|Matchup||Merrimack (9-7, 9-7 NEC) at Wagner (11-6, 11-5 NEC)|
|Date/Time||Tuesday, March 2, 2021 // 7 p.m.
Wednesday, March 3, 2021 // 4 p.m.
|Venue||Spiro Sports Center // Staten Island, N.Y.|
|Links||NEC Front Row | Live Stats|
|Social||Twitter // Instagram|
NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. – Playing its last two games of the season this week, the Merrimack College men’s basketball will travel to Staten Island to face Wagner College on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. With a pair of wins, the Warriors can move into second place in the NEC by season’s end and secure two straight top-two finishes in the conference in their first two seasons. Both games can be streamed for free on NEC Front Row.
LAST TIME OUT
Merrimack defeated St. Francis Brooklyn in its most recent game, rounding out the home slate with a victory. Junior Ziggy Reid enjoyed a career game en route to being selected as a NEC Prime Performer. Reid scored a career-high 29 points in a victory to go along with single-game career highs in field goals (10), field goal attempts (14), free throws made (9), free throw attempts (11), steals (4) and blocks (4). Classmate Jordan Minor added a near double-double of 12 points and nine rebounds.
SCOUTING THE SEAHAWKS
Wagner has been one of the top teams in the NEC this season, entering the season’s final two games with a chance to win the conference’s regular season title. Wagner recently had its 10-game winning streak snapped, which was the longest by a NEC team since 2010-11 and the longest for Wagner since the 1978-79 season. Senior guard Alex Morales has been one of the league’s top players, averaging over 17 points and seven rebounds per game. Classmate Elijah Ford is right up there with Morales, ranking second in the conference in scoring.
|Category||Merrimack (9-7, 9-7 NEC)||Wagner (11-6, 11-5 NEC)|
|Field-Goal % Defense||42.1%||42.6%|
|3-PT Field Goal %||30.7%||32.8%|
|3-PT Field Goal % Defense||35.9%||34.3%|
|3-PT Field Goals (Made-Attempts)||110-358||105-320|
|Winning Percentage||9-7 (.562)||11-6 (.647)|
Through 16 games, Merrimack ranks second in the conference in scoring defense (66.1), third in field goal percentage defense (.421) and second in steals per game (8.3). Merrimack is also second in the league in turnovers forced (15.4/game) and turnover margin (+2.1). Merrimack’s defense has really been its calling card during its Division I transition; the team has allowed 60 or fewer points in 22 of 46 games over the last two seasons in DI. The Warriors own a record of 20-2 in those contests.
The Warriors’ and Seahawks’ game last season at Hammel Court was the first in program history between the second-year conference foes. This weekend’s games will be Merrimack’s first-ever on Wagner’s campus; last season, Wagner was the lone NEC program that the Warriors did not travel to. Merrimack won last year’s game, 68-59, behind a strong combined effort from Jensen and Watkins. The latter led all Warriors with 17 points on 6-of-8 shooting and a career-high four 3-pointers. The former equaled Watkins’ shooting from deep with three triples of his own, totaling 14 points on 5-of-11 from the field.
HOME & ROAD SPLITS
Since Joe Gallo took over as Merrimack head coach in 2016-17, Merrimack has developed a true home court advantage. The Warriors have won at least 10 home games in each of the last four years, posting an overall record of 48-17 at Hammel Court (.738). Since February of 2019, Merrimack has won 19 of its last 25 games at home. The Warriors have not been bad on the road either. Merrimack has finished with a road record of above .500 in each of the program’s first four years with Joe Gallo. The team’s best road record under Gallo came in 2018-19, registering a 10-5 record. Last year, Merrimack went 9-8 on the road in its first Division I season, including a 6-3 mark in NEC. This season, the team is off to a 3-4 start away from campus.
NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK
The Warriors replaced their three lost starters with three true freshman: James Berry III, Malik Edmead and Ryan Isaacson. Additionally, redshirt-freshman Ethan Helwig is in the rotation this season for the Warriors. Edmead has emerged as the most consistent performer of the group. The reserve guard has been the team’s second most accurate shooter, posting a field goal percentage of 48.1 percent (50-104) on the year. He has played the most minutes of any Merrimack freshman (15.3/game).
HEAD COACHES AT THEIR ALMA MATER
Head coach Joe Gallo is one of 35 coaches nationwide to currently serve at the head coach at their alma mater. The 2004 graduate joins prominent coaches such as Jim Boeheim (Syracuse), Patrick Ewing (Georgetown), Juwan Howard (Michigan), Matt Painter (Purdue) and Roy Williams (North Carolina) among others on the list. Gallo and Rob Krimmel (Saint Francis U.) are the two current head coaches at the NEC who are coaching at their alma maters.
Merrimack’s four-player sophomore class already have made an immediate impact as they look to make a second-year leap. Jordan Minor ranks second on the team in scoring (12.0/game) and leads the team in rebounding (8.8/game). He is also third in the conference in rebounds per game, fourth in offensive rebounds per contest and fifth in blocks per contest. Mykel Derring and Ziggy Reid have joined Minor by starting every game this season while classmate Jordan McKoy is Merrimack’s first option off the bench.