NEC Team Primer: #9 St. Francis (PA) Red Flash

St. Francis PA Red Flash logo

St. Francis PA Red Flash logo

Head Coach: Rob Krimmel, 2nd year
Last season: 5-24, 5-13 (NEC), failed to qualify for the NEC tournament
RPI/KenPom: 322/329
NEC Preseason Coach’s Poll: 9th out of 10 teams
State of Program: Slowly rebuilding
Key Loss(es): Umar Shannon (11.2 ppg, 3.3 apg, 2.3 rpg), Anthony Ervin (4.5 ppg, 2.4 rpg)
Incoming Players: Malik Harmon (PG), Georgios Angelou (PG), Patrick Wrencher (PF)

Projected Starting Lineup:
PG: Georgios Angelou (Fr.)
G: Ollie Jackson (7.9 ppg, 2.3 rpg)
G: Stephon Whyatt (6.7 ppg, 1.9 rpg, 2.2 apg)
F: Earl Brown (10.1 ppg, 8.1 rpg)
F: Stephon Mosley (7.9 ppg, 4.4 rpg)

Key Reserves: Ben Millaud-Meunier (G), Greg Brown (G), Malik Harmon (PG), Ronnie Drinnon (PF), Patrick Wrencher (PF), Dominique Major (G)

Major Storylines:

  • Clean Up Mistakes – The Red Flash turned the ball over on 23.3% of their offensive possessions last season, the worst rate in the NEC. St. Francis just can’t afford to give possessions away. Whether that rate improves will heavily depend upon two talented freshmen. Georgios Angelou (Greece) and Malik Harmon (Christ the King, NYC) will split the duties at the point and Krimmel hopes that the combination of the two can provide a steady hand for the offense. Avoiding turnovers though is a focus for the entire roster as Krimmel wants his more veteran players to take some of the pressure off the freshmen.
  • Staying Healthy – Only two players managed to play in every game last season for the Red Flash. Health will be a major factor for SFU, especially because Rob Krimmel just doesn’t have much depth in the front court. Losing any of his three veteran rotation players up front could have disastrous results. There are only four players on the roster 6’6″ or taller.
  • Continue Building – There are no seniors on St. Francis’ roster this season. Krimmel is asking junior forward Earl Brown to be a more vocal leader. Assuming this entire core sticks around for one more season in Loretto, this could be the warmup to a breakout season for the Red Flash in 2014-15. One of the most important aspect of that will be getting plenty of playing time for all the talented young players on the roster.

Lineup Analysis: There is a lot of depth in the backcourt for the Red Flash. Two freshmen point guards are going to try to replace the departed Umar Shannon, who transferred to former conference foe Quinnipiac for his final season. The wing spots can be split between four talented players and the 5’9″ Dominique Major will also play a role. The loss of Anthony Ervin is also a blow for the Red Flash; he was the team’s most efficient scorer a year ago. Another talented scorer was Ben Millaud-Meunier. Described as a “gym rat” by his head coach, Millaud-Meunier shot 47.6% from three on 84 attempts last season. That’s bound to regress if he’s given more playing time, but he’s certainly one of the best shooters in the entire conference. The sophomore guard could start the season on the bench, but expect him to break through as the season progresses.

Up front it’s all about health and finding a way to rebound, while being incredibly undersized. The Red Flash ranked 336th in effective height last season, as opponents were an average of 3.7″ taller. That deficiency revealed itself mostly on the defensive end where opponents grabbed 35.2% of their misses. With a young team, Krimmel is focusing on making sure everyone gets stronger. That’s super important because players like Earl Brown, Stephon Mosley and Ronnie Drinnon have to be more aggressive on the boards. Brown grabbed 8.1 rpg last season while having the 14th best defensive rebounding rate in the nation. He needs help though. Health is also hugely important for the Red Flash. Drinnon has already been a little banged up during practice and Krimmel and his staff are working him back slowly so that he’ll be available during NEC play.

Ultimately this roster has enough talent to challenge for a playoff spot in the NEC. The Red Flash certainly won’t be a pushover. SFU finished 5-13 last season and even with the 16-game schedule it’s possible that they’ll improve upon that win total and be competitive in most games. Also, unlike last season when the Red Flash went winless in non-conference play, there’s an opportunity to grab some victories before diving into the teeth of the NEC slate.

