Feb. 10, 2010
Sacred Heart Pioneers (18-5, 11-1 NEC) vs. Long Island Blackbirds (14-9, 8-4 NEC)
Game #24 - Thursday, February 11, 2010 - 5:30 pm - Fairfield, Conn. - William H. Pitt Center (2,100)
Radio: www.SacredHeartPioneers.com Multimedia: Live Video, Gametracker
The Storyline... The Sacred Heart Pioneers play host to the Long Island Blackbirds Thursday night in the only meeting between the two school this season. The Pioneers will host both Brooklyn schools this week before traveling to Robert Morris and Saint Francis (PA) next week. The Pioneers and Colonials sit tied at 11-1 atop the NEC standings with LIU in third at 8-4. Sacred Heart has already clinched a spot in the NEC Tournament, their 11th-straight trip to the postseason. Freshman Kiley Evans earned her fourth NEC Rookie of the Week honor after helping SHU to a pair of NEC Rivalry Week wins over Quinnipiac last week.
Series... The Pioneers lead the all-time series, 13-9 after sweeping last season’s two meetings.. Sacred Heart and Long Island have met four times in the post season with each team winning twice. The Pioneers ousted the Blackbirds in the semifinals of the 2006 tournament at home (64-50) and in the opening round of the 2004 tournament at Wagner (51-48). The Blackbirds knocked the Pioneers out of the NEC Tournament in 2002 (73-56) and 2003 (51-48). The two schools met for the first time during the 1997-98 season. SHU is 8-2 at home against LIU, 4-5 in Brooklyn and 1-1 on a neutral floor. The Pioneers are 1-3 in LIU’s new arena, the Wellness, Recreation & Athletic Center.
SHU in the Northeast Conference... Sacred Heart is in its 11th season of play in the Northeast Conference and has posted a 149-43 conference record over that span. The Pioneers are coming off their second NEC Championship along with a 21-0 run through the league last season. SHU won their first championship during the 2005-06 season, running off a 26-5 record and 16-2 NEC mark. SHU has never finished lower then tied for third in the final league standings. Head Coach Swanson is the leader in all-time NEC wins at 149 victories.
The Coaches... Ed Swanson (SHU ‘89) is in his 20th season as head coach at his alma mater. Swanson posts a 340-226 record in his career at Sacred Heart. His teams have a 214-107 record since joining the Division I ranks in 1999-00. Swanson was inducted in to the New England Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009 and is the program’s longest tenured coach and all-time leader in coaching wins (340). He has been named the NEC Coach of the Year three times and is the all-time leader in regular season NEC wins (149). Gail Striegler (Central Arkansas ‘90) is in her second season at the helm of the Long Island women’s basketball program. Striegler has led the Blackbirds to a 23-29 record over her two seasons. She spent eight seasons as the head coach at Central Florida where she won three Atlantic Sun Championships.
Scouting the Blackbirds... The Long Island Blackbirds sit all alone in third place in the NEC, a game in front of Monmouth with an 8-4 conference mark. After dropping both games on their trip through Pennsylvania, the Blackbirds bounced back with a pair of wins over St. Francis (NY) in the Battle of Brooklyn last week. LIU has one of the top front courts in the NEC featuring sophomore Ashley Palmer and junior Chelsi Johnson. Palmer averages 16.1 points, fourth among NEC leaders, and 7.2 rebounds per game. Johnson is scoring at a 14.8 points per game clip, shooting 58.4% (129-221) from the field, second in the league. She is averaging 7.4 rebounds per game. Sophomore guard Kiara Evans is the NEC leader in assists with 162 (7.04 apg). LIU is the top scoring team in the conference, averaging 67.7 ppg.
