Sacred Heart Pioneers (7-8, 2-2 NEC) vs. Central CT State Blue Devils (9-6, 2-2 NEC)
Game #16 - Thursday, January 13, 2011 - 7:00 pm - Fairfield, CT - William H. Pitt Center (2,100)
The Storyline... The Sacred Heart Pioneers are back at home Thursday night welcoming instate rival Central Connecticut State to the Pitt Center for a Northeast Conference match-up. After starting the season 1-7, the Pioneers are playing their best basketball of the season coming in winners of six of their last seven games. SHU notched a pair of NEC road wins last week on the New Jersey swing beating Fairleigh Dickinson, 67-50, and Monmouth, 80-65. Sophomore guard Shane Gibson has been on fire offensively posting four 20-point games in his last five outings. The Blue Devils saw their five-game wins streak stopped last Saturday falling at home to Long Island, 72-67. Both CCSU and Sacred Heart come in at 2-2 in the league this year.
Sacred Heart - CCSU All-Time Series... The instate rivalry goes back to the Division II days for both Sacred Heart and Central Connecticut State. The Blue Devils lead the series 28-17 and owns an 18-9 record against the Pioneers since SHU joined the NEC in 1999-2000. The two teams split their two meetings last season, with each team winning on it's home court. Sacred Heart and Central have met five times in the postseason. The Blue Devils knocked the Pioneers from the NEC Tournament three times including winning the 2007 NEC title against SHU. Sacred Heart ousted CCSU from the 2008 and 2009 tournaments.
The Coaches... Dave Bike (Sacred Heart '69) is in his 33rd year as the head coach of Sacred Heart. He has a career record of 502-451, ranking him 20th among active coaches. Only Jim Boheim of Syracuse as spent more time coaching at one institution. He led the Pioneers to eight NCAA Division II tournaments and his 1985-86 team won the national championship while finishing 30-4. Bike was named the national Coach of the Year by the NABC following the title game. Howie Dickenman (Central Connecticut State '70) is in his 15th season as the head coach at his alma mater. Dickenman is the second longest tenured head coach in school history and carries a 226-202 career record with 146 career NEC wins. He is a four-time NEC Coach of the Year award recipient and has led the Blue Devils to three conference titles. He has led CCSU to 12-straight NEC Tournament appearances heading into this season, the longest active streak in the league.
On the Upcoming Slate... Sacred Heart return to action on Saturday hosting Bryant University in a double header with the women's team.
Scouting the Blue Devils... The Central Connecticut State Blue Devils are 9-6 on the season and 2-2 in the NEC. The Blue Devils dropped their first home game of the season last time out, falling to LIU 72-67. Junior Ken Horton leads the team and is second in the NEC in scoring at 17.0 points per game. Horton is fourth in the league in rebounding pulling down 8.0 rebounds per game. Junior guard Robby Ptacek is sixth among league leaders in scoring averaging 15.8 points per game. Ptacek is one of the NEC's top free throw shooters, making 49-of-55 at the charity stripe this season. Senior Shemik Thompson averages 12.2 points per game and is third in the NEC in assists averaging 4.6 per game. The Blue Devils as a team are tops in the league in scoring defense allowing 64.5 points per game.
Last Meeting with CCSU... Senior Corey Hassan scored 17 points and grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds, while Liam Potter also recorded a double-double with 13 points and 10 boards to lead the Pioneers to a 71-53 win over Central Connecticut State at home last January 21st. SHU led 36-34 at the break and extended the lead to five early in the second half after a Mehmet Sahan lay-up. A three-point play by Markeys Deans cut it to 43-41 but SHU answered with a quick 7-1 run, sparked by the first career three-pointer from Sahan, to push the lead to eight, 50-42. Both teams went almost four minutes without scoring before a three by Corey Hassan made it 53-44 before pushing the lead to 10, 57-47 with under eight to play. Central would get no closer than seven the rest of the way, as the Pioneers held the Blue Devils to just 31.6% (18-57) shooting. The Pioneers got 18 points off CCSU's 13 turnovers as well. Sahan finished with 13 points and seven rebounds. Ryan Litke scored 15 points and five rebounds. Markeys Deans led the Blue Devils with 18 points, just two off his career-high. Shemik Thompson added 13 and David Simmons had eight.
Last Time Out... Sacred Heart shot a season-high 55.3% (26-47) led by 24 points from r-sophomore Shane Gibson as the Pioneers beat Monmouth on the road, 80-65 Saturday night. The Pioneers blew open a 53-53 game with 8:46 left using a 20-3 run to even their Northeast Conference record at 2-2. Gibson was on fire, hitting six-of-nine from the field and five-of-six from behind the arc en route to his fourth 20-point game in his last five outings. Senior Jerrell Thompson scored 19 points and dished out eight assists with three steals as the Pioneers set new season's high's for points scored (80), assists (18), field goal percentage (.553) and three-point field goal percentage (.667) in the win. For the second-straight game the Pioneers overcame both a halftime and second half deficit, outscoring the Hawks 51-35 in the final stanza. Junior Stan Dulaire finished with 11 points and freshman Chris Evans came off the bench for 13 points and four rebounds going a perfect five-of-five from the field. After trailing for much of the game on the glass, the Pioneers outrebounded the Hawks 34-33 and outscored them in the paint as well, 28-26. SHU also got 18 points off 16 Monmouth turnovers in the win. The Hawks were led by 15 points from Waite who also picked up eight rebounds. The Hawks did get 22 second chance points off their 33 caroms on the night.
Pioneers in the NEC... Sacred Heart begins its 13th season of competition in the Northeast Conference in 2010-11. The Pioneers are 86-120 in conference play since joining the league in 1999-2000. SHU has qualified for the Northeast Conference Tournament five times but saw a streak of four-straight seasons making the postseason snapped last year. The Pioneers best finish in the league was second, a feat the accomplished twice, in 2006-07 and 2008-09. SHU has made two NEC Championship game appearances, falling to Central Connecticut State in 2007 and losing to Mount St. Mary's at home in 2008.
Gibson Has the Hot Hand... R-Sophomore Shane Gibson shook off some early season offensive struggles and has found his shooting stroke in the midst of a stretch of four 20-point efforts in his last five games including a career-high 26 point night at Providence. The Pioneers have won six of their last seven games with Gibson leading the way. The sophomore guard is shooting 50.0% (46-92) from the field and 48.2% (27-56) while averaging 19.6 points during that stretch. On the year, Gibson is seventh in the league in scoring (15.7 ppg) and has made a NEC best 39 three's on the year.