MBB wrapup: Big wins for league leader LIU (10-2 NEC) and CCSU (9-3 NEC) on Saturday. Bryant wins on buzzer beater.

February 8, 2011 – As teams jockey for playoff position with three weeks remaining in conference play, the top of the NEC pecking order has remained remarkably consistent in recent weeks. Long Island (18-5, 10-2 NEC) and Central Connecticut State (16-7, 9-3 NEC) have stood one-two in the NEC standings since January 24th with the Blackbirds holding on to a one-game edge throughout. Long Island has won four in a row and 12 of its last 13 outings, while CCSU has ripped off six straight victories and 12-of-14 heading into play this week. With a meeting on the final day of the regular season on February 26th, the two teams could be on a collision course in the race for the NEC regular season title. In their first matchup of the year, the Blackbirds edged the Blue Devils, 72-67, in New Britain on January 8th.

Wagner improved to 8-4 in NEC play with a pair of close wins over Fairleigh Dickinson and Monmouth last week. The Seahawks, who were picked 11th in the NEC preseason coaches poll, have third place all to themselves and play three of their next four games at home.

With the NEC playoff format ensuring home games to the top four seeds, keep an eye on the race in the middle of the pack. Quinnipiac and Mount St. Mary’s are currently tied for fourth with 7-5 marks, followed closely behind by Robert Morris and St. Francis (NY) with 6-6 records. Bryant is also 6-6, but ineligible for the postseason until 2012-13.

Saint Francis (PA) has posted a 5-7 league mark and would be the final playoff qualifier if the season ended today. Sacred Heart (4-8), Fairleigh Dickinson (2-10) and Monmouth (2-10) are currently on the outside looking in.

Turning our attention back to the leaders of the pack, both Long Island and CCSU picked up a pair of key victories on Saturday over fellow contenders.

The Blackbirds snapped Quinnipiac’s three-game win streak with an 84-74 victory in Brooklyn on Saturday evening.  Julian Boyd led the way for the Blackbirds with 16 points and 12 rebounds, including this monstrous dunk.

CCSU swept its Western Pennsylvania road swing for the first time in ten years with wins over Saint Francis (PA) (86-79) on Thursday and two-time defending NEC champion Robert Morris (80-58) on Saturday.  The win over the Colonials was the first in seven tries for the Blue Devils, who received a command performance from Ken Horton.  Horton, who leads the NEC in scoring and ranks second in rebounding, finished with 31 points and 10 rebounds.

The Ice in the Veins award goes to…After Julian Norfleet won a game for the Mount on a three-pointer at the buzzer on Thursday, it was Bryant’s Frankie Dobbs who got into the act on Saturday, draining a fadeaway jumper as time expired to give the Bulldogs a 70-69 win over Saint Francis (PA).  It was the third buzzer beater of the year for Bryant and fifth win on a shot in the last five seconds.  Pretty remarkable.

Congrats to Mount St. Mary’s senior guard Jean Cajou, who scored his 1,000th career point on Saturday in a 70-59 win over FDU, and St. Francis (NY)’s Ricky Cadell, who reached 1,500 career points last Thursday against Quinnipiac.  Cadell continues his chase to become the Terriers’ all-time points leader and is now just 96 points behind Darrwin Purdie, who accumulated 1,613 from 1985-89.

Lastly, NEC Rivalry Week begins this Wednesday and includes seven televised games and one NEC Women’s Basketball Game of the Week webcast!  More detailed information coming on Monday.

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