Pioneers Open With Rival Stags in the Connecticut 6

2010 Connecticut 6 Classic 

Sacred Heart Pioneers (0-0, 0-0 NEC) vs. Fairfield Stags (0-0, 0-0 MAAC)

Game #1 - Saturday, November 13, 2010 - 4:00 pm - Uncasville, Conn. - Mohegan Sun Arena

SHU vs. Fairfield Game Notes

The Storyline...  The Sacred Heart Pioneers open the 2010-11 season taking on cross-town rival Fairfield University as part of the 2010 Connecticut 6 Classic at Mohegan Sun.  Entering his 33rd season on the Pioneers bench, head coach Dave Bike will have plenty of new faces on the court as SHU will look to replace 75% of their scoring from last season lost to graduation.  The Pioneers will also need to improve on the defensive end after giving up 73.2 ppg last year, last in the Northeast Conference.  Senior guard Jerrell Thompson and senior forward Mehmet Sahan are the only starters returning from last year's 14-15 team.  The Fairfield Stags were picked as the preseason favorite in the MAAC heading into this season.  Sophomore Derek Needham and senior Yorel Hawkins both were voted to the Preseason All-MAAC teams.  

Sacred Heart - Fairfield All-Time Series... Fairfield leads the all-time series, 3-0.  The two cross-town rival schools have met each of the last three seasons, all at the Arena at Harbor Yard and all Stag wins.  Fairfield posted a 93-77 win last season, matching the 16-point margin of victory posted during the 2008-09 match-up, 70-54.  The inaugural meeting of the two Fairfield schools took place in 2007-08 with the Stags posting a 84-75 win.

The Coaches...  Dave Bike (Sacred Heart '69) is in his 33rd year as the head coach of Sacred Heart. He has a career record of 495-443, ranking him 20th among active coaches. Only Jim Boheim of Syracuse as spent more time coaching at one institution. He led the Pioneers to eight NCAA Division II tournaments and his 1985-86 team won the national championship while finishing 30-4. Bike was named the national Coach of the Year by the NABC following the title game. Ed Cooley (Stonehill '94) begins his fifth year at Fairfield University guiding the Stags to a 67-61 mark including the program's fifth 20-win season last year at 23-11.  He was the first recipient of the Ben Jobe Award presented annually to the top minority men's basketball coach in the nation.  Cooley is the 11th coach in the history of Fairfield University.

On the Upcoming Slate...  The Pioneers open the season with four-straight on the road and in teh span of seven days.  SHU heads to Fordham on Monday night, UMass on Wednesday and Brown next Saturday before their home opener on November 23rd vs. New Hampshire.

Pioneers vs. the MAAC...  The Pioneers are 19-11 all-time against teams from the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. SHU owns a winning record against Marist (12-1) and Siena (5-3).  The Pioneers have also faced Iona (1-1), Fairfield (0-3) Manhattan (0-1), Loyola (1-0) and Rider (0-2).  Fairfield is the only team from the MAAC on the 2010-11 schedule. 

Scouting the Stags...  Fairfield University enters the 2010-11 season as the preseason favorite to cut down the nets in the MAAC come March.  The Stags are coming off a 23-11 season where they advanced to the MAAC Championship game before falling to Siena.  Fairfield returns their leading scorer from last season in sophomore guard Derek Needham.  The 2009-10 MAAC Rookie of the Year averaged 16.4 points and 5.2 assists last season.  Senior forward Yorel Hawkins averaged 14.6 points and 5.5 rebounds in 19 games last season before an injury cost him the months of February and March.

Last Meeting with Fairfield...  Anthony Johnson scored a game-high 21 points and grabbed nine rebounds to lead the Fairfield Stags past Sacred Heart 93-77 last season.   Sacred Heart turned the ball over 22 times in the game leading to 23 Fairfield points at the other end.  SHU had four players in double figures, led by 16 from senior Chauncey Hardy.  Senior Corey Hassan had 15 and finished with a double-double with 12 rebounds. Senior Ryan Litke totaled 15 points in the loss.  Fairfield point guard Derek Needham had a huge game for the Stags, scoring 19 points and dishing out 14 assists. Fairfield went to the line 37 times in the game, hitting 31.

Season Openers:  The Pioneers are 24-21 in season openers all-time but just 2-9 in openers since making the move to Division I in 1999.  The Pioneers ended a streak of seven-straight losses in season openers before last season's 92-86 win over Yale in the Connecticut 6 Classic.  Their only other Division I season opening win came against Stony Brook, 76-71, to open the 2001-02 season.

Connecticut 6 Notes...  This is the second year of the Connecticut 6 Classic with the triple-header making the move to Mohegan Sun Arena this season. 

-  The Pioneers beat Yale 92-86 in last year's inaugural classic, 92-86, played at the Arena at Harbor Yard. 

