The first round of the NEC tournament was exciting as promised, so let’s break down the action!
LIU Brooklyn 84, Sacred Heart 76
After a wonderful first half consisting of timely shooting and fantastic bench play from Iverson Fleming, LIU Brooklyn was able to hold off a Cane Broome surge and a raucous crowd to defeat the Pioneers on the road. The Blackbirds led by as many as 20 points in the first half and 17 in the second half, yet barely held on after back-to-back Broome bombs from downtown cut the advantage to a single point. In the end, the Blackbirds too good offensively, collecting 1.20 points per possession and shooting a sizzling 63% on their 2s.
Glenn Feidanga (10 points, 6 rebounds, 2 steals) and the aforementioned Fleming were an unexpected spark off the bench for Perri, with the latter draining three triples – he came in with just 15 made 3s all season — and logging 18 points, a season high. Joel Hernandez was excellent at the wing position with a team-high 22 points and seven rebounds. Ironically enough, Hermannsson wasn’t his dominant self (5-13 shooting, 5 turnovers) and Jerome Frink (10 points, 5 rebounds) was saddled with foul trouble all night, yet LIU found a way to push Perri’s NEC tournament record to 4-1 overall.
The Pioneers shot 3 of 20 from behind the arc (all three were made by Broome) and failed to get into a rhythm for much of the game as they were constantly trying to cut the Blackbirds lead. After Broome, only Quincy McKnight and senior Tevin Falzon hit the double-digit point threshold with 14 and 13 points, respectively. The Pioneers have now lost three straight NEC tournament games.
Fairleigh Dickenson 74, Saint Francis U. 72
The Knights fought off a veteran Red Flash squad to earn their first NEC tournament victory in 10 years. Darian Anderson led the Knights with a game high 22 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists, while point guard Stephan Jiggetts was wonderfully steady with 12 points and 7 dimes. The victory was FDU’s third win in a row.
In a back-and-forth affair that featured several lead changes, the shorthanded Red Flash gave the Knights all they could handle. A contested Malik Harmon 3 with 4 minutes remaining in the 2nd half gave his team a 3-point lead late, but this triple by Earl Potts (15 points, 10 rebounds, 6th double double of the season) ended up being the difference:
— Northeast Conference (@necbbt) March 3, 2016
Drinnon, in what ended up being his final game, did all he could, collecting 21 points and 22 rebounds in the defeat. Senior Greg Brown was also terrific with 15 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists. In the end, though, the Red Flash couldn’t generate enough offense (1.07 ppp) to overcome the league’s best scoring machine, as a 5 of 20 performance from behind the arc let Rob Krimmel’s team down.
For JP Pelzman’s recap at North Jersey.com, go here.
//platform.twitter.com/widgets.jsWagner 59, Robert Morris 50
It certainly wasn’t pretty, but Wagner kept the perfect record of NEC No. 1 seeds intact with a 59-50 victory over Robert Morris at the Spiro Sports Center. The Seahawks scored only 24 points in the first half, but the Colonials only scored 19. Wagner then built itself a slight cushion in the second half and hung on for the victory.
RMU’s 2-3 zone caused Wagner problems for 20 minutes once again, forcing the Seahawks to shoot poorly in the first 20 minutes. Actually, the poor shooting continued for the entire evening as Bashir Mason’s squad scored just 0.87 points per possession after shooting 37% on twos and 23% on threes. Mike Aaman, who scored 12 points, grabbed eight rebounds and blocked five shots, was a dominant presence in the middle in just 23 minutes. The Seahawks also got a strong performance from Aaren Edmead, who scored 8 points on 3-5 shooting (including a perfect 3-3 on twos) along with three assists.
The Wagner defense was the big story—as it often is for this team. The Seahawks held RMU to just 0.74 points per possession and exploited the Colonials major weakness of 3-point shooting (27.6% 3PT for season), as Robert Morris failed to hit a three the entire game. Without some bailout calls late in the shot clock and 30 free throws this could’ve been an even bigger blowout. Isaiah Still led the Colonials with 13 points and Rodney Pryor scored 10 points, but was just 3-10 from the field in his final collegiate game.
The Seahawks will now host local rival LIU Brooklyn in the semifinals. The Blackbirds beat Wagner twice during the regular season, including a 1-point victory at Spiro Sports Center on Jan. 14, a game in which the Seahawks were up by as many as 17 points.
For Zach Braziller’s recap at the NY Post, go here.
Mount St. Mary’s 60, St. Francis Brooklyn 51
Last week Mount St. Mary’s never found a way to get into an offensive rhythm in a loss at the Pope Center. As the Terriers built a 14-point lead early in the second half it appeared that would be the case again, but instead Mount St. Mary’s improbably stormed back and pulled out the victory, despite the loss of Junior Robinson due to injury. The Mount advances to the NEC semifinals for the third time in Jamion Christian’s tenure.
Neither team was particularly good offensively in the 65-possession game. The Mount scored 0.92 points per possession, but held the Terriers to just 0.78 ppp, including 17 points in the entire second half. BK Ashe scored 18 points to lead the Mount, including the 1,000th point of his career on a free throw. He also grabbed seven rebounds and had four assists. Elijah Long was the only other Mount player in double figures with 11 and was key in helping the Mountaineers protect the ball throughout – they had just three turnovers in the contest.
On the other side the Terriers really struggled handling the ball against Mayhem. Yunus Hopkinson, fresh off being named to the All-NEC Third Team, scored 18 points, but committeed six turnovers. Gunnar Olafsson looked terrified of MSM’s pressure and committed three turnovers. SFC committed 16 turnovers overall and shot only 50% (7-14) from the free throw line. Poor shot selection overall led to the Terriers finishing with a 46% effective field goal percentage as stars like Hopkinson (6-16), Tyreek Jewell (5-12) and Chris Hooper (2-9) all struggled from the field.
For Howie Kussoy’s recap at the NY Post, go here.
NEC Player of the Day
BK Ashe, Mount St. Mary’s – The junior was fantastic in the second half Wednesday night, pouring in 14 points, 6 rebounds and 2 assists (vs 0 turnovers). With the prospects of moving on looking grim, it was Ashe who resurrected his game despite intense defensive pressure from Tyreek Jewell and company.
NEC Players of the Day in a Losing Effort
Cane Broome, Sacred Heart – The sensational sophomore scored 12 straight points late in the 2nd half that nearly guided his Pioneers to victory, but alas LIU Brooklyn was too good on the offensive end. Nevertheless, Broome cracked the 30-point barrier for the fifth time this season, which is a heck of a way to celebrate a NEC POY award.
Ronnie Drinnon, Saint Francis U – I have no qualms about acknowledging Broome and Drinnon in losing efforts, because quite frankly it wasn’t either guy’s fault that his respective team lost. Drinnon had a monster effort in the final game of career, grabbing a NEC tournament record 22 rebounds, with 15 of those coming in the second half. It was his eighth double double in the past nine games. He certainly ended his career in style!
NEC Performance of the Day
Mount St. Mary’s – After scoring a ghastly 0.70 ppp in 5 halves against St. Francis Brooklyn AND losing All-NEC second teamer Junior Robinson to injury, the Mountaineers still managed to defeat the Terriers with a fantastic effort in the final 20 minutes. The victory was Christian’s sixth in the NEC tournament and slates them for a intriguing showdown at FDU.
Mount St. Mary’s at Fairleigh Dickinson, 2 p.m.
LIU Brooklyn at Wagner, 4 p.m.
*Both games are Saturday, March 6