Braica, Terriers making statement en route to playoffs
by Bryan Fonseca
Feb 24, 2016 | 7514 views | 0 0 comments | 42 42 recommendations | email to a friend | print
As post-season basketball draws near, the St. Francis Terriers men’s basketball team (13-16, 9-7 NEC) is emerging as one of the most dangerous squads in the Northeast Conference.

The Boys from Brooklyn enter their final two games of the regular season having won four of their last five contests. Guided by two-time NEC Coach of the Year and Brooklyn native Glenn Braica, the team is starting to hit their stride and play their best basketball at the right time.

“We’ve played better recently, we’ve stubbed our toe once or twice, but sometimes the season takes its toll,” Braica said. “I like where we’re at; we’re playing better, I’m proud of these guys.”

Sandwiched in between their recent four victories is a home loss at the hands of rival LIU-Brooklyn, which was a nationally televised affair on ESPN U last Monday.

Both of the Terriers’ last two victories came on a late season Western Pennsylvania road trip, where they took it to two NEC counterparts; Saint Francis (PA), and Robert Morris, winning both games by double-digit points.

“You’re not going to play great every game. It’s really hard to go out there and get two wins (on the road),” Braica said. “Not many teams do it – it’s a great accomplishment. It shows that we have a resilient bunch, and that they fight back through adversity, which is very important.”

Braica and his team are now tied for fourth in the conference with Saint Francis and Fairleigh Dickinson. These three teams are also only two-games out of first place, where the Wagner Seahawks reside at an NEC best (11-5). The top-four seeds in the conference will host first round playoff games against the bottom-four teams.

“We’ve improved as the year’s gone on, which is something you always want to do,” Braica said. “No matter where you start you always want to improve.”

First on tap for the Terriers are the Bryant Bulldogs (7-22, 4-12 NEC), who are one of two teams that will not see post-season NEC basketball. After their battle with the Bulldogs, the Terriers will face the Mount St. Mary’s Mountaineers (13-16, 10-6 NEC), who are currently tied for second in the conference.

Shooting guard Tyreek Jewell has been the team’s leading scorer throughout the year, and he’s proven to be one of the best two-way players in the conference. The 6-foot-1 senior is averaging a team-high 13.3 points per game, which also ties him for ninth in the NEC, and his 5.4 rebounds are the most for any player under 6-foot-3 in the league.

Jewell is coming off of a 22-point, seven-rebound performance in the road win at Robert Morris this past Saturday.

Point guard Yunus Hopkinson has carried the bulk of the Terrier scoring in recent outings, posting a remarkable 21.6 points per game on 46 percent shooting in his last five contests. Over this stretch, Hopkinson has shot a blistering 46.7 percent from three, and 82.6 percent from the foul line. The junior is averaging 11.9 points and 2.9 assists for the season.

“They both had great games in Pennsylvania, they both played terrific both games all around,” Braica said of his backcourt. “They really made some big plays and stepped up, so it’s great to see, we’re really proud of them.”

Heading into Thursday’s game, the Bulldogs have lost 11 consecutive contests, the last of which was a 71-53 defeat to Mount St. Mary’s. Over the course of the year, guard Hunter Ware, whose averaging a team-best 13.1 points per game, has led the Bulldogs.

Before Saturday’s game, The Mount will host Fairleigh Dickinson on Thursday night in match-up that pits two of the NEC’s top teams against one another. Throughout 2015-16, The Mount have been led by guard BK Ashe, whose 14.4 points per game place him at sixth among NEC scoring leaders.

How the Terriers fare in the closing games of the season, along with what transpires around the wild and wacky NEC, will determine whether or not the Brooklyn-based squad could host a playoff game for the second straight season, which is something that coach Braica says he’d want to do.

“We’d love to host a game, that would be awesome, but we’re also prepared to go on the road or do what we have to do,” he said. “All we can control is the last two games and how we play, but then way may need some help depending on what other teams do.”

The Terriers will host Bryant on Thursday night at 7 p.m. at The Pope P.E. Center in Brooklyn, New York. The regular season-ending contest against Mount St. Mary’s will follow suit at 4 p.m. at The Pope, following a 1 p.m. showdown between the school’s women’s basketball teams.

The Terriers are (0-2) in their previous showings against their upcoming foes, losing 44-40 at Mount St. Mary’s on January 4, and 61-59 at Bryant on January 14.

Ticket information can be found on sfcathletics.com. All match-ups will be available via online stream at necfrontrow.com.
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