Unpredictable. Wide open. Difficult to handicap. This was how most people described the race to the NEC championship back in October and tonight condensed the standings even further. After all of the carnage, the top nine teams are just separated by 2 games.
It’s shaping up to be a wide open race heading into late January and February. Here’s a brief recap of all the action tonight.
Fairleigh Dickinson 101, LIU Brooklyn 95
In a game that featured absolutely no defense to speak of, the Knights came from behind to defeat Jack Perri’s Blackbirds at the Rothman Center. LIU Brooklyn squandered a 12-point advantage at the half as they were outscored by 18 points in the second frame. Darian Anderson was sensational for the Knights, logging a career high 32 points to go along with 9 rebounds and 5 steals. Sophomores Stephen Jiggetts and Marques Townes made up for Earl Potts lack of production (he was in foul trouble most of the game) combining for 35 points on just 18 shots. For the game, FDU produced a stellar shooting line of 58.6% 2PT/42.1% 3PT/78.1% FT. 18 of their 25 made free throws came in the second half.
LIU Brooklyn saw their two game winning streak snapped (despite scoring 1.20 points per possession) after an awful defensive performance where they allowed FDU to score 1.28 points per possession. Five Blackbirds scored all the team’s points, as Perri failed to get production elsewhere. Of the group, Joel Hernandez scored 27 points, while junior Aakim Saintil had 22 points.
FDU scored 27 points off of 19 LIU turnovers for the game.
Saint Francis U 71, Bryant 65
After going 14-5 against their NEC counterparts at the Chase Athletic Center the past two seasons, Bryant surprisingly dropped their second straight home game in league play as SFU outscored the Bulldogs by 23 points in the second half. The comeback victory pushes Rob Krimmel’s team back above .500 in conference play.
It was a crisp first half for the hosting Bulldogs, with the team leading by 17 at the break, yet the Red Flash stormed back by closing the game on a 19-6 run. Freshman Isaiah Blackmon (19 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists) in particular was electric down the stretch, making all five of his field goal attempts in the final 11 minutes of the contest. Ronnie Drinnon, Ben Millaud-Meunier and Josh Nebo were the other Red Flash to crack double figures in scoring, combining for 34 points on 11 of 24 shooting.
Dan Garvin led the Bulldogs with 14 points, 8 rebounds and 4 blocks, yet Bryant collectively couldn’t muster enough offense for the second half. For the final 20 minutes, Tim O’Shea’s club shot 30.4% from the field and didn’t make a single 3-point attempt.
Sacred Heart 76, Mount St. Mary’s 71
In a frantic, up-and-down affair that featured a staggering 30 lead changes, it was the underdog Pioneers who came out victorious on national TV. Cane Broome guided the Pioneers with a game high 24 points and 6 rebounds. Tevin Falzon, who hit clutch back-to-back 3s late, finished with 15 points, 7 rebounds and 2 blocks. Tonight was the first Sacred Heart victory at the Pitt Center this season and only their fourth win overall.
Sacred Heart did a solid job controlling the glass, outrebounding the Mount 37-29, but it was their consistency at the free throw and 3-point line that made the difference. The Pioneers converted 20 of 24 (83.3%) freebies at the charity stripe and shot 44.4% (their best performance from downtown in league play) from behind the arc.
Mount St. Mary’s now falls into a 3-way tie for first place in the NEC with the defeat. Freshman Elijah Long scored a career high 20 points while senior Taylor Danaher was a pest down low with 14 points (on 7 shots). BK Ashe had 12 points, but he made two blunders late, which cost the Mountaineers the game. First, he inexplicably fouled Broome in the act of shooting a 3 within the last 3 minutes of the game (Broome made all 3 free throws) and then air-balled a contested, fade away 3-point attempt in the final seconds to seal the Mount’s fate. Jamion Christian’s group will conclude their arduous 4-game road trip with a visit to FDU on Saturday.
For Ray Curran’s complete recap, go here.
Wagner 83, St. Francis Brooklyn 59
The Seahawks moved into a tie for first place in the conference with a decisive victory over their cross-town rivals in Brooklyn. Wagner scored 1.26 points per possession in the game with sophomore Corey Henson leading the way. The guard impressively poured in 25 points on just 13 shot attempts and also contributed with 4 assists. Against the normally tough interior defense of SFC, Wagner still managed to convert 54.0% of their 2s and outrebound the Terriers by 11 rebounds.
Chris Hooper scored 22 of SFC’s 59 points. The senior has been terrific around the rim of late, posting 41 points on 73.9% shooting over the past two games. Unfortunately for Glenn Braica, Hooper’s teammates collectively shot 31.0% from the floor and couldn’t get into a rhythm offensively against a stout Wagner defense. Tonight was the Terriers first home loss in league play as well.
Robert Morris 59, Central Connecticut 45
Despite missing Rodney Pryor for the third straight game due to concussion like symptoms, the Colonials moved one step closer to evening their NEC record by taking care of business on the road against CCSU. For Robert Morris, this is (remarkably) their first two-game winning streak of the season.
After sitting out for the first half, Elijah Minnie took the game over with 15 points, 9 rebounds and 1 block in 17 minutes of play. Kavon Stewart poured in 15 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists in the victory as well. But it was Andy Toole’s defense that made the difference, holding the hapless Blue Devils to a putrid 0.74 points per possession and 30.0% shooting.
For the second time this season, the last place Blue Devils have lost 8 in a row. Not even halfway through the conference season, they already sit 3 games back of a spot in the NEC tournament.
NEC Player of the Day
Darian Anderson, Fairleigh Dickinson – The sophomore had 32 points and 9 rebounds in the offensive barnburner and hit some critical shots down the stretch, as highlighted by Mr. Ron Ratner.
— Ron Ratner (@NECHoopsRon) January 22, 2016
NEC Performance of the Day
Sacred Heart – It wasn’t the prettiest of victories, but Anthony Latina will surely take it given the Pioneers 4-14 record. For perhaps the first time all season, Sacred Heart is the healthiest they’ve been, and they’ll certainly need all hands on deck – led of course by Cane Broome – to compete with the top half of the conference. Two very difficult road games, Wagner and LIU Brooklyn, now await the Pioneers.
T1) Mount St. Mary’s, 5-2
T1) Fairleigh Dickinson, 5-2
T1) Wagner, 5-2
4) Saint Francis U, 4-3*
5) Bryant, 4-3
T6) St. Francis Brooklyn, 3-4
T6) LIU Brooklyn, 3-4
T6) Sacred Heart, 3-4
T6) Robert Morris, 3-4
10) Central Connecticut, 0-7
*SFU has tiebreaker on Bryant based on head-to-head record (1-0)
Next Up on the NEC Schedule
Saint Francis U at Central Connecticut, 3:30 p.m.
Robert Morris at Bryant, 4 p.m.
Sacred Heart at Wagner, 4 p.m.
Mount St. Mary’s at Fairleigh Dickinson, 4:30 p.m.
St. Francis Brooklyn at LIU Brooklyn, 8 p.m.
*All games are on Saturday, January 23