NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. – The Merrimack College men’s basketball program returns to action this week as the Warriors play at Long Island University for a pair of games beginning on Wednesday afternoon at 4 p.m. The series at the Steinberg Wellness Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. will conclude on Thursday with a 1 p.m. tip-off. The Warriors recently played on Thursday and Friday last week, sweeping a two-game set against Fairleigh Dickinson. The Warriors sit one game behind LIU in the Northeast Conference (NEC) standings..
LAST TIME OUT
The Warriors snapped a three-game losing skid by topping Fairleigh Dickinson twice last week, sweeping their first two-game set of the NEC schedule. Merrimack rallied from halftime deficits in both games, overcoming a three-point hole (28-25) to win 62-51 in game one. They followed with a 76-71 victory that came after Merrimack began the second half trailing by eight. Sophomore Jordan Minor averaged a double-double of 15.5 points and 11.5 rebounds per game while adding 4.0 assists and 3.0 blocks per contest, headlining Merrimack’s effort.
SCOUTING THE SHARKS
After having a game postponed last week, LIU is set to play its first NEC games in 11 days after the Sharks split a pair with Wagner College. LIU had won three straight conference games prior to the loss to the Seahawks. The Sharks have been one of the league’s best, ranking third in scoring offense (74.5) and second in scoring defense (70.0). Senior Ty Flowers is the NEC’s second leading scorer at nearly 19 points per game while adding 8.0 rebounds per contest.
|Category||Merrimack (3-3, 3-3 NEC)||LIU (4-2, 4-2 NEC)|
|Field-Goal % Defense||43.7%||42.3%|
|3-PT Field Goal %||27.4%||28.6%|
|3-PT Field Goal % Defense||42.9%||33.8%|
|3-PT Field Goals (Made-Attempts)||37-125||42-147|
|Winning Percentage||3-3 (.500)||4-2 (.667)|
Through six games, Merrimack leads the NEC in steals per game (9.5) and turnover margin (+3.7). Despite only playing six games so far, Merrimack boasts three of the top-15 players in steals per game, including two of the top three in senior Devin Jensen and junior Mikey Watkins. The Warriors’ defense has been their calling card since joining the D1 ranks, holding opponents to 60 points or fewer in 18 of 36 games since last season. Merrimack is 17-1 in those 18 games.
Merrimack owns a 1-2 all-time record against Long Island University, splitting the two games last season against the Sharks. The home team won on each occasion, with Merrimack dropping a 67-64 overtime decision in Brooklyn. The Warriors won on campus, however, 70-59. Sophomore Ziggy Reid enjoyed a strong effort in Merrimack’s win, scoring 13 points on 5-for-7 shooting while hitting a pair of 3-pointers. Merrimack has never won at LIU, while last year’s appearance at the Steinberg Wellness Center being the first in program history.
AMONG THE NEC LEADERS
Merrimack ranks third in the conference in scoring defense (70.0), second in field goal percentage (.443) and fourth in field goal percentage defense (.437). They also rank fourth in blocks per game (3.7), first in steals per game (9.5), turnover margin (+3.7). Individually, the Warriors employ three top-20 scorers in the NEC in Watkins (13.7), Minor (13.5) and Derring (10.3). Derring’s 2.3 3-pointers per contest are fourth in the conference, as well. Minor ranks second in the NEC in rebounds (9.3) while Watkins is sixth in both field goal percentage (.524) and assists per game (3.3). Defensively, Jensen (2.5), Watkins (2.3) and McKoy (1.3) are among the top-15 in steals per game. Minor is third in both blocks at 1.7 per contest and offensive rebounds at 3.2 per tilt..
NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK
The Warriors replaced their three lost starters with three true freshman: James Berry III, Malik Edmead and Ryan Isaacson. Both Edmead and Isaacson have been regular members of Merrimack’s rotation over the first two weeks of the regular season. Tuesday and Wednesday’s games will be a homecoming of sorts for Edmead, who grew up on Long Island in Deer Park, which is 45 minutes east of the Steinberg Wellness Center.
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.
THE SECOND YEAR LEAP
Merrimack’s four-player sophomore class already have made an immediate impact as they look to make a second-year leap. Jordan Minor currently ranks second on Merrimack in scoring (13.5/game) and leads the team in rebounding (9.3/game). After hitting eight 3-pointers last week, Derring has the most on the squad with 14 while Ziggy Reid ranks second in rebounding and second in blocked shots. Jordan McKoy continues to lead the team in both field goal percentage (.600) and 3-point percentage (.500).