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No. 5 seed Quinnipiac’s eight-point victory over No. 4 seed St. Francis (NY) was the lone quarterfinal contest decided by a single-digit margin as the 2012 NEC Men’s Basketball Tournament presented by Ruby Tuesday tipped off on Thursday night at campus sites. The Bobcats were the lone team to post a win out of the bottom half of the tournament field. Quinnipiac will face defending champion, and No. 1 seed, LIU Brooklyn in the second of two semifinal games slated for Sunday, March 4. After staving off No. 8 seed Sacred Heart by a 12-point margin, the LIU Blackbirds will welcome Quinnipiac to the Wellness Center for a 6:00 pm tip. Meanwhile, No. 2 Wagner will host No. 3 Robert Morris in the first semifinal Sunday at 12:00 pm. Both teams won quarterfinal games on their home floor Thursday. The second-seeded Seahawks outlasted Central Connecticut, 87-77, to earn their first postseason win in the coaching tenure of Dan Hurley. Aiming for its fourth NEC Championship Game appearance in a row, Robert Morris started its postseason run by turning aside Monmouth, 87-68, at the Sewall Center. Both NEC semifinal games will air live on MSG.
#1 Long Island 80, #8 Sacred Heart 68
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Brooklyn, NY -- The top-seeded LIU Brooklyn men's basketball team dealt No. 8 Sacred Heart an 80-68 loss in the quarterfinals of the Northeast Conference Tournament at the Wellness Center. Five Blackbirds reached double figures in scoring and All-NEC Second Team member Jason Brickman set a pair of assists records in the win. LIU improved to 23-8 and extended its home-court winning streak to 25 games.
Sacred Heart (14-18) gave the Blackbirds a run for their money, cutting a deficit that reached as many as 15 points in the first half to 41-40 on a tip-in by Nick Greenbacker with under 14 minutes to play. LIU responded with seven straight points to swing the momentum back in its favor. NEC Player of the Year Julian Boyd hit a three-pointer before sinking a turnaround jumper in the lane. Junior Brandon Thompson, who would tie a career high with 11 points, got to the rim on a fast break and was fouled, sinking two free throws to increase the LIU advantage to 48-40.
Shane Gibson tried to stop the bleeding for the Pioneers with a jumper but Brickman passed the ball around the arc to Thompson for a three-pointer. Gibson came right back with another bucket but Brickman ran the same play for Thompson, who drained another three to make it a double-digit game again at 54-44, capping a 13-4 run.
Sacred Heart would trim the lead to five with five minutes to play on a pair of Gibson free throws, but Thompson hit his third trifecta of the contest and Brickman sank one from long range to spot LIU a 66-55 lead. Justin Swidowski hit a jumper to pull the Pioneers within nine but that would be as close as they would get as the Blackbirds scored six straight points. All-NEC First Team member Jamal Olasewere hit four free throws before pilfering a steal and tipping the ball to junior C.J. Garner, who picked it up at half court. Garner took a couple dribbles before lofting an alley-oop pass to Boyd for an authoritative slam that left Sacred Heart looking up from a 72-57 hole.
Boyd finished with 26 points and six boards while Olasewere closed with team highs of 20 points and eight rebounds. Brickman recorded his fourth double-double of the season with 12 points and 13 assists. The 13 assists set an NEC Tournament single-game record and gave him 226 for the year to set a new LIU single-season mark. Charles Jones held the existing record with 221 assists during the 1997-98 campaign.
Five Blackbirds reached double figures in scoring for the seventh time this season, with senior Michael Culpo's 11 points rounding out the quintet. LIU shot 50 percent from the floor and made 11 three-pointers, including three each from Thompson, Brickman and Culpo. Boyd added the other two.
Gibson closed with a game-high 22 points as the Pioneers shot 48 percent as a team. Louis Montes notched 10 points and a game-high 10 rebounds. Sacred Heart won the battle of the boards by a 36-26 margin.
The 25 straight home wins stand as the second-longest active streak in the country, trailing only Kentucky (51 games).
The Blackbirds advance to the NEC Semifinals for the third consecutive season and will host No. 5 Quinnipiac on Sunday, March 4. Tip-off is set for 6:00 p.m. in a game that will be televised on the MSG Network.
