A Terence Grier follow with just under twenty-four seconds left in the game gave Fairleigh Dickinson their first lead of the game at 69-67, and they went on to win 71-67. Not only does the win get FDU to .500 in the NEC, it's also their first win of the 2008-09 season. This one should be a good confidence booster for a team that took on a tough schedule and wasn't competitive in any of their six defeats. For Monmouth, who drops to 1-9 on the year, this one has to hurt. A split of the opening weekend of NEC play was well within their grasp but they let it slip away.
That's the tricky part of opening conference play in early December. A 2-0 start, such as the one that Sacred Heart was able to get out to, has you feeling good about your chances to contend when league play hits full blast next month. 1-1 and you're OK; of course you wanted to win both games (St. Francis and LIU come to mind here) but you've got one win to lean back on, especially if both games were on the road. Lastly, there's the dreaded 0-2 start. Only Iona was this unfortunate, but in the case of the Gaels you've got to look at how they lost those games to realize that they aren't in as much trouble as they'd be had both defeats been blowouts.
Two losses by a combined three points usually boils down to the other team making the final shot, and that's exactly what happened thanks to Dejuan Goodwin (Marist) and Warren Edney (Fairfield). It's not the ideal start to league play, but it most certainly isn't the death knell for their championship hopes.
Team of the Week: Fairfield
Fairfield (6-3, 2-0 MAAC) picked up a pair of conference home wins last week to open MAAC play at 2-0. A balanced effort in a twenty-point win over St. Peter's (four players in double figures; eighteen assists on twenty-eight baskets) was followed by a thrilling two-point win over Iona on Sunday. Warren Edney answered a Jonathan Huffman three-pointer with one of his own to give the Stags the 78-76 win. Both shots came in the game's final twelve seconds, with the sophomore forward sealing things with 3.7 seconds remaining.
On the season four Stags are averaging double figures with point guard Jonathan Han leading the way. Head coach Ed Cooley has a number of bodies to turn to on this team, one that many expect to challenge in the MAAC. And after last week's league games they look to be on their way.
- Sacred Heart (Pioneers also won a pair of conference games at home, taking out defending NEC tournament champ Mount St. Mary's in the opener)
- Hofstra (Pride, winners of six straight, went on the road for their CAA opener and knocked off Towson by eleven)
- Stony Brook (say what you want about the Seawolves playing Mount Ida, but they did precede that win with a 21-point pasting of Lehigh)
Player of the Week: Ryon Howard (Sacred Heart)
The senior forward from the Bronx was named Choice Hotels Player of the Week in the Northeast Conference, and with good reason. In wins over Mount St. Mary's and Fairleigh Dickinson Howard averaged 22.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game. Howard was nearly automatic from behind the arc as well, knocking down seven of ten shots from distance. The win over the Mountaineers saw Howard tie his career high with twenty points, which he improved upon to the tune of twenty-five against FDU. Sacred Heart, who struggled in the early going to a 1-3 start, now finds itself atop the NEC standings and at .500 overall, with Howard being one of the primary reasons why.
Team that couldn't catch a break: Iona (last-second shots doom the Gaels in road losses to Marist and Fairfield)
Team that has some explaining to do: Rutgers (days after beating a decent Rider team, they lose by ten to Binghamton)
Team that could get out of their league cellar: Stony Brook (the Seawolves are now 5-3 on the season. Not saying that they'll contend in America East, but they could get out of that 8/9 game)
Team that needs a win this week: NJIT (the streak is now at 41 games, and St. Peter's on Wednesday may be their best shot at ending in within the next month)
Schedule (Tuesday through Monday)
Tuesday December 9th
7 PM: Marist @ Siena the rivals get together in Albany for their first of two meetings. The Saints may have been knocked down a peg by the national media following their 0-3 showing in the Old Spice Classic, but they're still the clear favorite in the MAAC. Also the first conference road game for Marist head coach Chuck Martin.
Columbia @ St. Francis (NY)
7:30 Cal Baptist @ Seton Hall
Wednesday December 10th
7 PM: Yale @ Boston University
Rutgers @ Princeton (ESPNU)
Army @ Penn State (ESPNU)
Iona @ LIU
Monmouth @ Rider
Hofstra @ Stony Brook this game should give better feedback on how much Steve Pikiell's team has improved since last season. Stony Brook has held opponents to fifty-four points per game, a number that's been bolstered by games against NJIT and Mount Ida. We'll see how they do against a Hofstra offense that features Charles Jenkins and Cornelius Vines, among others.
St. Peter's @ NJIT
Thursday December 11th
7 PM: Fairfield @ Fordham Fordham hasn't looked too good thus far, finally picking up their first win of the season against NJIT tonight. So they may not be in the best condition to take on a Fairfield team that is well on its way to competing for a MAAC title.
Saturday December 13th
2 PM: Seton Hall @ St. Peter's this probably won't be the most competitive game in regards to the score, but how often does a Big East school visit the Yanitelli Center? Thanks to renovations needed at the Jersey City Armory, this one will be played on campus. Wesley Jenkins will get to show his skills against the best backcourt in the area.
4 PM: St. Francis (NY) @ Hofstra
New Hampshire @ LIU
7 PM: FDU @ Army
Colgate @ Monmouth
Quinnipiac @ Wagner the Seahawks have yet to play a conference game, so this will be their first taste of life in the NEC without Durell Vinson and Mark Porter. The Bobcats, who are also making adjustments of their own thanks to the graduation of DeMario Anderson, have a trio of guards averaging double figures in scoring led by James Feldeine.
7:30: Cleveland State @ Marist
Sunday December 14th
2 PM: Delaware State @ Rutgers
St. Francis (PA) @ Iona
3:30: Drexel @ Fairfield
4 PM: Princeton @ Manhattan not the most impressive slate of games that you can find, but this could be an interesting game. Manhattan would like to get back on the right track following a close loss to Rider, while the Tigers are still finding out who their big guns will be before they head into Ivy League play. Not sure if the Tigers have enough answers for head coach Barry Rohrssen's talented guard quartet: Devon Austin, Antoine Pearson, Chris Smith and Darryl Crawford.
Bethune-Cookman @ St. John's
7 PM: Hartford @ Sacred Heart
Monday December 15th
7 PM: Stony Brook @ #2 Connecticut Steve Pikiell heads north to take on his alma mater, and it's going to be a serious test for the Seawolves. Should Stony Brook pull off the biggest win in school history, however, it would be safe to call them contenders in America East.
1. Seton Hall (6-1; previous ranking:1)
2. St. John's (7-1; 2)
3. Hofstra (6-1; 3)
4. Fairfield (6-3; 4)
5. Rutgers (5-3; 5)
6. Rider (4-2; 4)
7. Manhattan (4-3; 9)
8. Marist (3-4; 10)
9. Sacred Heart (3-3; 16)
10. Iona (2-5; 7)
11. Wagner (5-2; 8)
12. Stony Brook (5-3; 12)
13. Princeton (2-4; 11)
14. Yale (2-5; 13)
15. LIU (2-4; 14)
16. Columbia (3-4; 17)
17. St. Peter's (2-5; 15)
18. St. Francis (NY) (2-5; 18)
19. FDU (1-6; 21)
20. Army (2-6; 20)
21. Fordham (1-6; 19)
22. Monmouth (1-9; 22)
23. NJIT (0-7; 23)