BROOKLYN, N.Y. — After narrowly falling in their most recent Skyline battle, the St. Joseph's College (Brooklyn) men's basketball team is set to prepare for the final playoff push taking on three league opponents next week. The Bears (7-10, 6-6) enter play in a tie for fifth place in the standings with Old Westbury (6-9, 5-5), but the next five teams are separated by just three games. On Sunday (Jan. 21), SJC hosts Merchant Marine at 2 p.m. as part of Alumni and Family Day at The Hill Center. Then, the blue and gray play Mount Saint Vincent at home on Wednesday (Jan. 24) before traveling to Mount Saint Mary for a matinee on Saturday (Jan. 27).
Sunday, Jan. 21 at 2 p.m.
vs. Merchant Marine
- St. Joseph's enters play looking to halt a two-game skid that saw them fall to Old Westbury by double-digits on the road (Jan. 13), and come up just short in a heartbreaking 74-73 loss to Maritime last Tuesday at The Hill Center. Against the Privateers, SJC came back from down 12 to take the lead late on a Stephane Etheart (Hollis, N.Y./St. Francis Prep) and-one layup, but a finish plus the foul with 1.2 seconds to go gave the visitors victory. In the two-straight losses Stephane has shined, averaging 18 points and 12.5 boards with a 20-and-15 double-double at Old Westbury.
- The Mariners are looking to bounce back from a down year in 2016-17 and have already matched their league wins total from a year ago, as they currently sit at 6-8 (4-6 Skyline). Just like SJC, Merchant Marine comes in riding two-straight losses that saw them fall by one point in overtime to Mount St. Mary (Jan. 13) and get handled on the road by Farmingdale State 82-64 (Jan. 16). Freshman guard James Walsh was a bright spot for USMMA in both of the defeats, notching 24 against MSMC followed by a season-high tying 25 versus Farmingdale.
Keys to the Contest
- Along with Stephane, his brother Sebastien Etheart (Hollis, N.Y./St. Francis Prep) has been feeling it recently, as three of his four double-digit scoring performances of the season have come in the month of January. Leading the team in scoring is sophomore guard Dimitri Sirakis (Hollis, N.Y./St. Francis Prep) and his 15.4 points per game, qualifying for fifth in the Skyline Conference. Sirakis has led the Bears in scoring nine times so far this year, and his long-range prowess (team-high 40 3PM) is a huge part of his squad's success. The Bears will definitely be looking to this trio of sophomores to spark things offensively against a visiting defense that allows the fourth-most points a night in the league (74.9). This game holds playoff significance as well, with USMMA currently sitting three places behind SJC (eighth) by just 1 game and 5th and 10th place separated by just 2 games.
- Besides Walsh, the Mariners are led offensively by classmate Seth Barnes (14 ppg) and his extremely efficient marks of 45% FG and 42% 3FG. Additionally, Merchant Marine is just one of four teams in the Skyline with a positive scoring differential (0.5) and their eighth-ranked defense will have its hands full with a Bears' squad that has scored the most points in the conference thus far (1,155). Size-wise both sides are pretty much even, as USMMA's tallest rotation player is 6-foot-6 forward David Washington, who will likely be matched up with SJC's 6-foot-6 forward of their own, Kavan Meiner (Staten Island, N.Y./Susan Wagner) and his 8.6 ppg (6.5 rpg).
- Merchant Marine leads the all-time series 2-1 and won the last matchup 65-63 (Jan. 14, 2017).
Wednesday, Jan. 24 at 7 p.m.
vs. Mount Saint Vincent
- Entering the week the first-place Dolphins are the hottest team in the Skyline, winners of seven-straight highlighted by a double-digit win over then first-place Farmingdale State last Thursday (Jan. 18). Two days earlier Mount Saint Vincent easily defeated Sarah Lawrence (65-44) at home, and they have won three-straight by at least 11 points. Before their date at The Hill Center on Wednesday, the Dolphins face Mount Saint Mary on Saturday (Jan. 20) at 1 p.m.
Keys to the Contest
- CMSV has been spearheaded by senior forward Ammad Alkhulaidi's 18.8 points per game during their winning streak, in which he put up four-straight double-doubles, six-straight games in double-figures, and a massive 34-point, 20-rebound performance over Old Westbury (Jan. 2). On the season, Alkhulaidi leads the squad with 14.9 ppg alongside a team-high 9.8 caroms a night. Experience is a huge factor for Mount Saint Vincent, as they rely heavily on senior guards Jose Maestre and Matthew Sowah's 9.7 per game each, along with fourth-year big man Andrew Curiel's 9.1 points and 7.8 boards each outing. These veterans will do battle with a sophomore-laden Bears' lineup that features just one senior.
- The Bears are 5-8 all-time against CMSV, but defeated them 71-66 on the road in comeback fashion earlier this season (Nov. 30, 2017).
Saturday, Jan. 27 at 1 p.m.
at Mount Saint Mary
- Mount Saint Mary (7-8, 7-3) enters the week at third in the league and have won three in a row and four of their last five. Most recently, they escaped Merchant Marine by one-point (93-92) in overtime last Saturday (Jan. 13), preceded by a 76-51 blowout victory at Old Westbury (Jan. 10) behind four Knights in double-figures. MSMC's last loss came against Farmingdale State (Jan. 5), as the Knights were limited to just 28.8% shooting from the field and a 20% mark from deep.
Keys to the Contest
- When these teams met on December 2nd Mount Saint Mary couldn't miss, converting a lights-out 16 of their 33 three-point attempts (48.5%) en route to a convincing 81-53 victory at The Hill Center. Senior guard Daniel Wolff was unconscious, pouring in a game-high 22 (8-10 FG, 6-6 3FG) with 11 rebounds, as well as three other Knights in double-figures. On the other hand, SJC shot a lowly 30.4% from the floor while Sirakis was limited to just eight points on 2-9 shooting. In order to change their fortunes this time around, the Bears will have to shut down an undersized MSMC team on the perimeter and establish their own offense early on.
- St. Joseph's has lost three-straight to the Knights with their last win (69-66) coming in the 2015-16 season (Nov. 24).