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Touring the Northeast

January 27, 2003 Columns No Comments


Touring Around New England

by Phil Kasiecki

Slow Starts Leave Eagles on Edge – Season’s Edge, That Is

The problems Boston College has are numerous this season: no proven shooter besides Troy Bell, a lack of depth and especially with Uka Agbai out for the season, and perhaps most notably, they have played poorly at home and have had to play catch-up in many games. It’s all starting to catch up to Al Skinner’s club now.

After two straight wins that might have brought them back to life, the Eagles dropped two this past week, a 94-83 decision at Villanova and a 101-96 overtime to decision to Notre Dame. The Irish won both games in their tour of New England this week, as they similarly thwarted an upset bid in Providence on Tuesday night behind a solid game from sophomore point guard Chris Thomas.

The Eagles fell behind early at Villanova on Wednesday night en route to losing to a Wildcat team that quietly was 5-0 in Big East play before losing at Connecticut on Saturday. The Eagles had won six straight games against Villanova, their longest streak in a series once dominated by the Wildcats. Villanova started off with a 22-6 run before the Eagles started to come back, but they did not have the energy to finish the comeback. On Saturday, they fell behind 15-4 early, and trailed for most of the first half before an 18-3 run to start the second half gave them the lead.

The Eagles also continue to struggle at Conte Forum, as they have the worst home record in the Big East at 5-4 and struggled at home much of last season as well. The Eagles are now in trouble for the NCAA Tournament, as they would need a miraculous run for the remainder of conference play to even be in a position to reach the NCAA Tournament without winning the Big East Tournament.

Huskies Rally To Hand Terriers First America East Loss

Boston University and Northeastern were going in opposite directions in America East play when they met at Case Gym on Saturday. The Terriers entered as the only undefeated team in conference play, while the young Huskies picked up their first conference win last Saturday against New Hampshire. But typical of rivalry games such as this one, the records get thrown out, and perhaps more so because Northeastern has looked all season like the type of upstart that just might pull off an upset or two with its ability to get out and run and score plenty of points.

Like Boston College, the Huskies have been known to fall behind early, which they did in their loss at Stony Brook on Wednesday and again on Saturday. The Terriers led by as many as 12 in the first half and by 16 a few minutes into the second half. But they came right back by scoring seven straight points in just over two minutes, then turned it up at the defensive end and had a run of 14 unanswered points later. The final minutes had back and forth play, but Jose Juan Barea (18 points) hit a three-pointer with 35 seconds left that gave the Huskies the lead for good as they took home a 72-69 victory.

Sylbrin Robinson continues his solid play up front for the Huskies, as he had another double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds. The Huskies will need him and others in the frontcourt to show up this week, as they host Binghamton and Hartford this week.

For the Terriers, the sophomore slump of Chaz Carr continues. He missed all four of his field goal attempts and fouled out in just 18 minutes, a far cry from the success he had against the Huskies last year that included a career-high 35 points in an overtime win at Northeastern. He leads the team in assists and steals, but is shooting under 33% from the field. On the bright side, the Huskies had no answer for Rashad Bell, who has had a solid month of January. Bell had 24 points on 9-12 shooting and hauled down 7 rebounds. For the month of January, he is averaging 14.7 points per game and earned America East Player of the Week honors earlier in the month.

Minutemen Are On The Board

On Saturday, the only two Atlantic Ten teams without a conference win matched up in the nation’s capital, and Massachusetts came away with a 75-70 victory for its first conference win. The signs are bright for the future as well, as freshmen Mike Lasme (career-high 24 points) and Jeff Viggiano (13 points) and sophomore Gabe Lee (15 points, 9 rebounds, 4 blocks) led the way. The Minutemen shot over 49% from the field, including over 35% on three-pointers.

They allowed Chris Monroe to score 28 points, but they kept him off the glass as he had just 2 rebounds before fouling out.

Not only did the two teams enter Saturday’s contest winless in conference play, but also as teams with young players that point to a bright future. George Washington has three good freshmen of their own in forwards Mike Hall, Pops Mensah-Bonsu and Omar Williams. Hall looks to be the best of them, as he leads the team in rebounding and is third in scoring, and will only get better as he gets stronger. Mensah-Bonsu has been an efficient scorer and rebounder, while Williams is an older freshman and really needs to get stronger, but has shown plenty of promise.

Hunt and Brown Passed Exams And Are Turning It Around

When Brown started the season 1-7, it looked like a disappointing season was ahead in Providence. Senior Earl Hunt, a two-time first team All-Ivy League selection and now the all-time leading scorer at Brown, was struggling with an injury suffered in the team’s second game of the season and eventually sat two games. At the time, he was averaging under 12 points per game, well below his career average of 18.8 per game entering the season.

Then final exams came. The Bears had a nine-day break, and it was just what the doctor ordered. Hunt got healthy, and so did the Bears.

Hunt matched his career high with 39 points in their next game at Central Connecticut, a 75-67 win. Since that time, the Bears have gone 6-2, including winning their first two Ivy League games, and Hunt has been the catalyst. He is averaging over 25 points per contest and shooting over 44% from behind the three-point line since then, and the Bears can win games with others leading the way.

Friday night, they hosted Yale, less than one week after a big 78-66 win in New Haven. At first, it looked like the road team might have the edge in this season’s series, as the Bulldogs jumped out to an early 9-2 lead and led head coach Glen Miller to call a 30-second timeout. Whatever Miller said during the timeout worked, as the Bears ran off 16 unanswered points, then ran off another 11 shortly thereafter in a 27-4 run that gave them the lead for good. The Bears shot over 64% from the field in the first half.

The Bears got a huge lift from the bench, especially in the first half when all but 2 of their bench points came. Last Saturday against Yale, their bench produced just 7 points, but in the first half alone, they got 25 points on 11-11 shooting. Junior forward Jamie Kilburn was the primary contributor, as he had 14 of his 16 points in the first half and made it look easy. Harold Bailey, who was 3-12 on three-pointers entering the game, hit all three of his attempts in the first half en route to 11 points. The Bears also went 33-35 from the foul line, including 24-26 in the second half when they went ice cold from the field.

Other Notes From Around the Nation

John Chaney’s time may be coming. Chaney sat for most of Temple’s recent game at Rhode Island, with assistant Nate Blackwell being up off the bench and directing the team most of the game. Blackwell is considered by many to be on the fast track to ascending to a head coaching position before long, and there is word from another close to the school that this might be it for the Hall of Fame coach.

The focus on Saturday night’s game in Berkeley between California and UCLA was undoubtedly on the continuing struggles of the Bruins, but that shouldn’t be the case. The Golden Bears are one of the better surprises of the season after key personnel losses from last season were then accompanied by the late transfer of last season’s starting point guard, Shantay Legans. The Golden Bears have emerged as Arizona’s top contender in the Pac Ten as they are 7-0 in conference play and 14-2 overall. Senior Joe Shipp is having an All-America-caliber season, while Amit Tamir has anchored the post nicely and the support has been well-balanced. They are the top three-point shooting team in the conference, and only Arizona State turns the ball over less among Pac Ten teams.

Oklahoma State has the nation’s longest winning streak at 14 games, and Louisville and Michigan are nipping at its heels with 13-game winning streaks of their own, but another right behind both is Stephen F. Austin, which is quietly 9-0 in the Southland Conference and has won 12 straight games.

     

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