With one-quarter of the conference season completed, the third week of the NEC regular season serves as a pivotal week for some programs looking to make a move into relevance and others trying to separate themselves into the elite tier. Allow us to break down all of the action from the second Tuesday of the new year.
Wagner 77, Bryant 67
A 48-point second half pushed Bryant to a much needed home victory over Wagner on Thursday night. The Seahawks were 59-10 in their last 69 games when holding a first half advantage, yet the Bulldogs bucked the trend with a stunning 1.37 ppp over the final 20 minutes. Bryant got to the line a staggering 25 times over that span and made 22 of their charity stripe attempts.
Nisre Zouzoua, the NEC’s leading scorer, poured in a team-high 24 points, while Bosko Kostur posted another strong effort with 15 points and 8 rebounds. Marcel Pettway had 14 points and 4 rebounds, his 7th consecutive game in double figures.
Corey Henson and Michael Carey played well with 35 points, yet the remainder of the team combined to shoot 35.7% from the field. Moreover, Wagner was badly outproduced at both the FT line (27-15) and from behind the arc (6-3). Wagner is now 1-8 when opponents score 1.00 ppp or more against them this season.
Mount St. Mary’s 77, Fairleigh Dickinson 70
Despite being without freshman stud Miles Wilson tonight due to the flu, Mount St. Mary’s used balance and timely defense to end FDU’s four game winning streak. Five Mountaineers scored at least 10 points in the victory with Greg Alexander scoring a team-high 19 points after a 16-point first half. Elijah Long and Junior Robinson were splendid in the backcourt, combining for 30 points, 19 assists and 6 steals. Freshman Ryan Gomes came off the bench to chip in 10 points and 3 rebounds in just 13 minutes.
The Mount jumped out to leads of 25-12 and 40-22, respectively, and possessed a seemingly comfortable 13-point advantage at the half, but the high-powered Knights offense made things interesting in the second stanza by scoring 1.17 ppp. An impressive Mike Holloway steal and coast-to-coast lay-up late in the game evened the contest at 70-70, but that would be the last time FDU scored. A 7-0 Mountaineers run – check that, a 7-0 Long/Robinson run – over the final 1:07 gave the Mount their 3rd straight victory in the friendly confines of the Knott Arena.
Going into tonight’s match-up, Fairleigh Dickinson led the conference with 112 points per 100 possessions and a 56.5% EFG, but the Mount held the Knights to a very respectable 0.99 ppp and 44.4% shooting on the evening. Darian Anderson scored a game-high 24 points – his 8th straight game in double figures – yet the normally reliable Stephen Jiggetts was bothered by the Mount’s tenacious defense, scoring 7 points and committing 4 turnovers.
Saint Francis U. 77, Robert Morris 57
Rob Krimmel won his 3rd straight game against Andy Toole with an impressive dismantling of their in-state rivals on the road. The Red Flash came into tonight’s contest with a 2-7 mark away from Loretto, yet a monster performance from Josh Nebo (23 points, 8 rebounds and 7(!) blocks) helped quell the typically stout Colonials defense.
As a whole, SFU scored 1.07 ppp, which was only the 2nd time in 6 games where an opponent scored more than 1.00 ppp on Robert Morris. Krimmel’s group did it from all over the court, converting 61.5% of their 2s and 50.0% of their 3s. Keith Braxton had 14 points and 7 rebounds, while Isaiah Blackmon continued his solid play (14 points, 4 rebounds). Blackmon has now averaged 16.8 ppg and 6.5 rpg over his past four games, easily the best stretch of his sophomore season.
After an impressive NEC opening victory over Sacred Heart, the Colonials have stumbled of late, losing 3 of 4. The offense currently ranks last in the conference at 92.4 points scored per 100 possessions and is 9th in 3-point shooting (26.0% 3PT).
