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Mount St. Mary's battles Sacred Heart for NEC title

Fairfield, CT (Sports Network) - The Northeast Conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament will be up for grabs this evening in Fairfield, as fourth- seeded Mount St. Mary's takes on third-seeded Sacred Heart at the Pitt Center.

The Mount is in the championship game for the third time, having won tournament titles in 1995 and 1999. The Mount was able to navigate this tournament field with wins over fifth-seed Quinnipiac (80-70) in the quarterfinals and then an upset of top-seed Robert Morris in last weekend's semifinals (83-65).

The Pioneers were also victorious in their two matchups, knocking off sixth- seed Central Connecticut State (84-71) and then two-seed Wagner (55-49). Sacred Heart has never won this event, but the Pioneers were in the title game a year ago, falling to Central Connecticut State (74-70).

The Mount holds a 10-6 edge in the all-time series, but Sacred Heart won the only meeting this season, a 67-59 decision on January 19th.

There wasn't a whole lot of offensive weapons to speak of when it came to the Mount St. Mary's arsenal in the regular season. The team comes into this game averaging just under 70 points (69.1) and boasts of just two players with double-digit averages. Senior Chris Vann is the top scorer on the roster, averaging 14.7 ppg. A decent long range threat, Vann leads the team with 85 three-pointers and needs just 14 points to reach 1,000 for his career. Sophomore Jeremy Goode is not far behind in the scoring column at 14.3 ppg. The team has done a good job defensively, forcing just over 15 turnovers per game, while holding opponents to just 66.9 ppg, on a miserly .419 shooting. The Mount has really stepped it up offensively in the tournament thus far, scoring 80 or more points in both games. Against Robert Morris, the Mount erupted for 83 points, as the team shot a sterling .543 from the field. Goode led four players in double figures with 23 points. Kelly Beidler came off the bench with 15 points, followed by fellow reserve Jean Cajou's 13. Will Holland rounded out the productive quartet with 11 points.

The Pioneers shot a disappointing .396 from the floor in the semifinals against Wagner, but held their opponent to a worse .302 performance, including a mere .200 in the first half. Sacred Heart was able to capitalize in the first half and took an 11-point lead into the break. Senior guard Drew Shubik led the way with a huge game consisting of 13 points, 14 rebounds and six assists. Ryan Litke came off the bench to match Shubik in the scoring column with 13 points of his own, while Chauncey Hardy tacked on 12 in the win. The offensive numbers on the year have been better for Sacred Heart, with the team averaging 72.4 ppg, on .446 shooting. Brice Brooks leads the team in scoring at 12.5 ppg. He is followed closely by Shubik and Hardy at 10.9 and 10.2 ppg, respectively. Shubik is one of the NEC's most versatile players, leading Sacred Heart in rebounding (5.8 rpg), assists (173) and steals (70).

03/12 10:38:15 ET

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