January 21, 2011

SHU Looks to End Skid at Wagner Saturday Night

Sacred Heart Pioneers (7-11, 2-5 NEC) vs. Wagner Seahawks (9-9, 5-2 NEC)

Game #19 - Saturday, January 22, 2011 - 7:00 pm - Staten Island, NY - Spiro Sports Center (2,100)

The Storyline...  Sacred Heart looks to shake off a three-game Northeast Conference losing skid on Saturday night heading to Wagner College.  The Pioneers have fallen into an offensive funk, shooting under 30.0% in their last two games while coming off a season low 45 points in a loss at Mount St. Mary's Thursday night.  SHU is 2-5 in the NEC and tied for 10th place.  The Wagner Seahawks are 5-2 and tied for second place in the NEC under first year head coach Dan Hurley.  The Seahawks took down preseason favorite Quinnipiac for the second time this season on Thursday night, clipping the Bobcats by 10 points, 90-80. 

Sacred Heart - Wagner All-Time Series... This is the 26th meeting between Sacred Heart and Wagner on the hardwood with the Seahawks leading the all-time series, 14-11.  Wagner won the first meting this season, 73-68 in overtime back in Fairfield.  The Pioneers and Seahawks have played twice in the postseason with the SHU winning both games.  Sacred Heart knocked out Wagner in the opening round of the 2007 tournament, 100-66 and won in Staten Island, 55-49, in the 2008 NEC Semifinals.

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 502-454, 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.  Dan Hurley (Seton Hall '96) is in his first season as the head coach at Wagner College and has the Seahawks sitting at 9-9 overall and 5-2 in the NEC.  Hurley spent nine season as the head coach at St. Benedict's Prep in Newark, NJ where he led the Grey Bees to a 223-21 record, coached four McDonald's All-Americans and developed four teams that were ranked in the top five in the nation. Hurley made his coaching debut as an assistant at Rutgers from 1997-2001.

On the Upcoming Slate... SHU returns home next week to host Saint Francis (PA) and Robert Morris.  This will be the only meeting between the Pioneers and Red Flash and Colonials this season.

Scouting the Seahawks...  The Wagner Seahawks own a 5-2 NEC record and are led junior guard Tyler Murray who is second in the league in scoring at 17.7 points per game.  Murray is the NEC's top sharp shooter from three making 50.6% (40-79) on the season.  Freshman Latif Rivers is among the top-rookies in the NEC averaging 13.9 points per game and is the league's top-free throw shooter making 72 of 76 (.947) on the season.  Freshman Naofall Folahan is the top-shot blocker in the NEC with 32 (1.78 pg) swats on the year.  The Seahawks as a team are the top three-point shooting club (.401) but are the league's worst rebounding team pulling down 29.6 boards per game.

Last Meeting with Wagner...   The Sacred Heart Pioneers a five point lead with under a minute to play erased as Wagner rallied to force overtime and a 73-68 win on December 4th.  The Pioneers found themselves in a 10-point hole with 12:01 left in the second half, 45-35, before responding with a 17-3 run to take their first lead since late in the first half.  The Pioneers built their lead to five, 58-53, with 47 seconds to go before Wagner made their final run.  Wagner got a quick three from Tyler Murray and after a pair of senior Jerrell Thompson free throws pushed the SHU lead to 59-56, Latif Rivers drilled another from downtown to pull the Seahawks to within 60-59 with 24 ticks left.  The Pioneers got the ball into Thompson who got bottled up at half court where he was whistled for a backcourt violation trying to avoid the Wagner trap.  The Seahawks went to Murray in the closing seconds and the junior got fouled on his way to the hoop.  He missed the first and got the shooter's roll on the second to knot the game at 60-60 with eight seconds left.  The Seahawks never trailed in the overtime and outscored the Pioneers 13-8 during the extra session.  Shane Gibson led four Pioneers in double figures with 17 points adding five rebounds and three steals to his totals.  Wagner got a game-high 23 points from Murray and 21 from Rivers who made nine-of-10 at the free throw line.  Murray added 10 rebounds for a double double and also dished four assists.

Last Time Out...  Sacred Heart scored a season-low 45 points shooting 29.2% (14-48) in dropping their third-straight Northeast Conference game, 61-45 at Mount St. Mary's Thursday night.  The Mount dominated in the paint getting 20 points from senior forward Shawn Atupem as they outscored the Pioneers 34-14 inside.  SHU freshman Chris Evans finished with a team-high 14 points making eight-of-11 at the charity stripe.  Atupem missed just once on Thursday night, making eight-of-nine from the floor while collecting six rebounds with three steals and a block.  The Mount shot 46.3% (25-54) and forced SHU into 18 turnovers.  With SHU up 15-13, Atupem tied it a 15-15 hitting underneath and got the Mount started on a 17-3 run into halftime to lead 30-18.   The Mount scored 18 of their 30 points inside led by Atupem who finished with 10 in the half.  The Pioneers made just three-of-17 after their hot four-of-five start and shot just 31.8% (7-22) in the first half while turning it over 12 times.  Mount St. Mary's extended their lead to 17 with a quick 7-2 spurt to open the second half coming on three-straight makes to force a SHU timeout with 18:06 on the clock.  The Pioneers would cut the lead to 12 at the 13:39 mark after a Jerrell Thompson pull-up jumper in the lane and the fourth three off the hand of Shane Gibson to make it 39-27.  That would be as close as the Pioneers would get the rest of the way as the Mountaineers ran the lead back to 17 at the 9:33 mark.   The Pioneers never pulled closer than down 14 the rest of the way.  Gibson's four-of-six shooting night behind the arc resulted in his 12 point effort, joining Evans in double figures.  The only other Pioneers to find the scoring column on the night was junior Stan Dulaire who finished with eight points, Thompson who added six points and r-sophomore Femi Akinpetide  who had five points and a season-high eight rebounds.

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