I aplogize for the lack of coverage over the last week. For one reason or another, I’m pretty sure we can agree that we all hate exam weeks. I’m sorry I couldn’t help you through the boredom caused by the lack of college hoops action. This will be the last super extensive recap-styled post this season.
The CAA announced that the conference tournament will be held in Baltimore’s Mariner Arena between 2014-2016. We’ll assess that at a later date.
Despite its current three-game losing streak, Towson’s (4-7) improvements from last year’s 1-31 disaster are undeniable. Towson was neck-and-neck with Georgetown throughout Saturday’s (12/8) 46-40 road loss. The Tigers were every bit as physical as the Hoyas, out-rebounding Georgetown 33-28 while holding the Hoyas to under 29.2% shooting from the field. Unfortunately, Towson was doomed by its 19 turnovers, as well as the 3:1 free throw attempt ratio in favor of the Hoyas. For as tough as the Tigers defense was, they allowed way too many backdoor cuts for easy layups.
Wednesday (12/12) night was a similar result, although in a fast-paced game. For the second straight game, Towson had a better shooting percentage (43.3%) than its opponent, but the Tigers converted only one-of-14 attempts from downtown. Once again, the Tigers turned the ball over 19 times. Jerrelle Benimon had a monster game, setting career-highs with 30 points and 18 rebounds.
I hadn’t realized it because of numerous games inside the city of Baltimore, but Towson just played its home opener Saturday night against North Dakota State. The Tigers lost 65-48 to a tough NDSU team (two of the Bison’s three losses were to Indiana and Minnesota). It was the first time since the season opener that the Tigers were outrebounded by an opponent. Mike Burwell was the only Tiger in double-figures, with 14 points. Coach Skerry said the Tigers were “out-toughed mentally and physically.”
A few takeaways:
- UMBC (2-9) is the only sub-.500 team Towson has lost against. The Tigers opponents sport a cumulative 48-21 record. They’ve played one of the toughest non-conference schedule in the CAA, and that will be a beneficial in conference play. The Tigers also play six of their next ten games at home.
- Jerrelle Benimon is playing at an absurdly high-level. Before Saturday night’s six points and five rebounds versus NDSU, Benimon had accrued averages of 21.8 points and 15 rebounds over previous four games. Benimon shared co-CAA player of the week honors with Mason’s Sherrod Wright.
- The Tigers need to find a way to the charity stripe. The Tigers have attempted 34 fewer free throw attempts than their opponents in the midst of their three-game losing streak. The Tigers have attempted less than 10 free throws in each game during the streak. Despite the recent trend, Towson is still averaging more than 20 free throws attempts per game (that 61% free throw percentage could use some work, too).
- “Towson has to be the most improved team in college basketball. From 1-31 last year to 4-4 and currently tied w Georgetown late in half” – a tweet from Yahoo’s Pat Forde, 12/8/12. From a team with so many newcomers and players settling into new roles, we can expect these improvements to continue.
ODU fans: the team is making strides in the right direction. No, the Monarchs haven’t ended this painful losing skid (and considering who they play the next three games, it might continue into conference play) but their most recent losses to VCU and Central Florida had some encouraging moments. In Friday’s (12/7) 83-70 loss to the Rams, DeShawn Painter posted a career-high 26 points, adding 10 rebounds for his second double-double of the year. Unfortunately, it came on a night where the Rams shot 11-for-21 from three, including eight from Troy Daniels.
In Friday’s (12/14) 75-71 home loss to UCF. Freshman Aaron Bacote set a career-high with 19 points, Donte Hill chipped in 14, and Painter had 13. The Monarchs shot a solid 46.3% , but the Knights were just a bit hotter, as they shot 54.5% from the field, including 57.1% from three.
Where do the Monarchs go from here? They need the upperclassmen Painter, Hill, and Nick Wright to lead this unusually young ODU team. Coach Taylor didn’t have the depth to redshirt this year’s freshmen crop, forcing Bacote and Kenan Palmore into big time minutes from the get-go. These kids are talented enough to contribute meaningfully as freshman. If the upperclassmen can start to shoulder more of the scoring, the freshman will have a better chance to pick their spots and thrive in lower-pressure situations.
It’s hard to be upset with Northeastern’s four-game losing streak that includes three losses to solid A-10 teams. Regardless, their most recent 66-64 loss to La Salle (12/8) hurt nonetheless.
