“Mama said there would be days like this,” The Shirelles so wisely said back in 1961. The NEC might be vastly improved and looking to move up in the conference pecking order, but in eight important games on an early Monday night in the season the league couldn’t get out of its own way while going 0-8, including a number of winnable games. Let’s run through the carnage.
The toughest losses were against the Patriot League. The NEC went 0-3 in games between the two leagues. It’s hard to figure out which one is the toughest to swallow. The loss by Quinnipiac at home to American? Defending NEC champion falling in overtime to Lafayette? There were a bunch of close losses, but the results were all the same.
American 61, Quinnipiac 55: It’s hard to win when you can’t shoot and that’s Quinnipiac’s problem right now. Even at home the Bobcats fell behind early and never regained the lead the rest of the way. Stephen Lumpkins, who returned this season from minor league baseball to play for the Eagles, scored a game-high 19 points. Quinnipiac was led by Ike Azotam (11 points on 12 shots) and Dave Johnson (11 points on 11 shots). The defense was good enough to win the basketball game thanks to forcing 17 turnovers and allowing only three offensive rebounds, but that’s just half of the equation. The Bobcats couldn’t get to the free throw line, so they had to score from the field and they shot just 3-17 from three. Junior transfer Shaquille Shannon came off the bench to make 3 out of 5 threes, but guys who are being counted on (Dave Johnson, Garvey Young and Zaid Hearst) went a combined 3-11.
Lafayette 98, LIU Brooklyn 94 (OT): This was an 82-possession game. Obviously the defense wasn’t good. Judging from eye-witness accounts, and the box score, the Blackbirds couldn’t stop Lafayette’s Dan Trist when it mattered. The 6’9″ sophomore forward scored 30 points on 14-18 shooting. He was backed up by Seth Hinrichs (20 points) and Tony Johnson (16 points). LIU allowed a stunningly high number of free throws and a 58% effective field goal percentage. That just isn’t going to get the job done. Ever. The offense, especially Jamal Olasewere, tried to bail out the defense, but his 25 points wasn’t enough. Here’s a baffling stat for you. The Blackbirds had more offensive rebounds than turnovers – and lost. The offense though really wasn’t the problem. You can’t allow 1.20 points per possession and expect to win a Division I basketball game.
Lehigh 89, Robert Morris 60: The problems for RMU against possibly the Patriot League’s best team were numerous. There were too many turnovers (27) and the defense was too soft (63% eFG% allowed). It led to the second blowout in as many games for the Colonials against a mid-major opponent. It seems like star guards are giving RMU fits. Nurideen Lindsey played great for Rider and then C.J. McCollum scored 19 points on 15 shots for the Mountain Hawks. McCollum got all of his teammates involved in this one too, as five players scored at least 10 points for Lehigh, and a sixth scored nine. Velton Jones has struggled early in the season for the Colonials. He shot 3-10 from the field and committed five turnovers in the loss. RMU gets a chance to turn things around tomorrow when the Colonials take on Fordham in the consolation game of the NIT Tip-Off bracket.
St. Peter’s 64, Central Connecticut 61: The Peacocks just beat Rutgers the other day on the road, so this wasn’t an easy game at all for the Blue Devils. CCSU actually led by eight points at halftime, but St. Peter’s managed to wrestle control back down the stretch. Kyle Vinales led all scorers with 24 points on 17 shots. This is the type of game John Dunne wants his team to play and ultimately why they won the game. Speaking of which, Desi Washington has been excellent through two games at St. Peter’s. He scored 23 points. Washington is also opening space for Yvon Raymond, who scored 16 points on only eight shots.
The four NEC teams in the other four games were faced with much more difficult tasks. They all played at BCS conference opponents. Those games went mostly as you’d expect.
Notre Dame 84, Monmouth 57: King Rice’s team trailed by 12 points at halftime, but ND was just too much in the second half. The size of the Irish really wore down Monmouth. Dion Nesmith was the only Hawk in double-figures with 13 points. Jesse Steele only scored five points, but he did have four assists. Need evidence of Notre Dame’s superior size? The Irish shot 67% on two-point attempts and grabbed 50% of their misses on the offensive end.
Providence 81, Bryant 49: Because Providence struggled to beat NJIT there was hope that Bryant might be able to hang with the Friars. It wasn’t the case though as they jumped out to a 26-point halftime lead. Providence played only seven players, but it’s just because the Friars don’t have any depth. Kadeem Batts scored 27 points and Bryce Cotton added 24. The usual suspects (Alex Francis and Frankie Dobbs) along with Dyami Starks all scored in double-figures. Soon Starks is going to be a usual suspect though because it’s apparent that Tim O’Shea is giving Starks the green light.
Rutgers 88, Sacred Heart 62: Yeah, Shane Gibson didn’t do much to back up the “best player on the court” argument. He was held under ten points for the first time in forever, with just seven on 15 shots. Sacred Heart shot 36% as a team, including 5-18 from three. Tevin Falzon had a strong game for the Pioneers with 10 points and three rebounds in just 11 minutes. As expected SHU couldn’t contain Wally Judge, who scored 11 points in 19 minutes. Eli Carter came off the bench and scored 18 points (on 15 shots). Myles Mack scored 14 points (on nine shots). I guess this round goes to those two.
Illinois 89, St. Francis (NY) 64: This was another situation where the height-athleticism divide was just too great to overcome. It also didn’t help that Illinois was scorching from beyond the arc during the first half. The Illini finished 11-25 (44%) from three. St. Francis (NY) had way too many turnovers, including five by Brent Jones. Jalen Cannon managed to grab 11 rebounds. Akeem Johnson scored 13 points and Ben Mockford added 12 (on 13 shots). I’d like to see Mockford drive to the basket more instead of settling for jump shots. The first eight minutes of this game were actually very entertaining before Illinois went on its game-clinching run. There was nothing in this game that convinced me SFC can’t be a sleeper in the NEC this season, especially with the results we saw tonight.