With four conference games in the books, the teams are beginning to separate into tiers that are indicative of their potential. Let’s recap all of the action from Saturday.
Mount St. Mary’s 71, St. Francis Brooklyn 61
After a terrible start to the conference season, Mount St. Mary’s has righted the ship by evening their NEC record to 2-2 after a decisive win over the perceived league favorite, St. Francis. The Mountaineers led for most of the contest and were paced by Andrew Smeathers, who had the best game of his young Mount career with a game-high 22 points on just seven shots. Thanks in large part to Smeathers, the Mount sank a season high 12 triples on 23 attempts. From an execution standpoint the offense played well (1.11 ppp), as 23 of the Mount’s field goals were assisted 74% of the time.
Jalen Cannon registered his 10th double double of the season (19 points, 13 rebounds), but it wasn’t enough as the Terriers committed 13 turnovers against only eight assists. St. Francis’ winning streak was snapped at six games, yet they still hold a share the conference lead at 3-1.
Saint Francis University 77, Sacred Heart 68
The leading threesome of Malik Harmon, Earl Brown and Ronnie Drinnon combined to score 55 points on 15 of 27 shooting and grab 22 rebounds as the Red Flash defeated Sacred Heart for the third consecutive time. The game was tight in the first half, but an early run out of halftime gave SFU enough breathing room to hold on for the victory. The Red Flash held Sacred Heart to 38% shooting from the floor and were particularly effective in allowing their opponents to hit just three triples.
The Pioneers have now had back-to-back poor outings on the offensive side of the ball, scoring 0.96 ppp in two losses to LIU Brooklyn and SFU. Freshman guard Chris Robinson did provide a spark off the bench, chipping in with six points and four offensive rebounds. The Pioneers frontcourt was plagued with foul trouble all game, with Jordan Allen and Tevin Falzon fouling out late. The Pioneers must now embark on the always challenging PA road trip to SFU and Robert Morris next week.
Robert Morris 72, Central Connecticut 60
Eight Colonials saw at least 19 minutes in their victory over the slumping CCSU Blue Devils on Saturday. Lucky Jones guided the group with 18 points, five rebounds and four assists. Freshman Elijah Minnie got the start and scored 13 points. With today’s victory, Robert Morris now has the second best offensive efficiency rating in the NEC with 107 points scored per 100 possessions.
Brandon Peel (11 points, 18 rebounds) nearly out-rebounded Robert Morris all by himself (24-18), but it didn’t matter with the Colonials hitting 53% of their shots. The Blue Devils have now lost seven straight and are in free fall mode.
Wagner 87, LIU Brooklyn 82
Despite holding a five point lead late in the second half, LIU Brooklyn couldn’t hold on thanks to a timely 11-1 run by the Seahawks. Marcus Burton, who’s now averaging 25.6 ppg in his last three games, paced Wagner with 18 points while freshman Romone Saunders had 17 points on seven shots. This was the team’s best performance offensively on the season, as Wagner scored 1.15 ppp. It was the first time they cracked that threshold since last season when they beat SFU easily in late February.
The Blackbirds, despite the efforts of Joel Hernandez (18 points, 8-11 shooting) and Nura Zanna (17 points, four rebounds), who fouled out for the seventh time this season and third game in a row, fall to 1-3 and have now dropped four of five contests.
Bryant 73, Fairleigh Dickinson 60
Joe O’Shea continued his hot run with 19 points, six rebounds and three assists as the Bulldogs won their second straight home game. Bryant jumped out to a 29-14 lead in the first half, and unfortunately for Greg Herenda’s crew, they were unable to close the deficit to single digits the rest of the way. Daniel Garvin was fantastic for the home team, logging a career-high 16 points and 18 rebounds, which is nearly half of the Bulldogs’ 39 rebounds. Curtis Oakley was solid as a reserve, playing 20 minutes while scoring nine points and grabbing four boards.
The Knights forced Bryant into 18 turnovers, but that was offset by the offense’s 17 turnovers and poor shooting from behind the arc (18%). Freshman Marques Townes led the Knights with 15 points and now has a double-digit efficiency rating in five of his last seven games, an impressive feat for a freshman. Another top freshman struggled, however, as Darian Anderson needed 11 shots to register nine points.
Player of the Day
Daniel Garvin, Bryant – Things have been slowly developing for the sophomore, but his last two games should have Bulldog fans excited about the team’s potential. In those two home victories, Garvin has 30 points, 25 rebounds and five blocks. Between he, Joe O’Shea and the ever so steady Shane McLaughlin, Tim O’Shea has to be encouraged that his team can win games going away even when Dyami Starks is slumping. Garvin is a huge part of that.
Performance of the Day
Mount St. Mary’s – Although KenPom didn’t consider the Mount’s victory over the Terriers much of an upset, the win was impressive nonetheless. Most importantly, Smeathers was a big factor in the game and Khalid Nwandu was terrific running the point for Jamion Christian’s group late in the game. The Mount hit two back-breaking threes in the final four minutes because of Nwandu’s playmaking ability.
1) Saint Francis U, 3-1
2) St. Francis Brooklyn, 3-1
3) Bryant, 3-1
4) Robert Morris, 3-1
5) Fairleigh Dickinson, 2-2
6) Mount St. Mary’s, 2-2
7) Wagner, 2-2
8) Sacred Heart, 1-3
9) LIU Brooklyn, 1-3
10) Central Connecticut, 0-4
Next Up on the NEC Schedule
Mount St. Mary’s at Fairleigh Dickinson, 7 PM
Wagner at Bryant, 7 PM
LIU Brooklyn at Central Connecticut, 7 PM
Games are on Thursday, January 15
Sacred Heart at Saint Francis U, 7 PM
St. Francis Brooklyn at Robert Morris, 9 PM
*Games are on Friday, January 16