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Northeast Conference Notebook

February 21, 2004 Conference Notes No Comments

Northeast Conference Notebook

by Keith Burdette

What a difference a couple weeks makes. At last check, St. Francis NY seemed to be running away with the regular season title, with a cool game and a half lead. But two straight losses have drawn them back to the pack, and they are now one of four teams within a half game of the lead. The race between St. Francis NY, Robert Morris, Fairleigh Dickinson and Monmouth could go a long way to determining who gets the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. The first two rounds of the NEC tournament are held at Wagner but the championship game will be at the home of the highest remaining seed. So who has the advantage as league play ends?

Monmouth is currently tied for first place at 9-4 and has wins over each of the other three teams. They will have to earn first place with games at Robert Morris and Fairleigh Dickinson, and at home against St. Francis NY.

Also tied for first, St. Francis NY has accomplished a season sweep of Robert Morris. They also have a win over Fairleigh Dickinson, but lost at home to Monmouth. They’ve got Fairleigh Dickinson at home and a trip to Monmouth the last week of the season.

Robert Morris is a half game back, and has beaten Fairleigh Dickinson, but lost to Monmouth. They also were swept by St. Francis NY. The advantage they have is the fact that their last three games are at home, including a date February 21st with Monmouth.

Farileigh Dickinson is also a half game back but has yet to beat any of the other three teams hunting for first. A home game with Monmouth and a trip to St. Francis NY remain, and the Knights are hoping to change that fact. The Knights are also the only team in this group to win its last game.

With four or five games to go for each team in the conference, the bottom three teams who will miss the NEC tournament may be set. Barring a late run, they will be Mount St. Mary’s, Quinnipiac and Long Island. Each team is at least two games behind the 8th place team.

Wagner is in a unique position hosting the quarterfinals and semifinals of the NEC tournament. Currently they stand at 7th place and with four of their last five games at home, they could be in position to move up in the standings and make a surprise run to the finals.

Central Connecticut State Blue Devils (7-7 NEC, 10-11)

The Blue Devils have won four out of five to sneak back to .500 in league play. There was a big win over conference leader Monmouth, a come-from-behind last-second win at Fairleigh Dickinson, a solid win over St. Francis PA, a last-second loss to Robert Morris and then a blowout win over Quinnipiac to avenge an earlier loss. Ron Robinson earned NEC player of the week honors for his efforts against Monmouth and Fairleigh Dickinson, including the game-winner against the Knights. Javier Mojica also earned NEC rookie of the week honors during the same stretch. Currently standing at 6th place, Central will try to hold that position Thursday at Wagner and then hopes to move into a tie for fifth with a game against Sacred Heart on Saturday.

Fairleigh Dickinson Knights (9-5 NEC, 14-9)

The Knights opened this last stretch with a win over Quinnipiac but then lost two straight to Central Connecticut and Monmouth. FDU bounced back with wins last weekend over Mount Saint Mary’s and Wagner. Gordon Klaiber sat out the two point loss to Monmouth but came back with 28 points in the next game out against Mount Saint Mary’s. A trip to St. Francis PA comes on Thursday before coming back home to take on Monmouth on Monday.

Long Island Blackbirds (3-10 NEC, 7-15)

Coming off a win over Robert Morris, the Blackbirds had a chance to make a run into the NEC tournament. But LIU lost three straight, starting with an overtime game to Mount Saint Mary’s where they came back from thirteen down in the second half to force the extra frame. Successive losses to Wagner and Sacred Heart dropped them into last place in the NEC. Currently three games behind the eighth place team, the Blackbirds would need to leap-frog three teams to get into the NEC tournament. If they win four out of their last five, they would finish 7-11, a standing which earned them the eighth seed in the NEC tournament last season. That will be a tough task though with the next four games coming against the top four teams in the NEC. Thursday, they travel to Monmouth for the first of those games. Then Saturday and Tuesday they play a home-in-home with St. Francis NY.

Monmouth Hawks (9-4 NEC, 15-9)

The Hawks only won three out of the last five which was good enough to move into a tie for first place in the conference. Losses to Central Connecticut State and Sacred Heart sandwiched a three game winning streak over Quinnipiac, Mount Saint Mary’s and Fairleigh Dickinson. With a 3-0 record against the league’s top four and the highest conference RPI, they have to be the favorite for the regular season title. This weekend will go a long way to determine if they will hold up. Thursday they face Long Island at home but then Saturday it’s on the road to Robert Morris and Monday at Fairleigh Dickinson, both teams a half game behind the Hawks in the standings.

