NEC Recap – Jan. 8

The first Thursday of the NEC season featured several interesting matchups, including one pitting two 2-0 teams against each other. Let’s jump right into the recap for all five games.

LIU Brooklyn 82, Sacred Heart 81, 2 OT
In a wildly entertaining, albeit sloppy game in Brooklyn, LIU held on after 50 minutes of basketball to earn their first conference victory of the season and salvage a three-game home stand to start the month of January. The fast paced (182 possessions) contest featured several lead changes and ties, but in the end it came down to free throws, with Sacred Heart bricking 14 of their 23 attempts, including several critical misses with the game on the line. LIU was far more efficient at the charity stripe, making 23 of 33 freebies. In particular, the freshmen for Jack Perri’s squad were quite productive. Elvar Fridriksson bounced back after three rough games to score a game high 18 points and dish out seven assists. Nura Zanna was an immovable object in the low post, registering 13 points and eight rebounds. And finally, forward Trevin Woods had the game of his young career, sinking three triples – all in the second half – to provide a much-needed spark late for the Blackbirds’ offense.

Evan Kelley and Cane Broome led the Pioneers with 18 and 17 points, respectively, although both scored a combined two points in the extra sessions. Phil Gaetano had nine assists, but also coughed up the ball eight times – including an offensive foul late in the second overtime – in the defeat. Sacred Heart’s struggles in close games continues, as they are now 1-5 this season in games decided by one possession.

Mount St. Mary’s 82, Central Connecticut 51
This wasn’t a good look at all for the Blue Devils as they dropped to 0-3 in NEC play. CCSU wasn’t competitive in either half, quickly falling 10-0 in the first two minutes and never really finding a way back into the game. Fifteen players played in the game for the Mount as Chris Martin led the way with 22 points. The CCSU defense was terrible. This game wasn’t particularly fast (63 possessions) so Jamion Christian’s team scored 1.30 points per possession. MSM only turned the ball over four times during the entire game and had an 58% eFG%, two signs of some good offense. What made the performance even more unbelievable is that the Mount came into Thursday night scoring just 0.86 points per possession in NEC play, the worst in the conference. One positive sign for CCSU was Faronte Drakeford’s eight offensive rebounds, although he wasn’t able to convert offensively, shooting just 3-15 from the field and scoring 12 points. Along with his 17 rebounds Drakeford was one of a few bright spots in what is starting to look like a very long CCSU season — their worst start since the 1997-98 season when Howie Dickenman was a second year head coach in New Britain.

Bryant 80, Saint Francis University 54
This was only a five-point game at halftime and 11-point game after a Ronnie Drinnon layup with 8:12 remaining, but the Bulldogs finished the game on a 21-6 run and captured a resounding victory that tightened up the NEC race. It must’ve been some small measure of sweet revenge for the Bulldogs too, as SFU defeated Bryant in Smithfield on a late comeback in the NEC tournament last season. Five Bryant players scored in double-figures, led by Joe O’Shea’s 21 points. After scoring a career-low five points in Bryant’s loss at SFC on Monday, Dyami Starks tallied 11 on 5-10 shooting Thursday. The Bulldogs shot 10-21 (48%) from three as a team. It was really just one of those nights where a hot-shooting team is unstoppable at home. Drinnon finished with eight points and 11 rebounds and Earl Brown scored 12 points, but it wasn’t nearly enough to match Bryant’s effort. After a 2-0 start at home, Saint Francis U. has another tricky road game coming up at Sacred Heart, while the Bulldogs host Fairleigh Dickinson. Both of those games could make a big difference in the early NEC standings.

Ray Curren had three thoughts about the game.

St. Francis Brooklyn 78, Fairleigh Dickinson 69
In the premiere matchup of the third night of the NEC season SFC went to Teaneck, NJ and captured sole possession of first place with a nine-point road victory. Jalen Cannon led the way with 19 points (on just 7-8 shooting) and nine rebounds while playing 39 minutes. Antonio Jenifer was also able to find room inside against FDU’s smaller front court. He scored 11 points on 4-5 shooting in just 13 minutes on the court. Darius Stokes was plagued by foul trouble in the game and managed to play just 14 minutes, which isn’t how Greg Herenda’s team was going to be able to keep pace with SFC. Xavier Harris though was one bright spot, as he had 12 points and 10 rebounds for the Knights. The small lineup combination of Brent Jones (10 free throws) and Glenn Sanabria (12 free throws) also helped SFC have a 39-21 advantage in free throw attempts, even on the road. The Terriers won’t shoot 8-15 from three every game (Jenifer was 3-3 from deep), but they don’t have to either, considering the defensive effort they’re able to give against any NEC squad. Glenn Braica’s team has been particularly good at shutting down top options. None of FDU’s big scorers were able to get going Thursday night. Mustafaa Jones scored 12 points and Darian Anderson added 10.