Coach’s Quote:

“As a team we were inexperienced. I was inexperienced.” – Rob Krimmel on his first season as head coach in Loretto, PA

“Our freshmen point guards are playing well. They’re trying to figure out the pace of the game. Their style of play and their personnel. It’s easy in workouts, but when you go 5-on-5 you have to put all those pieces together.” – Krimmel on his two young point guards

“I just feel confident all around. From outside in the perimeter. From in the post. Even just being a leader. I think that’s what’s changed the most, trying to be more vocal on the court.” – Earl Brown about stepping up during his junior season

Final Prediction:
Ryan – There are some intriguing young pieces in Loretto, but it’s really hard to rely on two rookie point guards. Really hard. If Angelou and/or Harmon develop ahead of schedule and Earl Brown takes the next step toward NEC stardom, though, it isn’t wacky to envision a fifth or sixth place finish in the conference. The more likely scenario has them fighting with Sacred Heart for the final NEC playoff berth. I’m currently in that camp. (8 total wins, 5-11 NEC)

John – This is still certainly a rebuilding season, but the Red Flash can be competitive in the NEC. We might look back at this ranking and regret it a bit. Or SFU might get hit by injuries and struggle to top last season’s five victories. (7 total wins, 4-12 NEC)

Other NEC Team Primers:
#10 Fairleigh Dickinson

Season In Review: St. Francis (PA) Red Flash

Rebuilding a program isn’t an easy thing to do, yet St. Francis University has seemingly been a part of the vicious cycle for several years running. In Rob Krimmel’s first season at the helm – after serving as a Red Flash assistant coach for 12 seasons – the NEC basement dweller struggled once again, yet there were some silver linings to be found. Two members of Krimmel’s freshmen class, Ben Millaud-Meunier and Stephon Mosley, were selected to the NEC all-rookie team. Millaud-Meunier, whose work ethic has been lauded by Krimmel, made 47% of his shots, with a majority of those coming from the perimeter. Sophomore Earl Brown, after an uninspiring rookie campaign, emerged as one of the best rebounders of the conference and took home the NEC’s most improved player of the year award. Only 13 players in the nation bettered Brown defensive rebounding percentage of 25.9%.

Several other underclassmen played significant roles on the rebuilding Red Flash, with more than 75% of the team’s available minutes falling to a freshman or sophomore. Perhaps due to the youth movement in Loretto, the inexperienced Red Flash dropped 19 of their first 20 contests, en route to another disappointing and ultimately uncompetitive season.

Injuries surely deserved part of the blame, with team star Umar Shannon failing to recapture his old magic a season removed from an ACL tear. As is the case for several athletes recovering from reconstructive knee surgery, Shannon had difficultly clearing the mental hurdle of trusting his knee when competing at full speed on the hardwood. It led to an inconsistent junior season, although Shannon will return next season to provide the senior presence Krimmel so desperately needs on this roster.

In addition to Shannon’s struggles, senior Anthony Ervin, arguably the second most valuable player of the 2011-12 season behind Scott Eatherton, saw limited playing time due to a nagging groin injury. His condition improved for the second half of the season, and not surprisingly, so did the Red Flash’s performance. They won four of their final nine games, which included a grueling double overtime loss at Central Connecticut that could have easily gone St. Francis’ way.

Best Moment – After slogging their way to a miserable 0-11 start, the Red Flash stunned the community by upsetting Central Connecticut, 67-60, in Loretto for the NEC opener. In the victory, Earl Brown corralled 25 rebounds, the most by any Division I player since the 2009-10 season. If Brown wasn’t the focal point of the opposition’s game plan before the victory, he certainly was now.

Worst Moment – As much as the Red Flash lost in the 2012-13 season, nothing really paled in comparison to the tumultuous offseason the program had to endure previously. Therefore, it remains perfectly logical to cite the Red Flash’s past offseason as their worst moment. In a span of two weeks last spring, St. Francis had parted ways with head coach Don Friday and budding star Scott Eatherton. Those chain of events essentially guaranteed the Red Flash would go through yet another rebuilding season, if not more.

