On the second to last Thursday of the regular season, all eight teams have officially punched their ticket to the NEC tournament. Now it’s all about seeding, so let’s break down the action to see where everyone stands with just three regular season games remaining.
Sacred Heart 80, Robert Morris 76
Sacred Heart snapped a six game losing streak to Robert Morris in a wildly entertaining game that featured 15 ties and nine lead changes. In the back and forth affair, the Pioneers did just enough in the closing minutes to succeed despite a career night from Rodney Pryor with 31 points (on 16 shots) and seven rebounds. As a whole, the Colonials were solid offensively, hitting 52.7% (29-55) of their attempts from the floor sans their star Lucky Jones, but 20 offensive turnovers against the full-court press leading to 28 Pioneer points was too much to overcome. Marcquise Reed also had an off-night with 16 points on 17 shots, while committing five turnovers against just two assists.
Tevin Falzon paced the Pioneers with 13 points and a career high 18 rebounds, with 13 of those caroms coming in the first half. The junior was tremendous on the defensive end as well, compiling three steals and three blocks. Thanks to Falzon and senior Evan Kelley (18 points, seven rebounds, three steals), Sacred Heart out-rebounded Robert Morris by +7, and it was 18 offensive rebounds leading to 15 second chance points that should sting for Andy Toole. Cane Broome and Phil Gaetano collected 11 assists together versus three turnovers in Sacred Heart’s fourth win in their last five games.
Despite the loss and subsequent drop into a third place tie, Robert Morris still controls their own destiny to a #2 seed if they can win their final three regular season contests.
For Ray Curran’s three thoughts on this one, go here.
Mount St. Mary’s 82, LIU Brooklyn 65
Byron Ashe, Andrew Smeathers, and Greg Graves nearly outscored LIU Brooklyn with a combined 56 points as the Mountaineers made quick work of the once red-hot Blackbirds. Jack Perri’s club had come into Emmitsburg as victors of four straight, but a putrid effort offensively (0.89 ppp) doomed his team. LIU made just 3 of 19 (15.8%) from long distance against the NEC’s leading defense, while committing 17 turnovers in the process. The Mount’s aforementioned defense, who I highlighted this morning, has now held league opponents to under 1.00 ppp in 12 of 15 games.
After taking an eight-point advantage into the half following a Smeathers put-back at the horn, the Mount scored 17 of the next 23 points to open up the second stanza, putting the game officially out of reach. 51 personal fouls were committed in this one, sending both teams to the line a collective 64 times, with Mount St. Mary’s gaining the slight advantage there (27-24).
St. Francis Brooklyn 70, Fairleigh Dickinson 54
You know things are going well when there are big heads of your coach in the stands… pic.twitter.com/bLwMnGBOpF
— John Templon (@nybuckets) February 20, 2015
//platform.twitter.com/widgets.jsIt certainly wasn’t pretty, but St. Francis Brooklyn’s victory leaves the Terriers just one victory short of clinching home court throughout the NEC tournament. It would’ve been over on Thursday, but Wagner couldn’t sneak by Bryant to make all three pieces fall into place. Instead SFC will have to wait until Saturday against SFU to clinch. The game, however, did seal FDU’s fate. The Knights will be stuck at home for the NEC tournament for the fourth time in five seasons.
Despite the win there are still a bunch of teaching points for Glenn Braica to harp on. The Terriers turned the ball over 19 times and shot just 4-24 from three. Brent Jones had the worst game of his senior season, scoring zero points in 16 minutes of action, both season lows, due to foul trouble. Jones had only scored in single digits twice this season and his previous minutes low was 27 at Monmouth in late December. Freshman Glenn Sanabria came in and performed admirably, scoring seven points and grabbing five rebounds while only committing two turnovers against FDU’s press. With Jones playing sparingly and Tyreek Jewell struggling from the field (4-14, 9 points), the Terriers’ front court picked up the slack. SFC grabbed 28 offensive rebounds, an absolutely ridiculous 70% of its 40 misses. That led to 22 second-chance points for SFC. Jalen Cannon had another dominant performance with 27 points and 15 rebounds and Lowell Ulmer added 14 points and seven boards.
