Defending NEC Champ LIU Blackbirds In Town Thursday Night

Game 16 * January 5, 2012 * William H. Pitt Center * Fairfield, CT * 7:00 pm

Full Set of Game Notes

The Storyline... The Sacred Heart Pioneers kick-off the New Year and the re-start of Northeast Conference play on Thursday night hosting the defending league champion Long Island Blackbirds.  The Pioneers are beginning a stretch where they play six of eight games at home in the William H. Pitt Center during the month of January.  SHU is 1-1 in the NEC with a win at Quinnipiac and an overtime loss at Central Connecticut State on their ledger.  LIU is 2-0 with wins over Wagner and Mount St. Mary's.

Sacred Heart - LIU All-Time Series...  Thursday's game marks the 22nd meeting between the two schools with Long Island leading the all-time series 13-8.  The Blackbirds have won two-straight and three of the last four against the Pioneers.  LIU took the only meeting last season, an 81-69 win at home.

The Coaches...  Dave Bike (Sacred Heart '69) is in his 34th year as the head coach of Sacred Heart. He has a career record of 513-469, ranking him 20th among active coaches. Only Jim Boheim of Syracuse has spent more time coaching at one institution. He led the Pioneers to eight NCAA Division II tournaments and his 1985-86 team won the national championship while finishing 30-4. Bike was named the national Coach of the Year by the NABC following the title game.  Jim Ferry (Keene State '90) is in his 10th season at the helm of the Long Island men's basketball program.  He and the Blackbirds are coming off a 27-6 season where they took home the NEC Championship with a 16-2 mark.  He has led LIU to a 133-146 record over his 10 seasons.  Ferry is a two-time NEC Coach of the Year (2011, 2005) and was named the 2011 NABC District 18 Coach of the Year and the Peter A. Carlesimo Division I Coach of the Year.  Ferry also had head coaching stints at Plymouth State and Adelphi

Up Next...  The Pioneers will play host to St. Francis (NY) on Saturday afternoon in game two of the first NEC home double header with the women's team this season.  The SHU women face Long Island at 1 pm.

Quick Hits...

- Junior Shane Gibson is on a streak of four-straight 20-point performances and has climbed to second in the NEC in scoring (19.2 ppg).  Gibson posted back-to-back 22 point games against Lafayette and Notre Dame, dropped 25 at BC and hit for 22 again in a win at New Hampshire.  He is averaging 22.8 ppg over the last four games.

- Gibson also notched his first career double double in the win over the Wildcats, collecting a career-high 10 rebounds to go with his 22 points.

- The junior guard has also caught fire from three and now ranks fifth in the NEC from behind the arc.  Gibson is shooting 41.8% (33-79) on the season but over his last four games, he is 15-of-29 from three (51.7%).

- Sophomore Chris Evans set a new career-high with 19 points in the win at New Hampshire.

- Junior Justin Swidowski snapped out of a three-game slump with a 12 point, six rebound effort at UNH.  Swidowski had a six-point game at BC, four points at Notre Dame and a season-low two points against Lafayette.  He battled foul trouble against Lafayette and ND, fouling out for the first time this season against the Irish.

- The Pioneers as a team are first in the NEC in assists, dishing out 14.6 per game.  SHU is led by freshman guard Phil Gaetano who ranks seventh in the NEC in assist to turnover ratio (50 a/35 to) and 10th in assists (3.33 apg).

- SHU closed non-conference play at 6-7 and will now move to NEC play full-time. The Pioneers are just 2-6 on the road this season with their lone victory coming at Quinnipiac in their NEC opener.

- The Pioneers finished this season 0-3 against teams from BCS conferences. SHU lost twice to the Big East (Rutgers, Notre Dame) and once to the ACC (Boston College). The Pioneers have never beaten a team from a BCS conference, going 0-16 all-time against the Big East, 0-7 vs. the ACC, 0-5 vs. the Big Ten and 0-1 against the Big 12. SHU has never faced a school from the Pac-10 or the SEC. With their win over New Hampshire, SHU finished 3-0 against the America East and have now won eight-straight against the league. The Pioneers finished 1-1 against the Ivy League and Patriot League this year and went 0-1 against the A-10.

- Sacred Heart has shot 50.0% or better five times this season but is just 2-3 in those games. SHU beat Lafayette and New Hampshire making 50.0% of their shots but lost at Rutgers (51.5%), vs. Lipscomb (54.5%) and at Boston College (50.9%). In two of those losses, SHU allowed their opponent to hit 50.0% or better (RU-63.0%; BC-55.3%).