Saying Goodbye

Anthony Ervin – On a team that sorely needed leadership, Ervin struggled to get healthy in his senior season. When he finally was effective for the second half of the season, however, Ervin averaged 7.1 points and 3.5 rebounds per game, while shooting 45.4% from behind the arc. His graduation leaves a leadership void that will be transferred to Shannon, as the only senior who could receive meaningful minutes next year. (24 games, 4.5 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 0.8 apg)

Looking Ahead to the 2013-14 Season
With many assuming the Red Flash will once again struggle for relevancy, it remains plausible that Krimmel could begin to reap the benefits of having one of the youngest rosters in D-I basketball last season. By next November, Shannon will be two years removed from his knee surgery and could return to the form he once displayed as a promising sophomore. The soon-to-be-sophomore class of Ronnie Drinnon, Greg Brown, Mosley, and Millaud-Meunier will have another offseason to improve their game and provide an impact. Brown could emerge as the league’s best rebounder and double double machine with more work. It all adds up to an intriguing second year under Krimmel. With a little bit of luck in the injury department, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Red Flash sneak into the NEC playoffs for the first time in three years. A return to the upper echelon of the conference, however, is highly unlikely, even in a basketball climate full of parity.

Our NEC Individual Awards for the 2012-13 Season

Rather than have John and I release our consensus NEC individual awards, we decided to give each of us a say in who we would choose. As you’ll see, there was some disagreement for a couple of the categories, and we here at Big Apple Buckets support the First Amendment! Onto the five major awards… Continue reading “Our NEC Individual Awards for the 2012-13 Season”

The All-NEC Surprise Team: Highlighting the Unexpected Performances

Before John and I go over our actual individual awards tonight and on Monday, I wanted to present our fictitious All-NEC Surprise team. Since some of these players may not crack the all-conference team – although some may very well – allow me to call attention to some players who have unexpectedly provided significant value to their respective teams. Continue reading “The All-NEC Surprise Team: Highlighting the Unexpected Performances”

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)

Third NEC Thursday Ends in Exciting Fashion

Going into the third Thursday of Northeast Conference play, the major storyline was unfortunately injuries. Several players unexpectedly missed action tonight, but that didn’t stop the conference from having several fantastic finishes late. Three games improbably went into overtime, while every game was decided by no more than nine points. Let’s recap all of the action, before my head explodes. (By the way, trying to focus on four games at once is not for the faint of heart)

Robert Morris 66, Sacred Heart 62
Sadly, if you made a team out of the players missing action tonight, you would have a dominant top seven of Velton Jones, Karvel Anderson, Evan Kelley, Chris Evans, Justin Swidowski, Lijah Thompson, and Vaughn Morgan. The game, however, still was played in Moon Township, with the Colonials simply outlasting the Pioneers by slowing down the tempo in the second half. The Colonials never relinquished the lead once they went on a 13-0 run midway through the second half, although Shane Gibson did his absolute best to bring SHU back. It was vintage Gibson tonight, as the senior had 27 points (on 13 shots) to go along with six rebounds, three assists, and three steals. Quite simply, his effort couldn’t overcome the Colonials’ advantage in free throws (20-13) and turnovers forced (21-11). Not one Colonial particularly shined in the win, but it was a collective team effort with four Colonials scoring in double figures while holding the Pioneers to 0.94 points per possession. A win is a win, and Andy Toole will take it without his senior leader on the floor.

Quinnipiac 75, St. Francis (PA) 66
Quinnipiac, who was without staring point guard Dave Johnson with a concussion, earned a much needed victory over the feisty Red Flash, who charged back early in the second half to tie the game after trailing by as many as 13 points. It was an ugly shooting display across the board, although Quinnipiac did make 20 of 24 (finally!) from the charity stripe for one of their best free throw performances of the season. After blowing a six point lead late in regulation, the Bobcats offense dominated in the extra frame, scoring 16 points on their nine overtime possessions. Ike Azotam led Quinnipiac (what else is new) with 22 points and ten rebounds. Earl Brown was back to his dominant ways on the glass, grabbing 18 rebounds to go along with 14 points. Which leads us to a statistic oddity: In the last six games, Earl Brown has corralled nearly half (93 of 203) of the Red Flash’s rebounds. You don’t see individual dominance like that all too often.

