Rookies Rule Saturday’s Slate of NEC Women’s Hoops – Pankey, Norman, McQuain, and Spanou All Part of League Wins

Robert Morris’ Artemis Spanou has won the Choice Hotels NEC Rookie of the Week award five times already this season, but the freshman forward from Greece isn’t the lone rookie stirring up excitement during Northeast Conference play.

Danielle Pankey, Erica Norman, and Brittany McQuain were all in the middle of NEC victories on Saturday. 

Pankey scored 16 points in Fairleigh Dickinson’s 69-49 win over St. Francis (NY).  The former All-Shore Conference high school player at New Jersey’s Middletown South did not miss a single shot against the Terriers.  She went 4-for-4 from the field and 7-of-7 from the line, scoring in double figures for the third time in the last six NEC games.

Norman produced her second double-digit scoring performance since Sacred Heart lost former NEC Player of the Year (2009), and two-time all-NEC point guard, Alisa Apo to a season-ending injury.  The 5-foot-7 freshman contributed 12 points, five assists, and four rebounds to the Pioneers’ home win over the defending NEC champion Saint Francis (PA), which entered the contest tied atop the NEC standings at 7-1.  Norman, who has logged time in all 20 Sacred Heart’s games this season, has made 11 starts, nine of which have come since Apo went down in a win over Harvard on December 20.

McQuain, the reigning Choice Hotels NEC Rookie of the Week, pulled down more than 10 boards for the second straight game.  She had seven points and seven assists to go with the 12 rebounds. The 5-foot-11 forward is averaging 7.9 ppg and 6.1 rpg while averaging just under 21 minutes per contest.

Spanou failed to score in double figures for the first time in her last nine games, but nearly notched what would have been the forward’s NEC-leading seventh double-double.  She had nine points and nine rebounds as Robert Morris knocked off Quinnipiac in a battle of 7-1 teams.

Albeit in a losing effort, Saint Francis (PA) freshman Alexandra Williams had 13 points and seven rebounds on the road.  The forward has scored no fewer than 10 points in three of her last four league contests.  Williams, who has played mostly in a reserve role, enjoyed her best stretch of the season when she scored 29 and 22 points in back-to-back December wins over Kent State and Coppin State.

Mount St. Mary’s Ashley Christie made four three-pointers on her way to 18 points in an overtime setback at Bryant.  The freshman guard has started all 20 of the Mount’s games thus far this season, averaging 9.6 ppg.  Christie leads the Mount into its Monday evening meeting with Central Connecticut, which can be seen LIVE on NortheastConference.TV.  The broadcast tips off at 7:00 pm on January 31.  Matt Harmon will handle the play-by-play duties while former Seton Hall head coach Phyllis Mangina will provide color commentary.

MBB Weekend Wrapup: With a pair of road wins, LIU (8-2) maintained a slim one-game lead over CCSU (7-3) in the NEC standings.

With one month remaining in the regular season, Long Island maintained a slim one-game lead over Central Connecticut State in the NEC standings following a pair of road wins last week. The Blackbirds, who were picked third in the NEC preseason coaches poll, are now 8-2 in league play, with the Blue Devils all alone in second with a 7-3 mark after a 2-0 week. LIU has won ten of its last 11 games, while CCSU is 10-2 in its last 12 outings.

The return of 2009-10 NEC Player of the Year Justin Rutty (Newburgh, NY/Newburgh Free Academy) seemed to give Quinnipiac a shot in the arm last week as the Bobcats beat Robert Morris on Thursday to snap a three-game losing skid, then stopped Saint Francis (PA) to improve to 6-4 against NEC competition. The Bobcats are tied with Wagner for third place.

The logjam occurs in fifth place with no less than five teams – Bryant, Mount St. Mary’s, Robert Morris, St. Francis (NY) and Saint Francis (PA) – tied at 5-5. Minus Bryant, which is ineligible for the NEC Tournament, the remaining quartet of contenders quintet are just one game out of a coveted top-four spot – and the right to host an NEC quarterfinal game – but also on the cusp of not qualifying for the eight-team playoff field.

