Bryant hosts defending NEC champs

Bryant hosts defending NEC champs


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Bryant returns to the Chace Athletic Center just two days after a tough road loss to Sacred Heart, the team' first Northeast Conference defeat of the season, to host two-time defending league champ LIU Brooklyn Saturday at 4 p.m.

This is the eighth meeting all time between the Bulldogs and the Blackbirds as Bryant goes for just its second win against the club and first since topping LIU Brooklyn back in the 2008-09 campaign. That season, the teams split the two-game series, but the Blackbirds have emerged victorious in ever contest since, winning the last five matchups. This is the only time these two programs will face off during the 2012-13 regular season.

LIU Brooklyn enters the Chace Athletic Center riding a four-game winning streak after topping rival St. Francis Brooklyn, 78-68, Thursday night. Reigning NEC Player of the Week Jamal Olasewere paces the Blackbirds with 18.8 points per game in 17 appearances this season, also leading the side on the glass (8.2 rpg) and in the steals column (28). LIU is, however, without the services of reigning conference player of the year Julian Boyd, who  averaged 18. 5 points per game before suffering a season-ending knee injury Dec. 12. Still, C.J. Garner has also averaged double figures (13.5) with Brandon Thompson close behind (9.9). Jason Brickman has dished out 154 assists on the year to compliment his own 9.5 points per contest, while E.J. Reed's 20 stuffs are a team best. As a unit, the Blackbirds are shooting 45.9 percent from the floor and 37.4 percent from 3-point land but have allowed their competitors even better accuracy at 49.5 and 40.7 percent, respectively.

Alex Francis recorded his 13th-career double-double but the Bryant University men's basketball team ultimately ran out of time in a battle with league-leading LIU Brooklyn, falling to the Blackbirds, 75-70, at the Wellness, Recreation and Athletic Center in the teams' last meeting.

Francis's 20 points and 11 rebounds both marked game highs as the Bulldogs also got double-digit points from guards Frankie Dobbs (15) and Raphael Jordan (14). LIU would come out of halftime with a one-point edge, 37-36, and get a bit of separation in the opening minutes of the second frame, but a 5:48 scoreless streak allowed Bryant the opportunity to make up the difference, tying the game at 54-54 with 10:08 left to play. The Blackbirds would break the deadlock and open up an eight-point edge from there, but a Dobbs jumper in the paint followed by a pair of free throws cut the score to 68-64 with three minutes left on the clock.

Back-to-back LIU turnovers led to a breakaway dunk from Francis to close Bryant's deficit to two with 2:14 to play, but when Julian Boyd got off a pressured jumper with 49 seconds left and Jordan was whistled for a charge on the next Bulldog possession, Bryant was forced to foul. And despite Boyd missing three free throws down the stretch, a long 3-point attempt from Dobbs with six seconds to play would miss the mark, denying Bryant's comeback and solidifying the Blackbirds' 75-70 victory.

The Bulldogs are 6-1 against the Northeast Conference in 2012-13 with a 21-54 record against current league members since joining the Division I ranks. All-time against current NEC members, the Bulldog basketball program is 49-108 (.312), having most frequently faced off against former Northeast-10 Conference (DII) member Quinnipiac (18-42).

» Streak Snapped:
With Thursday night's 87-76 decision, Sacred Heart snapped Bryant's season-high eight-game winning streak that dated all the way back to Dec. 22, 2012. The eight uninterrupted victories set the program's Division I record for most consecutive wins (previously four). The Bulldogs will look to keep their home winning streak, now at five, intact against the Blackbirds Saturday.
» Record Watch: A win against LIU Brooklyn would earn the Bulldogs their seventh NEC victory of the season, tying the program's Division I single-season record of seven league victories, established in 2010-11.
» Playing from Behind: Bryant's 44-39 halftime deficit against the Pioneers Thursday night marked just the  fourth time this season the team has been behind at the intermission. The last time came at Central Connecticut Jan. 12 (an eventual 69-62 win) with the first two occasions coming in the season's opening games at then-No. 1 Indiana and at Providence College.
» An Imperfect Equation: Prior to Thursday's loss, Bryant was a perfect 10-0 this season when scoring 70 points or more.
» Top Look: Sophomore sharpshooter Dyami Starks is currently ranked No. 20 in the nation for 3-pointers per game, connecting on an average of three per outing. Starks is also ranked in the NCAA's top 55 in free throw percentage (46th), 3-point percentage (49th) and scoring average (55th).
» Lucky No. 13: The Bulldogs keep improving on their Division I single-season wins record, picking up their 13th victory of the year at home against the Seahawks Jan. 19. Bryant has now won more games this season than in the last three campaigns combined (12).
» 20's Plenty: The Bulldogs' margin of victory over Wagner last Saturday was 23 points, the largest victory of the year and the third time the team has won by 20 points or more in 2012-13 (78-58 at Saint Francis U. Jan. 5 and 78-56 vs. Binghamton Dec. 8).
» Movin' On Up: The Bulldogs have now been ranked in the College Insider Mid-Major Top 25 for a full month, and in their fourth-straight appearance on the list move up four spots to No. 17 this week. Bryant first cracked the prestigious list at No. 25 on Dec. 31 for the first time program history and has spent the last two weeks at No. 21. The Black and Gold are the only NEC team to appear in the poll.
» Tremendous Turnaround: Bryant is the most improved team in the nation when it comes to pure win turnaround, as the Bulldogs already boast 11 more wins in 2012-13 than it had a season ago. The next best in terms of win improvement? Towson, at nine.
» RPI Update: The Bulldogs jumped up eight places in this week's RPI rankings as well, now sitting at No. 106 and still the highest of any NEC team.
» Bracketology Breakthrough: Bryant appears on ESPN's Bracketology with Joe Lunardi for the second-straight week and has moved from a 16 seed to a 15 seed.

