NEC Daily Ball Screen: 1/1/22
A packed New Year's Eve of basketball, but let's start with one of the late games where Fairleigh Dickinson went out to Loretto and punched the Red Flash in the mouth, ultimately holding on for a 70-62 victory. Here's all you need to know:
Despite having the league's 2nd worst defense coming into the game (just ahead of this same SFU squad), Greg Herenda and his staff figured out a way to hold the Red Flash to just 0.86ppp as St. Francis made just 3 of 17 from three and had a 37.9% eFG%.
The key to FDU's defense was shutting down Ramiir Dixon-Conover, who finished with 7 points on 3 of 10 shooting, 4 assists and 3 turnovers. For the second game in a row, RDC has issues getting to his spots, and in two league games he's averaging 6 points on 4 of 16 shooting, with 7 assists and 9 turnovers. Perhaps the league has figured something out?
Despite playing without Devon Dunn and Joe Munden, FDU was able to make 8 of 22 from deep, largely thanks to Oscar Berry (3 of 7) and Brandon Rush (3 of 9). Rush finished with 22 points on 8 of 17 shooting, while Berry had 11. 6'2" first-year guard Sebastien Lamaute had a fascinating line, especially for a guard; 14 points on 7 of 13 shooting, 15 rebounds, and 2 steals. Mikey Square went for 12 and 9.
After averaging 3 ppg over his last 3, Josh Cohen bounced back with 15 points on 7 of 12 from the field, 9 boards (6 offensive) and 2 assists in 28 minutes. Max Land also had 15 points on 16 FGA and 7 boards. Ronell Giles was held to just 4 points on 1 of 9 shooting. What makes SFU's offensive numbers so surprising is that they got to the free throw line 24 times compared to FDU's 12. However, they made just 15 of those attempts, including 7 of 12 from Cohen.
Thanks to winning via forfeit on Wednesday due to Mount St. Mary's' covid pause, the Knights are now a surprising 2-0 after finishing 0-10 in the non-conference. St. Francis, who yours truly ranked as the #4 team in the NEC just a week ago, is now 0-2 with both losses coming at home. 4-straight road games await.
Central Connecticut 67, St. Francis-Brooklyn 55
In a battle of the two most short-handed NEC teams, thanks to this stupid pandemic, CCSU went into Brooklyn and went on a 22-0 run late in the second half after being given a 4.5% chance to win by Kenpom when they were down 49-37 with 12:19 left in the 2nd half. Look at that win probability chart:
In watching this game closely, CCSU head coach Patrick Sellers made a number of 2nd half adjustments. Among them; going small. Over the final 6:20, Sellers rolled with a lineup of Davonte Sweatman (5'8"), Joe Ostrowsky (6'0"), Ian Krishnan (6'2"), Trenton McLaughlin (6'6"), and Andre Snoddy (6'6"), 4 of whom are freshman. Because of that lineup's ability to switch everything, the Blue Devils were constantly in the passing lanes, ultimately forcing 17 Terriers turnovers (26.6%).
St. Francis-Brooklyn, which was without its top two scorers in Michael Cubbage and Patrick Emilien for the 2nd straight outing, got a huge game from Tedrick Wilcox; 27 points on 10 field goal attempts, including 5 of 10 from three, and 6 boards. However, he was largely shut-down in the 2nd half, making just 1 of 3 from deep after intermission. Rob Higgins added 15 points (5 of 9 shooting), but the rest of the roster combined to score just 13 points.
For Central Connecticut, which was again without Nigel Scantlebury, Jayden Brown, Tre Mitchell, Zach Newkirk, and backup big Arian Dehnavi, just 7 guys took the floor, 5 of whom were freshman. Snoddy was the Blue Devils' best player yesterday, finishing with 14 points, 9 boards, and 0 turnovers, including making all 4 of his free throw attempts. Two other freshmen, Davonte Sweatman (11 points, 3 assists, 5 of 6 from the charity stripe) and Trenton McLaughlin (11 points on 4 of 5 shooting) joined Snoddy in double-figures, while 4th-year junior Ian Krishnan went for 14 points, though he was just 1 for 7 from deep. That one made 3P, however, gave them their first lead of the ball-game late in the 2nd half. Joe Ostrowsky had a solid 9 points, 5 boards, and 3 assists in 26 minutes.
This game said more about the future of CCSU than anything else; it doesn't matter how short-handed your opponent is, winning on the road by primarily playing freshman, despite shooting 4 of 14 from three, and finding yourself down 12 with 12 minutes remaining shows the kind of fight this roster has, as well as Sellers' coaching acumen. For St. Francis-Brooklyn; get your guys back and regroup.
Bryant 85, Sacred Heart 82
The day's most exciting game, the Pioneers came back from a 13-point 1st half deficit, and had a chance to tie late but Aaron Clarke's three-point attempt with 5 seconds left rimmed off at the Chace.
