As all of the NEC teams are entering the last few weeks of conference play and jockeying for position in the NEC Tournament, it got me thinking about all the players I’ve seen who never represented the conference in the ‘Big Dance.’ So, what if we were able to give all those players one last chance, on the same team! Continue reading
In a league with as much parity as the Northeast Conference, sometimes the bounce of a basketball, an official’s subjective call, or an unexpected hot streak can decide an outcome. For the Bryant Bulldogs, that harsh reality unfortunately reared its ugly head in the first round of the NEC tournament. Continue reading
Every once in a while we like to have fun here at Big Apple Buckets. It doesn’t always have to be “make fun of Jon Rothstein’s optimism until he blocks me on Twitter” kind of fun, but more like the “well this doesn’t make a ton of sense” kind of fun. This time, please allow me to channel my inner Bill Simmons. Continue reading
Head Coach: Tim O’Shea, 6th year (39-111)
Last Season: 19-12, 12-6 (NEC), Lost First Round of the CIT to Richmond, 76-71
NEC Preseason Poll: 2nd out of 10 teams (tied with Robert Morris)
State of Programs: NEC Contender
Starters Returning: 3
Key Loss(es): Frankie Dobbs (13.4 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 5.3 apg, 2.2 A/TO), Vlad Kondratyev (5.4 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 58.5% FG%)
Incoming Players: Bosko Kostur (F), Declan Soukup (G), Daniel Garvin (F), Ellis Williams (PF/C), Justin Brickman (PG)
Projected Starting Lineup:
PG: Corey Maynard (9.3 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 3.5 apg, 2.0 A/TO)
G: Dyami Starks (17.7 ppg, 40.8% 3PT%, 84.8% FT%)
F: Joe O’Shea (8.3 ppg, 3.7 rpg)
PF: Alex Francis (17.4 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 56.9% FG%)
PF: Claybrin McMath (0.9 ppg, 0.8 rpg)
Key Reserves: Shane McLaughlin (PG), Bosko Kostur (F), Declan Soukup (G), Andrew Scocca (PF/C), Ellis Williams (PF), Daniel Garvin (F), Curtis Oakley (F)
- A New Floor General – With the underrated Frankie Dobbs no longer in Smithfield, Tim O’Shea will rely on a familar face to handle the point: Corey Maynard. The senior guard is more than capable – last season he posted an assist to turnover ratio of 2.0 while stuffing the stat sheet elsewhere. Now with the ball in his hands all the time, however, the question remains if he can lead a high octane Bryant attack. Health will also be a moderate concern; last season Maynard struggled throughout the year with a bum ankle.
- Shoring Up The Depth – After racing out to a 6-0 start in the NEC, the Bulldogs began to breakdown, and with good reason. O’Shea was forced to rotate six to seven players every game night and over time the team’s performance predictability began to wane. Now in his sixth season at the helm, O’Shea has a roster full of Division I talent for the first time ever. The second team may go through some growing pains early, but O’Shea fully expects to have a very capable eight to nine man rotation by January. Those legs will feel a little better come February, which could go a long way toward making a run at the title.
- Surviving the Non-Conference Slate – I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, Bryant possesses a fantastic, yet very difficult non-conference schedule. O’Shea isn’t shy about challenging his team in November and December, but with games versus Gonzaga, Ohio State, Notre Dame, North Dakota State, Vermont, and Harvard, his Bulldogs could get overexposed with a rough stretch of games.
The Bryant Bulldogs greatly exceeded expectations in their first season of full Division I eligibility. Paired with veterans Alex Francis, Dobbs, and Maynard, transfers Dyami Starks and Joe O’Shea helped transformed the Bulldogs from a laughing-stock into a contender, essentially overnight. After shocking the nation with road upsets over Boston College and Lehigh, Bryant carried the momentum into the conference season, eventually earning a home game in the first round of the NEC tournament.
The offense, in particular, was outstanding with the Bulldogs scoring 117 points per 100 possessions, easily the best mark in the league. They had a dynamic playmaker (Dobbs), a three-point assassin (Starks), two glue guys (O’Shea and Maynard), and a double double waiting to happen every night (Francis). Quite simply, everything was clicking on that side of the ball.