Last Meeting with LIU... Sacred Heart’s Alisa Apo finished with a team-high 19 points along with six rebounds as the Pioneers topped Long Island University, 66-53, February 7, 2009. Backcourt mate Maggie Cosgrove finished with 13 points, four assists and three steals. LIU jumped out to a quick 4-0 lead but Sacred Heart answered right back with an 11-0 run. Sacred Heart took their biggest lead of the half at 15-points thanks to an 18-6 run. Freshman Callan Taylor knocked down two-straight three’s and followed that with a runner to cap off the run for a 29-14 lead with 2:45 to go. Taylor scored all 10 of her points in the first stanza as the Pioneers went to the locker room up 34-22. The Blackbirds went to Ashley Palmer for an answer in the second half and LIU’s top-rookie answered, scoring 19 of her game-high 29 points. After a Kaitlin Sowinski lay-up opened the half, Palmer hit back-to-back in the paint, the second a three-point play, to cut it to seven, 36-29, two minutes in. SHU senior Stephanie Ryan answered with a three and a driving runner to push the lead back to double digits, 41-30. Palmer went back to work and on consecutive possessions, drew fouls on Sowinski sending her to the bench with four fouls at the 15:40. The LIU freshman’s second effort earned her a three-point play and cut the Pioneers lead to just three, 41-38. Apo hit a jumper in the lane followed by a Cosgrove three to push the lead to eight but Palmer helped her team get back to within three, 48-45, with 12:04 left. The Pioneers used the next eight minutes to pull away for good, using a 16-2 run to lead by 17, 64-47. Apo and Cosgrove helped fuel the rally, each hitting from behind the arc on the run.
Last Time Out... The Sacred Heart Pioneers wrapped up the inaugural Northeast Conference Rivalry Week completing the season-sweep over Quinnipiac with a 66-41 win Saturday afternoon. Junior Alisa Apo scored 19 points while sophomore Callan Taylor had 15 points and 12 rebound for her 13th double double as Sacred Heart improved to 11-1 in the NEC. Freshman Kiley Evans was also in the mix with 15 points, four rebounds, three steals and a block in the win. The Pioneers have posted victories in 13 of the last 16 meetings between the Nutmeg state rivals. SHU opened up a 5-2 lead at the first media time-out and pushed the lead to 11-4 at the 11:52 mark with five different Pioneers scoring in the game’s opening minutes. Both teams struggled to find offense as Quinnipiac played through a seven minute stretch without a field goal while the Pioneers went five minutes between an Evan’s jumper at 12:43 and a three by the freshman at 7:25. A three by Apo gave the Pioneers a 19-11 lead at the five minute mark but a quick 6-2 spurt by the Bobcats made it a one possession game just under two minutes to go. SHU built their lead, capping a 16-5 run with a Taylor jumper and a pair of Apo free throws for their biggest lead at 45-28 with 8:48 left to play. The Bobcats made one last run and was able to cut the lead under double digits with three minutes on the clock. Kaminski helped fuel the 15-7 rally with 11 of her 16 second half points to pull her team within 52-43. A jumper by Morgan Merriman at 2:30 was followed by 12-straight free throws by the Pioneers to seal away the win, their fifth-straight. Merriman came off the bench to play 26 minutes, matching her season-high, scoring nine points with six rebounds, two steals and two blocks. The Pioneers shot 40.7% (22-54) and took advantage of 18 QU turnovers for 14 points.
18 Wins and a Playoff Berth... The Pioneers picked up their 18th win of the season, extending their streak to nine-straight seasons with at least 18 wins, the longest active streak in the Northeast Conference. Under head coach Ed Swanson, the Pioneers have won 18 or more games 11 times in his 20 seasons on the bench. In doing so, SHU was the first team in the NEC to clinch a postseason tournament berth. Sacred Heart has been to the NEC Tournament in each of their 11 seasons in the league. The Pioneers are also closing in on their fifth 20-win season in the last seven years and fourth in the last five. The Pioneers are currently riding a streak of nine-straight winning seasons and 14-straight years with a .500 record or better. The last losing season came in 1994-95, an 11-16 finish.