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Northeast Conference Notebook

December 18, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments

Northeast Conference Notebook

by Keith Burdette

This was a big out of conference week for the Northeast as several schools faced major conference opponents. The week started with a victory over the Atlantic Ten when Central Connecticut State beat Massachusetts 53-52 at the Mohegan Sun Arena. Ron Robinson hit two free throws with six seconds remaining to ice the game. Three schools traveled to face Big East opponents; while all three lost, two of the games were competitive. Quinnipiac took one against the chin in facing UConn. In the 88-55 loss, Ben Gordon of the Huskies single-handedly outscored the Bobcats in the first half. Sacred Heart nearly upset Boston College but missed two shots in the final six seconds that would have won the game or sent it into overtime. St. Francis NY took a lead into halftime against St. John’s but the Red Storm jumped ahead early in the second half and held the Terriers off down the stretch.

Conference play started for a few more teams as Fairleigh Dickinson and Robert Morris picked up wins. RMU beat St. Francis PA 65-62. The Colonials fell behind early and trailed by as many as twelve in the first half. The lead was only three at halftime though and the Colonials waited for a Red Flash cold spell in the second half to take the lead for good. SFPA had a chance to tie it late but Darshan Luckey missed a three at the buzzer. FDU handed Long Island its second conference loss with a 76-73 win on Saturday. Gordon Klaiber led all scorers with 26 points while Esa Maki-Tulokas added 17 points in the loss. That combined with the 25 point-13 rebound effort against Sacred Heart last Monday earned Maki-Tulokas his second NEC rookie of the week award. The only conference game scheduled for this week is Mount Saint Mary’s at St. Francis NY on Tuesday December 23rd. Also of note is that the big showdown between Quinnipiac and Central Connecticut Stare that was snowed out has been rescheduled for Wednesday January 28th. If there’s anything we can gleam from the conference games so far, it’s that the conference title is up for the taking. Every game has been decided by three points or less.

Central Connecticut State Blue Devils (2-1, 0-0 NEC)

The Blue Devils had many bright spots in the win over UMass. Ron Robinson scored 21 points, including the game winning free throws. Combine that with six rebounds and 8-10 shooting and there’s your NEC player of the week. The team shot 8-19 from long range, including three a piece from Justin Chiera and DeMario Anderson. CCSU has played half the amount of games as every other NEC team. That’s not going to change any time soon since they play only two more games before the new year. The only game this week is a Sunday test against Providence, the same team that dismantled Illinois in the Jimmy V Classic.

Fairleigh Dickinson Knights (3-3, 1-0 NEC)

The win over LIU moved the Knights back to the .500 mark. FDU won despite going 0-11 from long range and having a 7 to 14 assist to turnover ratio. It helped also that they forced 23 Blackbird turnovers and Gordon Klaiber had his second double-double of the season with ten rebounds in addition to the 26 points. Klaiber leads the team with 16.3 points and 7.8 rebounds a game and has easily been the most improved player in the league. Two games remain before the holiday break, a Saturday game at St. Peter’s and a Monday tilt with Buffalo.

Long Island Blackbirds (3-4, 0-2 NEC)

The Blackbirds split their games last week, beating Albany 78-65 but losing the all important NEC game to Fairleigh Dickinson and digging themselves a 0-2 conference hole. Freshman Eugene Kotorabi would have been rookie of the week had it not been for Esa Maki-Tulokas. Against Albany, Kotorabi scored 20 points including five three-pointers. Kotorabi and Maki-Tulokas might not even be the best freshman on this squad; James Williams leads the team in assists and minutes and is second in points and third in rebounds. Only one game is scheduled this week with a trip to Rutgers on Saturday. The game is the first of six straight away from Brooklyn.

Monmouth Hawks (5-2, 0-0 NEC)

Last week brought two wins heading into their two week holiday break. Wednesday, the Hawks beat Hofstra 87-79 behind 22 points off the bench from Chris Kenny. Monmouth fell behind early, but took the lead halfway through the first half and never looked back. Blake Hamilton scored eighteen points but saved his best for Saturday’s game with UMKC. Hamilton failed to miss a shot, 9-9 from the field and 8-8 from the line for 27 points. The Hawks cruised to an 82-67 victory. The next game won’t be until December 28th against Rider. The schedule in the new year got flipped around to fit in the postponed game with Rutgers. A game with Sacred Heart originally scheduled for January 14th was moved to January 3rd and the game with Rutgers has been rescheduled for January 13th.