In order to make that next jump, however, Bryant will need to bolster their depth and defense. Yes, their offensive firepower is impressive, but giving up 109.4 points per 100 possessions and allowing opponents to shoot 51.1% from inside the arc is problematic. Luckily for O’Shea, he’s collected an intriguing group of young interior big men who could possibly protect around the rim. Fifth year senior Claybrin McMath will start, but it’s the young guys behind him that may have the bigger impact. It remains to be seen who will contribute down low out of the Andrew Scocca (he was a medical red-shirt last season after only playing eight games), Daniel Garvin, and Ellis Williams combo. All three are long and in Garvin’s case, incredibly athletic.
The backcourt, on the other hand will be productive and somewhat deep. Shane McLaughlin will back up Maynard ant the point and looks to rebound after a somewhat disappointing freshman campaign. Dyami Starks is primed to have a monster season. And perhaps the biggest wildcard of this team is the coach’s nephew, Joe O’Shea. All preseason reports indicate that the versatile 6’5″ stretch forward will have a breakout type of year. Then again, O’Shea was the most efficient player on Bryant’s roster last season, despite being surrounded by three all-conference players.
Finally there’s Alex Francis, who may have the best opportunity of anyone in the NEC to average a double double. He’s a star offensively; a player who’s crafty around the rim yet can blow by opponents off the dribble. If he can somehow improve his free throw percentage – he does a great job of getting to the line – then the sky’s the limit for the Bronx native. Backing him up will be Bosko Kostur, who O’Shea gushed about during NEC Media Day. He has a chance, playing the “3” and “4”, to have an impact season as a red-shirt freshman.
“If I started Shane McLaughlin (at the point), that makes us really small. And my nephew, Joe O’Shea has been playing so well that it was imperative to get him into the starting lineup to give us some real size. So I talked to Corey (Maynard) about playing the point… so he was really comfortable making that move.”
– O’Shea, on why he decided to start Corey Maynard at the point guard position
“Bosko Kostur is a kid that has a chance to really have an impact as a freshman. He’s a real talent.”
– O’Shea, when asked who out of his freshmen class with contribute in their first season
“We needed to get bigger in the interior… Alex Francis used to score at will in practice, now he has a hard time scoring because of the added size and length that we brought in.”
– O’Shea, talking about why he believes his interior defense will be much improved compared to last season
Ryan – I was really concerned about their point guard position, until O’Shea unleashed his plan to insert Maynard there. With a core four of Maynard, Starks, O’Shea, and Francis, this team will absolutely be in contention. How much so? I think they’ll land in the top four and find themselves in the NEC title game. (17 wins, 10-6 NEC)
John – Sure, Maynard is going to play the point. He’ll probably do well there. I’m just worried that Bryant’s lack of depth will catch up again with them this season. Teams that take a big leap forward one season often take a little step back the next. The Bulldogs are talented, but could definitely end up in that category. (16 wins, 9-7 NEC)
In keeping with the spirit of those “way too early ratings” for the upcoming 2013-14 season, I decided to unveil my all-conference teams for the NEC. Mainly because I had nothing better to do. Plus it’s fun to speculate with over five months left before the season begins! Here we go, and of course feel free to disagree with me in the comments section.
All-NEC Preseason First Team
PG: Jason Brickman, LIU Brooklyn
SG: Kyle Vinales, Central Connecticut
F: Alex Francis, Bryant
PF: Julian Boyd, LIU Brooklyn
PF: Jalen Cannon, St. Francis Brooklyn
Well so much for Kyle Vinales leaving. With the graduations of Jamal Olasewere, Shane Gibson, and Velton Jones, I strongly felt these five players will represent the preseason All-NEC team. In my opinion, all five are virtual locks to make the preseason first team, barring injury of course. Let’s see, we have an assist leader in the NCAA (Jason Brickman), a former NEC Player of the Year (Julian Boyd), a former NEC Rookie of the Year and leading scorer in the conference (Vinales), and two forwards in Alex Francis and Jalen Cannon that are so difficult to guard for NEC competition. This is a loaded first team.
