NEC Recap – November 14, The Opening Night

With eight NEC programs beginning their 2014-15 season tonight, we summarized all of the opening night action. Going in, it wasn’t expected to be a strong night for the conference — according to KenPom, five of the eight teams were overwhelming underdogs (10% chance to win or less) with only Robert Morris considered as a moderate favorite (70%) over Lafayette.

Fairfield 71, Central Connecticut 63: Fairfield continued its dominance in the CT-6 basketball tournament by dispatching the resilient Blue Devils after nearly blowing a 13-point lead midway through the second half. The Stags, who committed just two turnovers through the first 25 minutes of this contest, were in control until a 8-0 CCSU run cut into their advantage. When a struggling Malcolm McMillian hit a three-pointer — his only field goal made in 12 shot attempts — with 3:46 remaining, it appeared the Stags may run out of gas. Fairfield big man Amadou Sidibe continued his dominance on the glass, though, corralling a game high 12 rebounds to go along with 13 points as he willed Fairfield to their seventh straight CT-6 victory. Marcus Gilbert chipped in with 21 points and 8 rebounds. In the loss, Matt Mobley scored a career high 30 points on just 17 shots presumably filling in for the suspended Kyle Vinales. The Blue Devils hung around thanks to their excellence at the charity stripe (20-24, 83.3%) keyed by Mobley’s playmaking, but Brandon Peel (5 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists) and Faronte Drakeford (10 points, 9 rebounds) eventually fouled out, exposing Howie Dickenman’s dangerously thin bench. All five starters played at least 30 minutes this afternoon with McMillan and Mobley never taking a breather. Check out Vincent Simone’s three thoughts from the game.

Sacred Heart 71, Hartford 53: Despite being picked as the second best team this preseason by the America East coaches, the Hartford Hawks laid an egg in the final contest of the CT-6, dropping their annual matchup against in-state rival Sacred Heart. The Pioneers bench outscored the Hawks bench 26-5, led by Hofstra transfer Jordan Allen (13 points, 5 rebounds) and Tevin Falzon (8 points, 4 rebounds, 3 steals). De’Von Barnett was electric around the rim, scoring a team high 18 points on 11 shots. Anthony Latina’s game plan clearly was to collapse the middle on Hartford (specifically Mark Nwakamma) and it worked. Hartford missed 18 of 25 three-point attempts and looks disjointed for most of the night, as evident from their 19 turnovers. Sacred Heart committed just one less turnover, but shot 58.8% against the Hawks’ porous defense. Yolonzo Moore and Nwakamma combined to score 37 points – the rest of Hartford’s roster scored 16 points on a paltry 5 of 27 shooting. Check out Simone’s three thoughts from the game.

Arizona 78, Mount St. Mary’s 55: The first of five paycheck games began for the NEC’s defending champion, Mount St. Mary’s, and it predictably ended in a lopsided loss. #2 ranked Arizona was challenged in the early going by Jamion Christian’s feisty bunch, but a 12-0 Wildcats run to close out the first half pulled the game out of reach. Arizona dominated in all major facets such as rebounding (35 to 24), shooting percentage (57% to 38%), turnover prevention (8 to 16) and free throws made (12 to 8). Senior Kristijan Krajina led the Mount with 12 points while Taylor Danaher scored 9 of his own.

UConn 66, Bryant 53: A pair of Dyami Starks free throws tied their contest with UConn, sans sophomore Rodney Purvis (suspension) and Omar Calhoun (injury), halfway through the 2nd half, yet a timely 12-2 run gave UConn a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. Starks scored a team high 18 points in the loss, but needed 19 shots to get there against the Huskies tough, athletic backcourt.  Shane McLaughlin (5 turnovers) struggled versus the athleticism as well, with Ryan Boatright (24 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 steals, 29 efficiency rating) draped all over him. Overall against the Huskies defense, Bryant scored just 0.78 points per possession after making 19 shots on 56 attempts (34%). Nevertheless, Bryant held its own against the defending NCAA champions. Freshman power forward Gus Riley had a nice debut, chipping in with 9 points and 3 rebounds.