Weekend Wrapup 

– The best finish of the weekend…How about Bryant freshman Alex Francis (Harlem, NY/Holderness Prep (NH)) scoring on a finger roll as time expired to give the Bulldogs a 62-60 win over Mount St. Mary’s.

– Long Island senior guard David Hicks (Mendota Heights, MN/South Kent Prep (CT)) became the 170th player in NEC history to reach the 1,000-point mark for his career last Thursday in a 97-89 win over FDU.

– Sacred Heart senior guard Jerrell Thompson (Plainfield, NJ/Plainfield) had a day to remember on Saturday, dishing for a career-high 15 assists in an 84-75 win over Robert Morris. The 15 dimes were the most by an NEC player since Long Island’s Antawn Dobie dished for 15 in a 142-140 double overtime setback to St. Francis (NY) on February 22, 2003.

– Central Connecticut State head coach Howie Dickenman picked up his 150th career NEC last Thursday with a 71-52 triumph over Mount St. Mary’s. His 151 league wins rank him second all-time in the NEC behind FDU’s Tom Green, who posted a 263-189 record from 1983-2008.

– With wins at Fairleigh Dickinson and Monmouth last week, Long Island improved to 10-3 on the road in 2010-11. The ten road wins are the most in the nation this season and a single-season program record.

– For those who missed it on NEC-TV, check out highlights of Quinnipiac’s 69-61 win over Robert Morris in a rematch of the 2010 NEC title game.  QU junior guard James Johnson (Brooklyn, NY/Bishop Loughlin) poured in a career-high 38 points in the victory. The 38 points were the most scored by an NEC player since Wagner’s Joey Mundweiler hit for 39 against Monmouth on February 28, 2009 and the most by a Quinnipiac player since Rob Monroe dropped 40 versus Sacred Heart on February 3, 2005.

– Along with Johnson’s 38 points, there were two other standout indvidual performances on Thursday. Long Island sophomore forward Julian Boyd (San Antonio, TX/William H. Taft) established a pair of career-highs with 34 points and 16 rebounds in 31 minutes of play as the Blackbirds won at Fairleigh Dickinson, 97-89. Saint Francis (PA) sophomore guard Umar Shannon (Atlantic City, NJ/Atlantic City) also set a new career-high with 30 points as the Red Flash outlasted Sacred Heart, 88-86, in overtime.

– Odd Stat of the Week: Quinnipiac scored the first 22 points of the game on Saturday in a 75-55 win over Saint Francis (PA).

– QU’s Rutty moved into sixth place on the NEC’s all-time rebound list with 932 caroms.

– NEC-TV takes the week off, before returning for NEC Rivalry Week with seven games to air between February 9th and 14th.

2010 NEC title game rematch! Tonight’s NEC TV game pits Robert Morris against Quinnipiac, live on MSG/FSN-Pittsburgh at 7:00 pm.

Rematch! Tonight’s NEC TV game pits Robert Morris against Quinnipiac, live on MSG/FSN-Pittsburgh at 7:00 pm. 

The last times these two teams clashed, it was in the 2010 NEC men’s basketball title game at the TD Bank Sports Center in Hamden, CT.  In front of an NEC record crowd, the Colonials won the back-and-forth affair, 52-50, to claim their second straight NEC championship.

For those that may not remember, here was the scene on ESPN:

http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=4984137

Things have changed, however, in 2010-11 for both programs.

Quinnipiac lost three starters from last season, and has been without the services of 2009-10 NEC Player of the Year Justin Rutty, one of the nation’s leading rebounders.  Rutty has sat out the last three weeks with an elbow injury, with the Bobcats posting a 3-4 record in his absence following a 9-3 start.  The preseason favorites are 4-4 in NEC play.

Robert Morris had a change in command in the offseason, with Mike Rice departing for Rutgers and associate head coach Andrew Toole taking the reigns.  Toole, the nation’s youngest head coach, was also faced with turneover, as two stalwarts of his frontcourt – Rob Robinson and RMU folk hero Dallas Green – were lost to graduation.  The Colonials tackled one of the nation’s toughest non-conference slates and enter tonight’s matchup with a 5-3 NEC record.  Karon Abraham, the 2009-10 NEC Rookie of the Year, and one of the nation’s premier long distance bombers, is the top scoring option for the Colonials.