There was very little defense in this one, as the two teams combined to score 1.23ppp. Peter Kiss, who has struggled to shoot it so far this season, went for a career-high 33 points, including 4 of 10 from downtown, and Charles Pride added 18 on 6 of 11 shooting (and 6 of 7 from the charity stripe). While the Bulldogs continued to have their issues from beyond the arc (8 of 26 yesterday, 28.4% on the season), they were 20 of 27 at the rim, including 7 of 8 from Kiss, 5 of 7 from ride, and 4 of 5 from Greg Calixte (9 points) as SHU's lack of rim protection reared its head in this one. Once again, Bryant's Adham Eleeda was the bright spot from beyond the arc; he was 4 of 10 on Friday afternoon, and is now shooting 34-91 from three on the season (37.4%), and is just 2 of 7 from two. The definition of a sharp-shooter. Hall Elisias was quiet offensively, but did have 5 blocks, and Luis Hurtado scored just 3 points but had 6 assists and 0 turnovers. As a team, Bryant has 20 assists against just 9 TOs.
For Sacred Heart, Aaron Clarke and Tyler Thomas did a bit of a role reversal; Clarke led the way with 21 points, including 5 of 5 from the free throw line (he's now made 49 of 55 from the charity stripe on the season), while Thomas scored 15 points (7 of 11 shooting) but had 7 assists against 3 turnovers, plus a pair of steals. Nico Galette came off the bench to put up a 18 point, 15 rebound, 4 assist line in 32 minutes, while Cantavio Dutreil chipped in 16 and 7. After seeing his minutes dwindle this season, Dutreil scored 22 points and had 21 rebounds this week, as Latina needed his big body against LIU's Isaac Kante and Bryant's Hall Elisias.
What hurt Sacred Heart, especially early, were turnovers; Bryant came into the game with a low 15.7% turnover rate, yet SHU coughed it up 15 times (22%), including 9 times in the first half. Making threes (10 of 25) and free throws (10 of 11) kept them in the ballgame.
Merrimack 82, Long Island 77
In the day's most confounding game, two of the best defenses in the NEC combined to allow 1.28ppp, as Merrimack moved to 2-0 thanks to its...offense. What's going on up in North Andover?
Merrimack's Adjusted OE, in the non-conference: 88.0, 343rd nationally.
Merrimack's Adjusted OE, in 2 NEC games: 117.9.
On Friday, the Warriors could not miss; they had an 80.2% eFG% thanks to making 17 of 26 from three (and 13 of 22 from two). Jordan McKoy, who has gotten more and more run as Devin Jensen has been out with an injury, made 7 of his 11 3-point attempts, and is now shooting 41.3% from beyond the arc. But he wasn't alone Mikey Watkins was 4 of 6, Ziggy Reid and Mykel Derring were 2 of 3, while Malik Edmead and freshman Nick Filchner each added one to the ledger. In fact, every Warrior that attempted a three-pointer made one.
McKoy had a team-high 21 to go along with 6 boards, earning his first career "Kenpom MVP". Watkins had 16 points and 6 assists (but 6 turnovers), while Jordan Minor was limited to just 24 minutes due to foul trouble, though managed to score 12 points.
You'd think that if Merrimack is going to score 1.32ppp, they'd win in blowout fashion right? Well, no! Long Island was able to pick part the Merrimack zone and get a lot of offense at the rim, finishing 20 of 29 there. Despite falling behind by 19 points, the Sharks rallied back thanks to Ty Flowers' 23 points, though he was just 2 of 7 from three. Eral Penn made 8 of 10 at the free throw line for 18 points and 5 boards, while Isaac Kante was 7 of 12 from the field (18 points). Those three combined for 59 of LIU's 77 points. Ultimately, the Sharks were outdone by their 4 of 16 from three.
Merrimack is now 2-0, and has what could be the easiest road trip coming up; at FDU and CCSU. Neither will be a pushover, but starting 3-1 is well within reach for this Warriors club.
The final non-conference game of the NEC Schedule.
Central Connecticut at Rutgers, 5pm, B1G Network
A game that was originally postponed from last week, I'd guess that CCSU is playing this one because it wants (needs) the paycheck, which is 100% reasonable. I'd fully expect CCSU to be short-handed again (I'd doubt, even if one, or a few of, Scantlebury, Brown, Mitchell or Newkirk are out of quarantine, that they'd make the trip down to New Jersey on their own). While Central Connecticut was able to win down the stretch on Friday by going small, they won't be able to do that on Saturday; Rutgers features 6'11", 240 lb. Cliff Omoruyi, who has a 59.8% eFG%, and their wings go 6'7" (Caleb McConnell), 6'6" (Ron Harper, Jr.) and 6'6" (Paul Mulcahy).