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Northeast Conference Notebook

March 1, 2004 Conference Notes No Comments

Northeast Conference Notebook

by Keith Burdette

With one week left, the eight teams to make the NEC tournament starting March 6th at Wagner College are all but set. Quinnipiac and Long Island have been eliminated and Mount Saint Mary’s is hanging on by a thread. The Mount needs to sweep their last three games AND hope that Sacred Heart loses out. The Mount did beat Robert Morris last week to keep their hopes alive but that game was at home and the next two are on the road where they’ve one twice all year. If they can get through those two, the last game is at home against first place Monmouth.

The biggest game of this last week comes Thursday as Monmouth and St. Francis NY battle for first place. If Monmouth wins, they will wrap up first place in the conference. They could still end up tied for first with St. Francis NY or Farleigh Dickinson but they’d hold the tie breaker over both. If St. Francis NY wins, they’d need to beat Farleigh Dickinson in the last game of the season to sew up first place. If they then lose the game to FDU, tie breakers would need to be used. If they end up tied with Monmouth in any fashion, Monmouth wins the tie breaker. If they end up tied with solely Farleigh Dickinson, the final standing of Robert Morris and Wagner will determine the winner. That’s a lot of ifs so to sum it up the chances look good for Monmouth, St. Francis NY controls their own destiny and Farleigh Dickinson needs some help.

Central Connecticut State Blue Devils (8-8 NEC, 11-12)

The Blue Devils lost their first game last week to Wagner 66-63. The Seahawks built a sixteen point lead early in the second half only to watch it slip to none but the Blue Devils could never take the lead. Ron Robinson had thirteen rebounds but only six points on 2-11 shooting for his lowest point total of the season. Rob Robinson bounced back the next game out to lead five Blue Devils in double figures with 25 points as they beat Sacred Heart 95-83. Tied at 47 at the break, CCSU scored the first nine points of the second half and never let the Pioneers get no closer than six the rest of the game. The Blue Devils have already guaranteed a berth to the NEC tournament and will fight for seeding with trips to Robert Morris and St. Francis PA, teams that have lost three conference games at home between them this season.

Fairleigh Dickinson Knights (10-6 NEC, 15-10)

The Knights opened last week with a tough 63-57 loss at St. Francis PA. They opened the game with a nice run to take a seven point lead before going cold and allowing the Red Flash to take a five point lead at the break. The Knights hung tough in the second half but could get no closer than one and watched SFPA answer every run. Chad Timberlake and Gordon Klaiber each had sixteen points but saw the rest of their teammates struggle from the field. FDU won their next game at home versus Monmouth to keep their league title hopes alive. Leading by one at halftime, the Knights went on a 21-0 run the first five minutes of the second half to bury the Hawks. Gordon Klaiber led five players in double figures with 20 points in the 86-64 win. For the Knights to win the league title, they first have to win a game at home against Long Island then on the road at St. Francis NY on Monday. They’d then need Monmouth to lose its two remaining games to set up a first place tie with St. Francis NY. To win the tie breaker, the Knights need Wagner to finish ahead of Robert Morris and Sacred Heart and at worst even with Central Connecticut State.

Long Island Blackbirds (4-12 NEC, 8-17)

The Blackbirds did a reasonable job of playing spoiler for the top teams in the NEC this past week. Despite shooting only 29 percent from the field against Monmouth, the game was tied at 55 with fewer than four minutes to play before the Hawks scored the last eight points of the game to win 63-55. Brandon Thomas had a double-double with fifteen points and twelve rebounds while Eugene Kotorabi had thirteen rebounds off the bench in the loss. Saturday, LIU knocked St. Francis NY out of first place with a 78-75 win. Brandon Thomas scored 30 points and Derek Bell (16 points, 13 rebounds) and James Williams (11 points, 10, assists) each had double-doubles. But then St. Francis NY moved back into first place by beating the Blackbirds 75-66 on Tuesday. Derek Bell had another big game with 20 points and thirteen rebounds but only Aubin Scott joined him in double figures with eighteen points. The Blackbirds hope to put a fork in Farleigh Dickinson’s title chances on Saturday before a potential battle for last place to close the season against Quinnipiac on Monday.

