NEC Recap, February 25 – Jockeying For Playoff Positioning

Just because the NEC tournament teams have all clinched doesn’t mean the final week of the regular season won’t be exciting! Everyone was jockeying for position coming into tonight, so it’s time to break down the action in a league where the home team has a losing record (39-41) in NEC play.

Robert Morris 73, Sacred Heart 63
Sacred Heart squandered an opportunity to defeat Robert Morris twice in a season for the first time since 2007 with an overall poor effort at home. The Pioneers were sluggish in the beginning in both halves, getting outscored 20-4 in the first four minutes of each half combined. The defeat snapped the Pioneers 3 game winning streak and was only the second time in the last 11 games where they failed to score at least 1.00 point per possession.

Credit the Robert Morris zone defense — now 4th overall in defensive efficiency at 97.9 points allowed per 100 possessions — for the Pioneers poor passing and offensive dysfunction. Andy Toole’s group held their opponents to 21% shooting (7 of 33) and a 21% turnover rate (8 turnovers in 38 possessions) in the second half.

Rodney Pryor was fantastic, finishing with a game high 26 points (on 15 shots), 9 rebounds and 2 blocks. After a tough stretch in the middle of the season which included a concussion, Pryor has now averaged 22.8 ppg in his last 4 contests. Billy Giles almost secured his third double double of the season, but fell just short with 16 points, 9 rebounds and 2 blocks.

Only three Pioneers made it to double figures for scoring, led by Cane Broome with 21 points. It was an inefficient 21, however, and Broome’s teammate in the backcourt, Quincy McKnight had an evening to forget (3 points, 1-13 shooting, 4 personal fouls). Despite the setback, the Pioneers can still clinch a home playoff game in the quarterfinals of the NEC tournament with a victory over SFU on Saturday.

Wagner 69, Saint Francis U 54
Wagner clinched the top seed in the NEC tournament with a convincing, wire-to-wire victory over Saint Francis U. at the Spiro Center. The 69-54 victory was driven by Corey Henson’s 24 points on 9-15 shooting. Michael Carey chipped in 11 points and 11 rebounds for his 12th double double of the season.

Dwaun Anderson came off the bench behind Ramone Saunders and Jojo Cooper and had another strong game for the 19-win Seahawks. The redshirt junior scored 10 points and grabbed seven rebounds as he continues to get healthier.

Saint Francis was led by Greg Brown. Brown scored 15 points, but he shot just 5-14 from the field. Ronnie Drinnon added 13 points on 4-11 shooting. As a team heavily reliant on the three in conference play this season (3rd in 3PTA/FGA), the Red Flash struggled from behind the arc tonight, sinking just 6 of 22 (27.3%). They didn’t fare much better near the rim either, shooting 40.0% on their 2s and getting blocked 6 times.

SFU now slides into a sixth place tie in the NEC and is guaranteed to be on the road during the quarterfinals of the NEC tournament.

St. Francis Brooklyn 79, Bryant 72
St. Francis Brooklyn continued its fight for a top four seed in the NEC tournament with a victory over Bryant on Thursday. The Terriers are now in a four-way tie for second with a 10-7 record with a home game against Mount St. Mary’s on Saturday for a chance to host the quarterfinals.

The Terriers struggled against Bryant’s 2-3 zone in the first half, but they scored 52 points in the second on the way to victory. Antonio Jenifer led the way for SFC with 24 points on 11 shots, and 9-10 shooting from the free throw line. He also grabbed 11 rebounds in 33 minutes. Chris Hooper and Amdy Fall spent some time together on the court in the first half, but have typically played better when not on the court together. Hooper scored 15 points and had six rebounds and four assists. Fall had eight blocks in 26 minutes. The Terriers also look better when Yunus Hopkinson plays well and the point guard had 17 points, including a perfect 6-6 from the free throw line.

The season is almost over for Bryant, as the Bulldogs are guaranteed to miss the NEC tournament after losing 11 straight games for the first time since the 2011-12 season. That inevitability once again overshadowed an excellent performance from Marcel Pettway, who scored 17 points and eight rebounds in 37 minutes. Nisre Zouzoua poured in a team high 23 points. There are certainly some good pieces for Tim O’Shea to build with next season.

LIU Brooklyn 80, Central Connecticut 74
The Blackbirds spoiled the last road game of Howie Dickenman’s career with a tighter than expected victory at the WRAC. The Blue Devils made 59.1% of their 3s, but it wasn’t enough to overcome a mediocre defensive effort (1.14 ppp) from the third worst defense (in terms of efficiency) in the nation.

Martin Hermannsson was a major reason for the Blackbirds success as the sophomore posted another sensation game with 20 points, 6 assists, 5 rebounds and 1 block. Joel Hernandez chipped in with 16 points for LIU, who made 56.9% of their 2s and turned the ball over just five times.

An Austin Nehls (12 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists) triple late cut the Blue Devils deficit to 3 points with just under a minute remaining, yet the Blackbirds answered with six consecutive free throws to seal the deal. After sinking to a 5-7 record inside the NEC, Jack Perri’s squad has now won 4 of their last 5 and has a chance to sneak into the NEC top 4 with a victory on Saturday and some help.

