2012 NEC Men's Basketball Semifinal Recaps
#1 LIU Brooklyn 78, #5 Quinnipiac 75
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Brooklyn, NY -- Top-seeded LIU Brooklyn overcame an eight-point second-half deficit in the semifinal round of the Northeast Conference Men’s Basketball Tournament presented by Ruby Tuesday. The Blackbirds defeated No. 5 Quinnipiac, 78-75, to return to the conference championship game for the second straight year. NEC Player of the Year Julian Boyd (San Antonio, TX) put the defending champion Blackbirds on his back down the stretch, finishing with 21 points and nine rebounds as LIU (24-8) won its 26th consecutive home game.
The Blackbirds saw a four-point halftime lead evaporate at the start of the second stanza and Quinnipiac (18-13) built a 65-57 lead on a three-pointer by James Johnson (Queens, NY). LIU began to chip away at the deficit with a three-pointer by Boyd, sparking what would turn into an 18-5 run.
The teams traded points before All-NEC Second Team member Jason Brickman (San Antonio, TX) accounted for four straight with a layup and a pair at the line, cutting the Bobcats' lead to 67-66 with five minutes to play. Ousmane Drame (Boston, MA) returned the advantage to three points with a layup before Boyd took over with a series of key plays over a crucial stretch of time.
Brickman, who finished with 18 points and five assists, dribbled the ball into the paint and flipped it to a cutting Boyd, who roared toward the basket for a layup, drawing a foul from Dave Johnson in the process. Boyd completed the old-fashioned three-point play to tie the score at 69-69.
After a stop on the defensive end, senior Michael Culpo (Pittsfield, MA) corralled a loose ball and got it into the lane to Boyd, who unfurled a turnaround jumper to give LIU a lead it would not relinquish. With the Blackbirds up two with three-and-a-half minutes left, Boyd drew a charge on James Johnson to give the ball back to LIU. The Blackbirds capitalized with a layup from Brickman to make it 73-69.
Quinnipiac's Ike Azotam (Boston, MA) hit one of two free throws to pull his team back within three but juniors Jamal Olasewere (Silver Spring, MD) and C.J. Garner (Silver Spring, MD) would each get fouled and hit one of two, pushing the LIU advantage to 75-70 with under 90 seconds left and capping the 18-5 run.
The Bobcats had a couple of chances late in the game but junior Kenny Onyechi (Sugar Land, TX) grabbed a pair of tough rebounds to help ice the win. Jamee Jackson's (Newark, NJ) layup with a minute left cut it to three and Quinnipiac came up with a rebound on LIU's next possession, resulting in a two-on-one fast break. James Johnson missed his layup attempt and Onyechi snared the board. The 6-foot-7 forward was fouled, hitting one of two to make it a four-point game. On their next possession, the Bobcats missed two quick layup attempts and Onyechi secured the rebound once again. He went one-of-two at the line once more with 11 seconds left. Quinnipiac turned in another fruitless possession, with Brickman being fouled and sinking a free throw. Johnson's three-point heave at the buzzer made the final 78-75.
The Blackbirds outrebounded Quinnipiac, who entered play ranked second in the nation on the glass, by a 78-75 margin, led by Boyd's eight. Olasewere, who played just 19 foul-plagued minutes, contributed 13 points and seven rebounds. Garner closed with 11 points.
James Johnson (Queens, NY) and Azotam each scored 17 to pace the Bobcats. Azotam and Drame each grabbed a team-high eight boards.
The Blackbirds' 26-game home winning streak is the second-longest active one in the nation behind Kentucky (52 games).
LIU will host the NEC championship game for the second straight year and will face third-seeded Robert Morris in a rematch from last year's title game. The Blackbirds and Colonials will meet at the Wellness Center on Wednesday, March 7 at 7:00 p.m. The contest will be televised on ESPN2 and can be seen online via ESPN3.
#3 Robert Morris 71, #2 Wagner 64
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Staten Island, NY -- No. 3 Robert Morris used a 10-1 run to open the second half en route to building an eight-point lead it would not relinquish, defeating No. 2 Wagner 71-64 in the semifinals of the 2012 Northeast Conference (NEC) Tournament presented by Ruby Tuesday. In defeat, the Seahawks fall to 25-6 and will now wait until next Sunday to learn its postseason fate while the Colonials improve to 24-9 in moving the NEC Championship Game for the fourth consecutive season.
