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Terriers climbing back up NEC standings

SFC shoots for third straight victory at Merrimack on Thursday

January 29, 2020 By John Torenli, Sports Editor
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The St. Francis Brooklyn men’s basketball team has lost just one out of nine home games this season.

The road, however, has presented a far more formidable challenge for these Terriers, who are eager to prove they can continue their ascent up the Northeast Conference standings when they visit first-place Merrimack on Thursday night in North Andover, Massachusetts.

“I think we’re getting better,” SFC Head Coach Glenn Braica said after the Terriers won twice in a row, both times at the Pope Center, with Saturday’s 86-79 victory over visiting St. Francis Pennsylvania.

“We don’t know what we are or where we’re going to wind up,” added Braica as his team improved to 10-10 overall and rose into seventh place in the NEC. “They’re a good group. They root for each other. We’re not gonna get concerned about anything but improving.”

Just 2-9 on the road this year, the Terriers will face arguably their biggest challenge of the conference portion of their schedule when they take on the upstart Warriors.

In its first season at the Division I level, Merrimack (13-8, 7-1 NEC) has lost just once in conference play and is in position to be the No. 1 seed in the NEC Tournament.

But the Terriers, who avenged a pair of previous NEC losses to Robert Morris and the Red Flash over the past week, can climb above .500 in both overall and league record with a win Thursday.

“Just really proud of our guys, the way we hung in there,” Braica said after Saturday’s triumph, which saw SFC erase a four-point halftime deficit.

“They got the lead at halftime and we battled back,” Braica added. “They went small and we went small. … All of them made plays. To get these two wins is a big boost for us.”

Getting a third straight victory would be even bigger, as the Terriers try to position themselves for yet another run at the program’s first-ever NCAA Tournament bid.

With players like point guard Chauncey Hawkins and center Deniz Celen, both of whom played a huge role in Saturday’s win, the Terriers could make some noise come playoff time.

“I think when (Hawkins) lets the offense come to him early and doesn’t force, he is really good in the second half,” noted Braica.

“(Celen) gives us a low-post scorer. He gives us a guy we can run the offense through. He’s a great passer and now he’s become a consistent 3-point shooter.”

Hawkins once again displayed his penchant for playing best when it matters most Saturday, scoring 21 points, 14 of which came during the last six minutes of play.

“Just credit to my team, they always inspire me,” said Hawkins. “Without them, we wouldn’t be able to go. I was just trying to play the point guard role, trying to get everyone involved. It’s like I’m saving the best for last.”

Celen led the Terriers with a near-perfect performance, going 6-of-6 from the floor, including his lone 3-point try, and hitting all but one of his 10 free-throw attempts.

The towering forward also grabbed seven rebounds and blocked three shots.

“It was a big game for all of us and we just wanted to get back [after a one-point loss at St. Francis on Jan. 11],” Celen said.

Following their visit to Merrimack, the Terriers will make a quick trip back to Brooklyn to host Sacred Heart on Saturday.

Brooklyn’s LIU Sharks (10-11, 5-3 NEC) are tied for fourth place in the conference following Saturday’s 71-66 home loss to Robert Morris, dropping them a full game behind the second-place Colonials.

Redshirt senior Raiquan Clark scored 21 points and junior Ty Flowers added 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Sharks, who had won five of their previous six contests.

LIU will also be heading up to Merrimack on Saturday to take a shot at the NEC leaders.

On the women’s side, SFC suffered a 70-59 defeat to first place Robert Morris here on Monday night, despite 16 points from junior forward Ally Lassen and 14 from freshman guard Allysa Fisher.

The Terriers (5-14, 1-7) will try to end a season high, six game losing streak when they host Sacred Heart on Saturday afternoon at the Pope Center.

The LIU ladies (4-15, 3-5) ended a three-game slide in Downtown Brooklyn on Monday night, blowing past St. Francis, 71-53, as sophomore sensation Brandy Thomas scored a game high 19 points to go with eight rebounds.

Sophomore Brandy Thomas poured in 19 points Monday night as the LIU women snapped a three-game slide by beating visiting St. Francis (Pa.) in Downtown Brooklyn Monday night. Photo courtesy of LIU Athletics.

Sophomore Kiara Bell added a season high-tying 16 points for the Sharks, who will also visit Merrimack on Saturday.

Over at Brooklyn College, senior guard Jordan Wright scored a career-high 33 points as the surging Bulldogs made it six wins in their last seven games, with a 95-87 triumph at Medgar Evers on Tuesday night.

Wright shot the lights out at the Cougars Cage, hitting 13-of-16 from the floor, including a pair of 3-pointers, and nailing 5-of-7 free throws as BC improved to 5-2 in CUNYAC play and 8-9 overall.

The BC women remained the team to beat in CUNYAC, with a 99-42 rout of Medgar Evers on Tuesday, improving to 13-5 overall and a perfect 8-0 in conference play.

Junior guard Taylor George scored a game-high 20 points for the Lady Bulldogs, who will shoot for their sixth straight win when they host Hunter College on Saturday at Brooklyn’s West Quad Center.

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