All-NEC Second Team
PG: Kenneth Ortiz, Wagner
SG: Dyami Starks, Bryant
SG: Latif Rivers, Wagner
F: Lucky Jones, Robert Morris
F: Matthew Hunter, Central Connecticut
Now it gets a little tricky. I’m still confident in my second group, even though there’s plenty of high upside talent lurking underneath. Kenneth Ortiz is coming off another NEC Defensive Player of the Year title, yet people should also be impressed with his climbing assist rate. Dyami Starks led the NEC in three pointers made and was fourth in scoring last season, so I’m expecting a monster junior season, as long as someone can get Starks the ball with Frankie Dobbs now gone. Latif Rivers had a down season mainly due to a bad wheel. Obviously his knee will need to check in at 100% for a return to the all-conference team, but he sure has the potential given the athletic ability around him. Two do-everything stat fillers, Lucky Jones and Matthew Hunter, have first team potential. Still, given the star power above them, the safe bet is seeing each player settle into the second team.
All-NEC Third Team
PG: Shivaughn Wiggins, Mount St. Mary’s
G: Rashad Whack, Mount St. Mary’s
F: Jay Harris, Wagner
F: Louis Montes, Sacred Heart
PF: Earl Brown, St. Francis (PA)
We are officially in the speculation point of the exercise. If you replace someone here with someone from my “also considered list” below, I would have no qualms. I love the overall game of Shivaughn Wiggins, therefore I’m expecting he’ll catapult into All-NEC contention. With an excellent junior season under his belt, Rashad Whack should continue to produce in Jamion Christian’s shooter friendly system. Jay Harris is the most unfamiliar face in this group of 15, yet I’m expecting the Valpo transfer to have an immediate impact in Staten Island. He may very well be the best skilled athlete in Bashir Mason’s rotation, and that’s saying a lot. I gave some love to Louis Montes, whose numbers were quite impressive down the stretch last season. With a solid core of sharpshooting veterans in the backcourt to stretch defenses, look for Montes to optimize the interior game with his big, wide body. Earl Brown may be the most speculative athlete of this group, but with exceptional rebound rates, we’re looking for continued growth. He could lead the league in double-doubles next season.
Also Considered: Phil Gaetano, Sacred Heart, Karvel Anderson, Robert Morris, E.J. Reed, LIU Brooklyn, Sam Prescott, Mount St. Mary’s, Julian Norfleet, Mount St. Mary’s, Malcolm McMillan, Central Connecticut
Losing 99 basketball games in 119 tries will take a lot out of you, even if you have the legitimate excuse of overseeing your program transition from Division II to Division I athletics. Such was the case for Bryant head coach Tim O’Shea, who after succumbing to four seasons of recruiting purgatory, was fighting to stay optimistic. When he signed on the dotted line to become Bryant’s leader in 2008, O’Shea had pegged the program’s transformation as a five-year plan. Year five was supposed to be the pivotal season when Bryant made their move toward competitive basketball inside the Northeast Conference.
To say Bryant made a move would be an understatement. After procuring shocking road wins over Boston College and Lehigh, Bryant sprinted out to a 6-0 start in the NEC. When the smoke finally cleared, the Bulldogs had engineered one of the greatest turnarounds in Division I history. Their 19 wins was a 17 win improvement over a dismal 2011-12 season that found them ranked 333rd out of 345 teams in KenPom’s ratings. Despite the historic turnaround, O’Shea wanted just a little more when he reflects back on the season.
“I’m proud (of Bryant’s season), but honestly I’m also a little disappointed in the sense that we got into position to win the league and we came up a little bit short,” said a candid O’Shea. “I don’t think it was a lack of effort, but whenever you get in position like that – it’s hard to do – you want to finish it off and take it to completion and we didn’t do that.”
O’Shea then added, “In hindsight, after what we’ve been through in this transition, how could I not be proud? Especially for a guy like a Frankie Dobbs who hung in there the whole way and had great leadership. Vlad Kondratyev had a great year for us.”
Even in the lean seasons, Bryant boasted three above average talents in Dobbs, Alex Francis, and Corey Maynard, yet it was their depth, or lack thereof, that made winning such a chore. It’s tough to win when a majority of the roster is comprised of Division II talent, but that was the case for the first four years under O’Shea. For year five, however, the insertion of transfers Dyami Starks and Joe O’Shea – Tim O’Shea’s nephew – did wonders for giving Bryant a complete Division I lineup ready to compete with the likes of Robert Morris, LIU Brooklyn, and Wagner.
