It’s all over. The NEC regular season has come to a close. There was a bunch to play for today, as the middle seeds for the NEC tournament were undecided – including the key home court advantage in the quarterfinals. Now the field is set and Wednesday will give us four exciting playoff games.
Bryant 81, LIU Brooklyn 62
For Bryant this victory meant sealing up the third seed in the NEC tournament. LIU, which had been eliminated on Thursday night by Central Connecticut, was playing for pride and in hopes that senior point guard Jason Brickman could achieve some truly historic milestones. After being honored pre-game and with his brother (a Bryant freshman) and parents in attendance, Brickman achieved history with his 1,000th assist on a kick out to Gerrell Martin on the left-wing with 8:33 remaining in the first half. He became just the fourth player in NCAA history to achieve the feat. At halftime this was still anyone’s game. LIU – after trailing by double digits for a spell – rallied late in the half to close the deficit to just four points. In the second half though Bryant’s offense was just too much for the Blackbirds to control. Down a bunch late LIU concentrated on getting Brickman 12 assists in the game. That was enough so he could average an even 10 per game on the season and become just the second player ever to average 10 points and 10 assists during a full season (the other was former NBA player Avery Johnson). Brickman finishes his illustrious career with 1,009 assists.
Locking up the three seed in the NEC tournament and staying healthy were Bryant’s two main objectives during this game and both were achieved quite easily. The Bulldogs found lots of open shots no matter what defense LIU played and scored 1.19 points per possession. Shane McLaughlin, typically the forgotten starter amongst the Bulldogs iron five, went a perfect 6-6 from the field and scored 15 points. Alex Francis and Joe O’Shea both had double-doubles and Corey Maynard scored 19 points with seven assists and no turnovers. Bryant looks incredibly dangerous if they can stay healthy throughout the NEC tournament. E.J. Reed led LIU with 16 points and Gerrell Martin added 11, including both record-setting baskets.
St. Francis Brooklyn 79, Fairleigh Dickinson 56
When this game started the Terriers weren’t sure what they were playing for. SFC needed help on Saturday to earn a home playoff game and they didn’t get it. Still, they finished 9-7 in NEC play a big bounce back from last season’s 8-10 record. Ben Mockford scored 20 points in what was probably his final game at the Pope Center and Jalen Cannon added 14 points and 12 rebounds. Brent Jones (11 points, 11 assists) and Wayne Martin (11 points) also played well for the Terriers. SFC’s defense was also excellent. They held FDU to just 0.84 points per possession. The Knights had just 11 points at halftime (and were 3-22 from the field).
This was the third consecutive loss for Greg Herenda’s squad and things won’t get any easier during the NEC tournament. At 6-10 the Knights finished in the eighth and final playoff slot and have to go to Moon Township, PA to take on Robert Morris during Wednesday quarterfinal round. FDU lost the team’s only meeting 69-64 just last Thursday after blowing a big second half lead. Sidney Sanders, Jr. – an NEC First Team and Player of the Year candidate – scored just six points in this loss and went 0-8 from the field in 25 minutes. It’s going to be a tough hill to climb on Wednesday.
St. Francis heads down to Maryland where they’ll take on Mount St. Mary’s in a rematch of a game the Terriers lost 88-82 in early January. It should be a battle between two talented teams that both have semifinal talent.
Wagner 59, Robert Morris 48
Neither of these teams had anything to play for seeding wise on Saturday, but it didn’t stop the Seahawks from battling hard and coming away with a win at the Spiro Sports Center. This was a 66 possession game and a defensive slugfest. Stephan Hawkins returned for Robert Morris and the interior defense was much better – Wagner shot 18-39 on two-point attempts – and the minutes more reasonable across the board for the Colonials. They just really struggled to put the ball in the basket, scoring 0.72 points per possession. The only team to hold RMU under that mark this season? Kentucky. (And no one else was even close.)