Mount Saint Mary’s Mountaineers (4-9 NEC, 6-17)

After winning two games over Long Island and St. Francis NY, the Mount appeared in position to make a run into the NEC tournament. Losses to Monmouth and Fairleigh Dickinson followed to drop them into 9th place in the NEC. Two games out of eighth place, the Mount will see the end of a four game stretch against the top four of the NEC Thursday when they face Robert Morris. Saturday, they face St. Francis PA in their only other game of the weekend. Both games will be at home where they always give a tough game. In six conference games at Knott Arena they are 3-3 but two of the losses came in overtime and the third was by one point.

Quinnipiac Bobcats (4-10 NEC, 8-17)

Since the buzzer beater win over Central Connecticut State, the Bobcats have managed only one win. In the last stretch, they lost four out of their last five, including a 26 point loss at home to the Blue Devils. The Bobcats can’t blame Rashaun Banjo for their recent struggles; in the last five games he’s averaged over 22 points a game. The lone win was a 65-63 win over St. Francis PA behind 30 points from Banjo. At 4-10, Quinnipiac is in 10th place, two and a half games out of the eighth seed in the NEC. In the best case scenario, three wins will get them to the NEC tournament. Only a game at home versus Wagner is on the schedule this weekend.

Robert Morris Colonials (9-5 NEC, 12-11)

The Colonials had a four game winning streak snapped Tuesday at St. Francis PA. Before the loss, RMU had swept Wagner and Sacred Heart at home and Central Connecticut State and Quinnipiac on the road. A three pointer from Derek Coleman with ten seconds to go gave the Colonials the win over the Blue Devils and went a long way to earning Coleman NEC rookie of the week honors. He averaged ten points a game on the trip to Connecticut in only the third and fourth starts of his career. Aaron Thomas also had a big weekend, averaging 23 points and six rebounds en route to earning NEC player of the week honors. RMU finished a four game road swing Thursday at Mount Saint Mary’s before heading back home to take on Monmouth Saturday.

Sacred Heart Pioneers (8-6 NEC, 12-11)

The Pioneers may be the hottest team in the NEC. They’ve won six of their last seven and three straight. The only loss of the stretch came at Robert Morris which they followed with wins over St. Francis PA, Long Island and Monmouth. The Pioneers beat NEC number one Monmouth by scoring the last seven points of the 70-63 game. Omar Wellington had fifteen points on 5-5 shooting from downtown and Maurice Bailey had sixteen points, including a steal and a couple free throws in the final minute to ice the game. SHU takes on the other NEC number one Thursday when they face St. Francis NY. Saturday it’s back to the road and a date with Central Connecticut State.

St. Francis (NY) Terriers (9-4 NEC, 12-10)

The Terriers had only two games in the last two weeks and had a six game winning streak headed into them. It seems like the time off didn’t do them good since they lost both games. They lost to Mount Saint Mary’s on the road 78-64 and to Wagner at home 74-70 and in each game SFNY fell behind early and struggled to come back. Against the Mount, each time they got close, the Mountaineers answered with a run to bring the lead back to double digits. Against the Seahawks, the Terriers cut the lead to one late but watched Wagner hit five of six free throws to seal the game. The Terriers have three games this weekend, a game at surging Sacred Heart on Thursday and a home-in-home with Long Island on Saturday and Tuesday.

St. Francis (PA) Red Flash (6-7 NEC, 9-13)

The Red Flash snapped a three game losing streak against then NEC number one Robert Morris on Tuesday 86-77. Jason Osborne scored 28 points and grabbed eleven rebounds and Darshan Luckey scored sixteen points, including the 1000th point of his career. Luckey became only the second sophomore in team history to accomplish the feat. Before the win over RMU, the Red Flash had been swept at Central Connecticut State and Quinnipiac and had suffered the first home loss of the year to Sacred Heart. SFPA will try to move to the .500 mark with a game at home against Fairleigh Dickinson on Thursday before a road trip to Wagner and Mount Saint Mary’s over the weekend.

Wagner Seahawks (6-7 NEC, 9-14)

The Seahawks started the last stretch by dropping both games of the Pennsylvania swing to St. Francis PA and Robert Morris. Wagner bounced back with a ten point win over Long Island at home. Back on the road, the winning ways continued with a 74- 70 upset of St. Francis NY. Teoine Carroll had 21 points, including some key free throws down the stretch to hold off the Terriers. But the momentum couldn’t continue and the Seahawks dropped their last game to Fairleigh Dickinson 71-58. Nigel Wyatte had 26 points and eleven rebounds but was the only Seahawk in double figures. Three games are on the schedule this weekend; Thursday it’s at home versus Central Connecticut State, Saturday it’s on the road at Quinnipiac and Monday it’s back home to face St. Francis PA.


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