Monmouth 71, St. Francis Brooklyn 67
In a game featuring two teams going in opposite directions, it was the Hawks who surprisingly came away with an impressive road win over St. Francis Brooklyn. Jesse Steele had a game high 20 points for the Hawks, who without Andrew “Red” Nicholas still had their second best shooting performance of the season. In the past three games, the diminutive Steele is averaging 18.0 points per game on a respectable 18 of 39 from the floor. John shares his five thoughts of the game here.

LIU Brooklyn 79, Fairleigh Dickinson 75
In front of 319 fans (really Knight fans, that’s all you got?), LIU Brooklyn stole a game across the Hudson River when they shocked the Knights in a fiercely contested battle. Jamal Olasewere was sensational with 30 points, 16 rebounds, and four blocks, and C.J. Garner had perhaps his best game of the year. The senior combo guard scored 23 points along with four rebounds and five steals. FDU blew sizable advantages throughout the contest, but it was their late game failures that will be most remembered tonight. The Knights were leading by five points with 21 seconds remaining before three pointers by Garner and Brandon Thompson (his only points on the night) sent the game into overtime. Once in overtime, FDU’s offense went ice cold as they missed their final five shots, including two ill-advised bombs from Melquan Bolding and Mostafa Jones late. Greg Vetrone has to be sick to his stomach after this one, while Perri’s Blackbirds move to 2-3 in the conference despite committing 18 turnovers against only 13 assists. FDU’s senior trio of Bolding, Lonnie Robinson, and Kinu Rochford scored 54 of the Knights’ 75 points in the loss.

Bryant 79, Mount St. Mary’s 78
It appeared we were heading toward an expected ho-hum victory for Bryant when the Bulldogs went up by 11 late in the second half after a Frankie Dobbs bucket and the foul. But the Mount – taking on the never quit mentality of head coach Jamion Christian – eventually stormed back to tie the game after Shivaughn Wiggins drained a three to send it into the overtime. The freshman had the game of his young career, scoring 20 points on 8 of 10 shooting. (Maybe he heard me complain about the lack of freshmen contributing league wide on the podcast? Ok, maybe not.) In overtime, the game was a fantastic seesaw battle which ended stunningly when Bryant freshman Shane McLaughlin, of all people, drove and scored the game winning lay-up with six seconds left. It was McLaughlin’s ONLY shot attempt of the game. Four Bulldogs played 38 minutes or more, and perhaps their weariness showed with Bryant committing a season high 19 turnovers against the Mayhem attack. Despite the choas, Alex Francis was once again terrific for the now 5-0 Bulldogs. The athletic junior had 25 points (on 12 shots) and seven rebounds. If you didn’t really know about Francis before this season, you surely do now.

Central Connecticut 73, Wagner 66
It’s time for me to officially apologize to Kyle Vinales for having the audicity to suggest that the sophomore was tiring after going through a tough four game slump earlier in the non-conference season. Since the Syracuse blowout and after dropping 30 points against a very good defensive team in Wagner, Vinales is averaging a sparkling 24.8 points, 4.2 assists, 1.8 steals, and only 3.0 turnovers per game. Not too shabby. CCSU led for most of the game and was able to dominate despite the return of Seahawks wing Jonathan Williams from a hip injury. The senior struggled, as did many of the Seahawks, sans Ortiz who scored a team high 18 points. For Wagner, it was their third straight game – two of them losses – where they’ve allowed more than one point per possession. That’s an unusual trend for a team that prides itself on shutting down their opponents on the offensive end.

NEC Standings Through Five Games
1) Bryant, 5-0
2) Wagner, 3-2
3) St. Francis Brooklyn, 3-2
4) Central Connecticut, 3-2
5) Robert Morris, 3-2
6) Sacred Heart, 3-2
7) LIU Brooklyn, 2-3
8) Fairleigh Dickinson, 2-3
9) Quinnipiac, 2-3
10) Monmouth, 2-3
11) Mount St. Mary’s, 1-4
12) St. Francis (PA), 1-4

Ryan Peters covers Northeast Conference men’s basketball for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @pioneer_pride

Convincing Defeats Dominate NEC Thursday

There was plenty of action across the upper east coast tonight for the NEC, so let’s jump right into it!

