At this point he’s more of a phoenix than a Blackbird. Julian Boyd rose from the ashes once again to take part in the second annual Gotham Hoops Invitational Saturday afternoon at Adelphi University with one simple declaration: “I’m ready to play.” Continue reading
Rather than have John and I release our consensus NEC individual awards, we decided to give each of us a say in who we would choose. As you’ll see, there was some disagreement for a couple of the categories, and we here at Big Apple Buckets support the First Amendment! Onto the five major awards… Continue reading
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
To the casual fan observing from afar, nothing probably seemed amiss with LIU Brooklyn’s effort after nearly 28 minutes of play in Emmitsburg, MD. Despite getting limited contributions from Jamal Olasewere and Jason Brickman, the first place Blackbirds were leading the Mount, 53-50. E.J. Reed scored 20 first half points and had the team playing with a little cockiness and swagger you’d expect from the back-to-back defending champs.
The only problem was head coach Jack Perri wasn’t buying it one bit. To him, the three-point lead was a farce, a mere aberration based on what he had seen out of his team earlier in the week.
“For the first week in a while, our guys didn’t prepare the same way, they didn’t care the same way,” said a disappointed Perri after the game. “We did a good job of [preparing] since the Wagner game and we struggled with that this week. For whatever the reason, we were out of it. I tried to warn them. I tried to get them ready…I could see this coming.”
So when LIU lost their second half lead in the blink of an eye, it came as no surprise to the first year head coach. Three consecutive three-pointers by Kelvin Parker and Rashad Whack sparked a 9-0 run and gave the Mount a six point advantage midway through the second half. It was a lead they wouldn’t relinquish to the delight of the feverish crowd on hand.
One person’s delight though is another person’s dismay, and Perri was clearly disgusted at his team’s execution in two facets: The 20 turnovers Mount St. Mary’s forced throughout the game and their porous perimeter defense that allowed the Mount to sink 11 of 25 three-pointers, including six rainmakers from junior Rashad Whack.
Whack led the Mountaineers with 26 points – 16 of them in the pivotal second half – to go along with three assists and three steals. It was the eleventh time this season Whack led the Mount in scoring for the game, and the fourth time the junior had broken the 20 point barrier.
In all, five Mount players logged an efficiency rating north of ten for the game, but it was Jamion Christian mainly praising the inside presence of 6’8″ center Raven Barber as a key catalyst for the team’s second half run.
“Raven Barber was an unbelievable force,” said Christian. “We challenged him [to produce] in the under eight timeout to just do more. Fly around, play with some freedom and he did that. I definitely thought he was the difference in the game.”
After playing ten uneventful minutes in the first half, Barber stepped in and sparked the Mount with eight points and six rebounds in the second stanza. His toughness, along with freshman Shivaughn Wiggins, helped keep the Blackbirds at bay on offense, holding them to a respectable 0.95 points per possession. It was LIU’s second worst offensive output for the conference season.
LIU Brooklyn’s offensive struggles can certainly be pinned on the poor play of Jamal Olasewere and Jason Brickman. Olasewere played a NEC low 20 minutes, as he found himself in constant foul trouble throughout the second half. In fact, when the senior picked up his fourth personal foul (third offensive), the Mount then embarked on a 13-4 run to take a commanding nine-point lead deep into the second half. For Perri, Olasewere was the main culprit for LIU’s lackidasical attitude leading up to the game.
“I’m telling you, this one started well before the game even started,” reiterated Perri. “[Jamal] was one of the big reasons why, I don’t know what it was, but I could sense that he was out of it. I don’t know if he was trying to do too much, he was just out of it. I didn’t see the same Jamal as I know.”
Jason Brickman struggled as well, giving the ball up six times while only scoring 11 points on as many shots. Mount St. Mary’s freshman Shivaughn Wiggins was given the assignment of guarding the best point guard of the NEC, and his coach was incredibly proud of the freshman’s effort.
“I’ve said it time and time again, I don’t think there’s a better on-ball defender in the league,” gushed Christian. “[Shivaughn] did an unbelievable job on [Brickman] tonight. [Shivaughn’s] ability to guard the basketball has really changed the dynamic of our team.”
“Shivaughn just gives you some toughness. He’s not afraid to mix it up and go in there and get some of those crazy rebounds or take a charge. And for 35, 36 minutes, he’s going to guard the other team’s point guard and never need a break. He’s just given our team a different dynamic with the way he can score the ball in the lane.”
Christian gladly continued when asked if Wiggins deserves the NEC Rookie of the Year award at season’s end. “I think there’s no better player in the league as a rookie, because of what he’s done for our team defensively.”
E.J. Reed registered a career high 25 points on 12 shots and corralled a team high nine rebounds in the defeat. The versatile and athletic Reed served as the lone bright spot for the now second place Blackbirds. They’ll travel to Wagner for an enormous Sunday night showdown that should help decide who gets a home playoff game in the first round of the NEC tournament. How will Perri get his team ready for the challenge?
“Hopefully it’s a wakeup call and we’ll see tomorrow and Saturday and get ready for Wagner.”
Mount St. Mary’s will host St. Francis Brooklyn on Saturday, in a pivotal battle that will surely shape the bottom half of the NEC tournament draw. It will be the last home game of the season for Christian’s group, who now holds an excellent 9-2 record at the Mount.
We took a week off from the NEC weekly recap to unveil our midseason power rankings, but as we enter the home stretch of the conference season, we’ll dive back into our weekly routine of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. The league has separated into mini tiers, but with plenty of parity throughout and ten teams fighting for eight playoff spots, there’s reason to be excited moving forward. Let’s begin… Continue reading
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
Last night was my first live look at the LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds and, well let’s just say it wasn’t an optimal showing for Jack Perri’s squad. The game started out promising enough with LIU racing out to a 19-11 lead within the first eight minutes. Continue reading
Note: I apparently drew the short straw; therefore I’ve been selected to piece together an argument for why LIU Brooklyn will not win the NEC crown this season without Julian Boyd. Actually to be fair, John gave me a choice between pro and con. Continue reading
A strong defensive effort helped LIU Brooklyn get revenge for an earlier non-conference loss to Lafayette 71-60 on Saturday at the WRAC.
Thanks to the NEC Media Day, John and I were fortunate to talk to all 12 coaches at some point or another. Besides grilling them on their respective teams and season expectations, we decided to have a little fun with an anonymous coach’s poll. We ended up polling ten NEC head coaches, asking each person four questions concerning the NEC. In exchange for their valuable insight, we promised complete anonymity.