In a conference where only the winner has any hope of getting a taste of March Madness, the action was furious in the opening round of the Northeast Conference Tournament on Thursday night. Long Island dispatched Sacred Heart easily, while Robert Morris, Wagner and Quinnipiac all moved on as well.
1. Long Island Vs. 8. Sacred Heart
In a game Long Island was expected to win, it did just that beating Sacred Heart, 80-68.
The Pioneers (14-18, 8-10) got a great effort from Shane Gibson who poured in 22 points on eight of 15 shooting. Louis Montes also accrued a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
The main difference in the game was turnovers. Sacred Heart gave away its possession 16 times compared to just 10 Long Island turnovers.
Jason Brickman had a stellar game with 13 points and 12 assists, leading the way for the Blackbirds. Long Island (23-8, 16-2) showed off a balanced attack with five players in double-digits, including Jamal Olasewere who scored a team-high 20 points.
The Blackbirds will now move on to face Quinnipiac in the semi-finals.
4. St. Francis (NY) Vs. 5. Quinnipiac
Basketball is often a game of runs, and this one was no different. Quinnipiac beat St. Francis, 80-72, after blowing the contest open with a 14-0 streak late in the first half.
The game was tied at 23 when the Bobcats (18-12, 10-8) went off, taking a 37-23 advantage they would never relinquish. James Johnson was the top scorer with 23 points while Ike Azotam had a double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds to compliment four blocks.
The Terriers (15-15, 12-6) valiantly tried to fight their way back into the game, but to no avail. Sophomore guard Brent Jones had 21 points and five assists in a wonderful performance, albeit in a losing cause.
The Bobcats advanced to earn a date with Long Island in the semi-finals.
2. Wagner Vs. 7. Central Connecticut State
Wagner took care of business, winning 87-77 over an over-matched Blue Devils team.
After being beaten badly by Central Connecticut (13-16, 10-8) less than a week ago, the Seahawks (25-5, 15-3) put their best foot forward and assured themselves of a longer season.
The Blue Devils saw senior Ken Horton have a monster game with 25 points and nine rebounds in his final collegiate performance.
Kenneth Ortiz had 16 points, six assists and five rebounds to pace Wagner.
3. Robert Morris Vs. 6. Monmouth
The Colonials beat up on Monmouth, 87-68, to advance into the semi-final round.
Coron Williams was the unquestioned star of the show, scoring 25 points. Lucky Jones also gave Robert Morris (23-9, 13-5) some punch, adding 16 points and seven rebounds off the bench.
The Hawks (12-20, 10-8) were led Jesse Steele who had a nice all-around game of 11 points, five rebounds, four assists and four steals. Ed Waite was the top-scorer for Monmouth with 14 points.
-- For more coverage of the Northeast Conference Tournament, be sure to check out this stream and SB Nation Boston.