders, MacDonald, and Mathias Seilund combining for 69 points … on only 38 shots.
Player of the Night — Karvel Anderson
A midseason first team selection here on Big Apple Buckets, Anderson was marvelous for Robert Morris in tonight’s victory. The senior scored everywhere on the floor – behind the arc, in the lane, at the elbow – and Sacred Heart didn’t have an answer no matter what they tried. When the Pioneers cut RMU’s lead to one point late, Anderson drained a runner in the lane with three Pioneers draped all over him. On the ensuing possession, with the shot clock winding down, Anderson then hit a 25-footer at the top of the key. Game over and good night!
Surprise of the Night — FDU Grabs a Victory
This isn’t much of a surprise, in actually KenPom called the Mount a one-point favorite (51%) heading into this game, so this FDU/Mount St. Mary’s matchup was purely a tossup. Still, this victory will be welcomed by the FDU faithful, especially from a program mired in mediocrity for the past three seasons. If anything, this victory signifies a changing of the culture and shows that FDU will be far from a pushover this season. To the rest of the NEC, you’ve been warned about Greg Herenda.
1) Robert Morris, 1-0
2) Wagner, 1-0
3) FDU, 1-0
4) Bryant, 1-0
5) St. Francis Brooklyn, 1-0
6) Mount St. Mary’s, 0-1
7) Sacred Heart, 0-1
8) CCSU, 0-1
9) LIU Brooklyn, 0-1
10) Saint Francis (PA), 0-1
You can follow Ryan on Twitter @pioneer_pride