St. Francis Brooklyn Advances to NEC Tournament

The St. Francis Brooklyn Terriers needed to play their best in order to make the NEC Tournament. The four seniors led the way in their final home game as St. Francis defeated Sacred Heart 92-80 to earn a date with Robert Morris in the quarterfinals. Continue reading “St. Francis Brooklyn Advances to NEC Tournament”

NEC Thursday: The Valentine’s Day Recap!

With my wife out of town, I was able to keep my eye on the NEC basketball scene for what turned out to be a special Valentine’s Day recap! Enjoy…

Mount St. Mary’s 84, Bryant 70
Sam Prescott had the performance of his life with 44 points on 16 of 24 shooting to help lead the Mount to an impressive drubbing of league leader Bryant. After the Bulldogs jumped out to an early lead thanks to Dyami Starks’ three points, two assists, and one rebound in four minutes, Bryant struggled offensively when Starks was saddled with two quick fouls. After that, a Prescott onslaught from behind the three-point line guided the Mount to a double-digit lead at the half. In all, Prescott tied a Mount record for the most threes scored in a game (10-14), while also breaking the school’s D-I record for most points in a game. Perhaps quietly, Shivaughn Wiggins and Julien Norfleet did a wonderful job fasciliating on offense. The duo dished out 16 assists versus only one turnover. Bryant shot the ball well, but couldn’t overcome 15 turnovers and a porous effort defensively on the perimeter that allowed the Mount to sink 50.9% of their shots. Alex Francis scored a team high 25 points to go along with ten rebounds, but it simply wasn’t enough to overcome Prescott’s special night.

St. Francis (PA) 64, Sacred Heart 60
In the upset of the night, St. Francis (PA) notched their third win of the season by knocking off a significantly banged up Sacred Heart team on the road. Phil Gaetano was out with the flu leaving the Pioneers devoid of a true point guard on the roster and limiting Dave Bike to seven healthy scholarship players and walk-on Louis Cramer. Shane Gibson did his part registering 26 points, eight rebounds, four assists, and five steals, but it wasn’t enough as no other Pioneer logged a game efficiency rating higher than a six (for non-stat heads, a six isn’t very good). Four players scored in double digits for Rob Krimmel’s club, led by double-double machine Earl Brown with 13 points and 11 boards. St. Francis lost the edge on the boards, but shot well enough from the perimeter (7-16 behind the arc) and at the charity stripe (19-26) to pull through. The win moves St. Francis (PA) out of the cellar with a 3-10 record, while Sacred Heart nows find themselves only up 1.5 games on the 9th place team in the conference. With no more “cupcakes” on the schedule, it’s now or never for the Pioneers coming up.

LIU Brooklyn 82, Monmouth 66
A nearly down-and-out Monmouth team hung tough and even led the back-to-back defending champs with 11 minutes left in the second half, 52-51. But then a 20-5 LIU run put the game out of reach and made certain the Hawks would lose for the fifth time in six games. The offensive numbers won’t make Jack Perri all too happy (1.02 PPP, 14 assists versus 24 turnovers), yet the defense stepped up to force 17 turnovers and a mediocre 40% shooting mark for Monmouth. In addition, the Blackbirds won the rebounding battle 35-27 and hit 14 more freebies from the line. Jamal Olasewere led the team with 23 points, but C.J. Garner was equally as excellent with 20 points, six rebounds, four assists, and four steals. Ed Waite led Monmouth with 24 points, but he needed 19 shots to get there. After him though, only two Hawk players – Jesse Steele and Stephen Spinella – scored more than five points.

Wagner 101, Central Connecticut 82
If Wagner scores the basketball like that the rest of the season, then I’m pretty confident they’ll join Robert Morris, Bryant, and LIU Brooklyn in the upper third of the league at season’s end. Wagner shattered their season high in points per possession with 1.32 PPP, while draining over 61% of their shots in a blowout home win over the suddenly defensively challenged Blue Devils. Seven Seahawks scored at least eight points with Marcus Burton claiming 23 points on only nine shots. The game moved at a feverish pace with 155 total possessions, but it was Wagner who benefitted the most from the tempo. Central Connecticut, led by Kyle Vinales’ 42 points on 24 shots, cut Wagner’s lead to seven points early in the second half, but a 15-0 run by the Seahawks essentially turned the game into a laugher. Odd enough, CCSU falls to 4-8 on the season when they average more than 73 possessions in a game. Is it safe to say the lack of depth hurts CCSU in these games that turn into track meets? Whatever the reason, Howie Dickenman shouldn’t be happy that Wagner outscored his club in the paint, 44-24, while also allowing the Seahawks to drill nine of their 15 long-range jumpers. It was a lousy defensive effort whichever way you slice it.

