1) Iona (6-5) – 69-59 L @ St. John’s (12/17); 82-68 W @ Holy Cross (12/19)
The Gaels retain the top spot in this week’s rankings despite a split of the week. Tim Cluess’ squad played St. John’s tight in the first half, entering the break knotted at 25, but a 19-4 run out of intermission propelled the Johnnies to victory in the teams’ first meeting since 1995.
Iona placed three players in double-figures, led by Deyshonee Much’s 15 points. E.J. Crawford added 12 while Roland Griffin knocked down a season-high 11 as he continues to show a larger impact on the offense.
The Gaels earned a decisive win at Holy Cross in which Jan Svandrlik and Schadrac Casimir combined for 10 three-pointers. Casimir’s game-high 22 points were a season high and the second time the redshirt junior has hit the 20+ point mark this season. Meanwhile, the Gaels shared the ball to the tune of 20 assists, the third such occurrence this season.
2) Niagara (6-6) – 85-82 W @ Norfolk State (12/16); 79-77 W vs. Cleveland State (12/19)
The Purple Eagles gutted out a pair of wins by a combined five points this week and now have just one non-conference game remaining before starting league play with a showdown against Iona.
Matt Scott, the early favorite for MAAC Player of the Year, came through with a last-season three-pointer to push Niagara over Norfolk State, while the team did just enough to stave off Cleveland State Tuesday night.
Margin for error has been low with Scott and Kahlil Dukes relied on to do so much, but junior forward Marvin Prochet came through with figures in consecutive games while the Purple Eagles have received solid contributions of late from James Towns and Kevin Larkin.
3) Monmouth (3-8) – N/A
The Hawks were off this week, but resume action this Friday at Yale.
4) Saint Peter’s (5-5) – 71-56 W @ LIU Brooklyn (12/17)
The Peacocks’ defense has been excellent this season, holding opponents under 65 points on five occasions thus far. Of particular note is the team’s three-point defense. Saint Peter’s has held opponents to just 28.8% from behind the arc, which currently ranks 17th-best in the nation and is the top mark in John Dunne’s 12-year tenure as head coach.
Junior forward Mamadou Ndiaye has averaged just 4.9 ppg this season, but stole the show against LIU. Ndiaye turned in career highs in both points (16) and rebounds (11) in the victory. Davauhnte Turner led the team with a career-high 19 points while Quinn Taylor added 15 in a game the Peacocks pulled away in despite getting just four points from leading scorer Nick Griffin.
5) Rider (6-5) – 90-84 W (OT) vs. Wagner (12/16)
Frederick Scott scored nine of his team-high 21 points in overtime as the Broncs held off Wagner in the extra period thanks to making seven of eight free throws in the game’s final 40 seconds.
Dimencio Vaughn and Stevie Jordan each added 19. Vaughn did the brunt of his damage from the charity stripe where he connected on 14 of 18 attempts while Jordan added seven assists. It was the fourth time this season Jordan has finished with 19 points, but the sophomore has yet to break the 20-point barrier.
The Broncs’ free throw rate of 44.9 is one of the 15 best in the nation and they have been great at limiting turnovers despite playing at one of the hottest tempos in Division I (74.9 possessions per game). Rider wraps up non-conference play with a challenging test at Penn State before traveling to Canisius to open up league play.
6) Canisius (5-7) – 68-65 L @ Albany (12/16); 67-51 W vs. Elon (12/19)
The Golden Griffins split the week against quality competition, falling narrowly at perennial America East contender Albany before earning a decisive win over one of the CAA’s primary challengers in Elon.
Canisius remains one of the nation’s most effective offensive teams, converting 60.1% of its chances inside the arc. The Griffs’ key stat to follow remains their assist-to-turnover ratio, which improved this week. Canisius converted 36 assists against 21 turnovers in its two games, a trend that will lead to continued success if the team carries it over to league play.
