After today’s games, parity continues to be the theme of the NEC, with three teams separating themselves from the rest of the pack and four others getting themselves in position to make a move as we approach the midway point of the conference season. Time to recap all of the action from this Saturday. Let’s begin with a terrific contest:
Sacred Heart 112, Bryant 110, 3 OT
For what will be construed as an instant classic in NEC lore, Sacred Heart persevered to defeat Bryant in the longest NEC game since a Battle of Brooklyn classic back in 2010. The Pioneers had opportunities to close it out both in regulation and in the first overtime, but poor free throw shooting and clutch shotmaking by the Bulldogs prolonged the contest to three extra frames. Adam Grant, in particular, hit back-to-back-to-back treys (one third of his 9 made 3s) in the final 25 seconds of regulation to improbably push the game into bonus time. Ikenna Ndugba put his stamp on the thriller with a game tying 3 late in the first OT as well.
The Bulldogs were in control through much of the 1st half, but a Pioneer 11-0 run early in the 2nd half evened the game at 60, and from there a back-and-forth, nail biting affair ensured. Bryant hung tough despite losing Nisre Zouzoua late in the first half due to an ankle injury, with the aforementioned Grant (32 points, 5 rebounds, 5 steals) and Ndugba (22 points, 7 assists) each reaching career highs in scoring. Bosko Kostur continued his progression with 16 points – he’s now averaging 16 ppg over his last 3 – although he fouled out late in regulation time.
Even with Bryant’s theatrics, Sacred Heart’s Quincy McKnight was the star of the show, scoring a career high 44 points (on 26 shots) to go along with 9 rebounds, 6 assists and 4 steals. Senior Matej Buovac was clutch with 18 points – 12 of those coming from long distance. Joe Lopez now has 4 double doubles in 6 NEC games, finishing with 19 points and 10 rebounds.
This was only the second time this season Sacred Heart has won consecutive games, while Bryant has yet to accomplish this feat.
Mount St. Mary’s 78, Saint Francis U. 72
After erasing a 15-point deficit in the first half, Mount St. Mary’s continued their NEC excellence with their third straight victory over the visiting Saint Francis Red Flash. The Mount scored 1.28 ppp and shot 54.5% in the second frame, led by the terrific play of Elijah Long (17 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists). The sophomore will be a serious candidate for NEC Player of the Week after averaging 15.5 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 8.5 apg and 3 spg. Greg Alexander contributed with 16 points off the bench for Jamion Christian.
The Mount clamped down defensively, especially in the second half, holding the Red Flash to 41.7% shooting inside the arc. Chris Wray (10 points, 5 rebounds, 4 blocks) and Mawdo Sallah (13 points, 8 rebounds, 4 blocks) were disruptive near the rim with a combined 8 blocks.
Despite the Mount’s interior defense, Keith Braxton paced Saint Francis U with 25 points, 12 rebounds and 5 assists – it was his 4th double double of the season. Unfortunately for Rob Krimmel, the rest of the team shot 33.3% from the field and had 8 assists to 10 turnovers. As good as the Red Flash have played this season, they now are 0-3 against the NEC’s top 3 (Mount, LIU, FDU).
LIU Brooklyn 63, Saint Francis Brooklyn 58
St. Francis Brooklyn changed up the game plan and made things difficult for LIU’s offense, especially in the first half, but the young team let a potential victory slip through their fingers toward the end. The Terriers only managed to score 0.90 points per possession, the fourth time in NEC play the Blackbirds have held an opponent under 1 point per possession. All four of those games were part of what is now a five-game NEC winning streak for the Blackbirds.
Rasheem Dunn scored 21 points to lead all scorers in the game. He has scored 20 points or more in five games this season, quite an accomplishment for a freshman guard this early into the season. The Terriers played a bigger lineup than normal, including two forwards on the court for most of the game, and Robert Montgomery played pretty well. The 6’6″ freshman eight points and five rebounds in 20 minutes.
LIU also got a boost from its freshmen, as Jashaun Agosto scored 12 points. The Blackbirds had three players register double-doubles with Iverson Fleming (16/11), Jerome Frink (15/12) and Nura Zanna (12/11) each grabbing at least 10 rebounds. John wrote more about this game.
Fairleigh Dickinson 59, Central Connecticut 47
After a sluggish half in New Britain, the FDU Knights found their footing and surged to an easy away victory over the struggling Blue Devils. Central Connecticut led 28-23 after 20 minutes, but the Knights came out as the aggressor to start the second half and never looked back, outscoring the Blue Devils 36-19. FDU made 48% of their shots over the final 20 minutes.
Darian Anderson struggled with just 7 points, but luckily for Greg Herenda balance was the name of the game for the Knights. Stephen Jiggetts and Darnell Edge individually scored a team-high 12 points. While the offense wasn’t in pure domination mode (1.00 ppp), the Knights did share the ball well with 14 assists on 21 made field goals (70.0% assist rate).
CCSU has now dropped 11 straight, a streak they unfortunately repeated in the middle of the 2014-15 season. Austin Nehls, Tidell Pierre and Mostafa Jones all reached double figures for Donyell Marshall’s team, though the offense failed to protect the ball (16 turnovers), leading to 16 points off turnovers for FDU.
Wagner 53, Robert Morris 50
Wagner scored just 0.83 points per possession, but managed to survive Robert Morris’ upset bid. The Colonials look to be fine defensively, but once again couldn’t get much going on the offensive end. Freshman Dachon Burke led the way with 13 points, while Matty McConnell added 12 and Isaiah Still 10. RMU scored just 0.78 points per possession and attempted just six free throws during the entire game.
The Seahawks were carried by another strong game from Michael Carey and a heroic offensive effort from Mike Aaman. Aaman, known more for his rebounding, had eight boards, but also scored 22 points on 16 shots. He also blocked two shots and recorded three steals. Carey had his second straight double-double with 12 points and 13 rebounds. If the offense is going to improve the Corey Henson will need to get back on track. The other preseason all-NEC selection shot just 3-12 from the field and scored nine points. The Seahawks committed 17 turnovers (17% TO%), but they were pretty evenly distributed amongst everyone who played significant minutes. This was a victory Bashir Mason’s club had to have, as they head to LIU on Thursday.
NEC Team of the Day
Sacred Heart – There were a lot of great wins today, but you always have to give the nod to the team that pulls out a triple overtime victory on the road. After a rough start, the Pioneers have rebounded by winning 3 of their last 4 – all road games – to even their NEC record. A home showdown against the first place Mountaineers awaits.
NEC Player of the Day
Quincy McKnight, Sacred Heart – Rarely would anyone ever win a daily award after a 9-turnover performance, but that was the only hiccup for McKnight in today’s epic victory at Bryant. The sophomore was electric for the Pioneers, scoring inside the arc (12-20 on 2s), from long distance (4-6 on 3s) and at the charity stripe (8-12 on FTs).
- Mount St. Mary’s, 5-1
- Fairleigh Dickinson, 5-1
- LIU Brooklyn, 5-1
- Saint Francis U, 3-3
- Wagner, 3-3
- Sacred Heart, 3-3
- Bryant, 2-4
- Robert Morris, 2-4
- St. Francis Brooklyn, 2-4
- Central Connecticut, 0-6
Next On the NEC Schedule (1/19)
- Central Connecticut at Robert Morris, 7 pm
- Bryant at Saint Francis U., 7 pm
- Wagner at LIU Brooklyn, 7 pm
- St. Francis Brooklyn at Fairleigh Dickinson, 7 pm
- Mount St. Mary’s at Sacred Heart, 7 pm