Last Meeting with Long Island...   Long Island University shot 55.6% (15-27) in the second half and used a 20-6 run to erase a Sacred Heart six-point lead dropping the Pioneers 81-69 in Brooklyn on February 2, 2011. The Blackbirds dominated on the glass out rebounding SHU, 48-34. Long Island got matching double doubles from forwards Julian Boyd and Kyle Johnson. Boyd scored a game-high 19 points and pulled down 11 boards while Johnson finished with 15 and 11. The Blackbirds made just six-of-27 from behind the arc but went to the free throw line 29 times to just 12 for Sacred Heart. LIU made 19-of-29 at the charity stripe. SHU's Shane Gibson finished with 18 points and three assists in the loss while Chris Evans had 12 points and four rebounds. Forward Stan Dulaire came up one rebound shy of his first career double double with 10 points and nine rebounds. Sacred Heart opened the game making four of their first seven shots and the two teams played to 9-9 tie five minutes in. LIU led 16-14 at the 11 minute mark and went on a tear as Jason Brickman and Kyle Johnson buried back-to-back three's to fuel a 10-2 spurt to open a double digit lead. SHU would close the half strong and used a 6-1 spurt to gain some momentum into the locker room. Gibson hit a jumper to get it started and freshman Evan Kelley ended the rally with a pair of transition lay-ups to trail 34-31 at the break. SHU tied the game just 1:20 into the second half and then took their first lead since the opening minutes of the game using a 7-0 spurt to take their biggest lead of the night, 45-39. The Blackbirds turned the defensive pressure up and put together a game-changing 20-6 run over the next six minutes. Boyd and David Hicks both converted three-point play opportunities and put LIU in front 59-51 with 9:15 to play. Despite a tough night from three-point land, Long Island came up with two big makes from downtown to push the lead back to double digits where it would stay. Johnson drilled consecutive three's at 6:46 and 5:06 to push the lead to 67-59. From there, LIU sprinted home, keeping the Pioneers at bay.

Facing the Blackbirds - Last 10 Meetings (Tied, 5-5)...

2/2/11       LIU 81        SHU 69      Wellness Center

2/11/10     LIU 81        SHU 75      William H. Pitt Center

2/7/09       SHU 101     LIU 72       William H. Pitt Center

1/5/09       LIU 74        SHU 67      Wellness Center

1/24/08     SHU 77       LIU 76       William H. Pitt Center

1/7/08       SHU 75       LIU 68       Wellness Center

2/2/07       SHU 80       LIU 72       William H. Pitt Center

2/4/06       LIU 80        SHU 65      William H. Pitt Center

1/26/06     LIU 63        SHU 60      Wellness Center

2/19/05     SHU 77       LIU 74       William H. Pitt Center

Scouting the Blackbirds...  The Long Island Blackbirds are the defending Northeast Conference Champions and were picked to repeat in this season's preseason coaches' poll.  Coming in, LIU sports an 8-6 mark and riding a three-game winning streak thanks to home win s over Saint Peter's, Texas State and NJIT.  The Blackbirds join Robert Morris, Central Connecticut State and Saint Francis (PA) as the only teams off to a 2-0 NEC start as they head into league play full-time.  Junior forward Julian Boyd was the Choice Hotels NEC Co-Player of the Week and ranks in the NEC top-10 in scoring (16.5 ppg-7th), rebounding (9.4 rpg-3rd), field goal percentage (.517-7th) and double doubles (6-2nd).  Boyd was joined on the All-NEC Preseason team by fellow junior forward Jamal Olasewere who is averaging 14.2 ppg on the league's top-scoring offense (77.1 ppg).  Guards C.J. Garner and Michael Culpo round out the Blackbirds double figure scorers, averaging 10.9 and 10.3 ppg, respectively.  Point guard Jason Brickman is the NEC's top-assist man, dishing 6.29 per game.

Pioneers in the NEC...  Sacred Heart is in its 13th season of play in the Northeast Conference in 2011-12.  The Pioneers are 91-131 in conference play since joining the league in 1999-2000.  SHU has qualified for the Northeast Conference Tournament five times but saw a streak of four-straight seasons making the postseason snapped in 2009-10.  The Pioneers best finish in the league was second, a feat they accomplished twice, in 2006-07 and 2008-09.  SHU has made two NEC Championship game appearances, falling to Central Connecticut State in 2007 and losing to Mount St. Mary's at home in 2008.