Monmouth Hawks (11-5 NEC, 17-10)

By winning their first two games last weekend, Monmouth looked to be cruising to the league’s regular season title. Thursday, they beat Long Island 63-55 behind a career-high fifteen points from Deki Delic. The Hawks held the lead most of the game but the Blackbirds never gave up and tied the score at 55 with just fewer than four minutes to play. Blake Hamilton hit two free throws to take back the lead and Monmouth held LIU scoreless the rest of the game. Then the Hawks used to 22 points from Blake Hamilton and 20 points from Dwyane Byfield to beat Robert Morris on its own floor Saturday 68-58. Monmouth took a five point lead into halftime then went on a 12-1 run early in the second half to build a double digit lead the Colonials could not erase. But Monday night, the wheels came of the bus at the beginning of the second half on the road at Farleigh Dickinson. Trailing by only one, the Hawks allowed the Knights to score the first 21 points of the half and ultimately win the game 86-64. Marques Alston scored eighteen points off the bench, but couldn’t offset poor shooting nights from Byfield and Hamilton. The loss dropped the Hawks back into a first place tie with St. Francis NY which sets up Friday’s night’s clash with those very Terriers. With a win, the No. 1 seed in the NEC tournament would be theirs. The Hawks hold the edge having beating St. Francis NY on the road earlier in the season. With a loss, Monmouth can still get the No. 1 seed but they would have to win at Mount St. Mary’s on Monday and get some help from Farleigh Dickinson.

Mount Saint Mary’s Mountaineers (5-10 NEC, 7-18)

The Mount kept its NEC tournament hopes alive by beating Robert Morris on Thursday 69-53. A 15-0 run to close the first half gave them an insurmountable 18-point lead at the break. Antonio Johnson went a perfect 9-9 from the field and scored a career high 21 points. Landy Thompson scored fifteen points while freshman Mychal Kearse added twelve points and six rebounds. Saturday, Kearse hit a jumper with ten seconds to go against St. Francis PA to give the Mount a one point lead. But the Red Flash answered with a two to take the lead back with five seconds to go and Chris Summer’s try at the buzzer missed to give St. Francis PA the 76-75 win. Landy Thompson scored 23 points in the losing efforts while Mychal Kearse grabbed a game-high eleven rebounds. Kearse earned NEC rookie of the week honors but here’s guessing he’d much rather have gotten the win over SFPA. A win would have moved them a half game back of eighth place headed into the final weekend. Instead, they sit two-and-a-half back and can only hope to catch Sacred Heart for eighth place and make the tournament. To make it, the Mount needs to win out which includes a game at Sacred Heart on Thursday, a Saturday trip to Wagner and a game back at home against Monmouth on Monday. In addition to winning those three games, Sacred Heart must lose to Wagner on Monday.

Quinnipiac Bobcats (4-11 NEC, 8-18)

The Bobcats lost their only game last week at home to Wagner 79-70. It was Senior Day and the two main contributing seniors, Kason Mims and Rashuan Banjo each had seventeen points. But they could not make up for the absence of Rob Monroe who broke his foot in the previous game against Central Connecticut State and is out for the season. With no shot at making the NEC tournament, Quinnipiac heads on the road to face Robert Morris and St. Francis PA before one last home game to close the year against Long Island.

Robert Morris Colonials (9-7 NEC, 12-13)

The Colonials lost both games last week to bring their current losing streak to three. Thursday, they lost to Mount Saint Mary’s 69-53 as Chaz McCrommon, Maurice Carter and Derek Coleman shot only 7-35 from the field. The Mount built an 18 point lead in the first half when RMU shot only 23 percent as a team from the field. Saturday, the Colonials started a three game home stand to close the year but lost to Monmouth 68-58. Chaz McCrommon scored eighteen points but couldn’t bring his team back from a fourteen point deficit in the second half. Before the losing streak, RMU had been fighting for the top seed in the NEC tournament. But now they can finish no higher than third. Thursday they face Quinnipiac at home and Saturday they close out the regular season against Central Connecticut State which will be a key battle for seeding in the tournament.

