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NEC Daily Ball Screen: 1/7/22

There were three NEC games last night, as Fairleigh Dickinson (vs. Merrimack) and Sacred Heart (at Central Connecticut) were forced to forfeit due to covid issues within their respective programs.

There's been a lot of chatter on Twitter regarding the NEC's forfeit rule. I addressed it a few weeks ago, and ultimately I do not love it (especially if/when teams have a 100% vaccination rate), but at the same time I understand the reason for forcing teams to forfeit and accept it. In a perfect world, the NEC would do what the WCC did last season and hire someone smarter than me (like Ken Pomeroy) to calculate an adjusted winning % based on actual performance and strength of schedule. However, unlike last season, I don't think the league expects to have to cancel that many games.

Anyway, on to the games.

Wagner 84, Bryant 81 (OT)

NEC game of the year? It'll be in the conversation, that's for sure.

Wagner came back from a 13-point 1st half deficit to ultimately take a 69-68 lead with 1:55 left. However, after Adham Eleeda got fouled while making a 3-pointer, making the ensuing free throw to put Bryant up 75-71 with 47 seconds left, it appeared the Bulldogs had the game well in-hand.

Then all hell broke loose; Alex Morales got fouled and made both free throws to cut the lead to 75-73 with 36 seconds left. Then, with Bryant trying to break the press, Elijah Ford forced Peter Kiss to turn it over (from my vantage point a foul could have potentially been called), with Ford finding Zaire Williams for a layup to tie it with 29 seconds left.

Peter Kiss missed badly on a three with 0.5 seconds left, causing a shot clock violation, and we ultimately ended regulation tied after Wagner strangely ran an inbounds play that would only be legal after a made basket, though Bryant was unable to capitalize.

In the extra frame, Wagner reeled off 6-straight, and ultimately held on after Adham Eleeda missed a deep three with 4 seconds left.

For the Seahawks; this one really feels like an escape job. Knocking off the league's 2nd best team despite making 3 of 19 from three (42.8% eFG%) would cause any coach to breathe a huge sigh of relief. Reigning NEC Player of the Year Alex Morales made big play after big play, finishing with 24 points (7 of 14 shooting, 8-8 from the charity stripe), 10 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 blocks, and 0 turnovers in 45 minutes. Raekwon Rogers was huge in the post, especially with the Bryant bigs in foul trouble, putting up a 15/11 double-double, while Elijah Ford had 16 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists (1 turnover), 3 steals, and 2 blocks. Ford, in particular, took over at times in the 2nd half, getting to the rim almost at will.

As a team, the Seahawks turned it over just 7 times (8.4% of possessions), while forcing 19 Bryant TOs.

Bryant got huge games from Peter Kiss and Charles Pride, two guys who will probably end up on the league's All-NEC 1st team at season's end. Kiss, who had struggled from the free throw line this season, was 13 of 14 at the charity stripe, though just 2 for 8 from three, finishing with 27 points and 4 boards in 45 minutes. Pride logged 43 minutes, scoring 23 points and grabbing 13 boards, making winning play after winning play. Hall Elisias was limited to 17 minutes because of foul trouble, ultimately putting up an 8 point, 9 rebound night before fouling out. Back-up big Greg Calixte also fouled out in regulation. Adham Eleeda, who made what appeared to be the dagger in regulation, was just 1 for 5 from beyond the arc but did have 9 rebounds and was tasked with defending Rogers after Luis Hurtado also picked up his 5th foul.

I know Wagner fans are ecstatic about the win, and I don't mean to rain on the parade, but; is there some cause for concern here? Bryant threw a zone at them, doing their best to force the Seahawks into becoming a jump-shooting team and, well, they've really struggled to make jump shots. Over their last three games, Wagner has made just 6 of 38 from beyond the arc. DeLonnie Hunt, in particular, has really struggled with his shot; he was 0 for 7 last night from deep, and is now 0 for his last 12, scoring just 12 points in the last three contests. But he's not alone; freshman Zaire Williams is just 8 for 32 from three on the season, Elijah Ford is 1 for 14, and Jahbril Price-Noel, who was supposed to be a guy that could stretch the defense, hasn't taken the floor since December 8th. If Elisias and Calixte hadn't fouled out of this one, I do wonder if Wagner would have been able to have as much success as they did in getting to the rim, especially late.

