On Groundhog Day, the Mount further distanced themselves from the rest of the pack, while the rest of the league continued to jockey for position in the race toward home court in the NEC tourney. Let’s break down the action from the first set of February games.
Wagner Central Connecticut 70, Central Connecticut 60
Wagner led for the final 24 minutes of the game earning the road victory in New Britain over Central Connecticut. The victory pushed Wagner’s conference record to 6-5, while Central Connecticut fell 2 games back in the quest to make the NEC tournament. Michael Carey scored a team high 19 points, while pulling down 6 rebounds. Corey Henson scored 13 first half points.
The best scoring defense in the NEC held the Blue Devils in check by holding their opponents to just 40% shooting inside the arc and out-rebounding them 39 to 32. It wasn’t a pristine effort holding the 8th worst offense in NEC play to 0.97 ppp, but it was enough to give the Seahawks their first two game winning streak against Division I opponents this season.
Despite having Tafari Whittingham and Eric Bowles back for the second straight game, the Blue Devils struggled after a 23-8 Wagner run in the first half created some separation. Austin Nehls, Mostafa Jones and Khalen Cumberlander combined for 41 of the team’s 60 points, yet a porous effort at the charity stripe (14-28) doomed the Blue Devils once again. They are now shooting a league worst 59.7% from the free throw line this conference season.
Saint Francis U 78, St. Francis Brooklyn 61
For the second time this season, the Red Flash dismantled the Terriers in a game that wasn’t competitive. Josh Nebo and Keith Braxton had their way with the inexperienced frontcourt of St. Francis, combining for 37 points and 24 rebounds on 13 of 21 shooting. Isaiah Blackmon continued his dominance of late with 18 points – he’s now averaging 16.3 ppg and 5.3 rpg over his last 8 games. Coincidentally, Saint Francis is 7-1 in those contests.
Through 11 league games, Rob Krimmel’s club now owns the best offensive efficiency in the conference, scoring 108 points per 100 possessions. It was the defense tonight that also impressed – only 35.3% of the Terriers shots found the bottom of the net.
Freshman Gianni Ford led the Terriers with 10 points, though he was the only one who cracked double figures. St. Francis has now lost 9 straight after winning their first two conference games after home.
Robert Morris , LIU Brooklyn 66
After losing the past 3 games by a combined 10 points, the Colonials pulled out a tight contest with an upset win in Brooklyn against LIU. The league’s worst offense once again relied heavily on their defense (0.91 ppp) to earn their fourth victory of the NEC season. Isaiah Still was excellent with 21 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists, while Kavon Stewart was steady with 15 points, 9 rebounds and 3 assists. In a game that went down to the wire, it was Robert Morris’ ability to convert their free throw attempts (18-23) that helped push them over the edge tonight.
The Blackbirds were led by senior Jerome Frink (22 points) who played tonight despite losing his father earlier in the week. Frink’s 3 with 1:49 left cut the Colonials lead to just one point, yet Robert Morris outscored LIU 6-3 in the final minute to close it out.
After a 6-1 start in league play, the Blackbirds have now dropped 3 of 4 and fell into a third place tie with Saint Francis U.
Mount St. Mary’s 77, Bryant 70
After beginning their season with a 1-11 record, the Mountaineers have now evened their regular season record with a solid victory – their eighth straight – over the visiting Bryant Bulldogs. The Mount took off at the start of the second half with a 15-5 run and they never relinquished the lead after that. Bryant was able to cut the deficit to 3 points several times, yet the Mountaineers had an answer each time.
In particular, Elijah Long was awesome in the second half with 15 points (on 9 shots), 5 rebounds and 3 assists. Mount St. Mary’s is now 8-2 on the season when Long issues an offensive rating above 100. Freshman Miles Wilson poured in 19 points on 8 of 10 shooting, while Junior Robinson (15 points) registered his fifth straight game in double figures. Jamion Christian’s squad had their way inside the arc, converting two-thirds of their 2s (24-36) while also making Bryant pay from long distance (7-16) too.
Nisre Zouzoua scored a game high 25 points, but it wasn’t enough to offset a 1.24 ppp effort by the Mount’s offense. Adam Grant had 15 points, his second straight game in double figures.
Sacred Heart 74, Fairleigh Dickinson 70
A Joe Lopez put-back off a Quincy McKnight miss with 35 seconds remaining pushed the Pioneers to the desperately needed upset over the second place Knights. Anthony Latina’s club has now won 4 of 6 away from Fairfield after scoring 1.16 ppp and shooting 51.7% in the second half.
The Pioneers were incredibly balance tonight, with seven players scoring between 8 and 18 points. Quincy McKnight led the team – for the sixth time in 11 NEC games – with 18 points while grabbing 10 rebounds and dishing out 6 assists. Collectively, they out-rebounded the Knights by 14 and converted 80% of their 20 free throw attempts.
In a back-and-forth second stanza, Darian Anderson (20 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals) fouling out with just over 3 minutes remaining was a crucial in pushing Sacred Heart to the win. Anderson’s guard mates in Stephen Jiggetts and Darrell Edge were excellent in the loss with 20 and 15 points, respectively, but it wasn’t enough for a team that made just 5 triples and scored 2 fast break points.
NEC Team of the Day
Sacred Heart – Considering they were given a 19% chance to win tonight by KenPom, the Pioneers were the most impressive by (momentarily) salvaging their season with the upset and their third straight win at the Rothman Center. A four game home stand awaits, which sounds promising until you factor in the Pioneers 0-5 record against NEC opponents at the Pitt Center.
NEC Player of the Day
Josh Nebo, Saint Francis U. – The sophomore was once again dominant around the rim, taking advantage of the inexperienced Terriers with an efficient effort. Nebo scored with ease (8-13 on 2s), controlled the glass (11 rebounds) and took advantage of his time at the charity stripe (8-9 on FTs). Tonight was the fourth time Nebo has been called the KenPom MVP of the game this conference season.
- Mount St. Mary’s, 10-1
- Fairleigh Dickinson, 8-3
- LIU Brooklyn, 7-4*
- Saint Francis U., 7-4
- Wagner, 6-5
- Bryant 5-6
- Robert Morris, 4-7^
- Sacred Heart, 4-7
- St. Francis Brooklyn, 2-9#
- Central Connecticut, 2-9
*LIU Brooklyn holds H2H tiebreaker on Saint Francis U (1-0)
^Robert Morris holds H2H tiebreaker on Sacred Heart (1-0)
#St. Francis Brooklyn holds H2H tiebreaker on Central Connecticut (1-0)
Next on the Schedule (2/4)
- Wagner at Fairleigh Dickinson, 11 am (ESPN U)
- Bryant at Sacred Heart, 3:30 pm
- Central Connecticut at Mount St. Mary’s, 4 pm
- Robert Morris at St. Francis Brooklyn, 4 pm
- Saint Francis U. at LIU Brooklyn, 4:30 pm