Fairleigh Dickenson 69, Mount St. Mary’s 54
A dominant second half (39-22) in Emmitsberg ended the Knights’ 3 game losing streak, and guaranteed FDU their first winning season in league play since 2010. Sophomre Earl Potts led the way with 18 points, as the Knights impressively shot 48.1% against the best defense (in terms of efficiency rating) in the NEC. Marques Townes was the most efficient of the group with 16 points on 8 shots.

Even more impressive and surprising was FDU holding the Mount to just 0.81 ppp, after giving up at least 1.00 ppp in their previous 11 games (5-6 during that stretch). The Mountaineers could convert only 24.0% of their 3s against a team that was previously 9th in 3PT defense (36.6%). With the exception of Chris Wray, there wasn’t a single Mountaineer who made at least half of his shots.

Junior Robinson led the Mount with 16 points, yet only one other player, Charles Glover (12 points), broke the double-digit mark in scoring. The Mount can still earn the #2 seed with a victory on the road against St. Francis Brooklyn this Saturday.

NEC Player of the Day
Antonio Jenifer, St. Francis Brooklyn – The senior stretch four posted a KenPom offensive rating of 140 tonight as he did it all. Jenifer scored (26 points), got to the free throw line (10 FTA), found his teammates (3 assists) and protected the glass on both ends of the floor (11 rebounds).

NEC Performance of the Day
Fairleigh Dickinson – The Knights were trending in the wrong direction prior to tonight’s game, but a convincing win at the Knott Arena gives FDU a chance to order some home cooking in the quarterfinals of the NEC tournament. Oddly enough though, the Knights have performed better on the road in conference play, winning 6 of 8 games away from the Rothman Center.

NEC Standings
1) Wagner, 12-5^
2) Mount St. Mary’s, 10-7**
3) Fairleigh Dickinson, 10-7
4) Sacred Heart, 10-7
5) St. Francis Brooklyn, 10-7
6) LIU Brooklyn, 9-8**
7) Saint Francis U, 9-8
8) Robert Morris, 8-9
9) Bryant, 4-13
10) Central Connecticut, 3-14
^clinched regular season championship and #1 seed in NEC tournament
*Earns 4-way tiebreaker based on head-to-head records (MSM 3-2, FDU/SHU 3-3, SFC 2-3)
**Has tiebreaker over SFU based on H2H record vs Wagner (LIU 2-0, SFU 1-1)

Next Up on the NEC Schedule
Fairleigh Dickinson at Central Connecticut, 3:30 p.m.
Saint Francis U at Sacred Heart, 3:30 p.m.
Mount St. Mary’s at St. Francis Brooklyn, 4 p.m.
Robert Morris at Wagner, 4 p.m.
Bryant at LIU Brooklyn, 4:30 p.m.
*All games are on Saturday, February 27

10 thoughts on “NEC Recap, February 25 – Jockeying For Playoff Positioning

  1. Dan From Staten Island

    St. Francis Brooklyn is on a 3-game roll, having won the last 5 games out of 6. Their home game Saturday vs MSM will be an extremely intense game with both teams needing to win it. Although MSM has shown that it is an incredibly talented squad, the Terriers have been very tough to beat in Brooklyn Heights (6-2 in NEC contests). Their staples have been rebounding and defense, but their offense seems to have the ability to rack up some serious numbers when you least expect it. Antonio Jennifer and senior teammates, Jewell, Hooper and Fall, seem to be on a mission to atone for that Terrier near-miss in last year’s NEC Championship Game. Let’s see if they can get it done.

  2. MSM98

    It is absolutely eye opening to see that 39-41 record for home teams in NEC play! It is quite literally anyone’s guess as to what is going to happen in the tournament. Except for maybe RMU, which has some match up problems (imho) with some of the top teams, anyone can conceivably dance to Dayton! Though, if Wagner should emerge, they may be able to avoid the First Four. Should be fun!

  3. John Templon

    I agree that Brooklyn has been playing well lately. The two teams I think are the toughest are SFC and Wagner.

    I also think there is only a small chance the Seahawks escape Dayton and the first four if they win the NEC (would require at least three big upsets in 1-bid leagues), but that’s not a bad thing. Wagner could win its play-in game and that’s an extra share of NCAA tournament money for the NEC and some decent exposure for the conference if it happens.

  4. NEC Fan

    Another question – what team has the most upside. That is, if teams are playing to optimal performance, which is the best in the league?

  5. MSM98

    Unabashedly biased here, but I’d say MSM. At least from an athletic standpoint. They are way to undisciplined right now, though.

  6. RMU-8 rings

    Don’t look now, but here come the colonials. RMU is 5-3 on the road in the NEC and playing their best ball at the right time. Consistency is a problem so it will be tough to win 3 straight…all on the road, but with the way Rodney Pryor is playing right now nobody wants to see this team in the playoffs. Wagner gets the top-seed and their reward is an opening round matchup with RMU. I’m sure they are real happy about that.

    1. NEC Fan

      As long as LIU wins, yes you are right. Wagner vs. RMU is set.

      Tough to beat same team twice in four days no matter what team it is.

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