Robert Morris 88, Fairleigh Dickinson 54
If there was any doubt that the Colonials would respond after their two lackluster losses at home, you quickly got your answer in the early going. After one half, Robert Morris jumped out to a 19 point lead, forcing ten Knight turnovers and holding them to 42.7% shooting. I guess all teams should run the balance a chair between the legs drill! The Colonials sizzled from beyond the arc, hitting 13 of 24 threes. Coron Williams had a game high 27 points, but really everyone played well in this one. Anytime you can force 17 turnovers, dish out 22 assists versus nine turnovers (2.4 A/TO) and make more than half your shots, the head coach will probably smile during the post game. Not bad for a bunch of prima donna players led by a prima donna coach! (sorry I couldn’t help myself)

Guest contributor Ray Floriani had these observations on Thursday:

Robert Morris rang up 88 points en route to a rout of FDU. Forget the offense for a minute. The 88-54 wipe out was courtesy of defense. Close outs, ball pressure, communication etc. The Colonials came in and dominated on the defensive end.

The Colonials finished 8-5 in pre-NEC contests. They squandered a great opportunity for a solid start by losing home contests to Bryant and Central Connecticut.

“I think our guys got a wake up call.” Robert Morris coach Andy Toole said following the win at FDU’s Rothman Center.  “We were reminded that in this league there are good teams and you have to be ready and play every night.”

Against FDU they did just that. In non-conference games, Robert Morris showed a 98 defensive efficiency. It fell considerably with a 114 in the recent ‘lost weekend’. Against FDU, the Colonials were outstanding. They limited FDU to an 86 efficiency in a 63 possession contest. On the offensive end, Robert Morris posted an outstanding 140 efficiency. A 21-7 turnover scoring advantage largely contributed as the Colonials forced FDU into a 27% turnover rate. A classic example of defense creating and energizing the offense. And on the offensive end, the Colonials scorched the nets with a 67 effective field goal percentage mark made possible in part by a gaudy 14% turnover rate.

Individually, the Colonials had five players in double figures. Coron Williams led the way with 27 points, shooting a torrid 8-10 from beyond the arc.

Melquan Bolding led the way with 17 points for FDU, now 1-2 in conference play. Despite the one sided affair, Toole sees improvement in FDU. “We watched a few of their games on tape,” he said. “They have a few good seniors like Bolding and (Lonnie) Robinson plus they really play well together from what we have seen.”

Next up for Robert Morris on the ‘Garden State’ swing is a visit to Monmouth on Saturday. “It will be tough,” Toole admitted. “They play very hard.”

Central Connecticut 84, Sacred Heart 78
Sacred Heart jumped out to a double digit lead in the first half, but it was mainly because of the Blue Devils’ incompetence on offense, as CCSU missed nine of ten three pointers (several were open looks) in the first half. After Kyle Vinales went scoreless in the first 20 minutes, the sophomore exploded for 15 points, 7 assists, and two rebounds pushing CCSU to their second straight NEC victory. The Pioneers lost the lead midway through the second half, after Shane Gibson exited with four fouls. Brandon Peel had the game of his life (although there will be many more for this freshman) registering a career high 17 points and 17 rebounds. No one down low for Sacred Heart could keep Peel off the boards and it cost them dearly. What also cost the Pioneers dearly was their transition defense, as CCSU outscored SHU 14-4 in fast break points. Shane Gibson and Steve Glowiak – playing in his hometown of New Britain – each had a team high 22 points, although both players needed a combined 40 shots just to get there.

Bryant 103, Quinnipiac 95
This is not a typo, I repeat this is not a typo. Bryant dropped 103 points on Quinnipiac, as the Bulldogs continue their torrid display of offensive basketball. I didn’t see much of the game, but here are the wonderful statistics: Bryant shot 60.7% from the floor, made 12 of 19 three-pointers, had 24 assists against ten turnovers, and scored 1.38 points per possession! Wow. Every Bulldog starter scored at least 14 points with Frankie Dobbs leading the way. The fifth year senior netted 20 points (his 10th game of the season in double figures), 6 assists, and 2 rebounds. Despite their defensive ineptness, Quinnipiac actually hung around in this one, but a Bulldog 14-4 run midway through the 2nd half essentially sealed the deal. Now winners of five straight, Bryant is 3-0 in the conference for the first time ever, while Quinnipiac drops to 1-2.

