It’s the growing legend of RJ Hunter.
After tying his career-high with 27 points in Georgia State’s win at Northeastern, RJ Hunter went into uncharted territories against upset-minded Old Dominion Monarchs on Saturday. The Panthers held a five-point halftime lead, with Manny Atkins and Hunter fighting off resurgent Nick Wright and ODU.
Flip the page to the second half, and it was all RJ. Hunter tied his career-high of 27 points in the second half alone, with 19 coming during a second-half run that featured five 3-pointers. Hunter set the school record with 10 threes, and tied Mason’s Dre Smith for the CAA record. Hunter shot 12-of-18 on the game, and scored the most points of any freshman this year, as his 38 points sparked the Panthers to an 83-63 win over Old Dominion.
The Panthers shot 53.8% from the field, and assisted on 57.1% of their field goals. They managed to win by 20 on a night when the Monarchs’ frontcourt dominated with a combined 43 points from DeShawn Painter, Richard Ross and Nick Wright, although Painter and Wright needed 28 shots get their 28 points. They won despite being allowing the Monarchs to corral almost half of their misses (21 offensive rebounds).
Hunter’s big effort earned him the CAA Player of the Week and Rookie of the Week (sixth of the season) awards. It was the first time one player has snagged both awards since Chris Fouch in February 2009.
Both George Mason and James Madison came streaking into the Saturday afternoon showdown. The Dukes had won six straight at home, and four consecutive overall. The Patriots came in reeling after blowing a 20-point lead against Drexel, and losing by 20 at Northeastern the previous Sunday.
The Patriots opened the game on an 11-0 run, a margin that transferred to the end game score of 74-63. In the end, the Patriots extended their streak by winning their ninth-straight game against JMU.
Needless to say tensions were high between both teams heading into the game, which some consider to be one of the biggest rivalry games of the season. George Mason started the game looking to silence the Dukes in front of their largest home crowd of the season. The Patriots opened the game with an 11-0 run, scoring eight of its first 11 points off four JMU turnovers.
The Dukes caught their footing and responded with an 8-2 run to cut the lead to 13-8. Mason played tight defense inside the paint, and forced JMU to live and die by the three (3-of-10) in the first half. During the Dukes four game-winning streak, the Dukes outrebounded their opponents by a +47 margin. The Patriots outrebounded the Dukes 20-11 in the first half alone (35-25 for the game).
Two bizarre delays contributed to a long first half. First the ball got stuck on the backboard, before Rayshawn Goins knocked it loose with a mop. Then, an 11-minute break began to fix a ripped net on the other side of the court. The Patriots led 32-27, which was somewhat encouraging for the Dukes, as they only got one point from their freshmen quartet in the opening half. However, the 32 first-half points were the most they had surrendered in four weeks.
Things got rowdy in the second half, after both teams endured a questionable series of calls from the officials. The Patriots, though capitalized where the Dukes failed to do so, making 23-of-26 attempts from the line, and held a seven-point lead with 7:26 to play. Yet Devon Moore refused to let the Dukes go down without a fight.
Moore hit a series of three-point plays, of the long-range and old school variety. The Dukes closed within a basket, but a flagrant foul called on Rayshawn Goins sent Jonathan Arledge to the line. Arledge stepped in for Wright, and drained both free throws before scoring on the extra possession to give Mason a 69-62 lead. The Patriots did not miss a free throw down the stretch, and got back in the win column with the 11-point win.
The referees caught a ton of flack from the JMU faithful, although each team finished with 23 fouls. Madison actually finished with more free throw attempts than Mason, but the Dukes shot just 17-of-28 from the line. They also shot just 6-of-24 from beyond the arc. Wright dropped in a team-high 22 points for George Mason, after dropping 23 points in the first meeting with the Dukes. Arledge established a new career-high for the second time in three days with 19 points (which he has since broken). The Patriots have certainly been the Dukes’ kryptonite, as they’ve now won 20 of the last 21 meetings between the schools. There’s a very real chance these schools may end up playing each other in March, so the Dukes certainly hope there is truth the saying “third time is the charm”.
While conference contenders duked it out on a big Saturday in CAA hoops, supremacy of a different kind was settled Saturday in Williamsburg. William and Mary dominated Hofstra in a battle of CAA cellar dwellers, earning a 72-59 win.
The Tribe moved to 3-7 in the conference with a convincing win over the Pride (5-17, 2-7 CAA) for its second win in three games. The Pride meanwhile, have dropped its last six games since their last win on January 12 (against the Tribe).
With its win over Hofstra and last weekend’s win over Towson, the Tribe is 2-0 in redemption games this season. After dropping the first game, the College secured wins against both teams the second time around.
When comparing the Jan. 12 game to today’s game, the differences are vast. Hofstra led the entire 40 minutes in the first game, and led by as many of 14 points in the first half. Hofstra’s guards, Taran Buie and Stevie Mejia wreaked havoc, scoring 24 and 14 points respectively, while the Tribe struggled to get going. In other words, the Pride dominated.
