RJ Hunter and Devonta White combined for 26 second-half points, and Northeastern’s offense went cold. The Huskies shot 11-of-23 from three for the game, but just 25% from deep in the second half. Georgia State became the first CAA team to beat Northeastern, leaving Matthews Arena with a 78-73 win.
Northeastern and Georgia State came out guns blazing, which we shoul’ve expected from the two best three-point shooting teams in the CAA. Georgia State shot a hot 14-of-27 in the first half, including six 3-pointers. Northeastern was even better, shooting 18-of-28, and 8-of-11 from three. Seven players had at least eight points at halftime.
Northeastern led by as many as 11 in the first half, scored a season-high 46 first-half points, and went into the break with a seven-point lead. The Huskies pushed the lead back to double digits in the second half, but the Panthers turned a 52-42 deficit into a 66-54 advantage by holding Northeastern without a field goal for more than 11 minutes.
However, like they have all year, the Huskies did not cave. They cut the lead to one twice, but were unable to complete the comeback bid. The Huskies had three shots to tie the game late but Joel Smith, the CAA’s best free throw shooter, missed two of three with 1:32 to go. Jon Lee’s floater with 32 seconds remaining was blocked by none other than RJ Hunter. Lee then missed a game-tying three with 10 seconds left to go, just seconds after hitting a three that cut a four-point lead to one.
What went wrong for Northeastern? Obviously it’s hard to win when you go 11+ minutes without a field goal. The Huskies turned the ball over 16 times, so that points off turnovers advantage they’ve held in CAA play wasn’t nearly as distinguished (17-15). Four players scored 14+ points, including a team-high 17 from Reggie Spencer. Aside from Demetrius Pollard’s 15 points, the Huskies got almost nothing from their bench. That’s a cause for concern when they aren’t playing great defense, and when Quincy Ford scores just three points on the night.
Meanwhile, Georgia State’s performance was the mirror of consistency. The Panthers scored 39 points in both halves, and shot at least 50% in each. Hunter, White and Manny Atkins each had five assists, and the team’s 20 assists were the most against a D-1 opponent this season. Four Panthers netted 12+ points, as White, Atkins and Rashaad Richardson provided the secondary boost behind Hunter, who tied his career-high with 27 points.
Georgia State moves to 11-12, and 6-4 in the CAA. The Panthers have won of five of their last six, and have three of their next four games at home against two teams they’ve already beaten, and a Hofstra team that topped them by two in early January. With only one home game (Northeastern) after February 13th, Georgia State needs to capitalize on its opportunity over the next two weeks. Frankly, I’d be surprised if they didn’t go a least 3-1 over their next four.
At 8-1, Northeastern still holds a two-game lead in the loss column over James Madison and Delaware, but the Huskies need to work on their defense. On Saturday, they’ll host a Drexel team that’s won four of its last five games before a road stretch against the CAA’s cellar dwellers.
Night class forced me to miss most of the first half battle between Drexel and George Mason. By the time I turned on the tube, Mason was pummelling Drexel 28-11. It wasn’t too much of a surprise, as the Dragons’ offense, beyond Damion Lee and Frantz Massenat, is wildy unpredictable. Mason pushed the lead to 20 points, before a couple of traditional three-point plays brought the score to 38-25 at the half. Sherrod Wright had a game-high 13 first-half points, and Jonathan Arledge (starting for the injured Johnny Williams) was the revolving door that is Mason’s second offensive option.
The second half was a completely different game. Damion Lee went to work on a lackadaisical Patriots’ defense, and outscored Mason’s team by four in the second half. Lee scored seven points in a 9-0 run and his coast-to-coast layup gave the Dragons their first lead of the game with 7:17 to play. That play was a microcosm of the game, as the Dragons outscored the Patriots 14-2 in fast break points.
The next few minutes featured a defensive struggle, and Mason went up 54-52 on Sherrod Wright’s only bucket of the second half. Those were Mason’s final two points of the night, as Damion Lee scored the final six, including the go-ahead 3-pointer with 23 seconds remaining. The Dragons held the Patriots to 16 second-half points. Lee scored 20 points in the second half alone.
Many will harp on the Patriots’ defensive miscues (Marko Gujanicic looked completely lost on Lee’s three that cut the lead to 49-46) but their offense just wasn’t good in the second half. Arledge scored a career-high 14 points, but I think we can all agree there’s a problem when he’s getting more shots than Sherrod. Regardless of the lapses on defense, it’s difficult to be successful when you don’t make a three and shoot 28% in the second half. Giving up 33 points in a half isn’t nearly as crippling as scoring 16.
Lee’s game-high 29 points and nine rebounds were the obvious attention-grabbers, and his solid defense held Sherrod Wright to 1-of-6 shooting in the second half. Derrick Thomas scored 12 points, and after a slow start to the season, he’s averaging 11.7 points over the last three games. He seems to be more successful when he isn’t relying on his three-point shot.
The Dragons’ frontcourt was key in a 26-12 advantage on the glass in the second half. Lee, Dartaye Ruffin (game-high 10 rebounds) and Daryl McCoy were the main contributors, but Goran Pantovic was the guy who seemed to give the Dragons’ defense a spark. He finished with four rebounds, but he tipped a few more out to teammates. He might not contribute much on offense, but he’s a difference maker everywhere else.
Mason plays four of their next five games agains teams that are above .500 in the CAA. After a Saturday brawl with Northeastern, Drexel will play four consecutive games at The DAC.
