As we enter into the month of February, it’s now abundantly clear who the contenders and pretenders are of the Northeast Conference. With more than half of the league game in the books, the standings have separated into tiers. Let’s sift through the action on the final January slate.
Wagner 86, Central Connecticut 55
After handing Central Connecticut their first NEC victory one week ago, the Seahawks got their revenge, crushing the visiting Blue Devils in a rout from start to finish. Marcus Burton led the team (surprise, surprise) with 21 points and currently is on pace to finish as the most prolific scorer in the league this season at 18.6 ppg. Mike Aaman came off the bench to give Bashir Mason’s team another jolt down low. The oft-injured sophomore now has 21 points, 22 rebounds and four blocked shots in his last two games since returning from a head injury. His six offensive rebounds yesterday helped guide the Seahawks to a +20 edge on the glass. Wagner also committed a season low two turnovers (!!) while dishing out 14 helpers for a remarkable 7-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio.
Faronte Drakeford paced the Blue Devils with 26 points and has now led the team in scoring for five of its past eight contests. The struggles of Matt Mobley (10 points, on 12 shots) continued, though, as the sophomore is shooting 32% from the floor in his past eight games, compared to 42% in his first 15 contests. Mobley wasn’t the only player to blame for the blowout; CCSU collectively shot 37% from the field and were completely shut out behind the arc (0-6). The loss sinks the Blue Devils road record to 1-13 for the season.
Bryant 71, Robert Morris 68
After dropping two straight to Sacred Heart and SFU, Bryant recovered in a big way, knocking off the once surging Colonials at The Chuck. Dan Garvin continued his dominance in NEC play, registering 21 points and seven rebounds in the victory. Despite committing five turnovers, Shane McLaughlin was excellent running the point for Tim O’Shea’s club, handing out a career high nine assists to go along with seven rebounds and 10 points. The Bulldogs are now a perfect 6-0 when they make at least 48% of their shot attempts. In particular, O’Shea’s team was effective inside the arc against Robert Morris’ 2-3 zone, converting 62% of their 2-point field goal attempts.
39 combined points from Lucky Jones and Marcquise Reed wasn’t enough to push Robert Morris to their eighth NEC victory. Sloppy shooting from the rest of the group (30%, 10-33) wasn’t enough to hold off the game Bulldogs. The Colonials offense still wasn’t bad at 1.10 ppp, but yesterday was one of the team’s worst defensive efforts (1.15 ppp). Robert Morris is now 1-9 when allowing more than 1.00 ppp.
Mount St. Mary’s 77, Sacred Heart 71
Byron Ashe matched a career high with 21 points and Gregory Graves (10 points, 13 rebounds) secured his fourth double-double of the season as Mount St. Mary’s controlled the hosting Pioneers to remain tied for fourth place in the NEC standings. Mount Mayhem was in full display yesterday afternoon, as 12 three-pointers, 12 turnovers forced (most in the half-court) and 16 points scored off Sacred Heart’s turnovers were major reasons for the Mount pulling away early in the second half. A 20-6 run in that second stanza was too much for the Pioneers to overcome, especially given their continued struggles at the charity stripe (66%).
The Mount used the free throw line (19-20, 95%) and the three-point arc (12-24, 50%) to maintain a lead for most of the contest. Tevin Falzon once again was fantastic for the Pioneers down low, scoring 19 points on eight shot attempts. Yesterday’s effort marked Falzon’s fourth double-double of the season. Evan Kelley (15 points, three rebounds, three assists) also played well, but the rest of Anthony Latina’s backcourt struggled against the Mount’s intense pressure. The trio of Cane Broome, Phil Gaetano and Steve Glowiak shot 6-26 (23%) from the floor while committing seven turnovers versus just six assists (Gaetano had five of those).
Saint Francis U. 68, Fairleigh Dickinson 63
Despite missing power forward Ronnie Drinnon for the second straight game, the Red Flash won again on the back of Earl Brown, who poured in a game high 18 points and 12 rebounds and Dom Major, whose seven points in the final 1:30 of the game help propel SFU to the home victory. The Red Flash took advantage of FDU’s overzealous defense, by converting 22 of 29 free throws. They did turn the ball over 15 times, but an excellent two-point conversion rate of 61% (14-23) and winning the backboards was enough to better the desperate Knights. Freshman Basil Thompson, who’s seen his minutes steadily increase as the season has moved forward, had his finest game as a rookie, contributing with 13 points (on six shots), seven rebounds and two steals.
FDU dropped their eighth straight contest and remain in ninth place overall, one spot shy of a NEC tournament playoff spot. This game was for the taking, however, as a Marques Townes (15 points, six rebounds, 6-8 shooting) lay-up with 3:33 remaining gave the Knights a three-point advantage. Greg Herenda’s group would only score two more points on six possessions the rest of the way though, inevitably plummeting to a 2-8 mark in the NEC. The Knights struggles behind the arc continued, as they shot 30.8% from long-range; they are now 0-11 this season when failing to make more than 31% of those attempts.
St. Francis Brooklyn 81, LIU Brooklyn 64
The Blackbirds hung tough for the duration of the first half, but five straight points from Gunnar Olafsson (six points, three rebounds) and a Jalen Cannon (11 points, nine rebounds) lay-up at the start of the second half gave the Terriers enough cushion to overcome any kind of comeback attempt from Jack Perri’s young group. Brent Jones won the MVP of the Battle of Brooklyn with a fantastic all-around effort of 15 points, eight assists, four rebounds and one steal. Amdy Fall was also excellent, netting 14 points to go along with his usual dominance around the paint (six rebounds, four blocks). SFC shot 51%, scored 1.24 ppp, and posted an assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.1. Saturday’s effort, in fact, was SFC’s best offensive performance of the season. They are a perfect 11-0 when scoring more than 1.00 ppp this season.
Meanwhile, LIU Brooklyn struggled to find production after Gerrell Martin’s team-high 18 points. Only two other Blackbirds – Elvar Fridriksson and Nura Zanna – scored more than seven points. After losing six straight in this rivalry, the Terriers have now taken two of three and will attempt to sweep the regular season series for the first time since the 2001-02 season.
NEC Player of the Day
Brent Jones, St. Francis Brooklyn – Big Apple Buckets must sound like a broken record as we continue to praise the play of the senior point guard, but he has been fantastic for the Terriers in NEC play. Jones has now posted an efficiency rating at 15 or better in five of the Terriers’ last six games.
NEC Performance of the Day
Bryant – The Bulldogs desperately needed to right the ship after two consecutive losses dropped them out of a share for first place in the conference standings.
1) St. Francis Brooklyn, 8-2
2) Bryant, 7-3
3) Robert Morris, 7-3
4) Mount St. Mary’s, 6-4
5) Wagner, 6-4
6) Saint Francis U, 6-4
7) LIU Brooklyn, 4-6
8) Sacred Heart, 3-7
9) Fairleigh Dickinson, 2-8
10) Central Connecticut, 1-9
Next Up on the NEC Schedule
Wagner at Sacred Heart, 7 PM
St. Francis Brooklyn at Central Connecticut, 7 PM
Mount St. Mary’s at Bryant^, 7 PM
Saint Francis U at Fairleigh Dickinson, 7 PM
Robert Morris at LIU Brooklyn, 7 PM
*All games are on Thursday, Feb. 5
^Bryant plays at Pittsburgh on Monday, Feb. 2