Time for John and I to recap tonight’s action in the NEC with 3 of the 5 games coming right down to the wire!
Saint Francis U. 81, St. Francis Brooklyn 56
For the second straight game, the Red Flash dismantled their NEC opponent by at least 20 points. Saint Francis U led 48-16 at the half and used a balanced attack to dominate the previously undefeated (in NEC play) Terriers. The Red Flash’s KenPom ranking has gone up 30 points since falling to FDU in the NEC opener.
Six SFU players scored at least 8 points for Rob Krimmel’s group, including Josh Nebo. The sophomore power forward registered 14 points, 7 rebounds and 5 blocks in just 24 minutes of play. Freshman Randall Gaskins scored a career high 14 points on 6 of 8 shooting. The team had a +7 rebounding margin and shot 56% from the field.
In contrast, the visiting Terriers converted 31.6% of their inside the arc attempts and didn’t far much better from long distance going 6 for 29. They scored just 0.80 points per possession despite grabbing 17 offensive rebounds. Freshman Rasheem Dunn (12 points, 5 rebounds) was the only St. Francis Brooklyn player to crack double figures. The Terriers are now 0-8 in true road games this season as they head to Moon Township for a Saturday afternoon showdown against Robert Morris.
Sacred Heart 64, Central Connecticut 62
In their first game to start a four game road stand, the Pioneers earned their first NEC victory with a nail biter at Central Connecticut. Sacred Heart led by as many as 11 points deep into the second half, but a resilient Blue Devils club took the late lead before dropping their 9th game in a row. Conversely, the Pioneers snapped a four game losing streak with the victory.
After undergoing a rough 3-game stretch where he committed 19 turnovers and shot 13 of 43 from floor, Quincy McKnight rebounded with an 18-point, 4-assist and 2-turnover performance to guide the Pioneers. It was McKnight’s two free throws late that broke a 62-62 tie and gave Sacred Heart the lead for good with 34 seconds left. Joe Lopez fell just short of his fifth double double of the season, finishing with 12 points and 9 rebounds. Even though Chris Robinson didn’t light up the box score (3p, 2r, 3a), he was very good defensively shadowing the always dangerous Austin Nehls. The junior held Nehls to 6 points on 2 of 14 shooting.
Only four Blue Devils scored tonight with Mustafa Jones leading the way with 23 points, 8 rebounds, 4 steals and 4 blocks. Despite his tremendous performance, CCSU’s inability to rack up points behind the arc (2-16) and at the charity stripe (8-16) were critical in making the Blue Devils the only NEC without a conference win.
Bryant 72, Mount St. Mary’s 71
Led by 6-foot-7 big man Bosko Kostur, Bryant edged Mount St. Mary’s to earn a desperately needed victory and snap a six game losing streak. Kostur scored a career high 24 points on 8 of 13 shooting while Nisre Zouzoua chipped in with 15. Marcel Pettway was very active with 13 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists. Overall, Bryant shot 50% from the field and posted an impressive 1.5 assist to turnover ratio against a defense know to extract turnovers.
Even though they trailed for most of the first half, Bryant continued to chip away before taking a 9-point lead midway through the second half thanks to a 9-0 run. The Mount responded with 14 unanswered of their own, before Bryant clawed back thanks to several contributors. In all, the foursome of Kostur, Zouzoua, Pettway and Adam Grant combined to score 59 of Bryant’s 72 points.
After registering 46 points on 27 shots in his past 3 games, Elijah Long was held in check with 8 points on 12 shots, though he did have a game high 8 rebounds and 7 assists. Chris Wray and Miles Wilson each had 18 points, though a poor performance by the team at the free throw line (13-21) surely didn’t help in another tight game. This was the third straight NEC contest decided by two points or less for the Mount.
LIU Brooklyn 65, Robert Morris 54
The Blackbirds reached their highest KenPom ranking of the season at 260 after winning this game. This win in Moon Township, PA helps establish LIU as a bona-fide contender in the NEC.
LIU was helped out on Thursday thanks to the absence of RMU’s senior point guard Kavon Stewart due to a violation of team rules. Without him on the court the Blackbirds held the Colonials to just 0.78 points per possession. RMU committed 16 turnovers. Isaiah Still shot just 2-14 from the field (1-9 on 2s and 1-5 on 3s) and scored only seven points. Freshman Dachon Burke led the Colonials with 13 points off the bench.
Despite the loss, Robert Morris’s defense was strong again (0.94 points per possession). Jerome Frink though did manage to score 19 points, grab 11 rebounds and hand out five assists. He also committed five turnovers. The Blackbirds also got efficient offensive nights from Iverson Fleming (11 points), Jashaun Agosto (11 points) and Julian Batts (6 points). Nura Zanna came off the bench to score 12 points, but he also committed eight turnovers in the low post.
Fairleigh Dickinson 70, Wagner 69
This one came down to the wire as Wagner was able to make a furious late comeback after being down by eight points with 2:43 remaining. The Seahawks were given a shot to win when Earl Potts Jr. missed the front-end of a 1-and-1. But FDU made an excellent defensive stand as Michael Carey and Blake Francis both missed shots on the final possession and Wagner suffered its second 1-point loss in as many games. The Knights are now 3-0 in the NEC, while the Seahawks are 1-2.
The game was a contrast in styles offensive. FDU scored 16 points off turnovers, while Wagner scored 21 second-chance points thanks to 18 offensive boards.
Carey had an outstanding first half for the Seahawks and finished with 21 points and 22 rebounds. Corey Henson (14 points) struggled, shooting 4-11 from the field and committed 7 turnovers. Connor Ferrell was the only other Seahawk in double-figures with 12 points.
The extremely underrated Stephan Jiggets led FDU with 17 points and 7 assists. Wagner contained Darian Anderson. It took the reigning NEC Player of the Week 10 shots to score 10 points, though he did have 5 assists.
NEC Player of the Day
Bosko Kostur, Bryant – The native Croatian has always had the talent to flourish, though inconsistency has plagued his career up to this point. When the power forward is draining 3s and stretching the floor, Bryant will be very difficult to contain offensively.
1) Fairleigh Dickinson, 3-0
T2) Mount St. Mary’s, 2-1
T2) St. Francis Brooklyn, 2-1
T2) LIU Brooklyn, 2-1
T2) Saint Francis University, 2-1
T6) Wagner, 1-2
T6) Robert Morris, 1-2
T6) Sacred Heart, 1-2
T6) Bryant, 1-2
10) Central Connecticut, 0-3
Next On the NEC Schedule
Bryant at Fairleigh Dickinson, 3 PM
Mount St. Mary’s at Central Connecticut, 3:30 PM
LIU Brooklyn at Saint Francis University, 4 PM
Sacred Heart at Wagner, 4 PM
St. Francis Brooklyn at Robert Morris, 4 PM