Dan Hurley’s Seahawks started it with a win that grabbed national headlines on Christmas Eve eve, and two women’s teams followed suit this holiday season.
Only days after Wagner grabbed national headlines for shocking No. 13 Pittsburgh in a men’s basketball bout on Dec. 23, a pair of NEC women’s teams took their turns taking down opponents from BCS power conferences.
Long Island women’s basketball won the Peppermill Holiday Classic in Reno, NV by sneaking past Big 12 member Oklahoma State in the title tilt on Dec. 30. The Blackbirds earned the opportunity to take on OK State by bouncing tournament host Nevada on Dec. 29.
“It was a great team win. It’s great for the conference and great for the program,” said LIU head coach Gail Striegler after LIU dealt Oklahoma State its first loss of the season. “The kids deserve a lot of credit. They played 40 minutes and never gave up.”
Meanwhile, Monmouth also rung in the New Year with a tournament title of its own. Jenny Palmateer’s Hawks eked out a one-point win over Big East member Villanova in the Championship Game of the annual Hawk Holiday Classic. The victory came on Dec. 30, one day after Monmouth outlasted Norfolk State in the semifinal round.
Here’s what an elated Jenny Palmateer, who is in her first season as a head coach, had to say following the triumphant conclusion to the Hawks Holiday Classic…
“I can’t even tell you how excited I am – one, for the team because they’ve been working really hard,” said the New Jersey native.
Palmateer went on to attribute the team’s recent good fortunes to its increased defensive intensity.
“Defense is something we’ve really been stressing. We really found a renewed belief that defense is how we’re going to win games, and I think today was our best defensive effort we’ve had all season. Second, I’m just really proud to be able to pull this one out for Monmouth, for the fans who were here and for the NEC.”
Watch Palmateer’s Courtside Postgame Comments…
The victories over the Big 12 and Big East members only added to what has been a bullish non-conference showing by NEC women’s hoops teams.
NEC teams are a combined 63-65 in non-league contests this season, already an improvement over the 62-69 mark they accounted for during the 2010-11 campaign that ended with the conference attaining an all-time high RPI rank of 18.
Prior to LIU’s win over OK State and Monmouth’s triumph over Nova, Quinnipiac delivered a win against a member of a BCS conference. That victory also came right around a holiday as the Bobcats topped Big Ten member Minnesota, 64-62, in the semifinal round of the St. Mary’s Thanksgiving Classic. QU went onto win the title by topping host St. Mary’s the following day. At 8-2 in non-league play, Tricia Fabbri’s team has been a key culprit of the NEC’s notable non-conference showing this season. Quinnipiac has already beaten two Atlantic 10 teams – UMass and Rhode Island – and will look to make it 3-0 against the A-10 when it closes out its non-league slate on Jan. 3 vs. Saint Joseph’s.
NEC women’s basketball teams have a chance to go a perfect 6-0 against members of the NCAA FBS Mid-American Conference. Robert Morris hosts Miami (OH) in a Jan .2 tilt (7:00 pm tip) that will close out the season series between the two leagues. NEC members have won the first five against the MAC with RMU accounting for three of those victories.
NEC Victories over FBS Conference members
Nov. 15 – Robert Morris 78, Kent State 44 (MAC)
Nov. 18 – Robert Morris 64, Central Michigan 55 (MAC)
Nov. 22 – Saint Francis (PA) 80, Akron 79 (MAC)
Nov. 25 – Quinnipiac 64, Minnesota 62 (Big Ten*)
Nov. 27 – Fairleigh Dickinson 63, Buffalo 54 (MAC)
Dec. 21 – Robert Morris 85, Akron 78 (MAC)
Dec. 29 – Long Island 64, Oklahoma State 63 (Big 12*)
Dec. 30 – Monmouth 49, Villanova 48 (Big East*)
* – indicates BCS conference
Please feel free to use the comment box below to tell us which of these wins impresses you most.
Robert Morris Men Have One More Shot
Wagner notched a marquee victory that is sure to impress the NCAA Selection Committee come March, and Robert Morris had the chance to do the same on Dec. 29.
The Colonials had a date with the Memphis Tigers, which currently hold an RPI rank of 41 and have posted wins over Tennessee and Miami (FL). Memphis did enter its matchup with RMU with five losses, but all five came against opponents ranked amongst the nation’s Top 20.
Unfortunately for Robert Morris, an upset was not in the cards and the Colonials could not become the first non-Top 20 team to topple the Tigers this season, falling 64-47.
Fortunately for Andy Toole’s team, it will have one more chance to capture that key win on Jan. 2. The Colonials visits 12-1 Ohio for a 7:00 pm tip-off. Ohio, which currently sits at No. 32 in the RPI rankings, has won nine games in a row since it’s only loss of the season, which came at No. 4 Louisville on Nov. 26.
Robert Morris will encounter a balanced Bobcats’ attack that has five players averaging over 9.0 ppg but none over 14.1. Meanwhile, RMU employs a 10-man rotation that has five of its players scoring at least 8.0 ppg led by 15.9 from junior guard Velton Jones.
No Monday Night Football? No Problem
Looking to entertain yourself tonight on the first Monday in 17 weeks without a NFL game?
Check out NEC hoops. There are a total of four games (2 men, 2 women) on the Jan. 2 docket. In addition to the aforementioned men’s matchup between Robert Morris and Ohio, Fairleigh Dickinson men’s basketball will take the stage against Columbia on Broadway in NYC.
While RMU women’s basketball closes out its non-conference slate against Miami (OH) at “The Chuck,” Central Connecticut will look to knock off an ACC team when Beryl Piper’s Blue Devils visits Boston College. Follow the CCSU-BC game via Live Stats.