Cincinnati 52, Saint Francis University 37: Saint Francis U. lost their fifth straight season opener overall and worsened their non-conference record since 2010 to 7-51. The Red Flash offense was all sorts of ugly as they scored only 0.60 points per possession. It was SFU’s worst per-possession offensive performance since a 57-35 loss to Drexel on Dec. 13, 2009. Ronnie Drinnon led the Red Flash with just nine points. He also had six rebounds and four steals. SFU committed 21 turnovers, including six by Earl Brown. The defense actually wasn’t bad! The Red Flash held Cincinnati to 46% shooting from the field and only allowed seven offensive rebounds. They even forced 17 turnovers, but the lack of offense ultimately doomed them. SFU’s next game is at American on Monday.

Lafayette 77, Robert Morris 50: In one of the bigger surprises of the night, Lafayette led wire to wire and buried the host, Robert Morris, in a laugher. The Leopards jumped out to a 14-3 and 28-9 advantage, and for all intents and purposes, the game was over by then. Four of Lafayette’s five starters registered an efficiency rating in double-digits, led by sophomore point guard Nick Lindner (18 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals) and center Dan Trist (21 points, 7 rebounds). The Leopards impressively scored 1.18 points per possession, making 56% of their two-point attempts. For Andy Toole’s squad, few positives will be derived from this one, especially considering Robert Morris mustered 0.78 ppp and committed 11 turnovers versus just 6 assists. The front court combo of the Colonials — Stephen Bennett, Elijah Minnie, Lionel Gomis — failed to score a single point while grabbing five rebounds in the loss. The Colonials now play four straight road games, including Georgetown and North Carolina, before heading back to Moon Township for a home contest.

Maryland 78, Wagner 55: In a completely lopsided game, Maryland blew out the inexperience Wagner Seahawks in College Park for their home opener. All five starting Seahawks weren’t in the starting lineup last year, and it showed with Wagner shooting just 27% from the floor and 13% (3-23) from behind the arc. Sophomore big Nolan Long led Wagner with 13 points and 9 rebounds, both team highs, but even he was overmatched on the defensive end, fouling out after 17 minutes of play. In the defeat, Bashir Mason played 10 guys at least 11 minutes. Maryland, who dropped in 1.20 points per possession against Mason’s defense, outscored their opponents from the charity stripe, 27 to 9. Dez Wells led the Terapins with 18 points. Maryland will host Central Connecticut on Monday.

Fairleigh Dickinson 58, St. Joseph’s 57: The Knights went on the road and beat the Hawks in Philadelphia on Mustafaa Jones three-pointer with four seconds remaining. The game was a defensive slugfest, both teams scored under a point per possession. FDU forced 16 SJU turnovers, which helped to offset the Hawks’ 18 offensive rebounds. FDU also got just enough offense to pull out the victory. Jones led the Knights with 13 points on 5-12 shooting. Matt MacDonald added 12 points, eight rebounds and one assist and freshman Darian Anderson scored 10. Greg Herenda only went eight players deep in the upset, but Malachi Nix provided four assists and four points in 20 minutes off the bench. The Knights next play against their sister school, FDU Madison, on Monday.

Someone was certainly excited!:


Performance of the Night: Fairleigh Dickinson

Player(s) of the Night: De’von Barnett. Sacred Heart

One thought on “NEC Recap – November 14, The Opening Night

  1. A Great Win and I was at the game. When you play hard and smart good things can happen. The key to the game was FDU committed only 7 turnovers for the whole game and in crunch time when St. Joe hit the two 3 pointers, FDU responded with two 2 pointers, and then came the big defenses stop and the clutch 3 pointer by Mustafa Jones. Great win for FDU and the NEC Conference.


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