Every now and then we stumble into fans that are our kind of folks. A good friend emailed me yesterday about someone on the Drexel part of the CAAZone message board. This guy clearly enjoys the CAA in the same manner in which we enjoy it. Yesterday, prior to Drexel’s game in Williamsburg, he wrote:
I find the fact that our first game in the Commonwealth of Virginia to be the same day as the official start of the Year of the Dragon to not be coincidental, but a sign. This is the start of a Water Dragon and water is associated with the North. Water’s color is blue while the dragon’s is gold. The dragon’s flower is the Rose (Malik Rose back in the area anyone?). Tonight begins Bru’s glorious March to the RC, begin the Battle of Virginia! Exorcise the demons, tonight is the first step!
And indeed, a five-year curse was lifted last night as Drexel dominated William & Mary, 64-48. Dartaye Ruffin played, by far, his best game of the season. Ruffin led the Dragons in scoring with 18 points and hit all eight of his free throws.
The win is Drexel’s seventh straight, and they’ve had six different leading scorers. A smart person I know–who has seen every team in the league in person–told me last night that Drexel is, hands down, the best team in the CAA.
The battle of impressive freshman met expectations. Drexel’s Damion Lee poured in 17 points on 7-12 shooting, and William & Mary’s Marcus Thornton scored 18 points. Word from courtside is that Thornton played harder defensively than he has all season, and again took a step forward in understanding smart basketball.
Georgia State held James Madison to one field goal over a 13-minute stretch in the second half and coasted to a 74-58 victory. It was a matter of getting back to the aggressive defense that keyed its strong early season for Ron Hunter’s team. Here’s Doug Roberson’s good and bad.
The Panthers forced 21 James Madison turnovers, had 14 steals, blocked 11 shots, and limited the Dukes to 34.5 percent shooting from the field. GSU also outrebounded JMU, 42-36. Josh Micheaux had a double-double with 15 points and a career-high 11 rebounds, along with six assists. Eric Buckner had 13 points, eight rebounds and six blocks for the Panthers.
As expected, JMU was without Devon Moore, who had injured his wrist late in JMUs previous game against Hofstra.
And welcome to interesting scheduling. Georgia State is at Drexel on Wednesday and then flies home to play VCU on Saturday. When the geography was flopped in early January, the Panthers won both games.
Shaka Smart spoke of his team “sticking to its principles” defensively in the second half of last night’s win over Hofstra. There is no better way to sum up the victory. If you don’t believe that, here’s what Mo Cassara had to say:
“In the first half, we were right there. We just ran out of gas a little bit and their pressure wore us down.”
I’ll defer to both actual basketball coaches for the correct perspective on this game. VCU held Hofstra to 17 second half points and 4-20 shooting.
Offensively the Rams put four players in double figures–forget the names, the totals were 14, 12, 10, 10. Like Drexel, the Rams have multiple offensive weapons that they can go to on any given night. But it’s that defense that is the difference-maker. VCU has held six of its nine CAA opponents to less than 60 points and the past two to less than 50 points.
Towson hung with Delaware for 31 minutes, trailing by just five with nine minutes to play, but ultimately ran out of gas in Delaware’s 62-43 win. A 20-6 Hens ground-scratch to close the game was the difference.
Delaware brutalized its own rims, going 6-27 from the field in the first half. Of particular concern may be Devon Saddler’s continued struggles from the field. Saddler made 4-15 last night and missed all five three-point attempts. In his last five games, Saddler is 25-77 from the field (32.5%) and 7-31 from three (22.6%). This includes a 6-9 and 2-3 from three in their blowout loss to Mason.
Mason could never really shake the Dubmen until a late 9-2 run made a 51-47 gritter a comfy 60-49 stroll home in the game’s final three minutes.
Ryan Pearson was as active as I’ve seen all season. The numbers say 20/12, but Pearson was everywhere, including on the floor for loose balls. He was able to overcome a 1-16 performance from Mason from beyond the arc. Mike Morrison’s ability to limit Keith Rendleman’s touches cannot go without mention. Rendleman never seemed to get the ball in his comfort zone–credit to Morrison there.
The other big number is a 22-2 advantage for Mason on fast break points. When you aren’t shooting well you have to get easy baskets–that’s exactly what they did.
Side note, apropos of nothing: I’m old, so I’m not a fan of these 9pm starts. I must admit I fell asleep late in the second half. Luckily I didn’t miss anything.
Down in Norfolk, Ed Miller tells us all about Old Dominion’s 69-57 victory over Northeastern. The key sequence came with about seven minutes to play and ODU holding on to a 49-47 lead. From there it was six minutes of playmaking for ODU.
The Monarchs went on a 15-3 run to lead 64-50 with less than a minute to play. The run featured a three from the much-maligned Marquel Delancey, Kent Bazemore grabbing his own miss and scoring, and Chris Cooper (of all people) hitting Donte Hill for a backdoor layup.
STANDINGS, HEADED TO WEDNESDAY
Georgia State: 6-3
William & Mary: 2-7