Saturday’s game in the ‘Burg told a different story, however. Senior guard Matt Rum, whose shooting woes are well-documented, played a key role by shutting down Buie. Tribe coach Tony Shaver noted in his post-game remarks that Rum held Buie to a 3-of-18 shooting performance from the field. It may sound obvious, but if you can shut down an opposing team’s leading scorer, you’ve probably got a good chance at winning.
Forward David Imes led the Pride with 16 points, but Mejia managed just 11 points as the Pride shot just 35.6% from the field. The Tribe was also relieved to see that Stephen Nwaukoni did not play in the first half (although he still delivered a sold line, despite playing just 13 minutes). Shaver was impressed with the defensive effort, especially by the College’s guards.
Speaking of guards, the story of the game was Brandon Britt. Britt, who has been most affected by Shaver’s decision to shake up his starting lineup, responded Saturday with 17 points on a 7-of-9 shooting night. Britt’s biggest successes came on the fast break. He noted after the game that the Tribe noticed that Hofstra’s fast break defense was lacking and that it could be attacked.
Shaver also noted after the game that he believes that his starting lineup experiment has been working, and is getting closer to its original form with Britt back in the starting lineup. Shaver said that he thinks Britt, Gaillard and Rum have all been playing better of late.
The road ahead doesn’t get any easier for either team. Hofstra will host CAA top dog Northeastern while the College draws a tough road matchup against James Madison.
The Northeastern Huskies got back on track with a win over the vaunted Drexel Dragons to close out their four-game homestand with a win, and a 3-1 mark overall. Many expected this game to be a tightly contested affair, especially after the previous meeting ended with overtime, only after an incredible shot by Quincy Ford.
In that game, the Dragons were playing without their best player in Damion Lee. This time around the Dragons were missing Kazembe Abif, who started frequently early in the season. The Dragons forced the Huskies into a classic #caahoops rockfight, but ultimately ended up on the wrong side of a 59-52 result.
Northeastern seemed ready for the potentially tough game, and came out firing, easily scoring the game’s first ten points and looking dominant early. But in what has become a constant issue, the Husky offense began to stall. Most of the time, this is caused by the Huskies settling for jump shots or being stagnant with the ball.
Consistency on offense has been an issue for these Huskies; at this point it is unsurprising when this team goes through a few minutes without a field goal. This offensive sputtering allowed the Dragons to claw their way back into it, mostly on the back of some tremendous offensive rebounding. The interior size and strength provided by Dartaye Ruffin and Daryl McCoy was key as Ruffin finished with a double-double, 12 points and 11 boards, while McCoy also collected 11 rebounds as well.
Even with the Dragons finishing +14 on the boards, Northeastern’s senior co-captains Jon Lee and Joel Smith would not let this team die. Things were getting dicey for the Huskies in the second half when Drexel took its largest lead of the game (3 points), but Lee and Smith hit a layup and three respectively to give Northeastern a lead that was never relinquished. Lee, who looked pumped early on, wound up scoring his 1,000th point in his Northeastern career with 15:24 left to go in the game.
Jon Lee finished with a game-high 17 points to go with five rebounds and four assists in what was one of his best games since returning from injury. Lee was also part of the game deciding play, as with 3:16 left to play and the Dragons down seven, Frantz Massenat was called for a questionable flagrant foul, his fifth. Lee was going up for a dunk and Massenat tried for the block but was deemed to have made excessive contact. After Lee nailed both free throws, the game was pretty much decided.
There’s another pretty good player who played in this game, whose last name also happens to be Lee. But for Damion, it was a night to forget, as he shot just 2-of-11 and finished with seven points, before fouling out. Derrick Thomas scored a team-high 13 points for Drexel, and it was his third time of four games scoring in double figures.
Delaware failed to make a 3-pointer in its game with UNCW on Saturday. It was the second time that’s happened in 17 days, after it hadn’t occurred for 22+ years. This time though, it did not matter, as Delaware rode a balanced attack to a 71-56 win over the visiting Seahawks.
Finally, we got a Hagins-esque game from the man himself. The senior had a monster 20-point 11-rebound game, which included two blocks and solid defense on Keith Rendleman. Devon Saddler had also seemed to be in a bit of a slump, as he hadn’t scored more than 20 points since hitting the game-winner at Georgia State a few weeks back. The junior netted a game-high 21 points, and backcourt mate Jarvis Threatt scored 15. The Blue Hens outrebounded the Dubmen 41-29.
When Keith Rendleman and Chris Dixon combine to shoot 5-of-24, it’s pretty difficult to see the Seahawks winning. Dixon saw his streak of spectacular outings come to an end, as he finished with 5 points on 2-of-13 shooting. Rendleman had a tough time matching up with Hagins, but still managed to score 11 points. Craig Ponder came off the bench to lead the team with 14 points.
The win brought Delaware to 6-3 in the CAA, good for sole possession of second place.