-  Seniors Jerrell Thompson and Mehmet Sahan each found double figures in last season's CT6 win over the Bulldogs.  Thompson finished with 10 points, three assists and three steals while Sahan nearly posted a double double with 12 points and eight boards.  Both were in the starting line-up against Yale.

-  Saturday's other two match-ups feature Central Connecticut State taking on Hartford and Quinnipiac facing Yale.

-  The Pioneers were picked fourth in CT6 Preseason Coaches' Poll.  Fairfield was tabbed first, Quinnipiac second, CCSU third, SHU and Yale fourth and Hartford sixth.

-  Senior point guard Jerrell Thompson was selected to the 2010-11 All-Connecticut 6 preseason team.  Thompson is joined by QU's Justin Rutty, CCSU's Shemik Thompson, Fairfield's Derek Needham, Hartford's Joe Zeglinski and Yale's Greg Mangano.

-  This will be the Pioneer's first appearance at Mohegan Sun Arena

-  Sacred Heart will face the Hartford Hawks in the 2011-12 Connecticut 6, also to be played at Mohegan Sun Arena

-  SHU is the only team in the field of six that plays all other five teams in 2010-11.  The Pioneers will face both Central Connecticut State and Quinnipiac twice in Northeast Conference play and take on Hartford at home on Wednesday, December 8th and Yale on the road on Sunday, December 19th.

Closing in on 500...  Head Coach Dave Bike is closing in on his 500th career victory.  Bike is entering his 33rd season as the head coach of his alma mater and boasts 495 wins on the SHU sidelines.  He currently ranks first among active Northeast Conference coaches in all-time wins and 20th on the NCAA list of most career victories by an active coach.  Coach Bike ranks second among Division I head coaches who have stayed at the same school for over 20 years.  Jim Boeheim from Syracuse heads the list in his 35th season.  Bike is followed by Duke's Mike Krzyzewski (31), Don Maestri from Troy (29), Greg Kampe from Oakland (27), Rick Byrd, of Belmont (25), Jim Calhoun from Connecticut (25), Ron "Fang" Mitchell of Coppin State (25) and Vann Pettaway of Alabama A&M (25).

Senior Leadership...  The Pioneers will be led by a pair of returning seniors in 2010-11.  Point guard Jerrell Thompson and forward Mehmet Sahan are the two lone returning starters to from last season's squad and the team's two top returning scorers.  Thompson earned a starting spot at the point last season and finished the year averaging 7.0 points per game and was fourth in the Northeast Conference in assists with 133 (4.6 pg) and third in assist to turnover ratio (133 a / 69 to).  His breakout game of 2009-10 came on the road at Quinnipiac when he poured in a career-high 30 points on 11-of-17 shooting with five assists and two steals.  He found double digits in seven games last season and finished the year a 41.9% (26-62) shooter from behind the arc.  Sahan started 26 games last year and averaged 5.1 points and 4.2 rebounds per game.  He was third on the team in rebounding and recorded his first career double double at Central Connecticut State with 15 points and 11 boards.   

Recommitment to Defense...  For SHU head coach Dave Bike, the focus of preseason has been set squarely on becoming a much improved defensive team in 2010-11.  The Pioneers ranked dead last in the Northeast Conference in scoring defense, allowing 73.2 points per game, and field goal % defense, allowing teams to shoot 45.6% on the year.  They ranked 10th in the league in 3pt field goal % defense with teams hitting 36.4%.  SHU allowed 80 or more points in nine games last season.

Offensive Holes to Fill...  The Pioneers lost 75% of their scoring from last season to graduation.  SHU finished the 2009-10 season ranked second in the NEC in scoring, averaging 72.0 points per game.  The Pioneers lost their top-four scorers to graduation in Corey Hassan (19.2 ppg), Ryan Litke (13.8 ppg), Chauncey Hardy (12.5 ppg) and Liam Potter (9.5 ppg).  Hassan, Litke and Hardy all eclipsed 1,000 career points during last season and totaled over 3,500 points between them during their careers.  Potter and Hassan were the Pioneers top rebounders last season, pulling down 8.3 and 7.6 boards per game, respectively.

Gibson Returns to the Court...  Guard Shane Gibson returns to the line-up after redshirting last season.  Gibson made 14 starts at shooting guard as a freshman in 2008-09 and averaged 8.1 points per game while shooting 42.0% (37-88) from behind the arc.  He also totaled 47 assists on the year.  Gibson finished he rookie season with 11 double digit games and threw in a career-high 20 points with three rebounds and two steals against Fairleigh Dickinson.

Femi Set to Make his Pioneer Debut....  SHU will get a boost on their front line from forward Femi Akinpetide who transferred from UMKC and sat out last season under NCAA transfer rules.  The 6-6 power forward is slated to start for the Pioneers.  Akinpetide appeared in 27 games for UMKC in 2008-09 averaging 1.2 points and 0.9 rebounds as a freshman in 2008-09. 

