NEC Recap – February 21

Tiebreakers! As currently constructed, the NEC standings are locked into a tiebreaker hell, so in the meantime let’s sort through Saturday’s action to see how the rankings are shaking out.

Mount St. Mary’s 75, Fairleigh Dickinson 64

Byron Ashe continued his excellent run of basketball, pouring in a game high 24 points, five assists, three rebounds and four steals, helping Mount St. Mary’s hand FDU their 14th straight defeat on Saturday afternoon. In addition to Ashe, Will Miller came off the bench to drain four triples, while Greg Graves added another double double to his resume with 15 points and 13 rebounds.

After trailing by a single point early, a Kristijan Krajina dunk seven minutes in gave the Mount a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. The Mountaineers used their length to dominate the Knights on the glass, grabbing a staggering 18 more rebounds and throwing in 15 second-chance points. The Mount’s offense didn’t necessarily shoot the ball well, but the dominance on the glass and 20 assists on 23 made field goals led to an impressive 1.19 ppp.

Transfer guard Stephen Jiggetts led the Knights with 17 points off the bench, while Mostafaa Jones had 15 points thanks to five three-pointers. Usually a rarity, the Knights actually made more than half of their three-point attempts, but a poor effort inside the arc (again, the Mount’s length) allowed the visitors to convert just 37% of those two-point attempts.

Robert Morris 76, Bryant 70

In a game that featured eight ties and eight lead changes, Robert Morris was better down the stretch to extend their winning streak in Smithfield, Rhode Island to five games. Bryant lead 65-58 after a Dyami Starks jumper, but the Colonials closed the contest on a 18-5 run with 17 of those points coming from Marcquise Reed, Rodney Pryor and Lucky Jones, who returned from a team suspension. The trio combined to net 51 points on 36 shots. Kavon Stewart was also very good with seven assists against one turnover.

The Colonials were able to control the game near the rim, compiling seven more rebounds while outscoring Bryant on second chance points, 23-10. With Jones back in the lineup, Robert Morris also benefitted from a deeper rotation to help outpace Bryant 24-11 in bench points.

Yet again, Starks led the Bulldogs with 18 points, but he wasn’t terribly efficient with the ball (6-16 shooting). Down two points with the shot clock off late, Starks unwisely decided to launch a contested 25-footer with 18 seconds left. The shot missed its mark and Robert Morris corralled the rebound, effectively ending Bryant chances to get a step closer toward locking up the #2 seed. Now, three teams remain deadlocked for second place with two games left.

Wagner 60, LIU Brooklyn 47

Wagner’s size and defense gave LIU Brooklyn fits as the Blackbirds dropped their second straight game. It was the Seahawks’ front court that set the tone early in the game with Stedman Allen and Nolan Long in particular dominating. Wagner finished with 42 points in the paint to LIU’s 16. Allen had a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds and Long added eight points and six rebounds. Greg Senat also pitched in with eight points and six boards. Thus, by the time Marcus Burton got going (20 points on 9-21 shooting), things were already well in hand for Bashir Mason’s squad.

Wagner also was stout defensively, holding the Blackbirds to a ghastly 22.2% mark shooting from the field. A ton of LIU’s shots came up short on the night — perhaps from tired legs? The Blackbirds committed 16 turnovers and made just 12 field goals, scoring just 0.72 points per possession — which was actually helped by 10 points in garbage time. No LIU player finished in double-figures on the evening.

Central Connecticut 76, Sacred Heart 73, OT

Despite trailing for a majority of the second half, Central Connecticut hung around long enough to send the game into overtime before pulling away in the extra frame. Brandon Peel was the star of the show with 14 points, 14 rebounds, two assists and four rejections. His presence around the rim, along with senior Greg Andrane and his three blocks, was one reason Sacred Heart shot a hideous 19 of 49 (39%) from inside the arc and was outscored 50-34 in the paint. Ten made three-pointers allowed Sacred Heart to control the second half up until the final minute, but when Cane Broome could only sink one of two free throws with seven seconds left, it sent the game into overtime.

