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January 15. 2013 11:42PM

NH squads riding high in Northeast-10 hoops

Halfway through the Northeast-10 Conference men's basketball regular season, all three teams from New Hampshire are poised to separate themselves from the pack.

St. Anselm College (12-2 overall, 8-2 NE-10), ranked second in the conference behind Assumption, won its seventh straight on Tuesday night as the Hawks dismantled Pace University, 101-54, at Stoutenburgh Gym. The Hawks have been climbing up the standings while leading the NE-10 in scoring at 83.9 points per game. They'll take a crack at Assumption (12-2, 9-1 NE-10) on Saturday at 3:30 p.m.

Franklin Pierce (10-4, 7-3 NE-10), ranked third entering its Tuesday night loss to New Haven. Meanwhile, Southern New Hampshire University (9-4, 5-4 NE-10) took top-ranked Assumption into overtime before falling, 83-75, at the SNHU Fieldhouse.

Nobody should be surprised to see Franklin Pierce, ranked No. 1 in the league's preseason poll, near the top of the NE-10 standings. St. Anselm College, however, was picked ninth in the coaches' poll while SNHU was picked to finish 12th.

Those preseason polls are nothing more than a conversation starter.

"It's funny. Prior to the season, you almost have no idea who is going to be good. We have screwed up our (coaches') rankings," said St. Anselm College coach Keith Dickson, who notched his 500th career win on Tuesday night. "The better teams find a way to play themselves to the top."

The Hawks have received a significant lift from freshman Mike McCahey, a 6-foot-6 forward from Clarkstown, N.Y. McCahey, who has won five NE-10 Rookie of the Week honors, ranks fourth in league scoring at 17.6 ppg and 10th in rebounding at 7.6 rpg.

"We've proven through the first half of the schedule that we're good enough to compete with the best teams in our league," Dickson said.

That's a big improvement from last season. St. Anselm went 12-14 overall (10-12 NE-10), while SNHU went 12-15 overall (8-14 NE-10). It's only mid-January, but it's beginning to feel like old times.

For the Penmen, freshman Rodney Sanders (13.1 ppg) and Manchester Central product Michael Stys (11.6 ppg) have been difference makers. Stys played two seasons at New Haven before transferring to SNHU and sitting out last season.

"You know it's always going to be a tight race in the NE-10. You never have a night off," Stys said. "We've been playing well. I'm not too surprised. We have a lot of good-character guys. That goes a long way when it comes to making a sacrifice for others."

The 6-foot-3 Sanders, of Linden, N.J., and St. Thomas More, has helped fill the void of Manchester David Madol, who was dismissed from the team after being arrested and charged with two counts of theft and unlawful possession of alcohol.

The Penmen host Saint Rose tonight at 7:30 p.m. in the lone contest on the NE-10 men's schedule.

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