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Top Seeds Roll In NEC Opening Round

Intrigue was present, but in the end the top of the conference held strong and advanced to the semifinals.

Joe Robbins

When it came to the top teams, Robert Morris and Wagner, the night held little intrigue. For the Colonials, an opening 18-6 run fueled by Russel Johnson scoring 10 of his 19 points in the first four and a half minutes was enough to get a strong grasp on the game that they would never relinquish. Johnson, Karvel Anderson and Lucky Jones combined for 55 points on 10-for-18 shooting from three, compared to a total of 57 points for St. Francis (NY).

For Wagner, things started off a lot less pretty. The Seahawks only made seven of their first 20 shots, but at the under-eight TV timeout, they still held a 15-10 lead. Why, you ask? Well, because the Blue Devils missed eleven straight shots of their own, and a layup with 9:14 left to play ended a seven minute scoreless streak for CCSU. Wagner shot a measly 12-32 (38%) from the field in the first half, but still led by thirteen thanks to their defense and a 12-2 run to close the frame.

Things didn't get much better for Central Connecticut. Kyle Vinales led his team with 23 points on 36% field goal shooting and a 31% mark from behind the arc. He was the most efficient Blue Devil out there - the rest of the team was 7-of-38 from the field, most of which came from Malcolm Williams. The rough part here is that we didn't learn all that much about Wagner heading into their matchup with LIU-Brooklyn.

Speaking of the Blackbirds, they snuck through with some luck against Quinnipiac, needing every second to pull out a 91-83 win despite 30 points from C.J. Garner and 20 more from Jamal Olasewere. The Blackbirds had no answer for Ousmane Drame, and the Bobcats saw Olasewere foul out at the same time the Blackbirds finally erased their seven point deficit.

Unfortunately, the Bobcats also couldn't muster anything down the stretch, ad LIU put the game away with free throws. Which could be good or bad for Mount Saint Mary's, who spent the last few minutes watching this game to see if the could wind up heading to Wagner instead of Robert Morris. The Mountaineers struggled early and found themselves down seven at the half, but an aggressive, cutting second half saw them put together an 11-2 run that gave them a lead they wouldn't give up.

It certainly helped that the Mount successfully converted all ten of their free throw attempts in the final four minutes. Though perhaps Corey Maynard can sum of the Bulldogs' night best. Maynard finished the regular season fourth on the squad with 9.5 ppg, and the Bulldogs were 10-1 in conference when he reached 10 points. Maynard made a three-pointer six minutes into the game and only attempted two other shots. He also made only one trip to the foul line all night, missing the front end of a one-and-one. His three points, combined with the two bench players who saw time, made for a total of... three points.