Monmouth 65, St. Francis (PA) 60
It was another mediocre offensive performance by the Hawks, but these days King Rice will take any victory he can get. The Hawks only shot 40.7% from the field, but forced 18 Red Flash turnovers to earn their first NEC win. Monmouth did convert nine of their 20 three-point attempts on the night, including perhaps a slump busting performance by Jesse Steele. The senior did take 15 shots to register 17 points, yet he drained five of eight from downtown. The youthful Red Flash were only trailing by three points with less than five minutes remaining (I’m sure the MAC crowd was loving that), but missed seven of their final eight shots in the closing minutes. Earl Brown continued his mastery on the boards, registering his four straight double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds. Not bad for a kid who only had eight points and ten rebounds in the first five games of the season!

St. Francis 70, Mount St. Mary’s 55
Ben Mockford had a season high 19 points, including five threes, as St. Francis (NY) earned their second NEC victory of the season over Jamion Christian’s squad. Once again, the Mountaineers awful perimeter defense came back to haunt them, with the Terriers sinking more than half (51.0%) of their field goals attempts, while draining seven of 15 from behind the arc. The Mountaineers jumped out to a 25-17 lead, but were outscored 53-30 the rest of the way. Jalen Cannon had perhaps his worst game of the season, only scoring seven points to go along with three rebounds. St. Francis did cough the ball up 16 times, but still had two less turnovers than the Mountaineers, who have now lost five of their last seven games.

Wagner 86, LIU Brooklyn 75
In a surprising development, it was the Seahawks offense (1.18 points per possession) that snapped the Blackbirds 27 game winning streak at the WRAC tonight. Mario Moody, Kenneth Ortiz, and Latif Rivers combined for 59 points and led an surprisingly efficient Seahawk attack even without their star wing Jonathan Williams (hip). LIU sinks to 0-3 in the NEC and has a really important game versus the Mount coming up. John has a complete game recap here.

Ryan Peters covers Northeast Conference men’s basketball for Big Apple Buckets and Pioneer Pride. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @pioneer_pride

NEC Opening Week: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

With NEC conference play finally opening up this past week, we have plenty to discuss in this week’s version of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. Let’s jump right into it, beginning with perhaps one of the biggest surprises of the country.

