Saturday was a trying day for teams across the league. There’s a Sankalpa somewhere in the archives of this site that aptly describes the day that was. Injuries forced players into starting roles, and provided others with expanded opportunities from the bench. Even if you’re of the opinion that there is little value to bench points, unfortunate circumstances gave guys chances to stake their claims for future playing time.
Per usual, Northeastern and Drexel’s dual was tightly contested. I know Dragon fans are tired of seeing Northeastern players hit big threes in the waning seconds of games, but the undermanned Dragons were able to squeak out a 93-88 victory in 2OT. Demetrius Pollard’s overtime-forcing 3-pointer was most brutal in the fact that Tavon Allen sprained his ankle while getting back on defense.
Drexel players are going down like NFL punters, but surprisingly, Chris Fouch (who scored a career-high 31 points) hasn’t been one of them. The senior scored more points (16) in the two overtime periods than he did in regulation. Tough runners, NBA threes, free throws — everything was working for Fouch in OT.
Fouch on his overtime explosion:
“I tried to stay aggressive the whole game, but you know, the second overtime I felt like the plays were there to be made more than the second half and the first overtime.”
Frantz Massenat banged up his knee early in the game, but battled through the pain. If the bevy of injuries hadn’t forced Massenat into more of a scoring role, he would’ve had a triple-double (27 points, 12 boards, eight assists).
Northeastern got a surprisingly good game from point guard Marco Banegas-Flores, who started his second consecutive game and had a career-high 17 points. Demetrius Pollard stayed hot, and dropped 19 points. He’s streaky, but he’s starting to put the ball on the floor and drive a bit more, which has helped him evolve into a somewhat reliable piece in this offense.
In his first conference home game, Joe Mihalich’s Hofstra team toppled the CAA’s hottest team, Charleston, by creating extra opportunities off missed free throws. Stephen Nwaukoni was the obvious suspect for the Pride, as he had a 13-15 double-double (seven offensive boards). Led by Zeke Upshaw’s 22 points, all five Pride starters scored in double figures in Hofstra’s 75-71 victory.
Once again, C of C’s Nori Johnson was an absolute boss, pouring in a career-high 25 points, including seven 3-pointers. Anthony Stitt had a snappy line of 17 points, 11 boards and seven assists. The Cougars shot themselves in the paw by going just 14-of-27 from the foul line. No one player exemplified their struggles quite like Adjehi Baru (7-of-14 from the line).
Wojcik summed it up in the postgame:
“Bottom line, I can live with getting outrebounded, because they are a very good rebounding team and are very physical. We made more field goals, made more threes and had a positive assist-to-turnover ratio. We got beat from the free-throw line tonight (32-of-48).”
Delaware was forced to test its own depth when Carl Baptiste exited the first of half of Saturday’s game with a leg injury. That meant James Madison and Delaware’s benches were comprised solely of freshmen, which boded well for a senior-laden Blue Hen team that won its fourth consecutive game 78-74, and improved to 2-0 in CAA play.
When Baptiste went down, Delaware gave more minutes to starting forward Marvin KingDavis. Sparsely-used freshmen Barnett Harris and Maurice Jeffers also got in on the action, and while Delaware’s rebounding suffered, JMU couldn’t keep Devon Saddler (game-high 25 points) and Jarvis Threatt (14 points) from getting to the foul line. Davon Usher hit five 3-pointers and scored 23 points.
Meanwhile, JMU got just two points in 33 minutes from that bench of freshmen. People will talk about the no call on Ron Curry’s potential game-tying drive with less than 10 seconds to play, but if Baptiste plays, I’m not sure the game is even that close. The Dukes want to play fast, and without Baptiste anchoring the middle of the floor, they could afford to go with small, quick lineups. JMU lost this one by missing too many free throws, as well as wide-open looks from three.
The good news for Brady’s crew came in the fact that all five starters scored in double figures. Andre Nation (22 points) shot 9-of-11 from the field, and Taylor Bessick had his first career double-double. It was reminiscent of a game last season when he pulled down a career-high 13 boards against Drexel (a game in which Daryl McCoy did not play). Perhaps the most encouraging thing was that Bessick stayed out foul trouble.
Towson won its 13th consecutive home game Saturday, and the fact that Jerrelle Benimon had 20 points and 17 boards should surprise absolutely no one. The Tigers committed just six turnovers on the day, but four came from the Benimonster himself.
UNCW had similar struggles with its bench, which produced zero points. Considering that the bench includes the team’s best three-point shooter (Tanner Milson) and its best pure point guard (Ben Eblen), that’s problematic.
The silver lining was the continued resurgence of Chris Dixon, who has now scored in double figures in three of the last four games, something he did just twice in the Seahawks first 14 games. It’s good to see him ramping up for conference play again. Chuck Ogbodo started, played 35 minutes, and recorded five points, four blocks, and three assists. He knows defense is his strength, and plays within himself offensively.
When Yemi Makanjuola becomes eligible next season, he’ll team with Ogbodo and Cedrick Williams to give the Seahawks a trio of imposing rim-protectors.
We would touch on Charleston’s 58-49 win at Northeastern on Monday Night, but it wouldn’t feel right without linking to a King Kresse post. Stay tuned.
Towson (10-6, 1-0) at Drexel (9-6, 1-1) – 7:00 — Comcast SportsNet
It’s hard not to feel for Bruiser Flint, whose team is tasked with trying to contain Jerrelle Benimon without the services of its top three forwards. Flint heaped praise onto Goran Pantovic and Mohamed Bah, and their efforts in slowing down Scott Eatherton on Saturday. Rodney Williams, who had a solid game Saturday (but fouled out in 20 minutes) will likely take the first stab at trying to defend Benimon. The Dragons will do their best to trap Benimon, who has proven to be a rather turnover-prone player.
Despite the injuries, Drexel still has a signficantly better backcourt than Towson. The only question is whether the heavy minutes will start to take a toll on Massenat and Fouch. Because of multiple overtime game this season, Drexel has now played an entire extra game’s worth of minutes this season. Dan Crain thinks we’ll see Massenat play some three with Major Canady at the point, and playing off the ball could help Massenat stay fresh.
For Towson, the guy I’ll be watching is Marcus Damas. He’s having a solid senior season, but if Towson is going to emerge as a serious contender in the CAA, Damas will need to do more offensively. Drexel’s stifling three-point defense will make it hard for Towson to get it going from outside, so Damas needs to exploit mismatches down low.
Ultimately, I think there will be too much pressure on Massenat and Fouch to shoulder the offensive load for Drexel. Towson steals a close one at The DAC.
Towson 62, Drexel 59