Ray Floriani of College Chalk Talk is the RTC correspondent for the NEC and MAAC.
Heading into the final third of the NEC race, Long Island is in the lead. Favorite Quinnipiac has hit a few rough spots, but is still in contention. Just ahead of the Bobcats and hot on LIU’s heels are Central Connecticut and Wagner. It is a cliché that every game matters, but it nevertheless holds true in the NEC. Even the contenders know that teams in the second half having struggles of their own can be dangerous and spring an upset.
1. LIU (18-5, 10-2) Extended its win streak to four with victories over Sacred Heart (81-69) and Quinnipiac (84-74). The Blackbirds were very consistent on both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor. The efficiency margin against Sacred Heart was +16 (107-91) and +13 (108-95) in the win over Quinnipiac. Jim Ferry also preached a favorable pace; A 75-possession club, LIU’s two games were played at 76 and 78-possession tempos, respectively.
Notable: Jason Brickman was selected as Co-Rookie of the Week for his fine play at the lead guard position. Brickman averaged 11.5 points, 6.5 assists and committed only three turnovers in 52 minutes of action the last two outings.
2. Central Connecticut (16-7, 9-3) So much for the dreaded ‘western’ swing. The Blue Devils swept road games against St. Francis (PA) 86-79 and Robert Morris 80-58. The offensive efficiency marks were 119 and 121m respectively. In the latter game, Central earned a big win at a traditionally tough location by holding Robert Morris to an 88 OE and enjoyed a 53%-39% edge in offensive rebounding percentage.
Notable: Ken Horton earned NEC Player of the Week honors with double-doubles in both games. The 6’6 junior forward averaged 24.5 points and 10 rebounds on the road kick.
3. Quinnipiac (15-8, 7-5) Split the Brooklyn trip with a conquest of St. Francis (NY) 74-60 before losing at LIU (84-74). Efficiencies give a clear picture of the two games. Against the Terriers, Quinnipiac had a 106-86 edge in offensive efficiency. Two days later, LIU enjoyed the 108-85 advantage. Turnover rate, in this case, did not affect the Bobcats’ OE. Their TO rate was 26% at St. Francis and only 9% at LIU.
Notable: Senior guard James Johnson averaged 20 points and six rebounds on his homecoming swing (Johnson played his high school ball at Bishop Loughlin in Brooklyn). Justin Rutty, sidelined seven games with an elbow injury, was back in action. The senior forward averaged 16 points and seven rebounds.
4. Mount St. Mary’s (9-16, 7-5) Earned a two-game homestand sweep over Monmouth (56-54) and Fairleigh Dickinson (70-59). The Mountaineers average 65 possessions per game, though the Monmouth game was a slower 55. The FDU meeting was right on the 65 possession tempo. Both games saw the Mount over 100 in OE while keeping the opposition under 100. The high mark was a 108 OE against FDU. Mount shot only 46% eFG percentage that fame but their TO rate was an outstanding 8%.
Notable: Julian Norfleet, a freshman guard, hit the deciding shot, a three-pointer, with 0.6 seconds remaining to defeat Monmouth. Senior forward Shawn Atupem paced the Mount with 17 points versus FDU on 8-14 shooting from the floor.
5. Wagner (11-11, 7-4) The Seahawks swept home games over New Jersey foes. First, a 61-57 win over FDU, followed by a 63-60 decision against Monmouth. The offense was subpar, but defense did the job against FDU. The efficiency margin was +6, thanks to a defense allowing only an 85 in offensive efficiency. Wagner had only a 12% TO rate while forcing FDU into an extremely high 31% rate. Head coach Danny Hurley and his brother and assistant Bobby were on hand for Bob Hurley Sr.’s 1,000th win at St. Anthony’s on Wednesday.
Notable: Gathering his six Rookie of the Week honor this season was Latif Rivers. The freshman guard actually shared the award by putting together an outstanding two games. Rivers averaged 19 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists.
6. St. Francis (NY) (11-12, 6-6) Defeated Sacred Heart, 78-51 after losing to Quinnipiac, 74-60. Terriers had an efficiency margin swing of 50 in those two games. Against Quinnipiac, the margin was -20 (86-106 efficiencies). The Sacred Heart game saw a +40 (115-75) clip. A 56% eFG percentage was largely responsible for the better offensive showing against Sacred Heart.
Notable: Ricky Cadell scored 16 in the win over Quinnipiac. The senior guard reached 1,500 points, the 55th player in the NEC annals to do so. Sophomore guard Travis Nichols added 15 points against the Bobcats, behind 3-4 from beyond the arc.
