NEC Daily Ball Screen: 12/30/21
As the NEC's league schedule opened last night, the story continued to be about covid. In case you missed it, Mount St. Mary's, despite having a 100% vaccination rate, had to forfeit its first two league games, both at home against FDU (originally scheduled for Wednesday night) and Wagner (Friday). But if you were thinking that those would be the only games affected by Omnicron, you'd be wrong.
Central Connecticut played last night without its best player in Nigel Scantlebury, plus 2 other starters (ROY frontrunner Jayden Brown, and Zach Newkirk), its 6th man (Tre Mitchell), and Brown's backup Arian Dehnavi. St. Francis-Brooklyn had to play at Merrimack without its two leading scorers Patrick Emilien and Michael Cubbage, SFU hosted Wagner without Myles Thompson, and LIU went to Sacred Heart without its primary 2-guards Alex Rivera and Kyndall Davis. There were other players missing as well (SHU was without Mike Sixsmith), but those were the big hitters.
Let's hope this is just a blip.
Wagner 72, St. Francis (PA) 64
The game of the night in my opinion, Wagner did what a championship-caliber team is supposed to do; they took a punch in the mouth early (SFU was up 20-10 8 minutes into the game), struggled to shoot it from the perimeter (2 of 12 from three), yet rode a pretty dominant defensive performance to an 8-point road win against a solid Red Flash team.
SFU, which came into the game with the league's best Adjusted OE, really had a tough time getting anything done at the rim (7 of 20) despite having a distinct size advantage. Part of that was Wagner really putting the clamps on Ramiir Dixon-Conover, who finished with just 5 points on 1-6 shooting, plus 6 turnovers. The Seahawks refused to let RDC turn the corner and get into the paint where he is deadly as a finisher and a passer. The St. Francis big-man tandem of Mark Flagg and Josh Cohen combined to score just 9 points on 6 field goal attempts.
Despite struggling from beyond the arc for the 2nd game in a row, Wagner got whatever it wanted inside; they were 27 of 39 on 2-pointers, including 18 of 27 at the rim. Alex Morales put up a seemingly quiet 16 points, 9 boards, and 3 assists, while Will Martinez did a ton of damage in and around the paint, scoring 16 points on 6 of 7 shooting with good mid-range shots like this:
Raekwon Rogers (18 points, 6 boards, 2 steals) and Elijah Ford (14 points, 6 rebs, 4 assists) also had big offensive games, getting a lot done inside.
Ronell Giles, who narrowly missed making my non-conference All-NEC 2nd team, picked up the scoring slack for the Red Flash and finished with 18 points of 7 of 13 shooting. Marlon Hargis, filling in for Myles Thompson, had 15 points (2 of 4 from downtown) and 6 boards, while Max Land went for 12 and 5. Part of the issue for SFU was 16 turnovers (23.5%), as was making just 10 of 17 from the free throw line. However, they stayed in this game thanks to strong defensive rebounding; Wagner was able to grab just 5 of their misses (21.7%), which is well below their season average of 31.3%.
The clear NEC favorites, Wagner starts out 2-0 thanks to the Mount St. Mary's forfeit on Saturday, and follows that up with 4 consecutive home. SFU hosts Fairleigh Dickinson on Friday, then has 4 straight roadies.
Bryant 80, Central Connecticut 76
As I mentioned above, a full-strength Bryant team went into Detrick Gym against a significantly under-manned CCSU squad, and snuck away with a 4-point win.
I know Bryant won, but let's start with Central Connecticut; playing without 3 starters, the Blue Devils showed tremendous resolve in this one, especially after they went down 44-31 at the beginning of the 2nd half. The freshman back-court tandem of Davonte Sweatman and Joe Ostrowsky were incredibly good; Sweatman scored 16 points on 13 field goal attempts and had a couple of assists, while Ostrowsky had an efficient 14 points on 5 of 10 shooting, plus had 7 assists against 2 turnovers and 2 steals in 37 minutes. Another freshman, Andre Snoddy, was 6 of 10 from the field (13 points) plus 5 boards. 4th year guard Ian Krishnan added 14 points (2 of 6 from three). Who expected a CCSU team sans Nigel Scantlebury to put up 1.00ppp against Bryant? The early returns on Patrick Sellers' first freshman class are very good, especially when he can thrust 6'7" Abdul Momoh into his first collegiate action, and Momoh can respond with 6 points and 7 boards in 20 minutes.
