Long Island (18-13) at Wagner (19-11)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, March 9, 12 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Spiro Sports Center (2,100) -- Staten Island, New York. Television: ESPN3.com, MSG2. Home Record: Long Island 12-4, Wagner 11-2. Away Record: Long Island 6-9, Wagner 7-9. Neutral Record: Long Island 0-0, Wagner 1-0. Conference Record: Long Island 12-6, Wagner 12-6. Series Record: Long Island leads, 54-40.
GAME NOTES: The two-time defending Northeast Conference champion Long Island Blackbirds travel to the Spiro Sports Center on Saturday afternoon to take on the Wagner Seahawks in a NEC Tournament semifinal-round bout.
Wagner won both prior meetings this season, defeating the Blackbirds in Long Island, 86-76, and taking care of business at home, 92-92, in late February.
The second-seeded Seahawks enter the contest after rolling past Central Connecticut State, 72-50, in the NEC quarterfinals. Wagner held the Blue Devils to 25 percent shooting from the field and outrebounded them, 55-41. Second-Team All-NEC forward Jonathon Williams had 20 points and six rebounds to lead Wagner, while Marcus Burton added 15 points, six rebounds and five assists. Kenneth Ortiz also chipped in with seven helpers.
Williams ranked seventh in the NEC in scoring this season, tallying 15.3 ppg to go along with 6.5 rebounds while hitting shots at a 53.5 percent clip. Latif Rivers scored 13 ppg while Ortiz finished third in the conference with 2.3 steals per game, fourth with 5.2 assists, while scoring 11.9 ppg, which is third-best on the team. Wagner is also one of the more balanced teams in the conference as it has 10 players on the roster that average at least 15 minutes per game.
The No. 3 seed, Long Island, reached the semifinals after defeating Quinnipiac at home on Wednesday, 91-83, thanks to C.J. Garner, who matched a career-high with 30 points. Garner also scored 30 against Quinnipiac earlier in the season. Jamal Olasewere added 20 points for the Blackbirds, who after trailing by seven points with 6:17 left, went on a furious rally and scored 11 of the last 14 points in the game.
Olasewere finished third in the conference with 19.2 ppg and fourth with 8.3 rpg, while leading the nation with 8.4 free throw attempts per game. He became the second straight Blackbird to take home NEC Player of the Year honors after Julian Boyd was awarded the hardware a season ago. Olasewere, along with Second-Team All-NEC point guard Jason Brickman, who led the NCAA with 8.5 apg this season, create a formidable one-two punch for Long Island. Garner finished eighth in the conference with 15.3 ppg, but he is averaging 20.9 points over his last nine games.
At 29 years old, Wagner Head Coach Bashir Mason is the youngest in Division I. He led Wagner to a 19-11 mark in his first season after taking over for Dan Hurley who left to fill the coaching vacancy at Rhode Island. Mason has been nominated for the Joe B. Hall First-Year Coach Award and should be able to lead his Seahawks to their third win over the Blackbirds this season.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Wagner 84, Long Island 81
03/09 10:38:19 ET