Robert Morris 77, Wagner 73
Wagner tied the game once in the second half and kept things close throughout the final 20 minutes, but the Seahawks never led after Robert Morris jumped out to an early 13-3 lead. Maybe it was the late start? The game was played at Spiro, but tipped off at 9 p.m. because it was broadcast on CBS Sports Network. Robert Morris forced 17 Wagner turnovers in the game, which led to 17 points. The Seahawks countered by grabbing 16 offensive rebounds and dominating the smaller Colonials — who started Lucky Jones and Aaron Tate in the front court — on the glass. Wagner scored 16 second-chance points. Unfortunately, both Greg Senat and Japhet Kadji fouled out of the game. Robert Morris was led by Rodney Pryor and Lucky Jones, who each scored 18 points. Jones shot just 2-9 from the field, but also grabbed 10 rebounds — including the final one of the game. Freshman Marcquise Reed scored 15 points. Marcus Burton scored 21 points and Corey Henson added 14 points in the loss. The lack of size is certainly a concern for RMU moving forward, but the Colonials are 2-1 in the league and will get to 3-1 with a victory on Saturday at Central Connecticut.

NEC Player of the Day
Jalen Cannon, St. Francis Brooklyn – What else is new? The power forward continues to solidify his case toward an eventual NEC Player of the Year honor by dominating in a critical showdown across the Hudson River at FDU. Cannon scored a game high 19 points on just eight shots, while corralling nine rebounds. He’s simply the best player in the conference at the moment, and it’s not really that close.

NEC Performance of the Day
Bryant Bulldogs – Sweet revenge was served for the visiting Red Flash, as Tim O’Shea’s team thoroughly outplayed SFU in the second stanza en route to a lopsided victory in Smithfield, RI. O’Shea’s five starters were terrific, with everyone registering an efficiency rating in the double digits. Perhaps most encouraging (besides of course the offense), was Bryant’s dominance in the paint versus Brown, Drinnon & company. The Bulldogs out-rebounded their opponents by 13 caroms and shot a blistering 62% from inside the arc.

NEC Standings
1) St. Francis Brooklyn, 3-0
2) Fairleigh Dickinson, 2-1
3) St. Francis U, 2-1
4) Bryant, 2-1
5) Robert Morris, 2-1
6) Sacred Heart, 1-2
7) Wagner, 1-2
8) LIU Brooklyn, 1-2
9) Mount St. Mary’s, 1-2
10) Central Connecticut, 0-3

Next Up on the NEC Schedule
St. Francis Brooklyn at Mount St. Mary’s, 2 PM
Saint Francis University at Sacred Heart, 3:30 PM
Robert Morris at Central Connecticut, 3:30 PM
Fairleigh Dickinson at Bryant, 4 PM
LIU Brooklyn at Wagner, 4 PM>

5 thoughts on “NEC Recap – Jan. 8

  1. It was fun watching FDU play a game with first place on the line. In a what is becoming a typical NEC game FDU was down 15 points at half but came back to tie it up, but in crunch time it was St. Francis making the big shots(the dagger shot was a 3 point shot that hits the rim goes way up and then falls in with one second on the shot clock). Jalen Cannon was terrific in the first half, but was held to 2 points in the 2nd half as FDU defense tighten up. From what I see so far, any team in the NEC that makes the playoff has a pretty good chance of winning the tournament. Beside parity being a reason, I feel that Home Court is no big advantage in the NEC because the crowds are generally small and quiet. Go Knights against Bryant


    1. The strength of St. Francis Brooklyn is that you can totally bottle up its star and the depth of its roster will beat you anyway. Although Jalen Cannon is the one player everyone is concerned about, Coach Braica has a lot of other options. Think that a lot of people overlook that the Terriers added two Juco All-Americans during the offseason. Antonio Jenifer and Tyreek Jewell both add a lot to the Terriers arsenal. Also, the addition of Glenn Sanabria has helped take some of the floor general duties off Brent Jones’ shoulders and allowed him to lookt for more scoring opportunities. Looking forward to the next three Terrier contests — it will tell us a lot.


    2. While I agree with you that any of the 8 teams that qualify for the NEC postseason are contenders, history has shown that you need at least one home game. In the current playoff format (better seed gets the home game), teams seeded #5 thru #8 have never won the NEC tourney. Getting at least one home game helps tremendously, because winning 3 straight on the road in a league full of parity will be very difficult. Trust me, these coaches want to land in the top 4.


    3. Bryant has a consistent great home court advantage, their students alone show up about 1500 strong for the big games. It honestly rivals the size of any student section in the country, accounting for about 50% of the total attendance. Although they are 0-2 in home NEC tourney games…


      1. Two years ago, Matt, Bryant simply lost to the hotter team in the Mount, but last season’s tourney loss, in my opinion, was a fluke. Up 11 halfway through the 2nd half, Bryant wins that quarterfinal vs SFPA 90% of the time. (Actually KenPom said the Bulldogs had a 98.3% to win the game at that junction.) But the Red Flash hit some crazy threes, Bryant (in particular Alex Francis) missed some layups and the Bulldogs were left stunned.


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