Robert Morris is desperately trying to sneak away from the pack. The Colonials got all the breaks they needed to take a commanding two-game lead in the conference and have all the other contenders fade away. Of course as that was going on, the race for the critical third and fourth seeds in the league standings (and the seventh and eighth seeds) heated up.
Mount St. Mary’s 87, Fairleigh Dickinson 82
Despite trailing by seven points with 2:10 left in regulation, the Mount ended up pulling out a key conference victory to draw even with FDU at 4-3 in the NEC standings. Sam Prescott, who didn’t score in the first 39:55 of the game, hit a game tying three with 5.4 seconds remaining. He carried the momentum into overtime. Prescott tallied five points, two rebounds, an assist, and even drew a charge to spark a dominant five minutes for the Mount as they outscored FDU 18-13 in the extra frame. On an off-shooting night, Julian Norfleet still managed to score 17 points and dish out 11 assists versus two turnovers. Rashad Whack had a game high 23 points, aided by a 4 of 8 performance from behind the arc.
Eight different Knights scored for Greg Herenda’s club in the first half, but it was a one man show after that with Sidney Sanders, Jr. After being plagued with foul trouble in the first half, the senior scored 16 second half points as he attempted to will FDU to victory all by himself (or so it seemed). It was the 20th time Sanders had scored in double figured this season. The Knights came up short, however, thanks in large part to Mount St. Mary’s pressure. The Mount forced 22 FDU turnovers and outscored their opponents 25 to 16 off of miscues. That discrepancy was just enough to offset the Knights dominance in the paint (40-30, +5 rebounding margin).
For Ryan Peters’ profile of Sidney Sanders after last night’s game, go here.
Wagner 75, LIU Brooklyn 68
Really, Wagner is just too much for LIU Brooklyn right now. The Seahawks proved it by completing the season sweep with a seven-point road victory. The Seahawks led by four to 13 points for much of the contest. It never quite felt like a blowout, but Wagner did an excellent job of keeping its composure and keeping the Blackbirds at bay. Latif Rivers led the Seahawks with 18 points, but it was the work in the paint, where Wagner hit on 22-38 (56%) that really turned the tide. This was a 70 possession game, which means that at least one NEC team played defense for one night! John was at the game and you can read his full recap here.
Saint Francis (PA) 69, Central Connecticut 63
The Red Flash earned a critical victory – their second of the season – over CCSU behind Earl Brown’s 25 points and 10 rebounds. The junior power forward was once again outstanding, registering his NEC leading nineth double double of the season. The Red Flash only shot 38% from the field, but converted 13 of 14 freebies at the charity stripe while protecting the basketball with only nine turnovers. It was only the second time all season where Rob Krimmel’s club won after scoring less than 1.00 ppp for the contest (Navy was the other time).
After leading for a majority of the first 30 minutes, CCSU coughed up the lead for good halfway through the second half. Faronte Drakeford was very good in the defeat with 21 points and eight rebounds. He’s been one of the lone bright spots for the snake-bitten Blue Devils, as the junior is averaging 18 points and five rebounds per game in NEC play. Freshman Matt Mobley was the only other Blue Devil to score in double figures. Collectively, CCSU shot the ball fairly well (47%) but they were out-rebounded (35-31) and outproduced at the free-throw line (13-5) by their counterparts.
The loss is bad news for the cellar dwelling Blue Devils – Saint Francis will have the tiebreaker over them if both squads finish with the same conference record at season’s end. That would loom large in regards to qualifying for the playoffs. The Red Flash also own a critical tiebreaker over the 1-6 Sacred Heart Pioneers as well.
Robert Morris 79, Bryant 76
In front of the largest crowd at the Sewall Center since a certain team in blue came to town the Colonials pulled out a tight victory that RMU didn’t have in hand until Corey Maynard’s final missed three. It was a game designed to entertain everyone who tuned into the game on ESPNU. RMU once again rolled with its eight-man rotation and that was enough to burst out to an eight-point halftime lead and hang on from there. You’ll excuse the casual fan that though Velton Jones was still at Robert Morris when they saw Anthony Myers-Pate playing tonight. He probably had his best game of the season with 21 points on 8-9 shooting along with five rebounds. Karvel Anderson didn’t have his best shooting night, but went 8-16 and scored team-high 24, which helped offset Lucky Jones’ 1-12 night he’d like to forget – though he did have eight rebounds.
Bryant was led by the usual suspects. Alex Francis scored 30 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in defeat. Maynard scored 19 points. The Bulldogs played even fewer players than the Colonials in this game if you can believe it. Just seven players saw action with Claybrin McMath only registering one foul in no official minutes.
Two general asides: There were far fewer fouls called on Thursday night than there had been. For instance just 29 free throws were shot during this game. Is the officiating starting to flow back towards an equilibrium as February approaches? Also, this was the worst game for both Bryant and Robert Morris defensively during NEC play this season. Neither coach is sleeping well tonight. (Well, Andy Toole is maybe sleeping a little better.)
Player of the Night: Alex Francis, Bryant – Yes his team lost, but he scored 30 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in the biggest game of the night.
NEC Standards Through January 30th
1) Robert Morris, 7-0
2) Bryant, 5-2
3) Fairleigh Dickinson, 4-3
4) St. Francis Brooklyn, 4-3
5) Mount St. Mary’s, 4-3
6) Wagner, 4-3
7) Saint Francis (PA), 3-4
8) LIU Brooklyn, 2-5
9) Central Connecticut, 1-6
10) Sacred Heart, 1-6
You can follow Ryan on Twitter @pioneer_pride