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Touring the Northeast

February 11, 2003 Columns No Comments


Touring Around New England

by Phil Kasiecki

A Crushing Defeat, or Another Small Setback For the Eagles?

Boston College found a way to win a tight one in Chestnut Hill against St. John’s on Wednesday night, but was in a more hostile setting in Piscataway, New Jersey on Saturday as they took on Rutgers. The Eagles have been road warriors for most of the season, and the Scarlet Knights have not been as nearly invincible at home as they were last season, but on Saturday Rutgers came out on top, 75-72.

With the Eagles now sitting at 11-9 overall and 4-5 in Big East play, this game might seem to be a death knell for them. But anyone who has followed the Eagles know that from one game to next, they are unpredictable, and that momentum from wins is a misnomer. Included in that camp is head coach Al Skinner.

“I know that for a fact”, Skinner said. “Each game is different, the situation is different, we’re going to be looking at different faces.”

Jermaine Watson’s ejection for leaving the bench during a brief skirmish early in the second half hurt the Eagles greatly, as their seven-man rotation was then short one more body. Watson has given them a good lift off the bench recently and had a good first half, so his loss was more than just a body.

Rutgers held the Eagles to 25% shooting in the second half, after the Eagles made their last 10 field goals in the first half en route to shooting 64%. Rutgers head coach Gary Waters knew that a couple of the keys to beating the Eagles were stopping their transition game, as well as holding the Eagles below 70 points. The Eagles entered the game 0-2 when they score below 70 points and were the top scoring team in the Big East. “If we cut their transition game down, they’re not the same team”, Waters said. “We wanted to keep them to 70 points or below.”

Craig Smith and Ryan Sidney each shot 3-11 from the floor, a big part of the Eagles’ struggles on offense. “We’re not going to win many games where we have Craig and Ryan shooting 6-22”, Skinner said. For Smith, it was the first game in his collegiate career in which he did not reach double digits in scoring.

Junior forward Herve Lamizana was a thorn in the Eagles’ side all day, as he did a little of everything. He had a career game as he led Rutgers with 22 points on 7-10 shooting, hauled down 8 rebounds, handed out 7 assists, blocked 3 shots and had 3 steals. Lamizana has always had plenty of potential as an athletic 6’10” forward, but has never put it together on a regular basis. “Herve played to the potential Herve should play to every time he walks out on the floor”, Waters said. “If he continues to do that, we’re a different kind of team.”

The Eagles were in a bad position late in the game before the final plays did not work out, not unlike what might become of their season. Wednesday night, they have a road date with nearby rival Providence, against whom they lost last month. The Friars have protected their home court well this season, but the Eagles have been road warriors and this is a rivalry game, meaning anything is possible. Troy Bell thinks the Eagles can still win out, which might give them a remote shot at an NCAA Tournament bid. “We’ve come a long way, and I’m still confident that we can get all the rest of these games.”

Rams Continue to Win at Home

Rhode Island continues to be part of the Atlantic Ten’s resurgence this season, as the Rams won two more at home last week after dropping one at St. Joseph’s last weekend. The Rams enter the week at 14-6 overall and 6-3 in the conference, one game behind St. Joseph’s in the Atlantic Ten’s East Division.

Postseason play looks to be in the Rams’ future, though the NCAA is unlikely unless they run the table or get the Atlantic Ten’s automatic bid. The Rams have a higher RPI (70) than Richmond (71), which many have considered to be a contender for a fourth Atlantic Ten team in the NCAA Tournament. (Right now, Xavier, St. Joseph’s and Dayton all look to be in barring late season collapses.)

The Rams first got a good win against St. Bonaventure, then knocked off an up-and-coming George Washington team that has had some growing pains in conference play. Senior guard Brian Woodward continues to have the kind of season many felt he was capable of when he first arrived on campus with high expectations, as he had 30 points and 14 rebounds against the Bonnies, then had 25 points against George Washington. He is leading the team in scoring and rebounding.

The Rams have another home date on Wednesday with another up-and-comer, LaSalle, then hit the road to take on Xavier in the start of a tough three-game road stretch.

