What a night of NEC action! Two of the four contests tonight found the overtime session, while the two other games came down to the final minute. Let’s recap all of the exciting action from tonight.
Sacred Heart 78, Fairleigh Dickinson 77, OT
With both teams coming in saddled with four game losing streaks, the winless drought was going to end tonight for someone and that someone was Sacred Heart by the slimmest of margins, 0.3 seconds to be exact. Down one in overtime with the shot clock off, FDU freshman Darian Anderson (amid chaos) hit a runner in the lane as the buzzer sounded, but it was too late and the struggling Pioneers held on for the desperately needed victory. Anthony Latina’s group had a seemingly comfortable nine-point lead with 1:33 remaining in regulation, but a furious Knights’ run, fueled partly by turnovers, missed Pioneer free throws, and Mostafaa Jones, evened the score and added an extra five minutes to this NEC thriller.
De’von Barnett was excellent in the victory for the red and white, scoring a team-high 18 points and securing eight rebounds. Tonight, in fact, was the sophomore’s six straight game finishing with double-digit points. Steve Glowiak was very good off the bench with 13 points on 5 of 6 shooting to go along with a season high 10 rebounds.
The Pioneers survived despite coughing it up 25 times (30% of their possessions), thanks to better play heading into the second stanza (a 28-8 run early in that half surely helped) and a dominant edge in the paint with a +17 rebounding margin. And yet, the Pioneers almost fell to 1-7 in games decided by just one possession. They held on, though, despite 43 combined points from Jones and Anderson. Xavier Harris played well down the stretch, corralling ten boards in the defeat. After winning their first two conference games, the Knights have now dropped five in a row, which is a season worst.
Robert Morris 63, Mount St. Mary’s 59, OT
The Mount had their opportunities to extract revenge on the Colonials after getting destroyed in their NEC season opener at The Chuck, but Marcquise Reed hit a ridiculous high-arching-fade-away-with-a-6-11-Krajina-in-his-face three-pointer to even the score with 11 seconds left in regulation. The miraculous triple gave Robert Morris a chance to go ahead for good in the extra frame and they did just that, coming away with an impressive, hard-fought road victory.
The aforementioned Reed, who continues to inch closer and closer to winning the NEC Rookie of the Year award, scored a game-high 21 points. Rodney Pryor chipped in with 17 points on just 12 shots. The Colonials overcame 21 turnovers and a lousy 0.48 assist to turnover ratio by out-shooting the Mount 49% to 38%.
It was their defense that stiffled the Mount once again. Jamion Christian’s team has only scored 0.73 ppp versus the Colonials attack in two losses. Greg Graves led his team in scoring (16) and rebounders (8), but he also committed five turnovers and missed what would have been a game tying lay-up late in overtime. The setback snaps the Mountaineers’ four game winning streak.
Wagner 63, Saint Francis U 58
Marcus Burton scored 22 points — 21 in the second half — as he carried the Seahawks to a five-point home victory. The win moved Wagner into a tie with Saint Francis U and Mount St. Mary’s in the standings for fourth place overall. The Seahawks allowed 0.94 points per possession (58 in 62) thanks to a stifling 2-3 zone defense and some foul trouble for SFU star Earl Brown. This was the second straight game — and third time in NEC play — that Wagner held an opponent under 1.00 points per possession. They’re now 3-0 in those games. The Seahawks’ other NEC win came in an 87-82 shootout at home against LIU Brooklyn. With four games coming up against teams near the bottom of the league standings (Central Connecticut and Sacred Heart), Bashir Mason’s team has a chance to go on a bit of a run here before their much more difficult back half of the conference schedule. Besides Burton’s strong play the offense was carried by Corey Henson, who scored a career-high 18 points on 7-12 shooting, including 4-6 from three.
SFU got a nice boost off the bench from Ben Millaud-Meunier, who scored nine points, but with Malik Harmon not even able to get off a shot (0 points on 0 shots), the Red Flash offense was nowhere to be found. Just two games ago SFU was 4-1 and fighting for the NEC lead. Now they’ve fallen back into the pack and face a tough game at what’s sure to be an angry Mount St. Mary’s on Saturday afternoon.
Bryant 74, LIU Brooklyn 69
The Blackbirds had a seven-point lead at halftime, but allowed 49 second-half points. It’s the second game in a row that a poor second half performance has potentially cost Jack Perri’s team a big win in NEC play. LIU looks like a team that will be right on the bubble for a spot in the NEC tournament, and this one, and the loss prior, could end up costing his team. The contest was actually tied at 52 with 7:13 remaining when Shane McLaughlin hit two big shots. The first, a pull-up jumper in the lane, gave the Bulldogs a two-point lead and then his three-pointer extended the lead to five, and LIU was never able to get closer than a basket again. McLaughlin had 12 points and eight assists in the victory, which was a perfect complement to Dyami Starks’ 16 and Joe O’Shea’s 15 points and 12 rebounds. The junior guard had struggled in his past three games, but if he can put together more performances like Thursday night’s then Bryant will certainly be among the NEC contenders.
LIU was alright offensively — the committee thing continues to produce results if not a superstar — but it’s nearly impossible to win a basketball game while allowing 1.17 points per possession (74 in 63). The odd thing about LIU though is that it’s not that the defense has been continuously bad, it has just been inconsistent — even half-to-half. Perri needs to find some consistency if the Blackbirds are going to make the NEC tourney.
Player of the Day
Marcus Burton, Wagner – The senior continues to torch conference opponents, as he leads the NEC in scoring at 26.8 ppg on 45.4% shooting. He’s the biggest reason why (beside the defense of course) the Seahawks have a winning record despite their roster inexperience.
Performance of the Day
Sacred Heart – It wasn’t pretty, but for Anthony Latina, a win is a win. And at just 2-5, the Pioneers find themselves in a three-way tie for seventh place, which isn’t terrible considering their putrid record in close games this season. Surely, Latina’s players will need to figure how to make free throws and close out games better if they want to be a factor in early March.
We’ll leave you with the FDU near miss at a great buzzer beater…
1) Saint Francis Brooklyn, 6-1
2) Bryant, 6-1
3) Robert Morris, 5-2
4) Wagner, 4-3
5) Mount St. Mary’s, 4-3
6) Saint Francis U, 4-3
7) Sacred Heart, 2-5
8) Fairleigh Dickinson, 2-5
9) LIU Brooklyn, 2-5
10) Central Connecticut, 0-7
Next Up on the NEC Schedule
Saint Francis U at Mount St. Mary’s, 2:30 PM
Sacred Heart at Bryant, 4 PM
LIU Brooklyn at Fairleigh Dickinson, 4:30 PM
Wagner at Central Connecticut, 3:30 PM
Robert Morris at St. Francis Brooklyn, 4 PM
*All games are on Saturday, January 24