Karvel Anderson scored 21 points on 16 shots for the Colonials, but he received absolutely no help. Lucky Jones shot just 1-15 from the field. In fact, players not named Karvel Anderson shot a combined 10-46 (22%) from the field. RMU also didn’t help itself by shooting 44% from the free throw line. At one point Wagner went on a 21-0 run basically because RMU was unable to put the ball in the basket. The Wagner offense wasn’t pretty either, but the Seahawks got enough from Kenneth Ortiz (18 points) and Marcus Burton (15 points) to pull out the win. Ortiz reached 1,000 points in his Wagner career as well. Wagner is the second seed in the NEC tournament and will take host Central Connecticut on Wednesday. Of course the Seahawks already lost to CCSU at home, 87-83, on January 23. Still, Wagner seems like a completely different team lately. The Seahawks have rolled off eight straight victories down the stretch and are finally showing the potential that made most people pick them as the team to beat during the preseason.
Central Connecticut 73, Sacred Heart 70
In a tightly contested matchup in which the biggest lead of the game was only seven points (a 10-3 lead by Sacred Heart early on), CCSU held on to defeat the hapless Pioneers in their regular season finale. Kyle Vinales was fantastic, scoring a game-high 24 points – 16 in the second half – on 8 of 13 shooting. CCSU was able to overcome 14 turnovers by getting to the charity stripe an impressive 30 times. They only shot 40% in the victory, but they excelled from behind the arc, draining 11 of their 24 attempts from long-range. CCSU has won five of the last seven contests with Vinales back in the lineup, making them a dangerous opponent in the first round of the NEC tournament.
Sacred Heart’s season, on the other end, concludes with a 2-14 conference record and a last place finish. For the second straight game, freshman and NEC Rookie of the Year hopeful De’von Barnett led the Pioneers in scoring, this time with 18 points, two rebounds and three steals. Seniors Mostafa Abdel-Latif and Louis Montes ended their careers with a combined 10 points and 12 rebounds. Today’s defeat was the tenth time the Pioneers lost a NEC game decided in single digits (2-10). Their final 5-26 record was the second worst Division I mark in program history.
Mount St. Mary’s 78, Saint Francis (PA) 55
With a home playoff game in the first round of the NEC tournament on the line, the Mountaineers destroyed the visiting Red Flash to earn a #4 seed. On senior day, the Mount senior trio of Rashad Whack, Sam Prescott and Julian Norfleet combined to score 62 points on just 30 total shots, while also collecting 19 rebounds and eight assists. The Mount scored 1.25 ppp thanks to a sparkling 57% performance from inside the arc and a 2.1 assist to turnover ratio. It was a dominating performance offensively.
Earl Brown led the Red Flash with 12 points, yet he was the only player to score in double figures. It didn’t help that the team made 25% of their three-point attempts. After winning seven of their first 14 NEC games, the Red Flash concluded the regular season with a thud, getting outscored by 52 points in their last two road defeats to Wagner and Mount St. Mary’s. In fact, when Saint Francis faced the top half of the conference, Rob Krimmel’s group went an uninspiring 0-9 on the season.
Player of the Day – Jason Brickman, LIU Brooklyn
Quite frankly, we wouldn’t have cared if someone had scored 50 points on the final Saturday of the regular season. Jason Brickman, the greatest pure point guard to ever participate in the NEC, became only the fourth player in NCAA history to register 1,000 career assists when he dished out 12 helpers versus Bryant this afternoon. In a spectacular senior season, Brickman led the country with 10.0 assists per game with the second place finisher (Louisiana Tech’s Kenneth Smith) falling more than two assists short of the Brickman’s average. He’s just the second player in NCAA history to average a double double in points and assists for an entire season. Moreover, today’s season finale was the 18th time (yes, 18th!) that the senior dished out at least 10 assists in a game this season. What a career it has been for Jason Brickman!
- Robert Morris – 14-2
- Wagner – 12-4
- Bryant – 10-6
- Mount St. Mary’s – 9-7
- St. Francis Brooklyn – 9-7
- Saint Francis – 7-9
- Central Connecticut – 7-9
- Fairleigh Dickinson – 6-10
- LIU Brooklyn – 4-12
- Sacred Heart – 2-14
NEC Tournament First Round Matchups – Wednesday, March 5
- Fairleigh Dickinson at Robert Morris
- Central Connecticut at Wagner
- Saint Francis at Bryant
- St. Francis Brooklyn at Mount St. Mary’s