Huskies Run Into a Buzz Saw

Northeastern ran into the hottest team in America East last Wednesday night, as Stony Brook halted the Huskies’ four-game winning streak and kept their own streak alive at six straight games with a 78-60 win at Solomon Court. (The Seawolves’ streak would end with a 66-60 home loss to Vermont on Saturday.) Stony Brook started fast while the Huskies didn’t show up offensively, as the Seawolves scored 16 of the game’s first 18 points and led 39-13 at the half.

On Saturday, the Huskies rebounded with a 75-61 victory at New Hampshire. Jose Juan Barea continues to be the conference’s top freshman, as he had a career-high 28 points en route to sharing America East Rookie of the Week honors, the fifth time this season he has won or shared that honor.

Meanwhile, their rivals across town continue to roll, as Boston University improved to 9-1 in America East play with two more wins. They blew out Albany, 78-50, then pulled out an 85-82 win at Binghamton on Sunday with the help of their hot hand from behind the three-point line as they made 13 of 22 shots. They also beat the Bearcats on the glass, out-rebounding them 41-28, but 16 turnovers helped keep the game close.

The Terriers have a two-game lead over Vermont in the conference standings, while Northeastern is part of the logjam that follows. Hartford is next at 6-4, then the Huskies are tied with Maine and Binghamton at 6-5. This week’s games could help break it up, as Northeastern heads up to Orono to take on Maine Wednesday night, then welcomes Vermont on Saturday. Boston University’s big game is Saturday’s home date with Hartford.

Ivy Notes: Yale Back on Track, Harvard’s Slump Continues

Thanks to this past weekend, this coming weekend will be a big one in the Ivy League, as the top four teams will be in action against one another. Yale continued to get back on track by sweeping Harvard and Dartmouth, while Brown did the same thing to improve to 6-0 in conference play. Earl Hunt, the Ivy League’s leading scorer, has remained unstoppable since recovering from an injury that hampered his play earlier this season. He had 41 points in the two games last week, and is averaging over 22 points per game in their current winning streak.

As the two head south this weekend to play at Princeton and Pennsylvania, both of whom are 4-0 in Ivy League play, the picture could become much clearer or that much more muddied when the weekend is over. Yale will enter having won four straight, while Brown has now won eight straight games and went over .500 for the first time all season with Friday night’s 91-86 win over Harvard.

Harvard, meanwhile, remains in a prolonged slump, as they have lost four straight after nearly three weeks without playing a game. It didn’t help that all four have been on the road. Three of the four losses have been by six points or less, and in each of those three they led in the second half before a rally won the game for the home team. Their struggles have come primarily at the offensive end, though they allowed Pennsylvania and Brown to shoot 49.1% and 52.6% from the field, respectively.

The Crimson come home for the next two weekends, starting with Columbia and Cornell on Friday and Saturday, respectively. That will certainly give them a good chance to get back on track before they welcome Pennsylvania and Princeton next weekend.

Other Notes From Around the Nation

Mike Jarvis has long been a popular target for opposing fans, but it’s a bad sign for any coach when his team’s fans are on him. In a recent home loss to Virginia Tech, the Red Storm was booed throughout, and late in the game they chanted “Fire Jarvis!” St. John’s isn’t getting the level of talent they used to, and while Jarvis has generally done a good job with the talent he has had, Red Storm fans expect more than showings like their current 11-8 record.

Who is the best player no one knows about? Not a mid-major player or a good player on a bad team this time around, as Wake Forest’s Josh Howard has to be the nation’s most under-appreciated player. The senior forward is having a terrific season on the team atop the ACC (16-3 overall, 6-2 ACC), yet his name rarely if ever comes up in discussion about the nation’s top players. He leads the ACC in scoring, is third in rebounding and steals, and is part of why the Demon Deacons are the ACC’s top defensive team and lead in rebounding margin by far. The leading candidate for ACC Player of the Year has 8 double-doubles and has scored in double figures in 14 straight games.

The latest mid-major accomplishment was Creighton becoming the first team in the nation to reach 20 wins last week. There isn’t much more to be said about the Bluejays that hasn’t already been said. In a season with a relative lack of mid-majors who could get NCAA at-large bids, the Bluejays stand out that much more and belong among the nation’s top teams, period.

     

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