James Madison continued its solid play by defeating Hofstra 62-41 for its fourth-straight CAA win. Hofstra kept the game interesting in the first half. Despite entering the game shooting just 29.4% from three-point land, the Pride seemed intent on living and dying by the three-ball by shooting 3-of-11 in the first half. Yet, when the Dukes held a six-point lead with 5:59 left in the first, senior Matt Grogan connected from long distance to keep the Pride within a bucket.
However, the Dukes finished the half strong, and a bucket from Taylor Bessick with 50 seconds allowed them to enter the half with a 30-24 lead. Hofstra looked to have focused their attention to Devon Moore who posted 19 points in the previous game against UNCW. While the Pride held Moore to just two points in the first half, Rayshawn Goins took advantage by scoring 11 of his 16 points in the first half.
Hofstra showed some grit by opening the second half with a quick 5-0 run that cut the lead to 30-29. The Dukes answered with a 6-0 of their own, sparked by AJ Davis, who connected on a pair of threes that ultimately led to the 1,000th point in his college career (joining his cousin Devon Moore as JMU’s newest members of the 1000-point club). The Dukes’ stifling defense provided scoring opportunities in transition, and held the Pride to just 30% shooting in the second half.
A scary moment came with 13 minutes left to play. Moore’s left ankle got caught underneath Moussa Kone’s body in a scramble for a loose ball. Although he did not return, he stated it was just a light ankle sprain and he would be ready tomorrow.
Ironically, Moore’s injury seemed to provide the Dukes with more determination. They closed the game on a 24-10 run. Freshmen Charles Cooke and Andre Nation were huge for the Dukes, and they each contributed 13 points (a career-high for Cooke), with most of their production coming during the final stretch.
Some statistical numbers from the night: the Dukes outrebounded Hofstra 36-21, led 13-4 in second-chance scoring and scored 28 points from inside the paint, compared to Hofstra’s 16. With the win the Dukes are now 8-2 in Harrisonburg with the next two games being played at home.
This rough stretch could continue for the Pride. The team gets William and Mary at Kaplan tomorrow, before going back up north to play conference-leader Northeastern next Wednesday. After that, they trek back down south for dates with UNCW and Georgia State. The Pride is 2-2 against those four squads, and played neck-and-neck with both Northeastern and UNCW, but you have to wonder what kind of toll all that traveling could take. After this four-game stretch, the Pride finish with four of six at home.
It seems that Old Dominion is taking the place of last year’s Towson squad in the CAA ranks. The Tigers will gladly accept that, as they are drastically improved from last year’s disastrous 1-31 debacle, with an 11-12 record that includes nine road wins so far.
In what has become typical 2012-13 Monarch style, Old Dominion opened the first half shooting 36% from the field, 14% from behind the arc, and racking up a not-so-impressive 26 points. The lackluster effort sent them to the locker room down by 14.
Richard Ross had an opportunity to get the team fired up with a big time dunk at the start of the second half. A fractured right wrist could have played villain to the missed dunk that ensued, but fortunately Ross had teammate Keenan Palmore there to get the rebound and an easy layup attempt. Palmore, two healthy wrists and all, missed the layup. It seemed all too familiar for coach Blaine Taylor.
Those mishaps would not be enough to put the Monarchs down-and-out. They went on a 15-2 second-half run, which eventually got them to a 55-54 advantage. Towson forward Jerrelle Benimon had other thoughts as he showed ODU what the rest of the CAA has witnessed all season. He collected 11 of his 17 rebounds, and 14 of his 21 points after the intermission. It marked Benimon’s 15th double-double of the season, good enough to lead the NCAA. I’d say he’s having a pretty decent season.
Surprisingly, things continued to go ODU’s way as DeShawn Painter knocked in what was more than likely the team’s second unintentional banked three-pointer of the night with just 31.8 seconds remaining. The shot brought them within two points, but Benimon put them away as he capped off his stellar night with a game-clinching free throw. The 68-66 loss was the Monarchs’ eighth loss by five points or less.
On another note, it’s pretty fascinating to think that Towson is now just one win from hitting the .500 mark again. The Tigers improved to 2-27 all-time against Old Dominion, and snapped a three-game losing streak. When Old Dominion rallied, Towson got what Coach Skerry referred to as “a little more Mariano Rivera” and closed the game strongly.
William and Mary never recovered from a poor first half, and dropped a 66-56 game at The Bob to Delaware. The Blue Hens improved to 5-3 in the CAA, and sit just two games behind Northeastern in the loss column.
Delaware held an eight-point lead at the half, in large part by holding William and Mary to 29.6% shooting in the first half. William and Mary picked it up in the second half, but Delaware was ready. The Tribe took 30 of its 58 shots from three-point range. Obviously that’s a product of playing from behind, but it appears that the team may be trending back towards the three-ball. W&M shot 30% from deep on the game. Marcus Thornton was solid as always, and Rusthoven scored 13 points.
The main causes for concern came from his 1-of-8 performance from the foul line. Also of concern is the fact that Brandon Britt scored just five points. He only took four shots, but you have to wonder if coming off the bench is having a negative effect on Britt. Neither Terry Tarpey nor Julian Boatner did much to solidify his starting role, as the duo combined for just two points on 1-of-6 shooting. Matt Rum was effective off the bench, and he made 3-of-7 from three before fouling out.
Devon Saddler finished with 19 points on 8-of-16 shooting. Kyle Anderson shot 4-of-9 from three, en route to 16 points and a career-high nine boards. He was the Hens’ leading rebounder, as they outrebounded the Tribe 43-31. Jamelle Hagins and Josh Brinkley combined for 19 points and 15 rebounds, and Larry Savage scored a career-high seven points off the bench.