So Day 1 of NEC Rivalry Week is in the books.Who were the winners? All the home teams, for starters, who went six-for-six on the evening with five winning by double-digits. Long Island (11-2 NEC) and CCSU (10-3) also became the first two teams to clinch NEC playoff berths. The two programs remain one-two in the standings with the Blackbirds holding a slim one-game edge. The most compelling game of the evening was in Hamden, CT as Quinnipiac outlasted its Merritt Parkway travel partner Sacred Heart, 59-54. The Bobcats enjoyed a huge edge on the glass – winning the battle of the boards, 44-25 – which is not uncommon for a team that leads the nation in rebounding and ranks 11th in rebound margin. Still, this was a tight game with both Justin Rutty and James Johnson having off nights offensively. With high scoring Sacred Heart guard Shane Gibson doing the heavy lifting, the Pioneers were ahead by two points with under seven minutes to play. The Bobcats turned up the defensive pressure at this point and held SHU to just one field goal the rest of the way out. The deep Quinnipiac guard core was led by Lance Brown, who scored 13 points and pulled down 13 boards, including seven on the offensive end. For those keeping score, Brown is just 6’3″ tall. Freshman forward Ike Azotam was another double-double performer for the Bobcats, finishing with 16 points and 13 caroms. NEC-TV was on hand in New Britain for CCSU’s 71-55 win over Bryant. The Blue Devils, who have won seven straight, broke open a close game in the first half behind the play of reigning NEC Player of the Week Ken Horton. Is there anything the Ossining, NY native can’t do on the court? Scoring…check…23 points. Rebounding…check…11 boards. Blocked shots…check…six rejections. Steals…check…six swipes. Horton’s ability to dominate on the floor was on full display last night before an MSG Network audience and the nearly 2,700 fans who packed Detrick Gymnasium. Even ESPN’s Andy Katz joined in the Rivalry Week fun, and was kind enough to give us his thoughts on the league.
We also had a chance to check out the CCSU’s smarly decorated basketball office suite. Pictures of the Blue Devils’ three NEC title teams and each of their NEC Player of the Year award winners adorn the walls…Rick Mickens, Corsley Edwards, Ron Robinson and Javier Mojica. There has been no shortage of talent at CCSU during Howie Dickenman’s tenure and this year’s version of the Blue Devils will have a chance to earn their own spot on the Wall of Fame.It got us to reminiscing here in the office about that first CCSU championship team, led by Mickens, Edwards and John Tice. Mickens was fantastic that year. In fact, he also won NEC Defensive Player of the Year honors, a feat that has yet to be duplicated. The Blue Devils capped off a 25-win season by beating Robert Morris for the NEC crown at the Sovereign Bank Arena in Trenton, NJ. CCSU would go on to give #2 seed Iowa State all it could handle in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in Minneapolis before falling by ten. One-Liners
• First place Long Island continued to pile up points putting up 87 in an 11-point win over St. Francis (NY) in the first half of the “Battle of Brooklyn.”
• Monmouth broke a four-game slide and got a leg up on FDU in the Garden State Rivalry Series with a 68-57 victory.
• Robert Morris’ Karon Abraham led a hot-shooting Colonials’ effort last night with 20 points (4-6 3PFG) in a 78-68 win over Western PA rival Saint Francis (PA).
• Mount St. Mary has been outstanding at home this season and last night improved to 6-1 in Knott Arena against NEC competition with a 71-57 triumph over Wagner. Mount head coach Robert Burke breaks it all down in his postgame press conference. Be sure to check out the NEC-TV tripleheader on Saturday: Battle of Brooklyn: Long Island at St. Francis (NY) at noon on MSG
Garden State Rivalry Series: Monmouth at Fairleigh Dickinson at 2:00 pm on MSG
Keystone Clash: Robert Morris at Saint Francis (PA) at 6:00 pm (women) and 8:30 pm (men) on FSN-Pittsburgh, Fox College Sports (FCS), ESPN3 and ESPN Full Court Enjoy the games!