Due to insertion of Starks – an All-NEC second team selection at season’s end who made 40.8% of his three-point attempts – Bryant’s offense posted a league best 1.14 points per possession (PPP) in NEC play, a stark improvement over their 0.90 PPP mark for the 2011-12 season. The Bulldogs shot 47.9% from the floor, aided by Francis’ excellent 56.9% mark on 371 shot attempts. After several seasons of serving as the NEC’s doormat, Bryant was lighting up opponents on the offensive end.
Near the end though, Bryant’s short bench and average defense struggled to close out games late, but it was a masterful season nonetheless. Bryant finished in a three-way tie for second place in the conference, and hosted a game in the College Basketball Invitational (CBI) tournament, falling to Atlantic-10 foe Richmond after a hard-fought battle.
With the arduous transition to Division I now in the rear view, O’Shea can rest easier knowing that he has guided the Bulldogs into the thick of the NEC elite. He may be a little disappointed Bryant couldn’t finish their otherwise spectacular season off, but it was surely an unforgettable year in O’Shea’s eyes. “Other than making the NCAA tournament or the NIT, I don’t know if it could have gone much better.”
Best Moment – Take your pick. I select their 80-79 victory over the Lehigh Mountain Hawks, the same Mountain Hawks who had upended Duke in the second round of the 2012 NCAA tournament the previous season. Shortly thereafter, Bryant surprised a hot Robert Morris club with a terrific offense display at Moon Township. The normally stout Colonials defense gave up 1.15 points per possession in the contest, thanks to the outside shooting capabilities of Starks and Dobbs. The Bulldogs were now officially relevant in the eyes of everyone.
Worst Moment – When recapping a drastically improved team, it’s difficult to pinpoint a truly awful moment. But if I had to choose a setback, it would be their home loss to Robert Morris in the last week of the regular season. A victory would have inevitably secured a #1 seed in the NEC tournament, not to mention drew a much weaker opponent in the first round (as opposed to a scorching Mount St. Mary’s club). Unfortunately for Bryant, Robert Morris’ execution down the stretch sent the vociferous sellout crowd in Smithfield home disappointed.
Frankie Dobbs – Words can’t truly capture the sincere gratitude O’Shea has towards Dobbs, who patiently spent three long seasons – one as a redshirt – on an undermanned Bryant team waiting for relevancy. Dobbs’ decision to transfer to Bryant surely was pushed by the presence of D.J. Cooper on Ohio, yet the point guard could have chosen a different program nonetheless. In Dobbs’ fifth and final season, he was selected to the All-NEC third team selection for his excellent efforts. Bryant’s remarkable turnaround wouldn’t have occurred without the leadership of Dobbs, who O’Shea says is the definition of a program cornerstone. (13.4 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 5.3 apg, 1.2 spg, 2.2 A/TO)
Vlad Kondratyev – The overlooked big man made his presence felt throughout the season with terrific rebounding rates of 8.8% (offensive) and 18.3% (defensive). He was practically the only cog in the paint when freshman Andrew Scocca went down. Kondratyev may have been foul prone, committing nearly six fouls per 40 minutes, but his overall steadiness made things easier for O’Shea in dealing with a short bench. Along with his team, the 6’8” center exceeded expectations as a Bulldog his senior year. (5.4 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 58.5% FG%)
Looking Ahead to the 2013-14 Season
In spite of the late heartbreak, Bryant will come back in year six of O’Shea’s master plan with much higher expectations. Maynard, Starks and Francis are all returning, so the talent is there to continue a run of excellence. Of course, Dobbs’ departure raises a deserving question regarding their point guard position, but O’Shea is confident that someone from the three-man competition of sophomore Shane McLaughlin, freshman Justin Brickman (you may know his brother, Jason Brickman of LIU Brooklyn) and redshirt freshman and fellow Australian Declan Sukoup will emerge. If one of those three does just that, and O’Shea’s freshmen and sophomore class helps solidify their depth, Bryant has as good a chance as any to capture their first NEC crown. A difficult, yet compelling non-conference schedule including road matchups versus Gonzaga, Ohio State, Notre Dame, and Delaware and home tilts with Lehigh, North Dakota State, and Vermont should harden the Bulldogs’ resolve heading into NEC play for January of 2014.