Sophomore guard Dyami Starks has made all the difference for the Black and Gold after sitting out the 2011-12 campaign due to NCAA transfer rules (Columbia). The two-time NEC Player of the Week leads the team in points per game (17.8), 3-pointers made (54), 3-point field goal percentage (.394) and free throw percentage (.865) and eclipsed the 300-point mark on the season with his 28-point outing against Sacred Heart Thursday. The performance fell just a single point shy of his career high and saw Starks connect on a career-best 10 field goals in his eighth 20-point outing of the year.

Junior Alex Francis managed just eight points and two rebounds against the Pioneers, marking just the second time this season an opponent has held the forward to single-digit points. The only other time that has happened in 2012-13 was Nov. 25 on the road at Boston College (6 points). Francis's two boards are his fewest of the season, also representing the third fewest he has scored in his three years as a Bulldog (1 at the University of Arizona, Dec. 22, 2011; 0 at Boston College, Dec. 19, 2010).

The Bulldogs have shown their preference for day games in 2012-13. Bryant is a perfect 8-0 in contests with start times before 5 p.m. (5-5 in night games).

For the fourth-consecutive home game, five different Bulldogs posted double-digit points last Saturday afternoon against Wagner. Junior guard Corey Maynard, senior guard Frankie Dobbs, junior forward Alex Francis, sophomore guard Dyami Starks and sophomore forward Joe O'Shea all finished with more than 10 points against the Seahawks for the second-straight game after also doing so Thursday night against Mount St. Mary's. At home against Quinnipiac Jan. 10, all five Bryant starters achieved the feat (Vlad Kondratyev instead of O'Shea), while the aforementioned five each posted double figures for the first time Dec. 22 against Dartmouth.

Three Bulldogs have recorded 20 or more points in a game 15 times this season. Sophomore Dyami Starks leads the way with eight of them, while junior Alex Francis has five and senior Frankie Dobbs chips in two more. Two players have recorded 20+ points in the same contest three times, with Starks (20) and Francis (21) doing so at Lehigh Dec. 29, Starks (29) and Dobbs (26) teaming up at Robert Morris Jan. 3 and Starks (20) and Dobbs (24) repeating the feat at home against Quinnipiac Jan. 10.

Single-game and season ticket packages are still available for the 2012-13 men's and women's basketball seasons. Fans can purchase tickets online at or by calling the Bryant Athletics Ticket Office at 401-519-TIXX.

Bryant University Athletics and the Northeast Conference have partnered with Pack Network to create NEC Front Row, the home for all NEC men's and women's basketball broadcasts in 2012-13. NEC Front Row brings viewers an industry-leading video streaming solution for more than 100 Bryant University home contests during the 2012-13 athletic seasons, including live, free-of-charge broadcasts of all 15 Bulldog home men's basketball games. Live event productions include multiple camera angles, an on-screen scoreboard and state-of-the-art graphics. Visit for more information and a schedule of events.

For the fifth-consecutive season, all Bryant University basketball home games and select road contests can be heard LIVE on WOON 1240 AM. Veteran sportscaster Jon Wallach of 98.5 FM The Sports Hub Boston returns to call the action as the voice of the Bulldogs, alongside color analyst Tristan Hobbes.

The Bulldogs will spend next weekend in The Garden State, travelling to Teaneck, N.J., for a Thursday night romp with Fairleigh Dickinson (7 p.m.) before jumping over the West Long Branch, N.J., for a 7 p.m. Saturday faceoff against Monmouth.