7. Robert Morris (10-13, 6-6) In one of the most difficult two-game stretches to ponder, the Colonials scored an easy 91-38 win over Bryant, then two days later were dominated 80-58 by Central Connecticut. Both games were at home. The efficiency margin swing in these two games was off the charts at -119. Against Bryant the efficiency margin was +86 (147-61). The CCSU contest saw the Colonials’ efficiency margin at -33 (88-121). Robert Morris had drastic changes in virtually every category over those two games. The eFG percentage, for example, went from 70% against Bryant to 38% in the CCSU meeting.
Notable: Lijah Thompson averaged 13 points, 4.5 rebounds and shot 56% from the field over the two contests. The sophomore forward tallied a career-high 18 points against Bryant.
8. Bryant (8-16, 6-6) The Bulldogs split on their trip to Western Pennsylvania. Bryant was decimated 91-39 (no misprint) at Robert Morris. They bounced back, less than 48 hours later, for a 70-69 win at St. Francis (PA). The Robert Morris game showed the extremes, as Bryant’s OE was 61 and the defense allowed a 147. The Bulldogs converted just ten field goals and shot 27% eFG percentage against the Colonials. At St. Francis (PA), the OE was a more respectable 106, largely due to a healthy 54% eFG showing.
Notable: Frankie Dobbs drove the length of the floor and hit a fade away shot at the buzzer to defeat St. Francis (PA). Earlier this season, the sophomore guard hit the game winning shot in a victory over FDU.
9. St. Francis (PA) (7-16, 5-7) Two home games. Two home losses. The Red Flash were defeated by Central Connecticut (86-79) and Bryant (70-69). Offense was strong, posting efficiencies of 110 and 105. Defense ? Not too strong, allowing marks of 119 and 106. St. Francis was guilty guilty of a 26% TO rate against Bryant, in a 66-possession game.
Notable: Sophomore guard Umar Shannon averaged 21.5 points for the two games on 46% shooting from the floor and a perfect 14-14 from the charity stripe. Shannon hit the go-ahead basket with six seconds to go against Bryant, just prior to Frankie Dobbs’ last second heroics.
10. Sacred Heart (9-14, 4-8) A trip to Brooklyn saw the Pioneers on the short end both times out. Sacred Heart lost at LIU (81-69) and St. Francis (NY) 78-51. Both ends of the floor were problematic on the road. Sacred Heart posted offensive efficiencies of 91 and 75 while giving up over 100 on the defensive end in the two games. St. Francis (NY) was a struggle, as the Pioneers managed only 36% eFG shooting while allowing a 115 efficiency.
Notable: Shane Gibson paced the Pioneers with 18 points at LIU. A sophomore guard, Gibson hit his eight straight double-figure scoring games and has led Sacred Heart in scoring sixteen times this season. Freshman guard Chris Evans continues to impress. Evans had 12 and 17 respectively in the two games in Brooklyn.
11. FDU (4-18, 2-9) The FDU Knights have now dropped three straight. First, they lost to NJIT in overtime, 64-62. Then, they took to the road and were defeated by Wagner (61-57) and Mount St. Mary’s (70-59). FDU held NJIT and Wagner to low offensive efficiencies (83 and 91, respectively). Knights couldn’t hit 90 in either game on their own OE end. The 81 against NJIT was partly due to a porous 33% eFG percentage.
Notable: Terence Grier came off the bench to score a career high 25 points at Wagner. The senior guard tied his personal field goals record (10) set a few days earlier against NJIT. Senior forward Kamil Svrdlik scored a game-high 19 points at Mount St. Mary’s.
12. Monmouth 2-9 (6-17 overall) It is four straight losses for the Hawks following bumps in the road at Mount St. Mary’s (56-54) and Wagner (63-60). Monmouth had a 39-22% OREB percentage edge at the Mount. Still, they came up short, as the Mountaineers posted a 55% eFG percentage. The Hawks average 65 possessions per game, but the contest at the Mount was even slow by Monmouth’s standards as it was a 55-possession affair.
Notable: Hawks received solid frontcourt contributions. Junior forward Mike Myers-Keitt averaged 14.5 points with 5.5 rebounds. Marcus Ware, a sophomore forward, paced Monmouth with 15.5 points, 6.5 rebounds for the two game stretch.
A Look Ahead
- Bryant at Central Connecticut
- FDU at Monmouth
- Wagner at Mount St. Mary’s
- Sacred heart at Quinnipiac
- St. Francis(NY) at LIU
- St. Francis(PA) at Robert Morris
- LIU at St. Francis (NY)
- Monmouth at FDU
- Central Connecticut at Bryant
- Mount St. Mary’s at Wagner
- Robert Morris at St. Francis (PA)
- Quinnipiac at Sacred Heart