It was the year of parity and unpredictably in the NEC, and that notion certainly extends out to our all-conference awards. There are several worthy candidates, so it was a challenging exercise for John and I to sort out our All-NEC first, second, and third teams. For our individual awards, including Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year, etc., go here. So without further ado, let’s begin! Continue reading
In what amounted to another wild night of NEC hoops, Bryant pulled back ahead into first place all by themselves, after their road win and Sacred Heart and Robert Morris’ losses. Let’s dive into all the action from the fifth Thursday of the NEC schedule.
LIU Brooklyn 82, St. Francis (PA) 62
In easily the most predictable game of the night, LIU Brooklyn took care of business and cruised to an easy 20 point victory at the WRAC. The Blackbirds jumped out to a 13-0 lead and never trailed during the contest. To the Red Flash’s credit, two Earl Brown free throws cut LIU’s advantage to six early in the second half, but then a subsequent 24-8 run by LIU sealed the deal. The loss was St. Francis’ 15th straight road loss. LIU was uncharacteristically sloppy with 20 turnovers, but their 22 assists on 29 made baskets was enough to pull away. Booker Hucks made a career high five three-pointers to tie a career high of 20 points. In the last two games, the senior is absolutely scorching from downtown, draining 9 of 13 three-pointers. Jamal Olasewere, C.J. Garner, and Brandon Thompson also scored in double figures for LIU Brooklyn’s sixth straight NEC victory. Umar Shannon and Stephon Mosley returned from injury for St. Francis, yet both struggled in the defeat. Earl Brown led the Red Flash with 22 points.
Bryant 78, Fairleigh Dickinson 63
After an 8-0 run by FDU to begin the second half gave the Knights a brief 37-36 lead, Bryant outscored FDU 42-26 the rest of way. FDU was unable to take advantage of recently porous Bulldog defense, as they only shot 45.3% from the floor versus a team that was in the bottom 15% of the nation in effective field goal percentage defense. 17 Knight turnovers also didn’t help, but Bryant got terrific, efficient production out of Alex Francis (27 points on 13 shots, 9 rebounds). Usually the forgotten man outside of Bryant’s big three, Corey Maynard chipped in with an excellent line of 16 points, eight rebounds, four assists, and three steals. Bryant won the rebounding battle (36-24), turnover margin (15-17), and made 12 more FTs than FDU. Just an overall solid effort to move back into first place all by their lonesome once again.
Central Connecticut 78, Monmouth 58
Kyle Vinales, Matthew Hunter, and Adonis Burbage combined for 59 points on 50 shots, while never once taking a break during the game. The relatively fasted pace game (142 total possessions) got out of hand late in the first half for Monmouth, as the Blue Devils raced out to a 16 point lead. From that point forward, Monmouth never got any closer than 12 points, despite Marcus Ware scoring a season high 16 points. The Blue Devils shot 52% from the floor in this one, but it was their assist-to-turnover ratio of 6.5 in the first half that was most impressive, especially against a team that’s fourth in the nation in turning opponents over. Christian White missed the game with an injured ankle and it showed as the Hawks made 27.0% of their three-point attempts.
Wagner 84, Sacred Heart 78
Although Wagner controlled the game for much of the second half, two fade away threes by Shane Gibson and two Phil Gaetano free throws improbably sent the game into overtime. In the extra frame, however, Wagner regained their composure and held on for their third straight conference victory. Kenny Ortiz had perhaps the game of the night registering 17 points, six rebounds, eight assists, and three steals. Phil Gaetano, after receiving heavy praise from John and I this week, had the worst half of his career committing six turnovers. To his credit though, the 5’10” floor general recovered to finish with 12 points and 11 assists. The bounce back effort wasn’t enough, as Shane Gibson struggled all night thanks to Wagner’s stingy defense that gave up 0.96 points per possession. The Pioneers shot 36% from the floor and gave the ball up 22 times, but it was their 29 free throws that kept them in the game in the second half. But late, Jonathan Williams was clutch, scoring ten points in the final eight plus minutes of the game. Wagner now find themselves in a four-way tie for second place with SHU, Robert Morris, and LIU Brooklyn.