The Good

  • Bulldog Bullying – Never in my wildest dreams did I believe Bryant would still be undefeated after I witnessed their tough loss on the road to Navy last month. But since then, Dobbs has run the offense masterfully (4.0 assists/game, 1.7 A/TO), Dyami Starks is stretching the defense with his outside shooting (17.9 points/game, 38% 3PT%), and Alex Francis is once again dominating in the low post (15.8 points, 7.8 rebounds per game). Through two conference games, Bryant has a sizzling 1.17 points per possession and an effective field goal percentage of 58%. What can stop these emerging Bulldogs now? Well, the lack of depth is certainly an issue moving forward and warrants monitoring. It’s a good problem to have if you’re Tim O’Shea, but he’ll need to be careful of not overusing his starting five, especially when February rolls around. One injury to the big three and this team easily drops a tier or two.
  • The Pioneers Are Back, Baby! – OK, maybe they aren’t really back, but protecting their home court for the first two conference games – after losing seven straight non-conference games – is a nice start. On Thursday night, Louis Montes enjoyed a career performance (35 points, eight rebounds, two steals, and two blocks) in leading SHU past an undermanned LIU Brooklyn club. On Saturday afternoon, it was Shane Gibson’s turn to shine, as the senior poured in 28 efficient points including the final four points to slide past the St. Francis Brooklyn Terriers. Justin Swidowski, in effect, saved the game for SHU by scoring 14 points in the second half to spark a run that put the Pioneers back in the game. Looking ahead, the Pioneers embark on a difficult four game road stand which includes CCSU, Quinnipiac, and a pissed off Robert Morris club. More on the Colonials later…
  • Say Goodbye to a Winless Season – A home blowout loss to Bryant aside, kudos goes to head coach Rob Krimmel for earning his first career victory, when his Red Flash surprisingly dispatched CCSU last Thursday, 79-70. In the win, sophomore Earl Brown went off, grabbing 25 rebounds to go along with 16 points. It was the most rebounds a Division I player had ever secured in a game since 2009. In fact, Brown was only eight rebounds shy of out-rebounding the entire Blue Devils team in the game! Overall, it was a nice start to the season for St. Francis, who will surely struggle at times with a young collection of talent. But at the same time, the Red Flash won’t be an easy victory more often than not when teams venture into the wilderness of middle Pennsylvania.
  • Dan Hurley Who? – One team that expectedly took care of business last week was Bashir Mason’s Wagner Seahawks, who held both NEC opponents to a combined 0.80 points per possession. Sophomore Mario Moody, in particular, helped push Wagner to victory as he’s now averaging 12.5 points, 10.5 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks per contest. Moody and teammate Naofall Folahan’s presence in the interior has made life incredibly difficult for opposing offenses and has certainly made Mason’s job a lot easier in leading this roster since Dan Hurley left for the A10. The Seahawks are the best bet to earn a home playoff game in the NEC postseason, although these days, predicting future NEC results is nearly impossible. Which leads me to my final bullet point for The Good…
  • The Wide Open NEC – I need a show of hands, who had Bryant and Sacred Heart at 2-0 and Robert Morris winless after a week of conference basketball? Anyone? The overused sports cliché of “any team can win on any given night” holds true for this conference with six underdogs winning half of the 12 conference games this past week. For NEC fans, it will make any game a must watch, even if the number of gray hairs increases exponentially over the course of the season. Races will be wide open and that is an absolute win for the conference. That is unless you’re an elitist.

The Bad

  • An Early Hole – The shorthanded LIU Blackbirds performed admirably considering the conditions, but nonetheless dropped two straight road games in Connecticut versus Sacred Heart and Quinnipiac. Jason Brickman was spectacular in the losses and is quietly having the best season of his already excellent career, posting averages of 10.5 points and 8.3 assists per game with a phenomenal 2.6 A/TO. Despite the diminutive point guard’s contributions though, the Blackbirds must regroup with Jamal Olasewere and C.J. Garner in a hurry when the Seahawks make the trek across the Verrazano Bridge on Thursday evening. After Wagner, the schedule gets a little easier with games against Mount St. Mary’s, Fairleigh Dickinson, and Monmouth. The goal for Jack Perri should be to have his team at 3-3 after six conference games.

The Ugly

  • Panic in Moon Township? – Do yourself a favor and head to Pittsburg Post-Gazette writer Craig Meyer’s Twitter (@craig_a_meyer) timeline for some entertaining post game quotes from Andy Toole after their upset loss to CCSU on Saturday night. Suffice it to say, he wasn’t happy with the team’s effort, which saw the Colonials lose two NEC games in a row to start the season for the first time since … ever! Defense has been the major culprit for the sudden slide, but there’s plenty of time to alleviate these issues. A road trip to NJ to square off against the offensively challenged FDU Knights and Monmouth Hawks may just be what the doctor ordered. Toole’s upcoming practices (I bet he ran one early Sunday morning after the CCSU loss) may also influence his players to once again care on defense. Regardless, it’s weird to see Robert Morris possess the second worst NEC points allowed per possession number at 1.11.
  • Monmouth’s Lid on the Basket – The heart is there, the tenacious defense is there, and even the offense execution is there as well. THe problem is Monmouth is having great difficultly making open shots, as evident by their brutal 42.7% effective field goal percentage. After Saturday night’s loss, King Rice was still upbeat and confident his players would eventually hit those open looks, but the reality is this team will struggle more often than not without the presence of a true playmaking athlete. Without a bevy of turnovers and pristine execution on the offense end, the Hawks must scratch and crawl their way toward every win. So far when the offense isn’t there, Monmouth has fallen short twice. They should pick up their first NEC victory this Thursday over St. Francis (PA), but a tough three game stretch versus Robert Morris (home) and the Brooklyn schools (away) will tell us if this team is ready to get out of their funk. If not, King Rice and company could be staring at a 1-5 conference record in the blink of an eye.