A physical contest that featured a combined 59 fouls and 80 free throws, Wagner shot an uncharacteristic 67.5 percent (27-40) from the line. Additionally, the Seahawks were outrebounded 46-33, including 22-13 on the offensive end, and could not get into an offensive rhythm, shooting a paltry 34.8 percent (16-46), including 31.3 percent (5-16) from long range. Despite all those negatives, the Green & White trailed by just three with 1:00 to play following senior Tyler Murray's (Toronto, Ontario / Eastern Commerce) third triple of the game. On the next defensive possession, Velton Jones (Philadelphia, PA) took 30 seconds off the clock before drawing a foul and sinking the three ensuing free throw while for all intents and purposes quelling any chance of a Wagner comeback
Not to be lost amid the setback is the fact that the Seahawks set school-records for wins (25), road victories (13) and longest road winning streak (10) while defeating No. 15 Pitt 59-54 back on December 23 for the program's first victory over a Nationally Ranked team since the 1978-1979 season. Murray, who earned All-NEC accolades and was the main catalyst for helping the Green & White improve its win total from five to 25 this season, almost guided Wagner back from a nine-point second half deficit, scoring eight of his 15 points over the final 2:52.
In the first half, RMU opened the scoring with a Russell Johnson three pointer only to see the Seahawks go on a 14-3 run in opening up a 14-6 lead with 11:52 remaining. Jones stopped the bleeding with a three-point play, cutting the deficit to five as the teams would play the free throw game over the next six and a half minutes with the Green & White scoring their next 12 points from the line (14-straight from 11:52-5:00) while seeing their advantage fluxuate between a five-point range. The Colonials, meanwhile made good nine free throws following Jones' three-point play, and trailed by two following a pair of Mike McFadden (Newark, NJ) freebies with 5:21 to play in the first.
Wagner pushed the lead back out to six only to have RMU close the half on a 7-3 spurt to keep the deficit at, 31-29, after one half of play. The Colonials shot a chilly 23.5 percent (8-34) from the floor, but the Seahawks were not much better at 35.0 percent (7-20).
After halftime, Robert Morris hit on its first three field goal attempts while Wagner misfired on its first five, as the Colonials used their aforementioned 10-1 run to build up a 40-32 lead following with 15:55 remaining.
The Seahawks immediately responded with an 8-3 run over the next 3:48. Murray got things rolling with a three pointer before junior Josh Thompson (Richland, NJ / St. Augustine Prep) split a pair from the line. After Velton Jones answered with a long three pointer, Thompson tipped in a miss with an acrobatic play before freshman Mario Moody (East Orange, NJ / East Orange Campus) sank a pair from the line, making it a three-point game at 43-40 with 12:07 to play.
The Green & White would squander a pair of opportunities to tie the game on each of their next two trips on the offensive end, before Velton Jones answered to again make it a two-possession game, sparking a 6-2 spurt that made it a 49-42 game with 8:54 to play.
The lead would grow to nine at 59-50 with just over three minutes to play on a Lucky Jones layup before Wagner made one final push, trimming the deficit to three with a minute to play, thanks to nine points from Murray. Unfortunately, RMU converted six-of-seven from the line en route to its fourth-straight appearance in the NEC Title Game to be played on Wednesday, March 7 at 7:00 pm.
The three All-NEC players did not disappoint on the day. Rivers, a Second Team choice, scored a team-best 18 points, highlighted by 11-of-12 shooting from the line, to go along with four assists while Murray, a Second Team selection, added 15 points, leading the way for the Seahawks. First Team pick Velton Jones paced three-double-figure scorers for the Colonials with 25 points, on 5-of-10 shooting from the floor and 14-of-16 from the line
Rounding out the double-figure scorers for the Green & White was junior Jonathon Williams (Richmond, CA /CC of San Francisco), who notched 11 points with a team-best six rebounds.
The contest marked the final NEC appearance for Murray and fellow seniors Chris Martin (Sicklerville, NJ / Apex Academies) and Ryan Schrotenboer (Fort Myers, FL / Bishop Verot).