Credit Phil Martelli, Jr., who filled in for Jared Grasso who was not at the game after popping positive for covid. Martelli is an up-and-comer in the profession, and will likely get a shot to be a head coach at some point over the next few years.

Ultimately, this was a great game between two great teams. I'm hopeful this is the 3rd of three matchups between these two programs. I agree with Ron.

Long Island 74, Mount St. Mary's 57

As I wrote in yesterday's Ball Screen, I was worried about the Mount's ability to run their Pick & Roll against this LIU defense. While Dan Engelstad got creative early, which led to a few easy baskets, ultimately the Shark bigs iced ball screens and limited the Mount guards' (largely Jalen Benjamin) ability to get into the lane. LIU held MSMU to just 0.81ppp, thanks to forcing 20 turnovers (28.2%) and allowing just 7 free throw attempts.

Benjamin finished with 8 points (0 for 3 from downtown), 6 assists and 4 turnovers, while Engelstad's other playmaking guard, Dakota Leffew, had 2 points and 3 assists in 18 minutes. While the Mount is generally a good offensive rebounding squad, they ended up with just 6 ORs (18.8%, well below their 27.1% average).

Ty Flowers, as he often does, led the way with 23 points (4 of 10 from downtown), 6 boards, 4 assists, 4 steals, and 2 blocks. while Eral Penn had an efficient 20 points on 15 field goal attempts.

I'm not sure it's truly meaningful, but check out what LIU has been able to do at home versus on the road:

It's three games, and it's not as if Long Island has some natural, built-in home-court advantage. However, what I do find meaningful is the play of Tre Wood. The Sharks' PG scored 12 points last night to go along with 4 assist, 3 steals, and 0 turnovers. In their 3 D1 wins, Wood is shooting 13 for 25 from the field (3 for 6 from deep) and has 16 assists and 0 turnovers. In all other game, he's made just 14 of 31 FGA (2 of 19 from three), with 26 assists and 30 turnovers. When Wood plays well, LIU plays well.

An interesting piece to this one; just 9 free throw attempts between the two teams, with LIU going just 1 for 2 as Mount St. Mary's committed just 7 total fouls. I didn't see much of this one (by the time I got home LIU was up by a dozen), though it's surprising considering how much success the Sharks had at the rim (20 of 28).

For the Mount, Mezie Offurum had 12 points on 7 field goal attempts, while Nana Opoku had 10 and 7 rebounds. Deandre Thomas was back after a 2-game absence, but was just 2 for 8 from three with 3 turnovers.

Kyndall Davis only scored 4 points in 26 minutes, but did have 6 rebounds, 5 steals, 5 assists, and a couple of highlight plays:

St. Francis-Brooklyn 70, St. Francis (PA) 53

In a battle of teams that were both 0-2 in the league, the Terriers rode a big run to begin the 2nd half to win this one going away.

Michael Cubbage, who missed last week's games due to covid issues, returned to put up a 19 point, 6 assist, 3 steal line, while Patrick Emilien, who also missed SFC's two league losses, had 12 points and 11 boards. Tedrick Wilcox had his 3rd double-double with 10 points and 10 boards. Wilcox is a great shooter (24 of 48 from three on the season), but he can also do stuff like this:

Though the Terriers were missing Bahaide Haidara and Larry Moreno, they turned it up the defense as they had been doing back in December, limiting SFU to just 0.80ppp. The Red Flash were just 5 of 17 from three and 2 of 13 from the mid-range, and really missed Josh Cohen, who was unavailable.

Ramiir Dixon-Conover's struggles continued; the SFU point guard, who I listed as my #2 NEC PG last week, did score 14 points but it came on 14 field goal attempts, as he was just 1 for 5 from the mid-range. Ronell Giles, after playing like one of the top scorers in the league in December, has scored 5 points over his last two games, and is just 1 for his last 15 from the field.

Myles Thompson led SFU with 17 points, including 3 of 5 from deep (he's now shooting 46% from distance).

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