Wagner’s margin for error is slim and Saturday’s 71-52 loss to St. Francis Brooklyn at the Spiro Sports Center proved that if the Seahawks don’t bring a maximum effort in NEC games things can go wrong real quickly.
Once again playing without Jonathon Williams and Marcus Burton the Seahawks got out-hustled and out-toughed by Glenn Braica’s Terriers.
“I thought they made it a street fight and our guys weren’t ready to fight. We got punched and they kept punching,” said Wagner head coach Bashir Mason. “They made a three every time we made a run. They kept us on our heels the entire time. They played really well tonight.”
After losing twice to the Seahawks last season, including by 40 points on Grymes Hill, the Terriers came out motivated. Playing without the injured Kevin Douglas, who injured his wrist on Thursday against Mount St. Mary’s, SFC seemed a little over-hyped early, but settled down and went on a 15-0 run midway through the first half to open up a 14-point lead with 1:18 remaining.
Energy and St. Francis’ 2-3 zone keyed the run. Wagner struggled shooting the ball from three all game and finished 2-11 from distance. That’s after the Seahawks made 9-10 from beyond the arc against LIU. During the run the energy and intensity that Wagner had played with against the Blackbirds seemed to shift towards St. Francis.
“We came in here pumped up because we owed them one from last year,” said Travis Nichols, who scored 20 points. “We came in here and got beat by 40 points, so we owed them this one.”
One of the guys that was particularly pumped up was Lowell Ulmer. The Staten Island native came off the bench to score a career-high five points in seven minutes in the first half. He was in as SFC expanded its lead from five to 12 by the end of the first half. Playing in front of his family and some high school teammates gave him extra motivation.
“You always know Wagner is going to be a tough environment,” Ulmer said. ” It’s a rivalry game, so everyone gets excited. The intensity is high. So I just wanted to do a good job and get a win.”
Ulmer is an example of the depth that Braica has. Even without Douglas, one of the starters, 10 players made a contribution in the win. It’s a blessing and a curse for the Terriers’ head coach.
“He got an opportunity and he made the most of it,” Braica said about Ulmer. “He works hard in practice. His minutes have been down, but it’s not because of anything he’s doing. It’s a numbers game. He’s a good kid. He works hard. He’s a good player.”
Wagner’s depth was tested due to foul trouble. Naofall Folahan, Mario Moody and Latif Rivers all missed long stretches in the first half because of fouls. Mason said that his players, “struggled to figure out how the game was going to be called.” The Terriers were also extra aggressive.
“The way they play, because they’re such a defensive team, sometimes you have to drive the ball,” Braica said. “They don’t let you run your offense. So we drove it and they fouled us a couple times.”
St. Francis ended up going 17-21 from the line, compared with just 4-9 for the Seahawks. The foul trouble was important in the front court, because without Williams, Mason had to hope other big men could step up. Hugo Naurais struggled defensively against Jalen Cannon when called upon. Folahan played just 15 minutes. Cannon scored 15 points.
Wagner matched its total number of losses with the defeat, but the good news for the Seahawks is that they’re still 3-1 in NEC play and tied with St. Francis just a game behind surprising Bryant. Mason will have to see a lot more energy from his team during a four-game road trip, including two big games at Central Connecticut and Bryant next weekend. Williams should be back as well.
“When you lose by 20 points at home in front of your family and friends, if that doesn’t refocus you. You don’t go home and hit the restart button and start getting locked in I don’t know what will,” Mason said.
Notes: Dwaun Anderson played 23 minutes and did this … Mario Moody was 6-12 and the only Seahawk in double-figures with 12 … Marcus Burton probably won’t be ready to play next weekend … Travis Nichols hit a dagger of a 3, to make it 18 with 3:30 remaining … 6 points was as close as Wagner got in the 2nd half.