La Salle led 36-34 at the half after Ramon Galloway exploded for 19 points from the Explorers. Galloway was dynamite in the first half, as he drilled treys from NBA-range. When Husky defenders stepped out, Galloway slashed through the lane and made some fantastic layups. Galloway also threw down a thunderous windmill jam on the fast break.
The Explorers continued to lead but never really pulled away. Zach Stahl hit some big free throws with two minutes remaining to cut the lead to two. Quincy Ford then hit a floater to tie the game at 64-64 with 1:19 to go. Following a missed Tyreek Duren jumper, Freshman David Walker made a critical turnover, leading to a contested fadeaway by Duren.
Northeastern had a chance to win with 1.4 seconds left. Stahl threw a perfect baseball pass to Ford a little past midcourt. Despite plenty of contact, Ford was able to turn and get a shot off, but no foul was called and the Explorers escaped with another win.
Northeastern finished with four players in double-figure scoring for the fourth time in its last five games. Stahl came off the bench for the first time this year and finished with 12 points with 5-for-6 shooting. The other surprise was junior Dinko Marshavelski, who started in attempt to combat La Salle’s frontcourt height. He finished with ten points.
In the post-game conference, Coach Coen harped on the importance of execution, and that they did well playing their game but lost focus. Focus and execution should improve drastically with the return of senior co-captain, Jon Lee, who has been cleared for practice but not yet game activity.
When Lee does return he’ll need to work to get the ball to sophomore big man Reggie Spencer, who had another monster game for the Huskies. Spencer finished with 16 points, seven boards and four assists, and his play underneath the hoop has given Northeastern an added dimension. Northeastern has lost three straight at home, falling to 4-5.
The Huskies are now off until December 18th, giving them plenty of time to work on execution.
It certainly wasn’t pretty, but William and Mary downed Radford 60-55 Saturday afternoon to claim its third straight victory. The victory allowed the Tribe to improve to 6-3 on the season. Marcus Thornton again led the Tribe with 19 points, while center Tim Rusthoven and forward Kyle Gaillard contributed 13 points apiece.
A few notes:
-This wasn’t the prettiest victory ever, but it was important. The College led by as many as 10 late in the second half, but a few timely Radford baskets cut the Tribe lead to just three with just 16 seconds left in the contest. If the Tribe had fallen to Radford, it could have been disastrous. Instead, Thornton held strong at the line and nailed two free throws (a weakness of the Tribe thus far this season).
-On that note, it’s been nice to see this team close opponents out. Last season, the Tribe struggled to close out the games they led in the second half. During its six wins this year, the College has never really pulled away, but it also has never relinquished its lead late in games. That’s a good sign — especially for a young team unaccustomed to winning.
-The College committed 14 turnovers Saturday, and Radford capitalized to score 16 points off Tribe turnovers. Through nine games, the College is averaging 13.6 turnovers a game, which could really hurt the Tribe in the conference season when games are decided by small margins.
-Kyle Gaillard is really making an impact. Earlier in the season, we were a little worried that the Tribe’s big three (Rusthoven, Thornton, Britt) would be doing all the scoring, but Gaillard has answered the call in the last few games. After averaging 6.6 points in the first five games, Gaillard is averaging 11.5 points per game in the last four games, three of which have been wins. Gaillard, who was injured all last season, gives the Tribe an important scoring option down the stretch.
-The College did not receive any help from its bench Saturday, as none of the College’s five subs managed to score. Radford, meanwhile, received 20 points from its bench.
-It’s been a bit of a wild ride for the Tribe so far, and it will be good for the squad to catch its breath during exams (yeah, right). This season has been comprised of streaks — a three-game winning streak here, a three-game losing skid there — and the College will need to return from the break and stabilize its season by reeling off a few wins in a row. This team is one the biggest surprises in an admittedly weak CAA this year, and if it continues to play well, it could continue to surprise preseason critics in the conference season.
Much like Towson, UNCW’s improvements are not always seen in the win column, but the Seahawks continue to grow. The bad news is that the Seahawks have dropped their most recent two games against Georgia Tech and Davidson.
Here’s the good news: the gauntlet schedule of incredibly tough non-conference road games is finally over. Richmond, Ohio, Purdue, Marshall, Georgia Tech and Davidson were all tough opponents, especially when considering they were away from the Trask Coliseum. There’s obvious augmentation since the Seahawks were blown out by Richmond and Ohio a month ago.
UNCW fell on the road to Georgia Tech 73-66 last Saturday (12/8) night. In many ways, this game was similar to the Marshall game a week ago. The final score was not as close, but they had a real chance to walk away with a win for about 39 minutes.