Matt Mobley scored a game high 23 points on 24 shots, and his bucket-and-one with 27 seconds left in the overtime frame ended up being the difference.

Phil Gaetano was masterful running the Pioneers’ offense in defeat, dishing out 11 assists versus a mere turnover.

St. Francis Brooklyn 66, Saint Francis U 54

St. Francis Brooklyn are no longer the favorites, the Terriers are now champions. SFC concluded its season-long quest for the NEC championship by stifling SFU on Senior Day at the Pope Center. The usual suspects led St. Francis as Jalen Cannon scored 23 points and grabbed 15 rebounds and Brent Jones added 15 points, four assists and five rebounds in their final home regular season game for the Terriers. Once again the three-point shooting wasn’t great — the Terriers shot 5-19 (26%) from three – but the offensive rebounds (12 on 24 missed shots) kept SFC’s offense alive. Also, the Terriers made 19 of 21 free throws, while SFU made just 11 of its 21.

Earl Brown was held to 10 points on 5-12 shooting. Greg Brown led the Red Flash with 15 points on 6-8 shooting in 35 minutes. The loss, SFU’s third straight, dropped the Red Flash into a tie with Wagner and LIU Brooklyn for the fifth seed in the NEC tournament. Rob Krimmel’s team doesn’t have an easy final two games either. They host Mount St. Mary’s and before finishing at Robert Morris. SFC on the other hand plays at LIU and then at Bryant and it will be interesting to see how Braica manages his rotation now that the Terriers have clinched home court advantage throughout the NEC tournament.

NEC Player of the Day
Byron Ashe, Mount St. Mary’s – The sophomore guard is on an incredible run with his latest three game effort netting him 71 points. During league play, his 121 offensive rating is currently third in the NEC while no one has a better effective field goal percentage at 59.8%. For me, he’s a lock on a NEC all-conference team. Without Ashe, the Mount is likely two games worse in the standings.

NEC Performance of the Day
Central Connecticut – Sans a point guard and hope for qualifying for the NEC tournament for the past two games, Howie Dickinson still managed to extract a quality effort from his ridiculously short rotation of players. For that, this longtime coach deserves our praise for what has otherwise been a brutal season.

NEC Standings
1) St. Francis Brooklyn, 14-2
2) Robert Morris, 10-6*
3) Mount St. Mary’s, 10-6
4) Bryant, 10-6
5) Wagner, 8-8^
6) LIU Brooklyn, 8-8
7) Saint Francis U, 8-8
8) Sacred Heart, 7-9
9) Central Connecticut, 3-13
10) Fairleigh Dickinson, 2-14
*Robert Morris wins tiebreakers on MSM and Bryant based on head-to-head records (3-1). MSM edges Bryant based on record versus SFNY (1-1 vs 0-1)
^Wagner wins tiebreakers on SFU and LIU based on head-to-head records (3-1). LIU Brooklyn edges SFU based on head-to-head record (2-0).

Next Up on the NEC Schedule
Sacred Heart at Fairleigh Dickinson, 7 PM
Central Connecticut at Bryant, 7 PM
Mount St. Mary’s at Saint Francis U, 7 PM
Wagner at Robert Morris, 7 PM
LIU Brooklyn at St. Francis Brooklyn, 7 PM
*All games are on Thursday, February 26

14 thoughts on “NEC Recap – February 21

  1. Robert Morris-Bryant games always seem to live up to the hype and go down to the wire (With Bryant unfortunately always seeming to be the one that falls). Yesterday was probably the most entertaining game of Bryant’s season so far.

    With that being said, someone needs to tell O’Shea to get Hunter Ware back in the game. 3 minutes?!?!?