Mount St. Mary’s 77, Quinnipiac 73
Quinnipiac may have evened their record to 4-4 last Saturday, but it never truly felt like the team was completely back. Tonight’s result was indicative of that. After trailing 6-5 early, the Mount took the lead and never was behind again, although the Bobcats cut the deficit to one point late before Julian Norfleet’s three extended the lead for good. Quinnipiac’s negative turnover differential and awful foul shooting ultimately did the Bobcats in, with the Bobcats committing 13 more turnovers and missing half of their 32 attempts at the charity stripe. Yikes… It was a balanced scoring effort with nine Mountaineers scoring, led by Shivaughn Wiggins 17 points. The freshman has taken advantage of Josh Castellanos’ injury, as he’s now averaging 14.6 points in his past five games. For Quinnipiac, the defense continues to struggle, as the Mount scored 1.04 points per possession. It was the sixth time in nine conference games that Tom Moore’s squad has given up more than 1 point per possession this conference season. Last year that happened only seven times in 18 NEC contests. Sophomore center Ousmane Drame did have a career game with 19 points and 20 rebounds in the loss.
St. Francis Brooklyn 71, Robert Morris 61
The Colonial’s six-game winning streak was snapped after falling to the streaky Terriers at the Pope Education Center. Velton Jones injured his shoulder early and only played two minutes. It has been a tough season injury wise for Jones, who missed zero games in his first three seasons at RMU. Brent Jones was sensational for St. Francis, who scored 1.15 points per possession against a solid defense. Jones had 16 points, three rebounds, and six assists against only three turnovers. John has the complete recap of the game here.
1) Bryant, 7-2
2) Wagner, 6-3
3) Robert Morris, 6-3
4) Sacred Heart, 6-3
5) LIU Brooklyn, 6-3
6) Central Connecticut, 5-4
7) St. Francis Brooklyn, 5-4
8) Quinnipiac, 4-5
9) Mount St. Mary’s, 3-6
10) Monmouth, 3-6
11) Fairleigh Dickinson, 2-7
12) St. Francis (PA), 1-8
Going into the third Thursday of Northeast Conference play, the major storyline was unfortunately injuries. Several players unexpectedly missed action tonight, but that didn’t stop the conference from having several fantastic finishes late. Three games improbably went into overtime, while every game was decided by no more than nine points. Let’s recap all of the action, before my head explodes. (By the way, trying to focus on four games at once is not for the faint of heart)
Robert Morris 66, Sacred Heart 62
Sadly, if you made a team out of the players missing action tonight, you would have a dominant top seven of Velton Jones, Karvel Anderson, Evan Kelley, Chris Evans, Justin Swidowski, Lijah Thompson, and Vaughn Morgan. The game, however, still was played in Moon Township, with the Colonials simply outlasting the Pioneers by slowing down the tempo in the second half. The Colonials never relinquished the lead once they went on a 13-0 run midway through the second half, although Shane Gibson did his absolute best to bring SHU back. It was vintage Gibson tonight, as the senior had 27 points (on 13 shots) to go along with six rebounds, three assists, and three steals. Quite simply, his effort couldn’t overcome the Colonials’ advantage in free throws (20-13) and turnovers forced (21-11). Not one Colonial particularly shined in the win, but it was a collective team effort with four Colonials scoring in double figures while holding the Pioneers to 0.94 points per possession. A win is a win, and Andy Toole will take it without his senior leader on the floor.
Quinnipiac 75, St. Francis (PA) 66
Quinnipiac, who was without staring point guard Dave Johnson with a concussion, earned a much needed victory over the feisty Red Flash, who charged back early in the second half to tie the game after trailing by as many as 13 points. It was an ugly shooting display across the board, although Quinnipiac did make 20 of 24 (finally!) from the charity stripe for one of their best free throw performances of the season. After blowing a six point lead late in regulation, the Bobcats offense dominated in the extra frame, scoring 16 points on their nine overtime possessions. Ike Azotam led Quinnipiac (what else is new) with 22 points and ten rebounds. Earl Brown was back to his dominant ways on the glass, grabbing 18 rebounds to go along with 14 points. Which leads us to a statistic oddity: In the last six games, Earl Brown has corralled nearly half (93 of 203) of the Red Flash’s rebounds. You don’t see individual dominance like that all too often.
