It was a tough day for New England teams in the Northeast Conference, as two of the three area teams fell on the first day of the NEC Tournament. While fifth seeded Quinnipiac took down fourth seeded St. Francis (NY), Central Connecticut State and Sacred Heart both lost by double-digits against the top two teams in the conference (Wagner and LIU Brookyln). In the other game of the night, Robert Morris ended Monmouth's season with a big win.
(5) Quinnipiac 80, (4) St. Francis (NY) 72
Senior guard James Johnson finished with a game-high 22 points and moved into first place all time in the Quinnipiac scoring book to help the Bobcats advanced to the NEC Semifinals for the fifth time in six years. Johnson hit just 4-of-14 field goal attempts, but knocked down 12-of-17 free throw attempts and added eight rebounds and six assists for Quinnipiac.
Sophomore forward Ike Azotam added a double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds and freshmen Zaid Hearst poured in 14 points for the Bobcats. St. Francis had four players finish in double figures, led by sophomore Brent Jones' 21 points but received almost nothing from junior Akeem Johnson. The team's leading scorer and second leading rebounder managed just three points and three rebounds, as Quinnipiac dominated the boards by a 42-29 margin.
After an even first 15 minutes, Quinnipiac went on a 14-0 run over a three minute span to open up the game and put the Terriers away. St. Francis managed to cut the deficit to 49-48 midway through the second half but the Bobcats responded with a 9-0 run behind five straight points from Evan Conti. The Bobcat's lead was cut to as few as four five minutes later, but another mini Quinnipiac run put the game out of hand.
The Bobcats will play at top-seeded LIU Brooklyn Sunday at 6 p.m. EDT.
(1) LIU Brooklyn 80, (8) Sacred Heart 68
Sophomore point guard Jason Brickman led the BlackBirds with 12 points and 13 assists and LIU Brooklyn overcame a pesky Sacred Heart squad to advance to the NEC semifinals. Brickman was one of four LIU Brooklyn players to finish in double figures, as LIU Brooklyn earned their third win of the year over the Pioneers. Sacred Heart saw their season come to an end with a 14-18 record.
Junior Jamal Olasewere finished with a team-high 20 points and eight rebounds and NEC Player of the Year Julian Boyd chipped in with 16 points, six rebounds and three assists. Junior guard Shane Gibson poured in 22 points for Sacred Heart and added five rebounds and three assists. Sophomore swingman Luis Montes added a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds for a Pioneers squad who controlled the boards with a 34-24 margin.
Fourteen point runs were a common occurrence Thursday night, as LIU Brooklyn used a 14-0 run to open up a 35-20 lead late in the first half and a 5-0 run in the second half to put the game away. Sacred Heart seniors Stan Dulaire and Steve Zazuri played their final games in a Pioneers uniform.
(2) Wagner 87, (7) Central Connecticut State 77
Less than a week after CCSU dominated Wagner 78-61, the Seahawks got their revenge and snapped their three-game tournament slide with a double-digit victory. Sophomore Kenneth Ortiz led five Wagner players in double-figures with 16 points, six rebounds and five assists and the host team used an 18-4 run to put away the Blue Devils.
Senior Tyler Murray and sophomore Latif Rivers chipped in 15 points apiece for Wagner who shot 50 percent (30-of-60) for the game. Senior star Ken Horton tried to keep his career alive with team-highs in points (25) and rebounds (nine). Rookie of the Year Kyle Vinales added 16 points and three assists but connected on just 5-of-17 field goal attempts.
The Seahawks and Blue Devils were close to even in almost every category, but Wagner held a huge edge in bench scoring (31-17). Four CCSU players saw their career come to a close in Staten Island, as Chris Baskerville, starters Robby Ptacek, David Simmons and Horton donned the Blue and White for the final time.
(3) Robert Morris 87, (6) Monmouth 68
It was the Coron Williams show Wednesday night at the Charles Sewall Center. The sophomore guard knocked down eight 3-pointers en route to 25 points as the Colonials tied a program-record with 16 made 3-pointers.
Lucky Jones (16 points), Anthony Meyers (12 points) joined Williams in double-figures, as Robert Morris finished with a season-high 87 points. Junior guard Velton Jones finshed with 12 points and 10 assists for his first career double-double. Hawks forward Ed Waite led the team with 14 points and junior guard Jessie Steele added 11 points, five rebounds and four assists.
Robert Morris knocked down 16-of-29 (55.2 percent) shots from beyond the arc and eld a 38-23 rebounding advantage over the Hawks. After Monmouth cut the deficit to 53-48 with 15 minutes to play, Robert Morris used a 15-2 run to end Monmouth's season. The Hawks 2011-12 campaign ends with a 12-20 record.
The Colonials will look to get back to the title game for the fourth consecutive season, when they play at Wagner Sunday at noon.