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Northeast Notebook

February 11, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments

Northeast Conference Notebook

by Chris Roddy

Leader(s) of the Pack

Thank goodness we don’t have to worry about hanging chads to decide the winner of the Northeast Conference. With Wagner’s clutch win over Monmouth, 62-53, and CCSU’s victory over Mount St. Mary’s, there is a three-way tie for first place. Each team, CCSU, Wagner and Monmouth has compiled a 9-2 conference record.

Wagner wins the tiebreaker if the three schools remain tied, having beaten Monmouth twice and CCSU once already. Looking ahead, the marquee match up is February 17, when the Blue Devils head out to Staten Island to try and even up the season series with Wagner. Also, CCSU and Monmouth will tangle with each other again, Monmouth having beaten CCSU 71-66 in late January.

Poor Start, Strong Finish

Central Connecticut State is on one heck of a streak right now. The Blue Devils, after a paltry start (4-7), have rattled off four straight conference wins and won eight of their last nine. This recent surge has vaulted CCSU into a tie for first as they try to defend their title as 2001-02 NEC champs. CCSU has won 31 of its last 33 games against conference opponents, dating back to last season. The two losses were to fellow first-place mates, Wagner and Monmouth.

The turnaround might have something to do with CCSU’s stunning free-throw line percentage, .787, good enough for third best in the NCAA.

More likely, the Blue Devils rise can be attributed to the play of forward Ron Robinson, NEC player of the week. Robinson has exploded over the past few weeks, averaging fifteen points a game and thirteen boards. The junior forward has seven double-doubles this season and is only five rebounds shy of being CCSU’s seventh player to get 700 rebounds.

Sleeper Pick?

Yep. I am going out on a limb here and making a bold prediction that Fairleigh Dickinson will be the Cinderella team for the 2003 NEC tournament. FDU is the only team to defeat Wagner and has done so twice. Even a tough setback against The Mount, losing 83-81 in double-OT, didn’t stop the Knights from bouncing back from a fifteen-point deficit to best Wagner to get the season sweep.

FDU sports a solid record, 11-9 overall and 6-5 in NEC play. Now, to most fans, this seems like a pretty average team. Yet, after gong 4-25 in 2001-02, the Knights have already won seven more games this year. The turnaround ranks as third best in program history and FDU still has seven more games to go. FDU only has to win four more games to match the 1996-97 team, improving by eleven games.

The Knights have charged ahead on the strength of senior forward Matt Hammond. Hammond is averaging about sixteen points a game and scored 24 points in only 26 minutes of play against Sacred Heart last week.

Band-Aids and Booboo’s

UMBC was scratched, clawed and all-around beat up last week. Literally. In addition to three straight losses (Monmouth, CCSU and Quinnipiac), the Retrievers lost senior guard Justin Wilson and sophomore Rob Gogerty to injuries. Wilson fractured his tibia and suffered significant ligament damage to his knee; he is unlikely to return to action for the rest of the season. Gogerty sprained his ankle and is expected to return in two weeks, if not by conference tournament time.

Justin Wilson’s career numbers are quite respectable with 907 points and 317 assists. The senior was on pace to be UMBC’s all-time leader in games played had he finished the rest of the 2002-03 season.

Roller Coaster Ride, Continues

Quinnipiac really amazes the crap out of me. Apologies for my being crass, but every time I think they’re dead and the team’s season is over — they come back, again. The Bobcats rebounded after losing three to win three in a row. The up and down Connecticut team is now 5-6 in conference play after beating Long Island, The Mount and UMBC in convincing wins.

Kason Mims had his best week yet, averaging about nineteen points and five rebounds. Strumming along as usual is junior forward, Rashaun Banjo. He rocked the kasbah last week with a whopping average of seventeen points per game (in only 23 minutes of play) and went
six of seven from the trifecta arc.

Lucky? No. Luckey? Yes.

St. Francis (PA) freshman guard, Darshan Luckey, has won NEC Rookie of the Week honors six times this season (including the last three weeks in a row). His numbers speak volumes as Luckey averaged over 30 points per game last week and had a career-high 38 in a loss to Wagner. The fantastic frosh has scored over twenty points in his past nine games and is only second to Wagner’s Jermaine Hall in scoring average. Luckey is second among all NCAA freshmen in scoring and his six Rookie of the Week awards ranks him third all-time in NEC history.

NCAA Coaches to Honor Coach Jim Phelan

Jim Phelan will be honored by his peers in early March as a way to celebrate his plans to retire at the end of this season (his 49th). In Mt. St. Mary’s regular season finale on March 1 (against CCSU), several of Phelan’s colleagues around the NCAA will wear bow ties to pay tribute to the man who has coached more games than any other person in NCAA history. Phelan is well known for sporting his “game day bow tie.”

Arizona men’s basketball coach, Lute Olson, even went as far as writing an article supporting the gesture despite never meeting Phelan in person. Other notable coaches who plan to don the bow tie on March 1 include Texas’ Rick Barnes, Cincinnati’s Bob Huggins, South
Florida’s Seth Greenberg, St. Joseph’s Phil Martelli, Tennessee’s Kerry Keating, and Oklahoma’s Kelvin Sampson.


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