Freshman Propels Heights’ Terriers to Fourth Straight Win
By John Torenli
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Following the departure of two all-conference players — Ricky Cadell and Akeem Bennett — this past summer, second-year St. Francis College head men’s basketball coach Glenn Braica admitted his team was in dire need of “immediate” assistance.
A little more than two months into the campaign, freshman Jalen Cannon is paying instant dividends for the surprising Terriers.
The Pennsylvania native continued to turn heads in Brooklyn Heights on Saturday, scoring 10 points and grabbing 12 rebounds in St. Francis’ come-from-behind 62-51 victory over visiting Fairleigh Dickinson in front of 549 fans at Remsen Street’s Pope Center.
Cannon, who picked up the Northeast Conference’s Rookie of the Week award after averaging 11.5 points and 12 boards in wins against Monmouth on Thursday and FDU on Saturday, is one of the players Braica was hoping would adapt fast during his first taste of Division I action.
Thus far, the 6-foot-6 business and sports management major is exceeding the most optimistic of expectations.
“Jalen is a very skilled low-post player who plays very hard every single night,” Braica said of Cannon back in May. “He will give us another scoring option inside, and I expect him to help us immediately on the boards.”
Cannon is doing more than just “helping” on the boards. He’s dominating them. Through his first 17 games as a Terrier, only five of which have been starts, he’s pulling down a team-high 7.5 rebounds per contest while averaging 7.8 points.
Picked to finish 11th in the NEC Preseason Coaches’ Poll, the Terriers (8-9) are off to their best start in conference play (5-1) since the 2000-01 season, locking them in a three-way tie for second place in the league with Wagner and Central Connecticut State.
Only neighborhood rival LIU-Brooklyn (6-0), the defending conference champion and preseason favorite, remains above St. Francis in the NEC standings.
Knowing the loss of Bennett, the team’s top rebounder and defensive player last season, and Cadell, St. Francis’ leading scorer in 2010-11, would leave the Terriers scrambling for an identity in the early going, Braica was simply hoping his team would find the will to stay in the hunt.
“If we can just keep our heads above water on the road it will really bode well for us when we return home,” noted Braica, whose team improved to 4-2 at The Pope with Saturday’s win.
Senior Stefan Perunicic (13.2 points per game), sophomore transfer Ben Mockford (11.6 ppg), junior forward Travis Nichols (8.8 ppg), third-year Brooklyn native Akeem Johnson (10 ppg) and Cannon have followed through on that prediction.
The Terriers will look to make it five straight Thursday night against visiting Wagner before hosting Mount St. Mary’s Saturday afternoon.
With a Feb. 8 showdown against LIU looming on the schedule, St. Francis will try to remain within striking distance of the Blackbirds in the next three weeks.
That may not be so easy, as LIU continued to solidify its first-place standing with Saturday’s 106-86 win over Monmouth.
Junior Julian Boyd, who became the 30th player in Blackbirds history to reach 1,000 points in last Thursday’s 82-64 home rout of FDU, scored 28 points as LIU shot a blistering 73 percent from the floor in the second half against the shell-shocked Hawks.
Jamal Olasewere added 19 points, while C.J. Garner, Michael Culpo and Kenny Onyechi had 14 each for the Blackbirds, who have won seven in a row overall, 18 straight at the Wellness Center and 16 consecutive NEC games as they continue the quest for a second straight NCAA Tournament appearance.
Boyd was named the NEC Player of the Week after averaging 21 points and eight rebounds in the last two games. It was the second time this season the San Antonio native received the honor and marked the third week in a row the Blackbirds captured the award. He followed Olasewere, who took home Player of the Week on Jan. 9 after Boyd won his first of the year on Jan. 2.
LIU will host Mount St. Mary’s tomorrow night before heading off on a three-game road trip, beginning with Saturday’s visit to second-place Wagner.
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Though they’re competing at the Division III level, the men’s basketball team at Brooklyn College continues to represent our borough in fine fashion.
South Shore product Amil John scored a game-high 26 points and fellow senior Tyshawn Russell added 20 Saturday afternoon as the Bulldogs improved to 10-3 on the season and 3-1 in CUNYAC action with a 77-64 win over visiting Hunter at the West Quad Center.
Junior Filipp Bochkov collected 13 points for BC, which is undefeated in six home games this season. The Bulldogs will hit the road tonight for a 7 p.m. tip-off at Lehman College on the campus of Manhattan Community College.
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The struggling Jays of NYU-Poly fell to 0-12 on the season with Sunday afternoon’s 73-52 setback to Old Westbury.
Junior Brendan Henry scored a team-high 12 points for the Jays, who slipped to 0-7 in the Skyline Conference.