NEC Daily Ball Screen: 12/19/21

Central Connecticut welcomed its cross-town rivals into Detrick Gym on Saturday, and came away with a 75-65 victory over Hartford in a game that wasn't even that close. After falling behind 31-22 with 3:20 left in the 1st half, the Blue Devils went on an 18-5 run that extended past halftime. Another big run, mid-way through the 2nd half, turned a 49-47 game into a 68-53 CCSU lead, and they never looked back.


For Central, the story was outside shooting; the Blue Devils made a season-high 10 three-pointers (on 19 attempts), and their 57.1% FG% was just the 2nd time all season they've exceeded 51%. While Nigel Scantlebury continued to be CCSU's best player (18 points, 6 assists, 3 rebounds), it was Ian Krishnan who had the hot hand. The 4th year guard was 4 for 4 from three, and 7 of 9 from the charity stripe, scoring a season-high 21 points and breaking out of a 3-game slump where he made just 3 of 15 from downtown.


The other storyline for CCSU is the breakout of guard Tre Mitchell. The Blue Devils' leading returning scorer, Mitchell was largely ineffective over the season's first 9 games, and he saw his minutes slip because of it. However, after yesterday's 12 point, 5 rebound, 4 assist showing, Mitchell has averaged 13ppg over his last three, making 7 of 16 from three and going a perfect 8-8 from the free throw line.


The freshman front line of Andre Snoddy and Jayden Brown continues to be productive; the two combined for 19 points (7 of 14 from the field) and 18 rebounds.


Hartford, which saw the return of 7th year (seriously) senior Traci Carter, made just 8 of 28 from three, and ultimately went to a iso-heavy offense with Carter, Moses Flowers, and Austin Williams. While Carter was jus 1 of 11 in 25 minutes, Flowers was dominant; 7 of 11 from the field and 9 of 10 from the free throw line for 24 points, plus 9 boards. Williams added 14 points on 11 field goal attempts.


Mount St. Mary's 74, Morgan St. 60

The Mount dominated the first 10 minutes and the last 10 minutes, which led to a rather easy win over local-rival Morgan St. Similar to CCSU, the Mount made 10 three-pointers for the first time all season (on 23 attempts). After a slow start, Jalen Benjamin finished with 17 points (including 3 of 6 from downtown) to go along with 8 assists (5 turnovers). Freshman Jaylin Gibson came off the bench to score 13 points in 15 minutes (3 of 4 from three), while Josh Reaves knocked down a couple from long-range.


Mezie Offurum had an efficient 14 points on 9 field goal attempts, while Malik Jefferson grabbed 7 boards. Sophomore guard Dakota Leffew really stuffed the stat sheet, with 9 points, 7 rebounds, and 6 assists against 0 turnovers in 31 minutes. Nana Opoku had 5 blocks to go along with his 11 points and 6 boards.


As a team, the Mount grabbed 15 offensive boards, which correlates with a season-high 45.5%, which made up for the 19 turnovers (27.7%).


Yesterday was a homecoming for former Mount player Collin Nnamene, who played three seasons for Mount St. Mary's before transferring to Morgan St. The 6'9" big scored 2 points and grabbed 2 boards in 21 minutes of action. Morgan St. was led by senior big Lagio Grantsaan, who scored 13 points on 6 of 8 from the field.


Illinois 106, St. Francis (PA) 48

Take the check and go home, right?


SFU had no answer for Kofi Cockburn, who scored 21 points on 9 of 11 shooting in just 26 minutes, plus had 11 boards and 2 blocks. As a team, Illinois was 20 of 24 from inside the arc, including 16 of 17 at the rim, and they also made 18 of 24 from deep. What are you gonna do?


Ronell Giles continued his torrid stretch; 16 points, including 7 of 18 from the free throw line. I'll be writing about him in Monday's Mid-Ranger, for sure. Myles Thompson was 2 of 4 from deep, scoring 12 points. Everyone else had frustrating afternoons; Ramiir Dixon-Conover was just 2 of 11 from the field, the Mark Flagg/Josh Cohen combination scored 3 points on 1 of 10 shooting, and the Red Flash allowed Illinois to grab 56.5% of their offensive rebounding opportunities.


Virginia 82, Fairleigh Dickinson 49

Another buy-game, another blowout.


Virginia put up a 70% eFG%, as they were dominant inside (19 of 26 at the rim) and outside (9 of 17 from three). Yesterday I was worried about wings Jaylen Gardner and Armaan Franklin, and rightfully so. Gardner, the East Carolina transfer, was 14 of 18 from the field for 29 points, while Franklin added 12 points on 5 of 8 shooting.


Fairleigh Dickinson welcomed back Devon Dunn after a 2-game absence, and the 2nd year guard scored a team-high 16 points thanks to making 4 of 10 from three. Brandon Rush added in an efficient 13 points on 5 of 12 shooting. However, the rest of the roster combined to score 19 points, and as a team the Knights made just 6 of 23 from downtown and turned it over 15 times (23.4%).


Notable; FDU's rotation continues to look like a random number generator. P.O. Racine, who had a 4-game stretch earlier in the season where he played no more than 6 minutes in a single game, started and logged 21 minutes, and now appears to be the primary big. Joe Munden, who played 22 minutes against Fairfield last time out, scored 5 points in 9 minutes.


Today's Games

Bryant's matchup with Cornell was canceled due to covid issues related to Cornell's campus, while St. Francis' covid-issues within its program resulted in a cancellation with its home game against Longwood.


Sacred Heart at UMass-Lowell, 1pm, ESPN3

Army at Long Island, 2pm, NEC FrontRow


Things to Watch:


SHU at UML

UMass-Lowell is long and athletic, and they like to get into the passing lanes, forcing turnovers on 23.5% of their defensive possessions, good for 28th nationally. Sacred Heart has generally done a nice job in that department, as primary ball-handler Aaron Clarke is heady and strong with the ball (as evidenced by his 26 assists against 14 turnovers). Ultimately, this one is SHU's good offense (100.2 Adj. OE, 190th nationally) against UMass-Lowell's strong defense (101.4 Adj. DE, 185th).


Army at LIU

Remember when the Sharks knocked down 14 of 38 from three en route to a 99-65 blowout victory over Delaware St.? Since then, they've made just 18 of 75 (24%) during their 3-game D1 losing streak, all of which came on the road against top 205 Kenpom teams. Army has a strong defensive unit, holding teams to a 48% eFG%, including 32.1% from three (D1 average is 33.2%). Some cause for concern; LIU likes to use their size to do damage on the offensive boards, but Army is top 90 in the country in defensive rebounding rate.


Best Bets


Season Record: 16-18


Today's Bet: Army (+1.5) at Long Island


The Black Knights have been a bit of a conundrum in the early going; they started out strong, with a win over Hartford on a neutral, and home victories over Merrimack (by 23!) and Marist, and reasonable road-L's at Duke and La Salle. Then, they were blown out at home by Siena, and while they played that one without Jared Cross, he wouldn't have come close to making up the 16-point difference.


However, last time out they blew out NJIT on the road. That's the same NJIT squad that beat Sacred Heart and Fairleigh Dickinson, and also took St. John's to overtime.


Ultimately, I just don't like the matchup for the Sharks; while LIU will clearly have a size advantage, they've yet to really show that they can utilize the 3-bigs together in an efficient way on the offensive end. Meanwhile, Army is well-disciplined defensively, and has a high-level scorer in Jalen Rucker (41.9% from three), and a good, experienced point guard in Josh Caldwell (24.4% assist rate).