Well, that was fun, but only if you’re a Bryant fan! For the first round of the NEC tournament, there was plenty of exciting action and great performances to sift through.
So without further ado…
St. Francis Brooklyn 79, LIU Brooklyn 70
LIU Brooklyn hang tough in a very difficult environment at the Pope Center, but it wasn’t enough as the more talented Terriers held on to earn their first NEC playoff victory in ten tries. After trailing 10-2 in the early going, a 27-8 SFC run to close out the first half gave the Terriers an advantage they would not relinquish. To Jack Perri’s credit, though, his young Blackbirds hung around by closing the gap to two points at 44-42 before succumbing to a fine SFC offensive output of 1.19 points per possession (ppp).
Jalen Cannon earned his 19th double double of the season with 15 points and 15 rebounds, while Brent Jones poured in a career high 31 points. 20 of those points came in the second stanza with the game hanging in the balance. Yunus Hopkinson chipped in with 11 points.
Landon Atterbury finished his LIU career with 18 points on 7 of 11 shooting. No other Blackbird reached double figures.
Robert Morris 91, Wagner 68
In the biggest blowout of the evening, Robert Morris continued their postseason dominance over Wagner, knocking the visiting Seahawks out of the NEC tournament after leading start to finish. Wagner has now lost 11 straight games at Robert Morris with their last victory coming in NEC tournament back in 2005.
Lucky Jones was fantastic, scoring 27 points on just 12 shots. The senior wasn’t the only one giving Wagner a hard time, however, as four other Colonials scored at least seven points, leading Robert Morris to their third best offensive performance of the season at 1.28 ppp. Freshman Marcquise Reed played a big part in that, pouring in 22 points, five rebounds, five assists and three steals. His aggression early on set the tone.
For Wagner, Bashir Mason’s group concludes the season dropping seven of their last nine games. Marcus Burton and Mike Aaman did their best to keep the fledging Seahawks in the game with a combined 38 points, but their teammates collectively shot 11 of 27 from the floor (41%). If it wasn’t for making 17 of 19 from the charity stripe, this game could have been even more lopsided.
Bryant 91, Sacred Heart 85, 2 OT
A miraculous Joe O’Shea three-pointer sent the game into overtime and from there, Bryant survived the battle of attrition to earn the first ever NEC tournament victory in program history. Meanwhile, Anthony Latina’s first ever NEC playoff game as Sacred Heart’s head coach ends in excruciating fashion as his Pioneers ran out of bodies and gas near the end of an exhausting effort. In all, there were 15 ties and seven lead changes during the 50 minutes of play.
With Dyami Starks being ineffective for a majority of the night (22 points on 25 shots), O’Shea carried the torch with a team high 23 points including eight in the two overtime frames. He also secured six of Bryant’s 43 rebounds which spurred a +11 advantage on the glass thanks to Sacred Heart’s bigs being plagued with foul trouble (Falzon and Barnett fouled out) all night. Shane McLaughlin was excellent running the point for the Bulldogs, netting a career high 18 points to go along with a 5.0 assist-to-turnover ratio.
Speaking of point guard play, Sacred Heart’s senior floor general Phil Gaetano ended his career with 10 points, nine assists (with 0 turnovers) and five rebounds. Along with 23 points from all-rookie team recipient Cane Broome, who finished his season with 100 points in his last five contests, it was almost enough to will the Pioneers to their first NEC postseason victory since the 2008-09 season. But a poor rebounding effort and an inability to keep the Bulldogs off the line (23-29 from the charity stripe) ultimately did Sacred Heart in and led to O’Shea’s heroics. Evan Kelley finished his career with 15 points, five rebounds and five assists.
Saint Francis U 73, Mount St. Mary’s 58
For the first time in his young coaching career, Jamion Christian will not compete in the NEC semifinals, as Rob Krimmel’s Red Flash impressively dominated their opponents from start to finish to earn a showdown with St. Francis Brooklyn. The Mount was 5-1 and a perfect 2-0 at Knott Arena in the past two postseasons, but Earl Brown had something to say about that. The senior registered 23 points, 14 rebounds and two assists in one of his best performances (from an efficiency rating standpoint) of the season. His dominance, along with SFU’s ability to sink 57% of their twos and out rebound the Mount by a staggering +18, was enough to quiet the near sold out crowd in Emmitsburg. Greg Brown scored a career high 24 points and made 11 free throws.
The Mount did force 19 turnovers but did little else on the defensive end to begin their comeback. They sank just 30% (7-23) of their long-range attempts and ultimately struggled to move the ball, dishing out seven assists on 23 made field goals. Fresh off a deserving all-conference third team selection, Byron Ashe had his worst game in nearly two months. Still, his 11 points (on 14 shots) was second behind only Will Miller’s 14 points. The Mount end their season with as many wins as losses (15). With only Kristijan Krajina graduating, the Mount returns everyone else of significance and will likely be viewed as a top 2 or 3 NEC squad come next October.
NEC Player of the NEC Quarterfinals
Earl Brown, Saint Francis U – The 6’6″ senior was awesome in his second NEC tournament, dominating the bigger Mountaineers and controlling the paint with his 12th double double of the season. He made all 10 of his free throw attempts while shooting a perfect 5 of 5 from inside the arc. That is a heck of a way to start the NEC tournament.
NEC Player of the NEC Quarterfinals in a Losing Effort
Phil Gaetano, Sacred Heart – The throwback, pass-first point guard ended his career on a high note, albeit in a losing effort. He finishes with 719 career assists, good enough for third place all-time in the NEC. Not bad for a player who was once considered a Division II only prospect.
NEC Performance of the NEC Quarterfinals
Saint Francis U – This was the upset of the night according to KenPom, who gave SFU a 29% shot at upending the defending champs on the road. The Red Flash did more than that, soundly outplaying their rivals from start to finish. The Mount’s length really did nothing to disturb the 8th smallest roster in Division I basketball.
NEC Moment of the NEC Quarterfinals
No words are needed for this future SportsCenter Top 10 moment. Just check out Tim O’Shea’s reaction after the shot – I’ve never seen him so excited on the sidelines!
— Kevin McNamara (@KevinMcNamara33) March 5, 2015
Next Up in NEC Semifinals
#3 Bryant at #2 Robert Morris, Noon
#5 Saint Francis U at #1 St. Francis Brooklyn, 2:30 PM
*Both games on Saturday, March 6