St. Francis Brooklyn 85, Fairleigh Dickinson 61
When it rains it pours, and right now it’s pouring losses for FDU. The Knights dropped their ninth straight to a struggling St. Francis team, as they were unable to overcome 21 point efforts from both Akeem Johnson and Travis Nichols. The Terriers were efficient on offense, and while that may be from FDU being in the bottom 10% of the nation defensively, Glenn Braica certainly has to be pleased with 16 assists versus a mere five turnovers, a 25-28 shooting performance from the free-throw line, and the fact that his team surged despite a zero point overcome from Jalen Cannon. Kinu Rochford had another monster game for FDU (what else is new) with 20 points and 16 rebounds, but it wasn’t nearly enough to prevent FDU’s slide into the NEC basement.

Quinnipiac 63, Robert Morris 61
In perhaps their last meeting before Quinnipiac departs for the MAAC, the Bobcats outlasted the banged-up Colonials in a ridiculously tight game throughout. Velton Jones supposedly did his best Willis Reed impersonation (OK, maybe not) by suiting up right before tipoff, yet he struggled with only six points on 13 shots. Evan Conti led Quinnipiac with 18 points, six rebounds, and two assists and has been the unsung hero in this recent run for Tom Moore. Conti has scored in double figures in four straight, while also averaging 5.5 rebounds per game. The big difference in the game was free throws, as Robert Morris uncharacteristically went to the charity stripe just 13 times (and missed eight of them). On the other hand, Quinnipiac had 17 points from the line and also doubled the Colonials output on the boards (44-22). The Bobcats are officially the hottest team in the NEC, winning five of their last six contests to move into a tie for fifth place. A home playoff game is now absolutely within reach.

NEC Standings
1) Bryant, 9-3
2) Robert Morris, 9-4
3) LIU Brooklyn, 9-4
4) Wagner, 8-5
5) Sacred Heart, 7-5
6) Quinnipiac, 7-5
7) Central Connecticut, 6-6
8) St. Francis Brooklyn, 6-7
9) Mount St. Mary’s, 6-7
10) Monmouth, 4-9
11) St. Francis (PA), 3-10
12) Fairleigh Dickinson, 2-11
*Robert Morris holds tiebreaker on LIU based on head-to-head record (1-0)
*Sacred Heart holds tiebreaker on Quinnipiac based on head-to-head record (1-0)
*St. Francis Brooklyn holds tiebreaker on Mount St. Mary’s based on head-to-head record (1-0)

Season At A Glance — St. Francis (NY)

This is the first of what will eventually be capsules for each of the NYC teams when I’m sure their season has concluded.

Team: St. Francis (NY)

Record: 15-15 (12-6 in the NEC); season ended by 80-72 loss to Quinnipiac in NEC Quarterfinals

Season High: Winning at Robert Morris on Jan. 28, 81-68 to go to 8-2 in NEC play.

Season Low: Losing at Colgate 65-63 to drop to 2-6 overall.

Really Good At: Defense — The Terriers finished second in the NEC in per possession defensive efficiency. They were also an excellent defensive rebounding team on most nights.

Struggled With: Turnovers — SFC finished 10th in the NEC in turnover percentage – in a generally turnover prone league. Young players moving into new roles sometimes struggled with trying to do too much. It got better as the season progressed.

Key Losses:

  • Stefan Perunicic (11.6 PPG, 42.4% from three)
  • Justin Newton (defense, toughness and maturity at the point guard position)

Key Returnees:

  • Akeem Johnson, Jr., F
  • Jalen Cannon, Fr., F
  • Brent Jones, Fr., G
  • Dre Calloway, Sr., G (returns after missing most of 2011-12 to injury)

Key Quotes:

“I’m really happy that I had an opportunity to work with them. I wish them the best of luck and it was a really good season for me.” — Stefan Perunicic

“We put [the freshman] in the gym at the beginning of the year it was like mice running around. They had a lot of energy, but it was in a lot of different directions. It still is, but we’re getting better.” — Glenn Braica

“He was thrown to the fire. Some nights he played great. Some nights he struggled, but it’s all going to be better for him in the future. We’re going to get a lot of bang for our buck next year because of what he went through this year. He’s a very talented kid. He’s a hard worker. He’s got the right attitude. He’s a good kid and I just think he’s going to get better and better.” — Braica on Brent Jones

Outlook: Very positive. The Terriers surprised everyone this season by earning a home NEC tournament game after being picked to finish 11th in the conference before the season began. It earned head coach Glenn Braica the Jim Phelan NEC Coach of the Year award and there was a legitimate argument to be made that rebounding machine Jalen Cannon could’ve been the NEC’s Freshman of the Year as well. The majority of the core will return and it should give SFC the chance to compete for a home playoff game and more next season. Braica said that he expects to start at a higher level next season and that the team should progress quicker. Both suggest a tough team to contend with in Brooklyn Heights next season.

