Sacred Heart Pioneers (9-17, 4-11 NEC) vs. Bryant Bulldogs (9-18, 7-8 NEC)
Game #27 - Saturday, February 19, 2011 - 2:00 pm - Smithfield, R.I. - Chase Athletic Center (2,600)
TV: MSG Network
The Storyline... Sacred Heart closes a stretch of five of their last six games away from home as they take on the Bryant Bulldogs live on MSG Network. The Pioneers are looking to snap a season-long five game losing streak needing a win to stay in the hunt for a potential Northeast Conference Tournament berth. SHU is one game behind Saint Francis (PA) and Monmouth with three to play for the eighth spot in the field. The Pioneers came up short of an upset bid on Thursday night, falling 57-56 at Central Connecticut State. SHU has been plagued by turnovers of late, posting a combined 55 in the last two games. The Bulldogs suffered an 80-60 defeat at home to Quinnipiac on Thursday night. Bryant is 7-8 in the league this year but is not eligible for the postseason until the 2012-13 season.
Sacred Heart - Bryant All-Time Series... This marks the 21st meeting between Sacred Heart and Bryant all-time. The Pioneers lead the series 12-9. The Pioneers had won four-straight over Bryant since the Bulldogs made the move to Division I but saw that streak ended earlier this season with a 72-59 loss at home. Prior to the 2008-09 season, the two teams hadn't met on the hardwood since the 1997-98 campaign when SHU defeated Bryant 83-67 in the Pitt Center in the final game of the season.
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 504-459, 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. Tim O'Shea (Boston College '84) is in his third season on the Bryant University bench. Prior to becoming the seventh head coach in Bulldog program history, O'Shea spent seven seasons as the head coach at Ohio University where he recorded a 120-95 record. He led the Bobcats to the 2004-05 MAC Championship and spot in the NCAA Tournament. He had assistant coaching stints at Yale, Rhode Island and Boston College.
On the Upcoming Slate... The final two games of the regular season will be back at home at the William H. Pitt Center with the Pioneers hosting Fairleigh Dickinson and Monmouth.
Scouting the Bulldogs... Bryant posts a 9-18 record and is tied for seventh in the NEC with a 7-8 mark. The Bulldogs are led by senior Cecil Gresham and freshman Alex Francis who rank 11th and 12th in the league in scoring. Gresham is averaging 14.0 points per game and is fourth in the league in three-point shooting at 41.5% (61-147). Francis is the of the top-rookies in the NEC at 13.9 points per night and is third in the league in rebounding pulling down 8.1 boards per night. Sophomore point guard Frankie Dobbs is the league's top-assist man at 5.19 per game while scoring at a 12.2 clip.
Last Meeting with Bryant... Sacred Heart suffered through a 27.4% (20-73) shooting effort while the Bryant Bulldogs hit for 55.6% dealing the Pioneers a 72-59 loss on January 15th. The Pioneers shot just four-of-21 from three in the loss. The Bulldogs came out of the gates with the hot hand and ran off an 18-5 lead over the first seven minutes of play. SHU's Jerrell Thompson gave the Pioneers their only lead of the game, 3-2, hitting from behind the arc at 18:02. Bryant's lead hit 16 points, their biggest of the game, at the 8:20 mark fueled by three's from Cecil Gresham and Frankie Dobbs. The Bulldogs shot a blistering 60.9% (14-23) in the first half and were only slowed by nine turnovers. SHU twice pulled as close as down five in the second half but could never get over the hump. Bryant put the game away with a 13-3 run to pull in front 64-52 with just under four minutes to play. The Bulldogs got 22 points from Dobbs while Alex Francis registered a double double with 12 points and 11 rebounds. Gresham had 12 points off the bench while Raphael Jordan scored 15 points on seven-of-nine shooting. The Bulldogs would turn it over 18 times leading to 22 SHU points at the other end. Gibson led the Pioneers with 18 points while Jerrell Thompson finished with 17 points, five steals and four assists.
Last Time Out... The Sacred Heart Pioneers dropped their fifth-straight game Thursday night, coming up just short of a comeback win when junior Nick Greenbacker's last second shot at a potential game-winner missed it's mark in a 57-56 loss at Central Connecticut State. The Pioneers got 15 points from sophomore Shane Gibson in the loss. CCSU's Ken Horton scored 14 of his game-high 18 points in the second half to lead the Blue Devils. SHU held Central to just 27.6% shooting in the first half (8 of 29) but trailed by one, 24-23 at the half. The Blue Devils turned it up a notch in the second half hitting 56.5% (13 of 23). The Pioneers fell behind by nine with 13 minutes to play in the second half but chipped away and used a 14-5 run to tie the game at 46-46. Horton gave his team a 51-46 lead with a put back and his fifth three of the night but SHU again battled back and pulled within one in the final seconds to set up the possible game winner. With 1:14 on the clock, Evan Kelley got loose on the fast break and Central's Devan Bailey was called for an intentional foul. Kelley made both free throws to pull within one. The Pioneers turned it over after the inbounds but got a break when CCSU's Robby Ptacek was called for an offensive foul with 25 seconds left. The Pioneers set up for the potential game-winner but with Central blanketing Gibson, point guard Jerrell Thompson was forced to kick the ball out to an open Greenbacker on the wing but his shot missed the mark allowing CCSU to escape with the win. SHU held the Blue Devils to 40.4% (21-52) shooting but they did make nine-of-19 from three in the win. CCSU also took advantage of 21 Sacred Heart turnovers to the tune of 28 points at the other end. In addition to Gibson's 18 points, Kelley chipped in with 11.
NEC Playoff Push... The Pioneers close out a stretch of five of six games on the road this Saturday at Bryant. SHU has lost five-straight and six of their last seven but are still in contention for the final spot in the NEC Tournament. The Pioneers are 4-11 in the league and in 11th place, one game behind Saint Francis (PA) and Monmouth who are tied for ninth. Bryant, currently 7-8 and tied for seventh with St. Francis (NY), is ineligible of the tournament field. The Pioneers end the season at home against FDU and Monmouth. The Red Flash hold the head to head tie breaker thanks to their win in the only meeting between SHU and SFPA this year. The Pioneers beat Monmouth in their first meeting back in January.