#2 Wagner 87, #7 Central Connecticut 77
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Staten Island, NY -- Trailing by 20 in the second half, Central Connecticut cut the deficit to five points in the final minutes, before falling, 87-77, to Wagner in the quarterfinal round of the Northeast Conference Tournament on Thursday night.
Wagner used a balanced attack, which saw five players score in double figures, to move past the Blue Devils and into the NEC semifinal round. NEC Defensive Player of the Year Kenny Ortiz led the Seahawks with 16 points and six assists.
Senior Ken Horton led the CCSU offense with 25 points and grabbed nine rebounds in the final game of his career. He also added three assists and a pair of steals in the loss.
Freshman Kyle Vinales added 16 points, and classmate Shelton Mickell had nine late points to help lead the late comeback. Senior Robby Ptacek had 10 points and five rebounds in his final game for CCSU.
Central led 13-11 early, but an 11-0 run by the Seahawks gave the home team a 22-13 lead that they wouldn't give up for the rest of the game.
The Blue Devils climbed to within five at 34-29, following an offensive rebound and bucket from junior Joe Efese. Wagner responded and would lead 40-30 before a bucket before the buzzer from Horton.
After starting the game 6-of-10, Central hit just 5-of-21 from the field in the final 14:12. They were just 3-of-12 from three in the half.
Wagner hit 15-of-31 in the half, and 4-of-10 from three, to take the eight point lead. They forced nine Central turnovers and turned them into 11 points before the break.
The Seahawks scored the first eight of the second half and built their lead to 48-32. It stretched to 52-34 as the Wagner run reached 12-2 to open the half.
After the lead reached 18, freshman Malcolm McMillan hit back-to-back threes to cut it to 60-48. Six straight from the Seahawks, including the second three of the game from Latif Rivers, made it 66-48.
A jumper from Vinales cut the Wagner lead to 78-64 with just over five to play in the game. A three from Vinales, and two free-throws from senior Robby Ptacek cut it to 80-69. Ptacek shot the free-throws off a technical foul on the Wagner bench.
Central cut it to 10, 82-72, with under four to play. With 2:04 on the clock Ptacek hit two more free-throws to cut it to eight. After an Efese block, Mickell hit a three to make it 82-77.
Wagner hit a pair of free-throws and scored five straight points to push it back to 87-77, the eventual final score.
Horton's 25 push his school-record total to 1,966. Ptacek's 10 push his total to 1,531, the 10th highest total in school history. He moves to fifth all-time on the NEC scoring list.
Vinales ends his spectacular freshman season with 520 points, the most ever for a freshman in school history. His 71 threes is also a freshman record.
#3 Robert Morris 87, #6 Monmouth 68
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Moon Township, PA – Robert Morris tied a single-game record with 16 three-pointers en route to an 87-68 victory over No. 6 seed Monmouth in a 2012 Northeast Conference Tournament quarterfinal game at the Charles L. Sewall Center Thursday night.
The No. 3 seed Colonials, who will travel to face No. 2 seed Wagner in a Noon tip Sunday, March 4, as part of the NEC Tournament semifinals, improved to 23-9 on the 2011-12 campaign, while the Hawks slipped to 12-20.
Redshirt sophomore guard Coron Williams set an NEC Tournament single-game record with eight three-pointers, concluding the night with a game-high 25 points. He finished 8-for-11 from beyond the arc, breaking the old record of seven that was held by four different players.
Williams also tied a Charles L. Sewall Center record for three-pointers by a player from Robert Morris, tying a mark that is held by four former Colonials.
Robert Morris jumped out to an 11-1 advantage in the contest as redshirt junior guard Velton Jones converted a pair of four-point plays.
Monmouth responded with a 16-5 run to take a 17-16 advantage at the 11:33 mark of the first half. Mike Myers Keitt scored eight points during the surge for the Hawks, while Will Campbell gave Monmouth the lead with a layup.
Sophomore forward Mike McFadden would push the Colonials back on top, 18-17, with a layup with 11 minutes remaining in the first half, which started RMU on a 12-2 spurt. Five different Colonials scored, including a three-pointer from Williams.
The Hawks were able to trim their deficit to 31-30 with just 3:04 to play before intermission, but a 14-5 run to close the half that featured a pair of three-pointers from freshman forward Lucky Jones gave Robert Morris a 44-36 edge at halftime.