Bryant continued to struggle from three (7 of 25), but had no issues inside against the under-sized Blue Devils; they finished 14 of 22 at the rim while getting to the free throw line 27 times (CCSU got there just 13 times). Hall Elisias did it on both ends of the floor; 25 points (9 of 11 from the field, 7 of 8 from the charity stripe), 10 boards, and 5 blocks. I mean, this kind of says it all:
Adham Eleeda, who is now shooting 37% from deep (and has attempted just 4 2-pointers), made 5 of the teams 7 3Ps on the night in 12 attempts, while Charles Pride had 11 points, 12 boards, and 5 assists.
My concern for Bryant continues to be Peter Kiss' issues shooting the basketball. As he's done often this season, he put up good box score numbers; 12 points, 8 boards, 5 assists. But he made just 4 of 18 from the field (1 of 6 from three) and turned it over 5 times (and also got T'd up).
The Bulldogs turn around to face Sacred Heart in Smithfield on Friday, and they will have to play better in that one.
Sacred Heart 69, Long Island 65
The Pioneers overcame 36 points from Ty Flowers largely thanks to their defense; despite a rather significant size disadvantage, SHU held Long Island to just 15 of 40 inside the arc. And Cantavio Dutreil was a big reason why; playing a season-high 28 minutes as Latina needed his 6'7" 210 lb. frame, Dutreil grabbed 14 boards and blocked 3 shots, to go along with 8 points.
Aaron Clarke, as he's been all season, was really good when Sacred Heart needed it most; 17 points, including 7 of 7 from the free throw line, and 6 assists against 3 turnovers. Nico Galette continued a fine sophomore season, scoring 16 points (6 of 12 shooting) and grabbing 8 boards, while Tyler Thomas had a quiet 15 points, including 3 of 7 from downtown. Galette and Dutreil each had 4 offensive boards.
As I mentioned above; Ty Flowers was dominant offensively last night. 36 points, including 6 of 10 from three, and 8 boards. He scored inside and outside, and was a perfect 4 for 4 from the charity stripe. Unfortunately for Derek Kellogg, Flowers got very little help as the Sharks managed just 0.9ppp despite grabbing 14 offensive boards (31.1%).
Non-Flowers LIU players made just 3 of 20 from downtown, as at times it felt like they settled for quick, well-defended 3-pointers. Eral Penn was just 4 of 16 from the field (1 of 6 from deep), Tre Wood was 1 of 9, and freshman Quion Burns, filling in at the '2', was just 1 of 5 from the field. Wood did have a season-high 9 assists (against just 1 turnover), and Isaac Kante had a solid 12 points and 9 boards.
Merrimack 74, St. Francis-Brooklyn 64
So, who saw Merrimack putting up 1.17ppp last night? Or allowing an under-manned SFC to score 1.02ppp? Yeah, odd things happening at Hammel Court last night.
For Merrimack, the Warriors offense only goes as far as Jordan Minor takes them, and last night was just one of those nights. Minor was 8 of 9 from the field and 7 of 13(!) from the free throw line (23 points), plus he had 6 rebounds and 6 blocks in 30 minutes before fouling out. Minor gets his offense in a variety of ways, but one of the most frequent (and efficient) is together with Edmead in the Pick & Roll. Like this:
Edmead, who can sometimes be out of control, was very good last night; 10 points (4 of 7 from the field), 5 assists, and 2 turnovers. Ziggy Reid, who is a matchup problem in the NEC at 6'6" 235 lbs., scored 20 points thanks to finishing 8 of 10 at the charity stripe. As a team, the Warriors made 7 of 18 from beyond the arc (Jordan McKoy was 2 for 3).
So how did an SFC squad missing its two best players manage to score 1.02ppp? Well, for starters, they were efficient from 3 (9 of 25), as well as from the free throw line (13 of 17), and grabbed 18 offensive boards (47.4%), which has been an issue for Merrimack all season.
Rob Higgins stepped up to score 18 points on 14 FGA, and 5 of 6 from the free throw line. Tedrick Wilcox, who had seen his minutes dwindle of late, put up a 12/12 double-double, and Larry Moreno made 3 of 7 from downtown (13 points). What really hurt was 16 turnovers (25.4%), which is par for the course when facing that Merrimack defense.