Cancun Challenge Opens with Trip to Rutgers Thursday Night
SACRED HEART vs. RUTGERS
2011 Cancun Challenge
Game 03 * November 17, 2011 * The RAC (8,000)
Piscataway, NJ * 7:30 pm
All-Time Series: First Meeting / Last Meeting: First Meeting
The Storyline... With a 2-0 start to the season in their back pocket the Sacred Heart Pioneers will head out on a nine-day road trip starting Thursday night at Rutgers. SHU opens the four-game Cancun Challenge facing the Scarlet Knights and will play at Richmond on Saturday before heading to Cancun, Mexico for a pair of games next week. The Pioneers are 2-0 for the second time in the last three years thanks to a pair of victories over the America East conference's Hartford and Stony Brook. Rutgers comes in at 1-1 with a win over Dartmouth and a loss on the road at Miami Tuesday night. The Pioneers are searching for their first win against a Big East school. Rutgers has faced teams from the NEC 42 times, winning 39 of those meetings.
Sacred Heart - Rutgers All-Time Series... Thursday night's match-up will be the initial meeting between the two universities on the hardwood.
The Coaches... Dave Bike (Sacred Heart '69) is in his 34th year as the head coach of Sacred Heart. He has a career record of 508-461, ranking him 20th among active coaches. Only Jim Boheim of Syracuse has 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. Mike Rice (Fordham '91) is in his second season at the helm of the Rutgers University men's basketball program. Rice led the Scarlet Knights to a 15-17 mark in his first season at the bench, guiding them to a 9-2 start and a win over Seton Hall in the Big East Tournament. Rice is a familiar face to Pioneer fans, after spending three seasons as the head coach at Robert Morris. Rice guided the Colonials to a pair of NEC Championships along with three-striaght post season berths.
Cancun Challenge Notes...
- This is the fourth year of the Cancun Challenge
- The tournament is set for its third season at the Moon Palace Resort where a ballroom is converted into a 1,200 seat basketball arena
- The 2011 Cancun Challenge features eight teams split into two divisions. The Riviera Division consists of Illinois, Illinois State, Richmond and Rutgers and the Mayan Division is made up of Sacred Heart, Hampton, Lipscomb and Southern Illinois Edwardsville.
- The Pioneers have never faced any of the teams they are matched up with in the tournament. SHU faces Rutgers and Richmond in the states and will take on Hampton and either Lipscomb or Southern Illinois Edwardsville in the final game.
- Three teams in this year's tournament made it to the NCAA Tournament last season. Richmond advanced to the Sweet 16, Illinois to the 3rd Round and Hampton was knocked out by Duke in the 2nd Round.
- The Pioneers are the first team from the Northeast Conference participating in the Cancun Challenge. This year's tournament features teams from the Big East, Big Ten, Atlantic-10, Atlantic Sun, Missouri Valley, Mid-Eastern and Ohio Valley conferences as well.
- Vanderbilt won the inaugural Cancun Challenge in 2008. In 2009, Kentucky was the Riviera Champion and Sam Houston State the Mayan winner. Last season, Missouri won the Riviera and North Florida the Mayan.
- This will be the second regular season tournament the Pioneers participate in outside the United States. SHU took part in the 2003 San Juan Shootout in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The Pioneers went 1-2 in that tournament, losing to Duquesne and Northeastern while beating Puerto Rico-Mayaguez.
- Coach Dave Bike on participating in the Cancun Challenge - "We are very excited to be playing in a first class event. It is a great opportunity for our players and supporters to play in another country and compete against quality programs outside of our conference."
- CBS Sports Network will broadcast the four games in the Riviera Division in Cancun.
- Sacred Heart is 2-0 for the second time in three seasons (2009-10) and just the second time since joining the NEC and Division I ranks in 1999-2000. The last time a Pioneer team was 3-0 was during the 1994-95 season when they opened 5-0 before a loss.
- SHU is 2-0 against the America East conference this season and will play at New Hampshire on December 29th. The Pioneers have won seven-straight against the league.
- Senior forward Stan Dulaire recorded his first career double double and matched his career for points in the win over Stony Brook. Dulaire scored 14 points (14 vs. LIU 2/11/10) and pulled down 10 rebounds.
- The 74-63 win over the Seawolves gave SHU four-straight wins in home openers and they are now 10-6 in Pitt Center openers since the building opened in 1997.
- Balanced Scoring - Five Pioneers scored double digits in the win over SBU. SHU accomplished the feat just once last season in a home win over Robert Morris, 84-75
- R-Junior center Justin Swidowski is off to a scorching start, shooting 60.0% (12-20) with 18-point and 14-point games on his ledger. With 18-points against Hartford, Swidowsk posted the most points by a Pioneer in their debut since Maurice Bailey had 20 points in the 2002-03 opening win over Stony Brook.
- Cleaing the Glass - SHU has outrebounded their first two opponents and pulled down 53 caroms as a team in the win over Hartford. It was the first time SHU recorded 50 or more rebounds since a 50 rebound effort on 1/21/04 in a loss at Quinnipiac.
- Parade to the Free Throw Line - The Pioneers have gone to the charity stripe 51 times in the first two games, making 37 (72.5%). By comparison, SHU's opponents have made just 28 trips, knocking down 16 (571%).
Bike vs. Rice - Take-Two... Despite their teams never meeting on the basketball court, head coaches Dave Bike and Mike Rice have faced off before. Rice coached Robert Morris of the Northeast Conference for three seasons (2007-10) where he owned a 4-1 record against the NEC's longest tenured coach. Bike's Pioneers won the initial meeting at RMU in 2007, 82-69, but then dropped four-straight to Rice's Colonials.
Pioneers vs. the Big East... Sacred Heart is 0-14 against teams currently in the Big East. The Pioneers have faced UConn more than any other team, falling five times against the Huskies. SHU has also faced Providence (0-4), St. John's (0-2), Notre Dame (0-1) and Marquette (0-1). The Pioneers also lost to Boston College once when the Eagles were still a member of the conference in 2003-04.
Scouting the Scarlet Knights... Rutgers is led by junior wingman Dane Miller who is averaging 9.5 points and 6.5 rebounds thus far. Miller has been a mainstay in the Scarlet Knight line-up coming in with 51-straight starts and returned this season as the team's top-rebounder. Freshman Eli Carter also averages 9.5 ppg in the early going. Sophomore forward Gilvydas Biruta, a Big East All-Rookie pick last year, is averaging 8.5 points and 8.0 rebounds per game.