Hoops du Jour
Merrimack at SFU men
Tipoff: 4 p.m., DeGol Arena
Records: Saint Francis (12-5, 5-1 NEC); Merrimack (11-8, 5-1)
Coaches: Rob Krimmel is 109-128 in his eighth season at Saint Francis and overall. Joe Gallo is 72-42 in his fourth season at Merrimack and overall.
Radio: Online at sfuathletics.com
Notes: This game pits the two teams tied for first place in the NEC. The fact that Saint Francis is so high in the standings isn’t a surprise. But Merrimack is a huge surprise and is coming off a 53-49 win at Robert Morris, which had been undefeated in the league. The Warriors are in their first season as a member of Division I and the NEC after jumping up from the Division II level, and they were picked to finish last in the NEC preseason poll. That prediction clearly was a big mistake. … Merrimack reached the NCAA Division II Tournament the past three years and got to the regional semifinals two years ago. “It’s very impressive,” Krimmel said of Merrimack’s success so far. “Joe (Gallo) has been in the league. He was an assistant at Robert Morris and has a great feel for this league. … They’ve got a lot of guys that have won a lot of games in that locker room.” … Saint Francis is favored by 8 points, but that number seems high given the suspensions detailed below.
Mirror prediction: Saint Francis 64, Merrimack 60
Comment: A tough game to predict with SFU’s Isaiah Blackmon and Tyler Stewart both serving a one-game suspension (see below). I’ll still give the Flash a slight nod for being at home, banking on Keith Braxton, Myles Thompson, Randall Gaskins Jr. and others to pick up the slack.
Mirror prediction record: 14-3
— Cory Giger
Merrimack at SFU women
Tipoff: 1 p.m., DeGol Arena
Records: Merrimack (10-7 overall, 3-3 Northeast Conference); Saint Francis (7-10, 5-1).
Coaches: Keila Whittington is 7-10 in her first season at Saint Francis; Monique LeBlanc is 119-119 in her ninth year at Merrimack.
Live stats: www.sfuathletics.com
Live online: www.necfrontrow.com
Leading scorers: Saint Francis — G Karson Swogger, 5-8 Jr. (13.1); Merrimack — F Denia Davis-Stewart, 6-1 Sr. (17.9).
Notes: This is the first ever meeting between the two programs … Saint Francis lead the conference in rebounding defense as they are only allowing 35.9 per contest … Merrimack is in its first year as a Division I program. As such, they must go through a four-year Division I reclassification period where they can’t compete in any postseason action until the 2023-24 season … In addition to leading the NEC in scoring, Davis-Stewart is also tops in rebounding (13.2 per game) and blocks (4.8 per game) … In 21 team statistics that the Northeast Conference keeps, the Warriors are at the top in 11 of them.
Mirror prediction: Saint Francis 63, Merrimack 60
Comment: The Red Flash have been finding ways to win during their three game winning streak, and they’ll come up with another way to earn the victory today.
Mirror prediction record: 12-5
— Nate Ritchey
SFU’s Blackmon, Stewart suspended for tonight
Saint Francis guard Isaiah Blackmon, the leading scorer in Northeast Conference games, and sixth man Tyler Stewart both will serve a one-game suspension tonight against Merrimack for their roles in Saturday’s postgame scuffle against Sacred Heart.
In the postgame handshake line, Sacred Heart’s Koreem Ozier pushed Blackmon in the face with his hand. Video shows that after the initial mess had started to settle down, Blackmon re-engaged and charged at some Pioneer players, prolonging the situation. At that point, Stewart was seen throwing a punch that did not land.
Even though the SFU players were not the initial instigators, the NEC league office must have felt that their actions in response deserved a one-game suspension.
It’s unclear how long Sacred Heart’s Ozier will be suspended, although it likely will be for multiple games given the severity of his actions. Another member of the Sacred Heart team threw a punch in Blackmon’s direction, and he almost certainly will face a suspension, as well.
— Cory Giger