Mount Saint Mary’s Mountaineers (1-6, 0-0 NEC)

In a battle of winless squads, the Mount came away the victor last Saturday. They dropped Loyola MD in come from behind fashion. The Greyhounds led much of the second half, but a Kiel Butler three gave the Mount a lead they would never lose with 4:16 to go. In the 75-71 win, Nick Dodson had a double-double with sixteen points and fourteen rebounds while Landy Thompson led the team with seventeen points. The win was the first ever for head coach Milan Brown which leaves him only 829 more to tie Jim Phelan, the coach he replaced. Saturday, the Mount travels to La Salle and opens the conference season next Tuesday on the road at St. Francis NY.

Quinnipiac Bobcats (2-5, 0-0 NEC)

Last week’s only game was the thumping at the hands of UConn. Rob Monroe scored 21 points and doled out six assists in the loss. But the team shot only 29 percent from the field, turned the ball over eighteen times and was out-rebounded by 22. Such is life against a team with as much talent as the Huskies. The Bobcats will stay in the Big East for their next game, a Tuesday date at Notre Dame. With the CCSU game rescheduled for the end of January, the January 3rd game with St. Francis NY at Madison Square Garden becomes the first conference game. The Athletic Department is paying the way for 1000 students, staff and Alumni to attend the game to try and steal away the home court advantage in St. Francis’ backyard.

Robert Morris Colonials (2-3, 1-0 NEC)

The Colonials only game of the week was the win over St. Francis PA. Chaz McCrommon had a double-double with nineteen points and ten boards. Mark Anderson and Aaron Thomas narrowly missed double-doubles of their own. RMU out-rebounded SFPA by ten but committed sixteen turnovers. Two games are on the schedule this week with a trip to Buffalo on Wednesday and Maryland-Eastern Shore comes to town on Sunday.

Sacred Heart Pioneers (3-4, 1-0 NEC)

Many bright spots come from the tough loss to Boston College. Maurice Bailey scored 27 points while Omar Wellington scored fourteen points with nine assists. They forced 20 Eagle turnovers and held their own by grabbing 35 rebounds which was as many as the Eagles. The Pioneers hope to rebound this Saturday at Albany.

Saint Francis (NY) Terriers (1-4, 0-0 NEC)

John Quintana was the only player in double figures for the Terriers in the game versus St. John’s. Quintana led all scorers with eighteen points. The Terriers shot 33 percent the entire game, only 27 percent in the second half when the Red Storm shot 61 percent. Eric Thompson had ten boards and is averaging 8.8 per game which puts him in second place in the NEC. Three games are on the schedule this week. Binghamton comes to the city from Upstate New York on Wednesday. A trip to Happy Valley to face the Big Ten’s Penn State is on Saturday. The conference opener comes Tuesday against Mount St. Mary.

Saint Francis (PA) Red Flash (1-5, 0-1 NEC)

Four players scored in double figures in the loss to RMU with Erick Wills leading the way with seventeen points. The Red Flash can only blame themselves for the loss after shooting a pathetic 15 percent in the second half; the only thing that kept the game close was 15-17 shooting from the free-throw line. Two games this week include American coming to town on Thursday and a trip to VMI on Sunday. That’s it for this calendar year as the next game after that isn’t until January 3rd at Cornell.

Wagner Seahawks (0-5, 0-0 NEC)

Who’d a thunk that the Seahawks would be the last NEC team to get their first win? The Seahawks made it 0-5 Monday with a 78-59 loss to Georgia Southern. The nineteen point loss was the worst in the history of the Spiro Sports Center. The lone bright spot was Freshman Jamal Webb who scored a career-high twelve points. Three games are on the schedule this week, all somehow involved in the Pittsburgh Holiday Classic. Thursday they travel to Florida State. Saturday, it’s off to Pittsburgh to face Georgetown-KY, an NAIA squad and then Chicago State on Monday. The season opener against Murray State was also an official game for Wagner in this round robin tournament. Curiously, Wagner will not face tournament host Pittsburgh. My best guess is that the team with the best record in tournament games will be champion but this fact doesn’t happen to be mentioned anywhere I can find. Pittsburgh, Murray State and Florida State will be the favorites to win but I have this sneaking suspicion that in any sort of tie, Pittsburgh will be declared the winner.


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