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NEC Daily Ball Screen: 12/9/21

And they're on the board!

One of two winless NEC programs heading into last night, St. Francis-Brooklyn went on the road to Saint Peter's and knocked off the Peacocks 71-60. Michael Cubbage led the Terriers with 15 points, and while he was just 4 of 12 from the field, he made 7 of 8 at the charity stripe, grabbed 11 rebounds, and had 6 steals. Stat. Stuffer.

It's easy to get caught up in the record (now 1-8), but Glenn Braica's group has really started defending. Over the past three games, all against teams ranked #261 or higher at Kenpom, the Terriers have allowed just 0.91ppp, limiting opponents to 10 of 45 from three, and forcing turnovers on 24% of their defensive possessions. After a rough start, Brooklyn now has the 5th best Adjusted Defensive Efficiency in the Northeast Conference.

What's really hurt SFC has been an inability to make shots, and last night they did just enough; 6 of 17 from three, though just 15 of 32 from two (49% eFG%). Where they really stood out was at the free throw line; there were frequent whistles in this one, with both teams getting to the free throw line 31 times (SFC made 23 of the, Saint Peter's 22).

Larry Moreno had a big night, scoring 18 points (4 of 7 for three). Prior to November 26th, Moreno had never started a game in his 2+ year career, but he's started 4 of the last 5, and has scored in double figures in four of his last six games. The junior guard is shooting 38% from three on the season.

Rob Higgins added 13 points and 4 assists, while Patrick Emilien went for 10/6. Freshman Nick Folk, appearing in just his 3rd game for SFC, chipped in 9 points after scoring 11 in last weekend's loss to Hartford.

Odd: Just three Terriers, Moreno, Cubbage, and Emilien, have played 10+ minutes in every game this season.

It's worth noting that Saint Peter's was without starting PG Matthew Lee for the 2nd consecutive game. Lee finished 3rd in the MAAC in assist rate last season (28%), and has a 29% assist rate so far this season. I can't help but wonder if his absence played into the Peacocks' 17 turnovers. For Saint Peter's, Fousseyni Drame was the only player in double-figures with 10. He also had 5 rebounds and 4 blocks.

Bryant 76, New Hampshire 59

Adham Eleeda, who came into the night having made just 15 of 52 (29%) from beyond the arc, scored 18 points on 6 of 8 from three (plus 6 boards), as Bryant outscored UNH 39-26 in the 2nd half.

For the first time since Bryant beat Holy Cross on 11/21, the Bulldogs scored more than 0.93ppp, largely thanks to Eleeda, as well as Bryant's ability to get it done at the rim (17 of 24). Peter Kiss scored a game high 23 as he was 6 of 9 at the rim (just 1 of 6 from three). Charles Pride, who has really struggled from the field to start the season, was consistently in the paint (5 for 5 at the rim, but 0 for 5 from three). In fact, Bryant outscored New Hampshire 38-18 in the paint. Part of that was due to 14 offensive rebounds (45.2%).

Playing without 2nd leading scorer Nick Guadarrama, UNH had trouble getting anything going towards this rim (just 3 of 10). Leading scorer Jayden Martinez managed to score 16 points, but he was just 6 of 14 from the field, and attempted just 1 free throw.

Notable: non-Eleeda Bryant players were just 2 of 14 from three.

Penn State 74, Wagner 54

Man, Wagner picked a bad night to have a...bad night.

Taking on the B1G's Nittany Lions, the Seahawks put up their worst Adjusted OE and adjusted DE in a 20-point loss out in Happy Valley.

The score was tied at 23 with ~3 minutes left in the 1st half before Penn St. went on a 36-16 run to go up 20 about halfway through the 2nd half. Alex Morales was limited to 26 minutes due to foul trouble, though he did score 11 points on 5 of 9 shooting, and had 5 assists against just 2 turnovers. However, as a team the Seahawks made just 2 of 14 from three, and got to the free throw line just 6 times. As is often the case when mid-majors are overmatched against P5 talent, Wagner spent a lot of time in the mid-range, making just 10 of 25.

Penn St., on the other hand, got hot from three, making 10 of 28 from beyond the arc, which more than made up for their 17 turnovers. Sam Sessoms was 6 of 8 from the field (16 points), while former Siena star Jalen Pickett had 16 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists.

For Bashir Mason, the good news is that his entire team is back, as DeLonnie Hunt returned from a two game absence to log 24 minutes. This loss shouldn't take the shine off Wagner; they dropped just 1 spot at Kenpom despite the 20-point defeat.

Notable; Freshmen Javier Esquerra and Zaire Williams both got the start despite Hunt's return, with he and Will Martinez both coming off the bench. Esquerra only played 12 minutes, and so far this season he's just 3 of 24 from the field, with 13 assists to 13 turnovers. Williams is 11 of 28 from the field (3 of 14 from three). However, both have steal rates above 3%.

American 83, St. Francis (PA) 73

After nearly knocking off Ohio last weekend, the Red Flash went on the road to DC and had, arguably, their worst overall game of the season in an 83-73 loss to Patriot League's American.

The offense was fine; 1.11ppp (59.4% eFG%) will get it done most nights, but American utilized its Princeton offense to get a ton of good looks from outside (10 of 15 from three), and easy buckets inside (18 of 30 at the rim). Johnny O'Neil (22 points, 5-5 from deep) and Colin Smalls had 20.

American did a nice job keeping St. Francis off the offensive boards (just 6 ORs, 24%), and the Red Flash attempted just 9 three-pointers (making 3). However, the story of the night for SFU was Josh Cohen. The 6'10" big scored 23 points on 10 of 12 shooting, and over the past five games is averaging 16.8 points and 7.8 rebounds per game, which is All-NEC level production. With Mark Flagg sidelined, Cohen played a career-high 35 minutes, and has been SFU's best player so far this season.


Long Island at Fordham, 7pm

Merrimack at Gonzaga, 9pm

Things to Watch:

1) Long Island and Fordham are two similar teams; they both play uptempo and take a ton of three-pointers. However, Fordham generally plays 4 guards, while Long Island plays 3 bigs. Two of those Rams guards, Antonio Day, Jr. and Darius Quisenberry, combine to averaged 35 ppg. Shut down one (or both), and Fordham can be got (CCSU took them to double OT).

2) I love Joe Gallo's zone defense as much as the next guy, but let's be real here; Gonzaga has the 3rd highest eFG% in the nation (59.4%), and has more size and athleticism than this Merrimack program has ever seen. Prior to Thursday night, the best team the Warriors have played since transitioning to D1 was Providence (#40 at Kenpom), which beat MC 93-56 in November of 2019. This is a good experience for Merrimack, and a nice paycheck for the athletic department. Come out of this weekend healthy (they play Indiana on Sunday), beat Maine next Tuesday, and be ready for NEC play.

Best Bets

Man, I'm in a slump. Quite honestly, I expected Wagner to play Penn State tight, and was shocked to see the score pop up on my phone in the 2nd half. I got Wagner +9.5, and throughout the day that number got beaten down to +7.5. I was not alone. However, I remain undeterred!

Season Record: 13-15

Today's Bet: Long Island (+7.5) at Fordham

After a rough start, LIU has covered in 3 of their last 4 games...and the one game they didn't cover, they missed by just 0.5 points. Fordham is operating on a short rotation, with multiple transfers either ineligible or hurt, and they don't have much size. Their lone rotation big, 6'9" Chuba Ohams, is a handful. But so is Isaac Kante, Eral Penn, and Ty Flowers. Those 3 will get to work on the offensive boards, and LIU will keep this to a two-possession game.

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