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  2. If mount and bryant both win out, who will be the 3 seed? (bryant will then be 1-1 against SFB, and this seems likely since they may be resting many starters having locked up the 1 seed)

    Agreed that Ware needs to play more, Oakley as well, who showed he can score when given serious minutes as he finally was on saturday.

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    1. Depends on if Robert Morris wins out too of course. (Though it seems you’re suggesting that because you’re saying the 3 seed.) If that’s the case then Bryant would get the 3 seed. This is because:

      A) The three-way tie goes to RMU.
      B) Then it becomes a tie between MSM and Bryant.

      Two team tie breakers:

      1) They split against each other.
      2) If Bryant wins out they’ll have both split against St. Francis Brooklyn. (This is why MSM is currently three.)
      3) Bryant is 2-0 against Robert Morris and Mount St. Mary’s is 1-1. So the Colonials getting the 2 seed would give Bryant the 3.

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    2. Don’t think that St. Francis Brooklyn will be extensively resting starters vs either LIU or Bryant. Coach Braica’s game plan generally incorporates a lot of substitutions throughout the first half of games, so that his core rotation will be able to attack the second half well rested. The depth on the roster allows him to do that. In a lot of their games, the halftime scores have been very close and the Terriers have put games away in the second halves. Both Cannon and Jones continue having SFC and NEC record-setting seasons, so they’re probably going to get their minutes. The SFC-LIU game is a “Brooklyn neighborhood thing” and not just any game. Also, going for 20+ wins would mean a lot to the program after coming up short so many years. Given the work ethic and the intensity of the current Terrier team, don’t think that you’ll see them lift their foot off the accelerator. The standard game scenario they’ve been using has been pretty successful so far.

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      1. Another reason that Terrier Coach Braica will probably not change the rotation and give the starters a bit more bench time is that SFC is not facing either CCSU or FDU in those last two games. Both LIU and Bryant are teams that the Terriers might have to face one more time in the NEC playoffs. It’s probably important to try to close out the regular season on an up-note against those programs and carry that momentum into the playoffs.

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  3. Being the #1 seed in a one-bid league already comes with a ton of pressure – add in the fact that SFNY is trying to get their first-ever NCAA bid and you’re effectively ready to turn coal into diamonds. It will be interesting to see how they handle it. They are definitely built to succeed with Cannon and Jones leading the way but there is such a small gap between all eight teams, anything can happen. With so many close games night in and night out, it should be a very entertaining tourney.

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    1. It’d be awfully hard. The easiest way for it to happen is Wagner to win out and Mount St. Mary’s to lose out. If they were both 10-8 then Wagner would have the head-to-head tiebreaker assuming no other teams were involved by going 2-0 against MSM. Otherwise it gets super complicated.

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  4. I get it the conference is close from teams 2-8 but stop it with the not believing in SFBK already, we finally have to give Coach Braica and his staff due credit. Someone said its a small gap between 1- 8 and I have to ask them have you been watching SFBK last 8 games? In their 8 winning streak they have won by a margin of over 12 points per game. They have lost only once conference game at home all season and that was off a three with 20 seconds left that put RMU up by 1. Its their championship to lose but if they havent showed signs of getting comfortable at all they actually have gotten better each game. Just give credit where its due

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    1. The fact that the NEC is a one-bid league and crazy things happen in the tournament is certainly true. Of course St. Francis Brooklyn is ranked 140th in KenPom and are the clear favorite, especially considering they’ll have home court advantage throughout. I don’t necessarily know though if they’ve gotten better each game. Though I do think that SFC has shown that it can reinvent itself game to game because of the variety of personnel that exists beyond Cannon and Jones. Even Braica has said that a team is constantly getting better or worse throughout a season. My eyes, and the numbers, say that this team is getting better, but there is still work to be done. No one is trying to disrespect the work that Braica — likely the NEC Coach of the Year and potentially the All-MET COY as well — has done this season with the Terriers.

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