Keep your eyes on the backcourt matchups tonight.  Quinnipiac’s James Johnson and RMU’s Abraham are two of the NEC’s best, and are joined in the starting lineup by Deontay Twyman (QU) and Velton Jones (RMU), both talented in their own right.  Freshman Anthony Myers has already worked his way into the RMU starting lineup and can run the point in Toole’s three-guard attack.  Likewise, QU freshman guard Dominque Langston has been a clutch performer for the Bobcats, and is already one of the league’s top rebounding guards.

Fast Fact: The road team won each of the two meetings between the programs last season.

Should be a good matchup between two programs jockeying for playoff position as the season hits the halfway point.

Tonight’s Holding Court halftime interview with Tim Capstraw features QU’s Twyman, who will talk about his journey to Quinnipiac and his time back in high school as one of the DC area’s most talented football players.

Tune in!

After a topsy-turvy weekend of NEC men’s hoops, only two games separate the top eight teams in the standings.

Parity seems to be the buzzword around the Northeast Conference this season as just two games separate the top-eight teams in the standings nearing the midway point of the regular season.  As teams jockey for playoff position, here is a quick snapshot of where things stand:

Long Island (6-2 NEC)
The NEC’s hottest team was cooled off on Saturday with an 86-71 setback at Saint Francis (PA).  The loss snapped an eight-game win streak for the Blackbirds, which was the program’s longest since the 1997-98 season.  LIU remained in first place, however, with a 6-2 league mark, one game ahead of a four-team pack.
Fast Fact: Long Island has posted eight wins on the road this season, tied for the most in the nation.

CCSU (5-3 NEC)
The Blue Devils have won eight of their last ten games with six of the victories coming by double-digit margins.  CCSU is 7-1 at home this season with the only loss coming to Long Island.
Fast Fact: CCSU’s three NEC losses are by a combined 12 points.

Robert Morris (5-3 NEC)
Despite the Colonials’ first home loss of the season to Long Island last week, the two-time defending NEC champions have won four of their last five games. 
Fast Fact: Robert Morris has had six of its eight NEC games decided by five points or less.  The Colonials are 4-2 in those contests.

Wagner (5-3 NEC)
Following a four-game win streak the young Wagner team has dropped three-of-four games.  The Seahawks pulled off a season sweep of Quinnipiac last week, however, with a 90-80 win at the Spiro Center.
Fast Fact: Wagner has won an NEC-high six games by five points or less.

Mount St. Mary’s (5-3 NEC)
The Mount has put together its first win streak of the season, with three straight victories entering play this week.  The Mountaineers have allowed more than 63 points just once against league opponents and limited Sacred Heart to 45 points in a 16-point win last Thursday.
Fast Fact: The Mount is now 19-3 over its past 22 NEC regular season games at Knott Arena.

Quinnipiac (4-4 NEC)
The Bobcats have struggled since losing senior forward Justin Rutty to an injury earlier this month.  Quinnipaic was off to a 9-3 start, but has gone 3-4 without its star post player, including three straight losses heading into play on Thursday.
Fast Fact: All seven Quinnipiac setbacks on the year have come by 10 points or less.

Saint Francis (PA) (4-4 NEC)
Following a 2-13 start, the Red Flash have turned things around thanks to some home cooking the last two weeks.  Saint Francis has won four straight games – including a convincing 86-71 win over first place Long Island on Saturday – all of which took place at the Stokes Center.
Fast Fact: Saint Francis is 6-1 at home in 2010-11, but winless in 12 road games.

Bryant (4-4 NEC)
Though ineligible for the NEC Tournament, the Bulldogs are already playing the role of spoiler with four wins in their last five outings after beginning the year 2-13.  Bryant had its Division I-best four-game win streak snapped by Monmouth, which prevailed 81-76 in overtime on Saturday.
Fast Fact: Bryant plays six of its next seven games against teams it trails in the NEC standings.