LIU Brooklyn 60, Central Connecticut 49
In an ugly affair that surprisingly went down to the wire, LIU Brooklyn was able to hang on thanks to the 3-headed upperclassman monster of Jerome Frink, Nura Zanna (10 points, 11 rebounds) and Iverson Fleming. Frink narrowly missed out on his 5th double double in 6 games, although 17 points and 8 rebounds is an impressive effort nonetheless. The senior is now averaging 18.8 ppg and 10.8 rpg in conference games. Fleming contributed with a game-high 18 points – it was his trey with under one minute left that essentially sealed the deal for the 11-7 Blackbirds.
The hapless Blue Devils – losers of 11 straight – scored just 20 points in the first half, yet they hung tough behind the guard play of Austin Nehls and Khalen Cumberlander, with 20 of their 26 combined points coming the second half. In the end though, the Blue Devils offensive inefficiency (0.80 ppp, 35.4% FG) spoiled a solid defensive effort in where they held the #2 offense in the league to just 60 points.
LIU Brooklyn is now 4-1 in league play for the first time since the 2011-2012 season, when they reached the NCAA tournament under Jim Ferry. The surging Blackbirds have won four in a row and get to host a slumping Terriers squad on Saturday for the 1st 2017 installation of the Battle of Brooklyn.
Sacred Heart 87, St. Francis Brooklyn 75
In a game where both teams have struggled mightily of late to efficiently score the basketball, Sacred Heart’s offense surged behind Quincy McKnight’s 26 points and Joe Lopez’s double double (23 points, 16 rebounds). The Pioneers put up 1.17 ppp, the first time they cracked the 1.00 ppp barrier over their past six games.
Balance, getting into the lane and protecting the basketball were keys for the Pioneers as they pushed their NEC record to 2-3. They committed just 10 turnovers (13.7% TO rate) after coughing up the ball on 22% of their possessions in league play. The aforementioned McKnight and Lopez were very efficient, as was the long-range shooting duo of Sean Hoehn and Matej Buovac, who combined for 24 points on 15 shots. Point guard Cha Cha Tucker dished out 6 helpers versus 1 turnover in the victory – he’s now averaging 6.4 apg in NEC play.
The Terriers did convert 20 of 39 attempts inside the arc, yet the Pioneers height advantage at virtually every position on the floor made it difficult for St. Francis to make their outside shots. The Terriers trio of Glenn Sanabria, Yunus Hopkinson and Rasheem Dunn poured in 47 points, but their inexperienced group of bigs had trouble against Lopez and company. Dunn continued his excellent rookie campaign by leading St. Francis with 18 points, 9 rebounds (a career high) and 2 steals.
With the home defeat, St. Francis is close to reaching a season low in KenPom ranking, after being rated as the 339th best team in the country going into tonight.
For John Templon’s complete recap of this game, go here.
NEC Team of the Day
Mount St. Mary’s – Although the score doesn’t indicate it, the Mount pulled out another close victory and now has wins over FDU, LIU and Wagner – 3 teams perceived to be NEC contenders. Jamion Christian’s club is in a great spot in the early going of the 2016-17 conference season.
NEC Player of the Day
Josh Nebo, Saint Francis U – Robert Morris had no answer for the super sophomore, as Nebo made 10 of 12 shots from inside the arc. Defensively he also reeked havoc registering a career high 7 blocks. Nebo now holds the best block rate in the conference at 12.3% and is emerging as an early favorite for NEC defensive player of the year.
- Mount St. Mary’s, 4-1
- Fairleigh Dickinson, 4-1
- LIU Brooklyn, 4-1
- Saint Francis U, 3-2
- Wagner, 2-3
- Robert Morris, 2-3
- St. Francis Brooklyn, 2-3
- Bryant, 2-3
- Sacred Heart, 2-3
- Central Connecticut, 0-5
Next On the NEC Schedule (1/14)
- St. Francis Brooklyn at LIU Brooklyn, 3 pm
- Fairleigh Dickinson at Central Connecticut, 3:30 pm
- Robert Morris at Wagner, 4 pm
- Sacred Heart at Bryant, 4 pm
- Saint Francis U at Mount St. Mary’s, 4 pm