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.