Sacred Heart Pioneers (8-8 NEC, 12-13)

Last week I called the Pioneers the hottest team in the league having won three straight. They responded by losing at home to St. Francis NY 93-79 on Thursday and then on the road to Central Connecticut State 95-83 on Saturday. Joey Henley had 22 points against SFNY and Maurice Bailey had 24 points against CCSU but the Pioneers fell behind early in the second half against both teams and failed to gouge into double digit deficits. With a win in either of their last two games, SHU will clinch a berth into the NEC tournament for only the second time. Thursday they face the only team that can catch them for the eighth seed, Mount St. Mary’s, at home. Monday they travel to Wagner for the last game of the regular season in what would be a must win if the Mount wins its last three.

St. Francis (NY) Terriers (11-5 NEC, 14-11)

The Terriers ended this past week in the exact same place they started it, in a tie for first place with Monmouth. Mike Wilson got the week started on Thursday with 30 points on the way to a 93-79 win at Sacred Heart. But Saturday, the Terriers fell out of first place with a 78-75 loss at Long Island. SFNY sliced a thirteen point second half lead down to one in the last minute of the game but could get no closer as the Blackbirds hit their free throws down the stretch. Mike Wilson again led the team, this time with 20 points. Tuesday, the Terriers got revenge by beating LIU at home 75-66. Wilson scored 26 points to cap a spectacular week as this time SFNY built the second half lead that the Blackbirds couldn’t overcome. Coupled with Monmouth’s loss on Monday, the win moved the Terriers back into a tie for first place. Friday, St. Francis NY travels to Monmouth in a game that very well could decide the league title. With a win on Friday, the Terriers would still need to beat Farleigh Dickinson at home on Monday to ensure the top seed of the NEC tournament and home court advantage in the championship game if they were to make it that far.

St. Francis (Pa.) Red Flash (8-8 NEC, 11-14)

The Red Flash opened the weekend with a 63-57 win over Farleigh Dickinson at home. SFPA held off a late Knight run by making seven of eight free throws down the stretch. Jason Osborne scored thirteen points and snagged fifteen boards and Rashaan Benton added thirteen points off the bench in the win. Saturday, St. Francis PA eked out a 76-75 win over Mount St. Mary’s. Trailing by one in the final ten seconds, Erick Wills hit the game winner with 4.8 seconds remaining. The win clinched a berth in the NEC tournament. Wills scored 21 points to lead the team and Jason Osborne added fifteen. Paired with last Tuesday’s 28 point effort against Robert Morris, Osborne earned NEC player of the week honors. Riding a three game winning streak, the Red Flash failed to keep the momentum together and fell to Wagner 70-66 on Monday. Darshan Luckey had 21 points and made a career-high five threes but could not erase a one point halftime deficit after leading most of the first half. The Red Flash will close out the regular season with Central Connecticut State and Quinnipiac coming to town.

Wagner Seahawks (9-7 NEC, 12-14)

After starting the home schedule with five straight losses, the Seahawks have won four straight at the Spiro Sports Center, including two this weekend. The two home wins were sandwiched around a win at Quinnipiac for the team’s first three-game win streak since the end of December. Thursday they held on for a 66-63 win over Central Connecticut State behind 24 points and twelve rebounds from Nigel Wyatte and eleven assists from Courtney Pritchard. Wyatte grabbed fourteen rebounds and scored fourteen points on Saturday when Wagner spoiled Quinnipiac’s Senior Night with a 79-70 win. Monday, they finished the trifecta with a 70-66 win over St. Francis PA, holding off a furious rally in the last minute. Nigel Wyatte scored 23 points, including the 1000th of his career to lead all scorers. Wagner closes the regular season with two more home games against Mount Saint Mary’s and Sacred Heart. Depending on how the other action shakes out, Wagner could get as high a seed as fourth in the NEC tournament. This would be bad news for the No. 1 seed since the first two rounds of the of the tournament are held at Wagner and that team may have to beat a streaking Wagner team at the Spiro Sports Center to earn the home NEC championship game.


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