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Preview: Merrimack Takes Road Trip to Central Connecticut on ESPN+

Matchup Merrimack (6-4, 6-4 NEC) at CCSU (4-10, 4-7 NEC)
Date/Time Thursday, Feb. 11, 2021 // 7 p.m.

Friday, Feb. 12, 2021 // 7 p.m.
Venue New Britain, Conn. // Detrick Gymnasium
Links ESPN+NEC Front Row | Live Stats 
Social Twitter // Instagram

NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. – The Merrimack College men’s basketball team will look to keep its spot atop the Northeast Conference when the Warriors visit Central Connecticut State for a pair of NEC games on Thursday and Friday. Both games will tip-off at 7 p.m. from Detrick Gymnasium. The defending NEC regular season champions enter Thursday night in a three-way tie for first place in the NEC with Bryant and Fairleigh Dickinson while CCSU sits in ninth place out of 10 teams.


The Warriors won two games against Saint Francis, improving to 5-1 over their last six games. Thursday’s win featured eight straight 3-point field goals to start the game for Merrimack, while Friday’s triumph featured a starring performance for Mikey Watkins with 15 points, eight rebounds and seven assists.


Central Connecticut has won two of its last three games after enduring a four-game losing streak to start January; Thursday will be Central’s first game in almost two weeks. The Blue Devils rank seventh in both scoring offense and scoring defense in the NEC. On the defensive end, CCSU is last in the NEC in field goal percentage defense (.469). Junior Nigel Scantlebury leads the team with 3.9 assists and ranks third across the whole conference in assist to turnover ratio (1.6).

Matchup Comparison:

Category Merrimack (4-4, 4-4 NEC) CCSU (4-10, 4-7 NEC)
Scoring Offense 66.9 69.4
Scoring Defense 67.7 77.2
Field-Goal % 44.7%  43.7%
Field-Goal % Defense 42.2% 46.9%
3-PT Field Goal % 30.5% 33.6%
3-PT Field Goal % Defense 38.9% 37.3%
3-PT Field Goals (Made-Attempts) 69-226 102-304
Free-Throw Percentage 66.2% 69.7%
Winning Percentage 6-4 (.600) 4-10 (.286)
Rebounding Margin -6.2 -7.6
Assists/Game 11.8 12.9
Steals/Game 7.9 7.3
Turnovers/Game 12.5 13.9
Blocks/Game 3.5 3.1
Scoring Offense 66.9 69.4

Through eight games, Merrimack ranks fourth in the NEC in steals per game (7.9) and ranks second in turnover margin (+2.4). Despite only playing six games so far, Merrimack boasts two of the top-12 in the NEC in steals per game in junior Mikey Watkins (1.9) and senior Devin Jensen (1.6). The Warriors’ defense has been their calling card since joining the D1 ranks, holding opponents to 60 points or fewer in 19 of 40 games since last season. Merrimack is 18-1 in those 18 games.


Merrimack has played Central Connecticut the second most times of any of its new counterparts. Thursday and Friday’s games will be the 20th and 21st meetings respectively between the Warriors and Blue Devils. Last year as DI foes for the first time, Merrimack swept the Blue Devils including defeating CCSU to clinch the NEC Regular Season Championship in the final game of the 2019-20 season. In the game in New Britain, Merrimack held Central to 46 points – the fewest they allowed in NEC – and on the offensive end, sophomore Mykel Derring enjoyed a strong performance with 12 points and four 3-pointers.


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 47-15 at Hammel Court (.758). Since February of 2019, Merrimack has won 18 of its last 22 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 1-3 start away from campus.


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 appeared in all 10 games, averaging 14.6 minutes per game. Edmead leads Merrimack with a .507 shooting percentage, and has scored in double figures four times this year.


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 currently leads Merrimack in scoring (13.0/game) and leads the team in rebounding (9.3/game). After hitting at least two 3-pointers in five of his last six games, Derring has the most on the squad with 23 while Ziggy Reid has started every game and is the team’s top free throw shooter (.889). Jordan McKoy continues to lead the team in both 3-point field goal percentage (.375).

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