Here are the positives: the Seahawks cut their turnovers to 13. The three-point shooting has been lacking this season, but the team lit it up from downtown going 9-for-20 (45%). This all happened on an uncharacteristically quiet night from Keith Rendleman. Rendleman went just 3-for-13 from the field, and gathered just seven rebounds. On most nights, a line like that would have led to a very lopsided result. The team stepped up, and was able to remain close, despite an off night from their senior leader.
Tanner Milson and Chris Dixon stepped up to fill the offensive void. Dixon poured in 20 points in his best performance of the year. Milson scored 16, and remains the best spot-up shooting threat on the team. Additionally, Milson has continued to improve his ability to create his own shots, something he’s struggled to do consistently at this level.
The offense against Davidson (12/15) was stagnant in the first half, primarily due to poor shot selection. At halftime, three players had combined for 22 out of the team’s 23 points. The offense was much improved in the second half, and the margin closed to within one possession soon after halftime.
Defense and rebounding were the true killers though. Davidson gathered 13 offensive rebounds on 27 missed shots. When a team gets back half of its missed shots, it’s hard to win. It also does not hurt that Davidson has just one regular player who shoots under 33% from three. Having to guard forwards on the perimeter creates a lot of space for penetration and easy points around the basket. Hopefully the Seahawks won’t see many more lineups with that type of diversity. The team also established a new season-low in turnovers for the second straight game, finishing with just nine.
Here’s the obligatory Rendleman mention, who went for 20 points and nine rebounds in another stellar performance. He carried the team on his back offensively, especially through the first half, and is still managing to get his numbers despite the fact that he is being double teamed nearly every time he touches the ball inside of 10 feet. One critique, though, is that he needs to work on foul shots, as he made just 2-of-6 attempts against Davidson.
In the past week Dixon, Milson and Craig Ponder have shown the ability to have explosive offensive nights. If the guards (as a unit) can consistently contribute on offense, it will help free up space for Rendleman to have his maximum impact on offense. Not only will the additional space allow for better shots and driving lanes, it will also create better entry pass opportunities which will help minimize turnovers.
The next game is against UNC-Greensboro at home on Wednesday, the Seahawks final game before Christmas. It will be good to get back home again, where the Seahawks are perfect on the season. It will also help knowing that the worst of the non-conference road games are now behind them.
Georgia State earned a split in its two most recent games. Last Saturday (12/8) the Panthers had four scorers finish with 15-plus points in their 86-58 win over Southern Poly. Although they led by only two at the half, the Panthers exploded for 49 points in the second half. The Panthers shot 51.6% from the field on the game. RJ Hunter led the team with 21 points and seven rebounds, and Atkins, Richardson and White all scored 15-plus.
The Panthers lost 57-56 to Troy on Saturday night (12/15) in game pitting two future Sun Belt foes. The Panthers battled back from a 30-16 halftime deficit. The Panthers led by five with 1:47 to play, but were unable to score after that point. The Panthers were hurt by 15-for-23 shooting from the foul line, and they had numerous attempts in the final minute.
Slow first halves have plagued the Panthers all year, as they’ve only lead at the half twice this season. Coach Hunter summed it up after the game: “We come out slow and then fight back, but tonight was too little too late.”
The 5-5 Panthers return home to host Southern Mississippi on Tuesday, December 18th.
Drexel picked up a much-needed win last Saturday (12/8), as the Dragons battled back from a 13-point first half deficit to defeat the Princeton Tigers 64-57 at home. The Dragons played stifling defense down the stretch, holding the Tigers to just one field goal over the final 8:17 of the game. The Dragons shot 63% in the second half, and Damion Lee led the Dragons with 21 points.
After an eight-day break for exams, the Dragons were back in action. Unfortunately, the Dragons were unable to win their second straight, as they dropped a 68-59 road game to Fairfield. The game was close throughout before a 16-1 run from the Stags gave them a 48-39 lead. The Stags were scorching hot Sunday, shooting 58% from the field. Once again, Lee was the Dragons’ leading scorer, but his 15 points came on 4-for-15 shooting from the field.
The Dragons will try to get back on track when they host Davidson next Saturday at 8. The game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Network.
James Madison also split their most recent contests. On Saturday (12/8) Madison played one of its best games of the year. The Dukes gave a strong Richmond team all it could handle, but lost 83-82 in overtime to the Spiders.
