To earn the first-round advantage, the Terriers outlasted the Mount Saint Mary’s Mountaineers (13-18, 10-8 NEC) in Saturday’s season-ending showdown, 55-49.
In Wednesday’s round-one match-up, the fourth-seeded Terriers are scheduled to host those same Mountaineers in what is to be the third contest between the teams this season.
“I’m happy for the guys, but I told them it’s not time to be satisfied,” Terriers head coach Glenn Braica said after the win. “We’re zero-zero on Wednesday night. We’ve got to focus, we’ve got to play hard, we’ve got to play smart, and we’ve got to play well.”
The Terriers closed regular season play as one of the NEC’s hottest teams by winning each of their final four games. Additionally, the Terriers were victorious in six of their last seven contests before heading into the playoffs.
The Mount begins post-season play after coming up short in three of their last four games. One of their three losses came on February 18 to last place Central Connecticut State.
In their showing against the Terriers, the Mount got off to a slow start, trailing 20-11 with 7:27 to play in the first before putting together a 19-4 run and entering halftime with a 30-24 lead.
In what has become their trademark, the Terriers put forth a huge second half, limiting the Mount to 19 points while pouring on 31 points of their own. The Terriers edged out the Mount, 55-49, clinching a home playoff game in the process.
Mount Saint Mary’s was limited to a lowly 28.8 percent shooting, which was influenced by an even worse 21.6 percent shooting in a second half in which they only scored 19 points.
A large part of the reason why the Mount struggled on offense was the inside presence of Terrier senior forwards Antonio Jenifer, Amdy Fall, and Chris Hooper. Jenifer paced the Terriers with 14 points and 13 rebounds, which marked his second consecutive double-double and his sixth of the season.
“Coach wants me on the glass all the time, he told me he wants me to get 10 rebounds per game, so that’s my goal every night,” Jenifer said. “We got over that hump, we couldn’t win two games back-to-back, but you get better over time.”
Fall put up 10 points, nine rebounds, and continued his season-long block party by swatting six shots. Fall has recorded 14 blocks in his last two games, and is averaging a league-high 2.4 per game, a mark that also places him in the nation’s top 30.
Hooper, who’s averaging 13.2 points and 5.2 rebounds in his last five games, added six points, six rebounds and was disruptive in the passing lanes, racking up three steals.
The Terriers also received substantial efforts from their backcourt in the win over Mount Saint Mary’s. Senior shooting guard and team leading scorer (12.9 points per game) Tyreek Jewell netted only six points, but he was effective in other aspects by finishing with 11 rebounds and providing lockdown perimeter defense by helping limit Mount guard Junior Robinson to ust 4-of-19 (21 percent) shooting.
“It feels good to be able to do more than just score, I wouldn’t want people just to see me as a scorer,” Jewell said. “I love playing defense and rebounding, I feel like it helps us more. We know when we’re not playing up to par. Obviously no one is going to come and hand over a basketball game, so we’ve got to earn it.”
Junior point guard Yunus Hopkinson put up 12 points, his lowest scoring output since a five-point performance at Sacred Heart on February 4. Hopkinson still enters the playoffs as one of the NEC’s most dangerous floor generals, averaging 19.6 points and three assists over his last seven appearances.
Part of his scoring was taking opponents off the dribble and knocking down some contested jumpers, which electrified the Terrier faithful.
“That just happened. I was just playing off of reaction honestly, I wasn’t looking for anything spectacular,” Hopkinson said. “We’re still growing as a team, every game we’re getting better and better. This definitely shows that we have grit.”
Mount freshman guard Elijah Long played well above his average of 5.4 points per game against St. Francis by scoring a contest-high 16 points.
Over the course of the year, the Mount standout has been junior guard B.K. Ashe, who averages a team-high 13.9 points per contest. While he does remain the seventh best scorer in the conference, the once hot Ashe has seen his offensive numbers dip in recent games, averaging only 10.1 points in his last seven showings.
Braica, who is in his sixth season leading the Boys from Brooklyn, is only two wins shy of reaching 100 for his career as a head coach. The former St. John’s assistant has led the Terriers to the playoffs every year at the helm, including last season’s team which captured the 2015 NEC Regular Season title and an N.I.T. berth for the first time in over 50 years.
The rubber match between the Terriers and the Mount will tip-off on Wednesday night at 9 p.m. at St. Francis College’s Pope P.E. Center. The game will be aired live on MSG and on necfrontrow.com.
The winner of the game moves on to the NEC semifinals, which will take place on Saturday, March 5.