First Off the Bench...  Head coach Dave Bike will have three experienced players to look to when he goes to his bench in juniors Steve Zazuri and Stan Dulaire and r-sophomore Nick Greenbacker.  Zazuri was the back-up at the point guard position last season and despite taking a team-low 25 shots on the year, he took excellent care of the basketball.  Zazuri averaged 14.3 minutes per game and dished 47 assists last season while posting the second best assist-to-turnover ratio on the team (47 a/29 to).  Dulaire averaged 10.0 minutes per game as a sophomore finishing the season shooting 55.6% (25-25) from the field.  Greenbacker at 6'9" will give the Pioneers depth up front.  He averaged 12.0 minutes per game off the bench last season, contributing 3.0 ppg and 10 blocks.

Fresh Faces...  Six newcomers highlight the Pioneer roster in 2010-11 as freshmen Evan Kelly, Chris Evans and Steve Glowiak will join r-freshman guard Louis Montes and r-freshman forward Parris Massey in making their debuts this season.  Montes and Massey both sat out last season.

Red-Shirt Season...  Junior forward Justin Swidowski will sit out the the 2010-11 season after transfering from Holy Family University where he led the team in scoring and rebounding last year averaging 24.1 points and 9.9 rebounds per game on the way to being named an honorable mention All-American.  As a freshman he was named the ECAC and CACC Rookie of the Year. 

Nutmeg Notes...  The 2010-11 Sacred Heart Pioneers features seven players hailing from the state of Connecticut.  Juniors Shane Gibson (Killingly), Stan Dulaire (Bloomfield) and Steve Zazuri (Monroe), r-sophomore Nick Greenbacker (Coventry) are joined this season by freshman Evan Kelley (Norwalk), Chris Evans (Stamford) and Steve Glowiak (New Britain, CT), all calling the Constitution State home.  The Pioneers as a team hold a 186-134 record all-time against schools from the Connecticut. SHU is 65-67 record against schools that are currently Division I in the state, with 35 of those wins coming against Quinnipiac.  The Pioneers have a high of 39 wins against the University of Bridgeport during the SHU Division II years.

Gunslingers Gone:  The 2009-10 Pioneers set a school record for three-pointers made in a season hitting 252 while also setting the new school mark for three-point shooting percentage (.397).  Both marks led the Northeast Conference last season.  With the departures of Corey Hassan (90 3pt FG), Ryan Litke (85 3pt FG) and Chauncey Hardy (47 3pt FG), the Pioneers bring back just 28 of the record setting 252 treys from last season.  Senior Jerrell Thompson is the Pioneers top deep threat back, making 26-of-62 (.419) from behind the arc.

Streaks Snapped: The Pioneers saw their streak of three-straight winning seasons end last year, finishing 14-15 and missing the Northeast Conference playoffs for the first time since the 2004-05 campaign.  SHU jumped out to a 12-7 mark but finished the season 2-8 to end up 10th in the final standings.  The last time SHU teams had three consecutive winning campaigns was from the 1987-88 through 1989-90.

No Place Like the Pitt:  Over the past five seasons, the Pioneers have begun to develop a home court advantage in the William H. Pitt Center.  Since the 2005-06 season, the Pioneers have posted a 47-21 record on their home court.  The 2006-07 was the best Division I season at home for the program, finishing the year 11-2 en route to the program's first trip to the NEC title game.

Preseason Predictions...  Sacred Heart was picked to finish ninth in this year's edition of the Northeast Conference Coaches' Poll.  The Quinnipiac Bobcats were the unanimous pick to win their first NEC title in the poll voted on by the league's head coaches. 

NEC TV Stars...  The Northeast Conference announced their 2010-11 television package that will feature 17 men's games including both NEC Tournament semifinal games and the league's championship tilt on ESPN2.  The Pioneers will be featured on NEC TV twice this season, facing Mount St. Mary's on the road live on Mid-Atlantic Sports Network, Fox College Sports, Connecticut Sports Network, ESPN3 and ESPN Full Court, and hosting Quinnipiac as part of a double header with women's team on MSG and Fox College Sports.  The Pioneers trip to Stony Brook will also be featured live on MSGPlus. 

History: This is the 46th season of Pioneer men's basketball. SHU's first year of competition was the 1965-66 season under coach Don Feeley, who guided the program for 13 seasons before current coach Dave Bike took over. The Pioneers carry an overall record of 735 wins and 554 losses.  Sacred Heart joined the NCAA Division I ranks and the Northeast Conference in 1999-00 as they begin their 12th making this their eleventh season in the league.  The Pioneers played in eight NCAA Division II Tournaments and won the National Championship in 1986.  SHU has made five trips to the NEC Tournament and advanced to the title game in 2007 and 2008.