Both teams shot over 50% from the field, but Richmond was just a bit better. The Spiders buried 11-of-17 attempts from downtown, and they were more consistent from the foul line down the stretch. The Dukes’ length and athleticism gave the Spiders trouble, but JMU was forced to play a guard-heavy lineup in overtime after Andrey Semenov fouled out in the final seconds of regulation. It was a tough loss for the Dukes, but they played well.
Taking the court the following Sunday, JMU held a 20-point lead at the half, and withstood a rally to earn an 85-73 victory over the UNC-Greensboro Spartans. Rayshawn Goins led the Dukes with 23 points and 11 rebounds, and Devon Moore played his most complete game as a JMU Duke. Moore finished with 22 points, nine rebounds, seven assists and three steals. The Dukes shot 56.6% from the field, and they’ve played well in their last two games. Significant contributions from (now healthy) Semenov and Ron Curry have been the difference.
The Dukes will travel to Las Vegas, where they’ll face San Jose State on Saturday night.
In its second home game of the season, Delaware dropped a tough game to Delaware State in the Route 1 Rivalry. The Hornets won a 73-67 overtime thriller last Saturday (12/8). There were 11 ties and 13 lead changes in this tightly contested game.
The Blue Hens led 31-29 at the half, but struggled to hit shots in the second half and in the extra period. Delaware State rallied to take a 45-37 lead, but Delaware stormed back to tie the game at 51-51. The Blue Hens had a three-point lead in the final minute, but the Hornets’ Amere May hit a 3-pointer to force the overtime period. Delaware shot 3-of-13 in overtime, and Delaware State got hot at the right time in a game full of runs.
After the exam break, Delaware played yet another non-conference game, against the Villanova Wildcats. Delaware trailed by just four at the half, despite allowing numerous second chance points (18 of Villanova’s 32 first half points came from second chance opportunities). The Wildcats used a pair of second half runs to put the Blue Hens away, as Villanova won 75-65.
It’s been a rough start to the season for Delaware, but they have a few winnable home games before conference play. Delaware gets a visit from Penn on Friday, December 21st.
The arduous season for Hofstra continues, as the Pride dropped their two most recent Saturday contests. It’s especially tough considering they played well enough to win both games.
On Saturday (12/8) LIU-Brooklyn defeated the visiting Pride. The Blackbirds had actually won 27-straight home games coming into the season, so the Pride had their work cut out for them from the opening tip. The Pride trailed at the half before exploding out of the intermission. They shot 64.5% from the field in the second half, and 57.4% for the game. They led by 16 with 11:43 remaining before the Blackbirds began to rally. In the end, Taran Buie’s career-high 29 points were not enough to secure the victory for Hofstra. Hofstra got into an early hole Saturday (12/14) against Wright State before a second-half rally cut the deficit to one. Unfortunately, the Pride trailed the entire game, and lost 63-57.
Hofstra’s players are beginning to grow into their expanded roles. Freshman Jordan Allen set career-highs in points (13) and rebounds (7) in the Wright State game. Stephen Nwaukoni registered his first double-double of the year. Darren Payen, who was previously a redshirt candidate, has played double-digit minutes in each of his four games this season. Losing two of your top three scorers in season would put any team at a disadvantage, and it may take some time for the Pride to adjust to their new roles. If there’s any consolation for the Pride, it’s that the rest of the conference is struggling too.
The Pride will be back in action next Saturday when they take on Tulane in the Brooklyn Holiday Hoops Invitational.——————————————————————————————————————————————-
Last but certainly not least, George Mason. Mason looks most ready to ascend to the CAA championship (Mason’s largest margin of defeat was seven to Maryland) but the Patriots failed to pick up what would have been a solid non-conference win against Northern Iowa on Saturday (12/8). The Patriots lost 82-77 in an overtime thriller that snapped their 14-game winning streak at the Patriot Center.
Mason played catch up for most of the first half, before tying the game at 21-21 with 6:19 remaining in the first half. Northern Iowa led 35-31 at the half. A 7-0 run by the Panthers made the score 65-59 with 4:19 to play, but Mason refused to lie down. Three straight Mason buckets tied the game into heading into final minute. Mason’s final possession ended in a poor shot by Byron Allen, and the game headed to overtime. The Panthers never trailed in overtime, and escaped the Patriot Center with the W.
It was a tough loss for Mason. Mason is in the midst of a two week stretch between games. The Patriots have a chance to prove their CAA supremacy Saturday, when they play the Richmond Spiders (4-0 against the CAA this year) in the inaugural Governor’s Holiday Hoops Classic in Richmond.