Nov. 14, 2009
FAIRFIELD, CT -
Setting The Scene: The Sacred Heart men’s basketball team plays its home opener on Sunday after when it welcomes Lafayette College to the Pitt Center at 4:00. The Pioneers are coming off a 92-86 win over Yale in the Connecticut Six on Friday night. Lafayette opened the season at home on Friday by beating Wagner, 81-72.
Series vs. Lafayette: This is the first meeting between the Pioneers and the Leopards. SHU vs. the Patriot League: This marks the 16th game the Pioneers have played against a Patriot League opponent and the PL holds an 8-7 advantage. SHU is 2-2 against Lehigh, 3-3 against Army and 2-3 against Holy Cross.
Scouting the Opponent: Lafayette finished 8-22 last season and 4-10 in the Patriot League. However, the Leopards return four starters and seven players overall who started 13 or more games.
Jeff Kari is the team’s top returning scorer (10.7 ppg) and assists man (2.7 apg) and his steady ballhandling are something that he and backcourt mate Michael Gruner have in common. Kari held a 1.2 assist/turnover ratio last season, topped only by Gruner (1.4). Gruner and Kari will run the offense, and both will be expected to maintain their contributions on that end of the floor. Gruner averaged 8.2 points and 3.6 rebounds per game as a junior while dishing off 61 assists in 24 games.
Perhaps just as importantly, as the Leopards’ top defender, Gruner is generally matched up with the opponent’s top scorer. He and Kari will need to lead by example to help the Leopards improve their team defense. Lafayette ranked last in the PL in scoring defense (73.2) and field goal percentage defense (47%) a season ago.
Season Openers: After defeating Yale in this season’s opener, Sacred Heart is 24-21 in season starters, but just 2-9 since moving to Division I in 1999. The Pioneers had lost seven straight openers before this year, since beating Stony Brook 76-71 to start the 2001-02 season.
Pouring it In: Senior Corey Hassan poured in a career-high 30 points in the SHU win over Yale on November 13. It was the first time a Pioneer had hit the 30-point mark since Kibwe Trim scored 31 against FDU on February 16, 2006.
Welcome Back: After sitting out the 2008-09 season, senior Liam Potter returned to the Pioneers to open the 2009-10 campaign and had the best overall game of his career. The Lincolnshire, England native had nine points, a career-high ten rebounds, a pair of assists and four blocked shots.
Posting Up: Junior forward Mehmet Sahan, along with center Liam Potter, helped the Pioneer coaching staff feel a little more comfortable about the loss of the top two rebounders from the 08-09 season (Joey Henley and Ryon Howard) when they combined for 21 points, 18 rebounds and six blocked shots in the season opener against Yale. He also logged a career-high 32 minutes.
All Hands on Deck: With the exception of freshman forward Parris Massey, head coach Dave Bike got every player dressed (ten of them) into the opening game of the season against Yale.