WALTHAM, Mass. – Ties abound in the Northeast-10 Conference men's basketball standings with two teams tied for first, three tied for both third and sixth place, and five tied for ninth place. All told, only three games separate the conference's top 13 teams at the midpoint of the NE-10 schedule.
The tie for the top spot will be broken Tuesday night when the two co-leaders, Bentley University and Adelphi University, square off for the only time during the regular season. Tip-off at Bentley's Dana Center is 7:30 pm.
The logjam at the top of the standings came about Saturday afternoon when Bentley held off Saint Rose, 64-60, and Franklin Pierce shut down Adelphi, 61-45. Those results left both clubs with 8-3 conference records.
Bentley, which has captured the NE-10 regular season title six times in the last seven years, has won seven of eight since the first of December and now owns the conference's best overall record, 12-3. Adelphi, following an eight-game winning streak from Nov. 19-Dec. 13, has split its last six games to fall to 11-4 overall.
The Falcons outscore their opponents by 7.2 a game despite having made one less field goal then they have allowed. Coach Jay Lawson's club has countered that by making a conference-best 10.3 three-pointers per game (four more than they allow) and limiting the opponents to less than nine made free throws per contest.
The offense has been spread around with four players averaging in double figures. Guards Jasper Grassa (Lynn/Lynn Classical HS), a sophomore, and Sam Leclerc (Fayette, Maine/Winthrop HS), a senior, lead the way as they put up 14.6 and 14.0 points a game, respectively. They are two of the three NE-10 players with at least 39 treys and a .400 accuracy rate from downtown.
Junior forward Dan O'Keefe (Lexington/Lexington HS) follows with a 12.9 scoring average and is the team-leader in both rebounds (6.5 a game) and blocks (25). Freshman Andrew Shaw (Saco, Maine/ Thornton Academy) has had a productive rookie year off the bench, giving the Falcons about ten points a game while shooting the ball at a 46 percent success rate from three.
Adelphi graduated two starters from last year's team, which rose from the seventh seed to capture the 2011 Northeast-10 playoffs with a 78-72 win over Bentley last March in the Dana Center. This year's squad was picked ninth in the conference preseason but once again the Panthers are exceeding expectations.
Senior guard Robert Johnson tops the list of scorers for Adelphi, averaging 13.7 points, and is one of the conference's best foul shooters (51-60, .850). Six-foot-seven Australian Bradley Simpson, a 59 percent shooter from the field, follows at 11.0 ppg, and junior guard Chris Ranglin, with a 10.7 average, is the team's third double-figure scorer.
Forcing turnovers is a strength of the Panthers, with five different players averaging at least one steal a game. Johnson tops that list with an average of 1.7 a game, and senior guard Richard Harkins, the team-leader in assists (57), is right behind, at 1.5.