Redshirt junior guard Russell Johnson would open the scoring in the second half with a three-pointer to again push RMU's lead to double digits, 47-36, but Monmouth didn't go away, using a 9-2 spurt to pull within 53-48 with 15:03 to go.
Robert Morris weathered the surge by the Hawks, using a 15-2 run to take control and open up a 68-50 lead. Williams buried a pair of three-pointers during the spurt, while senior forward Lawrence Bridges capped it with a dunk.
The biggest lead of the game for the Colonials came with 6:37 remaining, when the eighth three-pointer of the contest from Williams gave Robert Morris a 77-55 advantage.
Williams led four players in double figures for RMU, as he was joined by Lucky Jones, who finished with 16 points and seven rebounds off the bench, and Velton Jones and sophomore guard Anthony Myers.
Velton Jones notched his first career double-double with 12 points and tying a career high with 10 assists, while Myers finished with 12 points and four dimes.
Monmouth was led by Ed Waite, who finished with 14 points. Jesse Steele added 11 points, four assists and four steals, while Myers Keitt scored 10 points off the bench.
#5 Quinnipiac 80, #4 St. Francis (NY) 72
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Brooklyn Heights, NY -- Senior James Johnson netted a game-high 22 points to become Quinnipiac's Division I scoring leader on Thursday night, as the men's basketball team went on the road and defeated St. Francis (NY), 80-72, in the quarterfinal round of the Northeast Conference Tournament presented by Ruby Tuesday. With the win, the Bobcats advance to take on LIU Brooklyn in the semifinals of the single-elimination playoff on Sunday evening.
Needing just 11 points to match Rob Monroe's 1,685 point-total, Johnson surpassed the mark with a layup in the second half. The senior guard also grabbed eight rebounds and dished out six assists in front of a packed house at the Pope Physical Education Center. Ike Azotam posted his 16th career double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds, while Zaid Hearst chimed in with 14 points, including three from behind the arc.
Meeting for the first time in postseason history, the Bobcats and Terriers exchanged baskets early on in the contest. However, with the score knotted at 20 apiece, QU's offense exploded over the next five minutes of play. The Bobcats boasted a 17-3 run, which was sparked by a Hearst three-point field goal and capped off by a thunderous dunk from Garvey Young. With all the momentum in its favor, Quinnipiac carried a 10-point, 41-31, advantage into the locker room at halftime.
After the break, SFC responded nicely to its double-digit deficit and quickly brought the crowd back into the game. Trailing by nine points with 16:22 showing on the clock, the Terriers put together a 12-3 run over the next five minutes of action. Stefan Perunicic concluded the spurt with a deep trifecta from the wing, cutting the Bobcat lead to just one point.
The next three minutes featured another run, this time from the visiting Bobcats. James Johnson sparked a 9-0 run to extend their lead back to double-figures, an advantage that they would not relinquish. Quinnipiac held off the STF pressure and made enough free-throws down the stretch to collect its ninth NEC Tournament win.
St. Francis (NY) was looking for its third win of the season against the Bobcats after taking the first two meetings. Rebounding and turnovers proved to be the difference in those contests, two statistics that went in favor of the Bobcats this time around. QU committed just 11 turnovers and snatched a 48-36 edge on the glass, including 20 rebounds on the offensive end.
Young continued his stellar play off the bench with nine points and four rebounds on the night. Dave Johnson battled through foul trouble and scratched out eight points and four assists, while Evan Conti chimed in with five crucial points during the Bobcats second-half surge. Jamee Jackson returned to the lineup after being sidelined with an injured foot and made an immediate presence for the Bobcats. He scored five points, grabbed four rebounds, blocked two shots and was spectacular behind the ball.
St. Francis received four players in double-figures, led by Brent Jones' 21 points. Ben Mockford finished with 17, Travis Nichols had 12 and Perunicic added 11.
Quinnipiac, now 18-12 overall, looks ahead to Sunday where it will once again face a team who has already defeated them twice on the year. LIU Brooklyn, one of three 20-win teams in the league, knocked off the No. 8 seed in Sacred Heart on Thursday night. Tip-off is scheduled for 6 p.m. in Brooklyn, NY.