7) Manhattan (4-6) – 80-66 L @ Tulsa (12/16)
Manhattan isn’t going to win many games when Zavier Turner and Rich Williams combine to shoot 3-16 from the field. That’s exactly what happened in the loss at Tulsa, despite Zane Waterman and Pauly Paulicap turning in one of their better games of the season.
Waterman and Paulicap combined to shoot 15-20 from the field with 17 rebounds. Waterman posted a season-high 17 points while Paulicap added 16.
The Jaspers are an intriguing prospect in the MAAC as their Effective Field Goal Percentage (53.2%) currently ranks fourth among MAAC teams while their Defensive Turnover Percentage (22.6%) is tops in the league and one of the 40 best in the nation. However, Manhattan remains one of the most turnover-prone teams in the country and has struggled mightily from the free throw line (64.2%).
8) Fairfield (4-6) – 82-77 L (OT) vs. Old Dominion (12/17)
Fairfield returned home this week to face a stiff challenge in Old Dominion. The Monarchs rank 69th on KenPom with just three losses on the season. Although Tyler Nelson again struggled from the field (6-18 overall, 4-12 from three), the senior converted 10 of 11 free throws to help push the game into overtime.
It was the Stags’ first home game in over a month, but they remain in Connecticut for their next two against New Hampshire and opening MAAC play against Saint Peter’s. The supporting cast will continue to play a major role for Sydney Johnson’s squad. Matija Milin contributed 16 points in the loss while Ferron Flavors Jr. (11) hit double figures for the fourth time in his last five games.
9) Quinnipiac (3-8) – 72-71 L @ Drexel (12/18)
Drexel sophomore Kurk Lee buried a go-ahead three-pointer with 2.4 seconds remaining to push the Dragons over the top of the Bobcats Monday night. Despite a nifty inbound play to go across the court, Rich Kelly’s three-point attempt was off the mark at the final buzzer.
It was the first game Quinnipiac played without senior forward Chaise Daniels, who is on an indefinite leave from the program. In his stead, junior Abdulai Bundu picked up the start and notched a season-high 17 points. Cam Young broke the 20-point plateau for the fourth time this season, leading all scorers with 24 points.
Baker Dunleavy’s squad has exceeded expectations early in the year, but has still let opportunities slip through their fingers of late. The Bobcats will face a challenging trip to Vermont to cap the non-conference schedule before opening MAAC play against Monmouth next Thursday.
10) Siena (3-8) – 87-68 W @ Bryant (12/17)
The Saints got back in the win column with a road win over Bryant in which freshman Roman Penn packed the box score with 19 points, nine rebounds, and four assists. Siena placed four players in double figures as Nico Clareth matched Penn’s 19 while Jordan Horn and Khalil Richard added 12 and 10 respectively.
For the fifth consecutive game, Clareth has come off the bench and finished the night in double figures. Clareth is averaging 16.0 ppg over his last five games off the bench while he averaged 16.3 ppg as a starter, but he has played just 23.2 minutes per game as a reserve as opposed to 31.0 mpg as a starter.
The Saints finish non-conference play against Memphis and Holy Cross, then will look to get off to a hot start in league play with games against Marist and Quinnipiac to start.
11) Marist (2-9) – 100-63 L @ Murray State (12/16)
The Red Foxes were overmatched on the road at Murray State, giving up 100 for the first time since a 107-65 loss at Rhode Island at the beginning of last season. Brian Parker hit the 20-point mark for the fourth time this season to lead Marist in the defeat. David Knudsen added 15 and has been a solid supporting option, averaging 10.2 ppg this season.
Marist has been able to put points on the board and ranks 22nd in the nation with 57.3% effectiveness inside the arc, but defense continues to plague Mike Maker’s team. The Red Foxes’ 54.4% Effective Field Goal Percentage defense lags behind the DI average, and the team has struggled to force turnovers while committing plenty of their own.
Vincent Simone covers the MAAC, Hofstra, and more for NYC Buckets. You can follow him on Twitter @VTSimone.