Monmouth 71, St. Francis Brooklyn 67
In a game featuring two teams going in opposite directions, it was the Hawks who surprisingly came away with an impressive road win over St. Francis Brooklyn. Jesse Steele had a game high 20 points for the Hawks, who without Andrew “Red” Nicholas still had their second best shooting performance of the season. In the past three games, the diminutive Steele is averaging 18.0 points per game on a respectable 18 of 39 from the floor. John shares his five thoughts of the game here.
LIU Brooklyn 79, Fairleigh Dickinson 75
In front of 319 fans (really Knight fans, that’s all you got?), LIU Brooklyn stole a game across the Hudson River when they shocked the Knights in a fiercely contested battle. Jamal Olasewere was sensational with 30 points, 16 rebounds, and four blocks, and C.J. Garner had perhaps his best game of the year. The senior combo guard scored 23 points along with four rebounds and five steals. FDU blew sizable advantages throughout the contest, but it was their late game failures that will be most remembered tonight. The Knights were leading by five points with 21 seconds remaining before three pointers by Garner and Brandon Thompson (his only points on the night) sent the game into overtime. Once in overtime, FDU’s offense went ice cold as they missed their final five shots, including two ill-advised bombs from Melquan Bolding and Mostafa Jones late. Greg Vetrone has to be sick to his stomach after this one, while Perri’s Blackbirds move to 2-3 in the conference despite committing 18 turnovers against only 13 assists. FDU’s senior trio of Bolding, Lonnie Robinson, and Kinu Rochford scored 54 of the Knights’ 75 points in the loss.
Bryant 79, Mount St. Mary’s 78
It appeared we were heading toward an expected ho-hum victory for Bryant when the Bulldogs went up by 11 late in the second half after a Frankie Dobbs bucket and the foul. But the Mount – taking on the never quit mentality of head coach Jamion Christian – eventually stormed back to tie the game after Shivaughn Wiggins drained a three to send it into the overtime. The freshman had the game of his young career, scoring 20 points on 8 of 10 shooting. (Maybe he heard me complain about the lack of freshmen contributing league wide on the podcast? Ok, maybe not.) In overtime, the game was a fantastic seesaw battle which ended stunningly when Bryant freshman Shane McLaughlin, of all people, drove and scored the game winning lay-up with six seconds left. It was McLaughlin’s ONLY shot attempt of the game. Four Bulldogs played 38 minutes or more, and perhaps their weariness showed with Bryant committing a season high 19 turnovers against the Mayhem attack. Despite the choas, Alex Francis was once again terrific for the now 5-0 Bulldogs. The athletic junior had 25 points (on 12 shots) and seven rebounds. If you didn’t really know about Francis before this season, you surely do now.
Central Connecticut 73, Wagner 66
It’s time for me to officially apologize to Kyle Vinales for having the audicity to suggest that the sophomore was tiring after going through a tough four game slump earlier in the non-conference season. Since the Syracuse blowout and after dropping 30 points against a very good defensive team in Wagner, Vinales is averaging a sparkling 24.8 points, 4.2 assists, 1.8 steals, and only 3.0 turnovers per game. Not too shabby. CCSU led for most of the game and was able to dominate despite the return of Seahawks wing Jonathan Williams from a hip injury. The senior struggled, as did many of the Seahawks, sans Ortiz who scored a team high 18 points. For Wagner, it was their third straight game – two of them losses – where they’ve allowed more than one point per possession. That’s an unusual trend for a team that prides itself on shutting down their opponents on the offensive end.
NEC Standings Through Five Games
1) Bryant, 5-0
2) Wagner, 3-2
3) St. Francis Brooklyn, 3-2
4) Central Connecticut, 3-2
5) Robert Morris, 3-2
6) Sacred Heart, 3-2
7) LIU Brooklyn, 2-3
8) Fairleigh Dickinson, 2-3
9) Quinnipiac, 2-3
10) Monmouth, 2-3
11) Mount St. Mary’s, 1-4
12) St. Francis (PA), 1-4
Ryan Peters covers Northeast Conference men’s basketball for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @pioneer_pride