LIU Brooklyn keeps control of NEC with win at MSG

The road to the NEC title still goes through Brooklyn, even if LIU and St. Francis (NY) played at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night. The Blackbirds took home an 86-77 win too maintain control of first place in the conference at 12-1.

“We knew coming in that St. Francis coming in had won nine of their last 11,” said Jamal Olasewere. “They’re definitely a team on a mission coming in trying to knock us off. So we definitely took that into consideration going into tonight’s game.”

The Terriers managed to make the game interesting. A run right before halftime left them down just one point at the break. Coming out of it Akeem Johnson, who scored a game-high 24 points, hit a layup to give SFC its only lead of the game. LIU then responded with a 16-5 run. St. Francis never got closer than five points after that moment.

St. Francis managed to launch 80 shots, but the Terriers shot just 37.5% from the field and 7-29 (24.1%) from beyond the arc. When St. Francis wasn’t grabbing offensive rebounds, which it did often with 20 for 28 second-chance points, the offense sputtered.

On the other end LIU used its typically aggressive offense to set the tone in the second half. Olasewere and C.J. Garner attacked the rim consistently and LIU shot 37 free throws in the game, including 31 in the second half alone. Olasewere finished with 21 points and 11 boards and Garner scored 19 points.

“The key with Jamal is just not fouling,” said LIU head coach Jim Ferry. “If he doesn’t foul he has the potential to be one of the best players in this league. He’s so versatile.”

The only LIU player that didn’t get very involved was Julian Boyd. The Blackbirds’ star player was hampered by foul trouble, but he still managed a 17-point, 11-board double-double in just 27 minutes of action. He was an efficient 5-9 from the field, but struggled at the line shooting 6-10.

That aggressive style of play is what makes Ferry’s team so tough at home and it’s looking more and more like the Blackbirds will be there throughout the NEC tournament. LIU has now defeated Wagner twice and St. Francis (NY) once, with the opportunity to get another victory over the Terriers on Sunday at the Wellness Center on Sunday in the Battle of Brooklyn. Ferry isn’t happy that these two games are so close together.

“It’s brutal, I don’t like it,” Ferry said about the NEC rivalry week schedule. “I don’t like that we have to play these rivalry games back-to-back. Ours is a true rivalry game, St. Francis and LIU. There’s so much emotion used up in these basketball games.”

Olasewere enjoys the format. “I think it’s exciting,” he said. “It’s more of a challenge. We’re able to show what we really are in situations like this.”

For St. Francis to pull the upset in that game the Terriers are going to have to shoot better from three than their effort on Wednesday. LIU started with Michael Culpo on Stefan Perunicic and he failed to get into the offensive flow of the game finishing with zero points on 0-4 shooting from the field. Ben Mockford scored 20 points, but it took him 22 shots to do so (including 3-11 from three) and Travis Nichols shot 3-11 (2-7 from three) and scored eight points. One of those perimeter players is going to have to step up on Sunday for the results to change.

“I think everyone in the league knows that we’re winning and that we should be close to the top of the league,” Johnson said. “They’re a great team and they played us well. Sunday we’re just trying to come back and hopefully we’ll play better. Hopefully we’ll remember our defensive principles and the outcome will be different.”

If the Terriers can’t pull the upset they could find themselves back at the Wellness Center again later this season, as they battle to reach their first ever NCAA tournament.

Three thoughts: St. Francis (NY) vs. Albany

St. Francis (NY) returned to Brooklyn Heights for its first home game of the season against Albany on Monday night. The Terriers were unable to solve Albany’s three-guard attack and fell 76-64. The loss drops SFC to 3-7 overall. This was a 68-possession game, so both sides of the ball slipped up in this one. Here are three key takeaways from the game.

Continue reading “Three thoughts: St. Francis (NY) vs. Albany”

Saturday Round Up: Hofstra gets big win

Saturday was a busy day in college basketball. Besides Columbia’s win over Manhattan, full coverage of which you can find below, there were five other games on the schedule. Hofstra got the biggest win of the day, a 63-53 victory over Cleveland State, but there were some other good wins as well.

Continue reading “Saturday Round Up: Hofstra gets big win”