The Terriers also shut down the Knights’ offense. FDU scored 0.83 ppp and only shot 15-39 (38%) on two-point attempts as Cannon, Ulmer, Chris Hooper (3 blocks) and Amdy Fall (3 blocks) bothered FDU’s smaller interior. Greg Herenda’s club was led by 16 points from Earl Potts, Jr. and Darian Anderson scored 10 and had four assists, but FDU struggled to get much of anything going.
Bryant 66, Wagner 65
Dyami Starks (28 points), Joe O’Shea (9 points, 10 rebounds, five assists) and Daniel Garvin (16 points, 10 rebounds, three steals) did just enough against Wagner’s deep rotation to come from behind and defeat Wagner in the Seahawks’ final home game of the season. Starks scored 23 of his 28 in the second half, including nine freebies at the charity stripe to seal it. In all, Bryant sunk 88% of their attempts at the free throw line, which obviously helped offset a lousy 34% shooting mark from the floor. Even though the Bulldogs bench could only muster three points, the Seahawks also struggled in that regard, getting 13 points on 4 of 17 shooting between five bench players.
The victory gives Bryant sole possession of second place in the NEC standings and sets up a big showdown between them and third place Robert Morris.
Sophomore power forward Mike Aaman had a monster night for Wagner, registering 22 points (on 10 of 15 shooting) and 15 boards. Along with freshman floor general JoJo Cooper (7 points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists), Aaman was the only other productive player on that side of the ball, as the NEC’s leading scorer in Marcus Burton missed 14 of 19 shots including the final desperation heave that could have won it at the buzzer. Now tied for seventh place with Sacred Heart, Wagner must play their final three regular season games on the road against LIU Brooklyn, Robert Morris and Mount St. Mary’s.
Central Connecticut 53, Saint Francis University 50
Despite coming in as a 23% underdog, Central Connecticut broke a six game losing streak and earned their third home victory of the season after upsetting SFU on national TV. Brandon Peel was excellent for Howie Dickenman’s club, registering a game high 15 points, 10 rebounds, and four blocks. Sophomore guard Khalen Cumberlander chipped in with 14 points, three rebounds, five assists and three steals.
In a painfully slow game that had 117 total possessions, the Blue Devils did enough down the stretch to ice the game and push the Red Flash completely out of NEC top four at the moment. SFU could only generate 20 second half points against the worst defense in the conference, as Rob Krimmel’s team shot a paltry 38.8% from the floor and 28% (7-28) from behind the arc. Even worse, they coughed the ball up 14 times (23.7% turnover rate) against a club that had a 13.3% turnover rate in league play. Earl Brown and Ollie Jackson led the Red Flash with 11 points each.
NEC Player of the Night
Jalen Cannon – Yep, he’s pretty awesome. If his inevitable NEC Player of the Year selection isn’t unanimous, I would be absolutely stunned. (And leading the charge to take that person’s vote away for good.)
NEC Performance of the Night
Mount St. Mary’s – It was a dominating performance from start to finish with the Mount extracting a turnover on 23.3% of LIU’s possessions tonight in a fast-paced affair. The true version of Mount Mayhem is back! More importantly, tonight’s victory gives the Mount an excellent chance at earning a first round home game in the NEC tournament, especially with home games coming up against FDU and Wagner.
1) St. Francis Brooklyn, 13-2
2) Bryant, 10-5
3) Robert Morris, 9-6*
4) Mount St. Mary’s, 9-6
5) LIU Brooklyn, 8-7**
6) Saint Francis U, 8-7
7) Sacred Heart, 7-8***
8) Wagner, 7-8
9) Fairleigh Dickinson, 2-13^
10) Central Connecticut, 2-13
*RMU has tiebreaker on MSM based on head-to-head record (2-0)
**LIU has tiebreaker on SFPA based on head-to-head record (2-0)
***Sacred Heart has tiebreaker on Wagner based on better record vs. Bryant (2-0 vs 0-2)
^FDU has tiebreaker on CCSU based on head-to-head record (1-0)
Next Up on the NEC Schedule
Fairleigh Dickinson at Mount St. Mary’s, 2 PM
Sacred Heart at Central Connecticut, 3:30 PM
Saint Francis U at St. Francis Brooklyn, 4 PM
Robert Morris at Bryant, 4 PM
Wagner at LIU Brooklyn, 4:30 PM
*All games are on Saturday, February 21