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Touring the Northeast

December 10, 2003 Columns No Comments

Touring Around the Northeast

by Phil Kasiecki

Eagles Continue to Win – Barely

Boston College continued its winning ways this past week to improve to 6-0, though they needed overtime on Saturday in the Commonwealth Classic against struggling Massachusetts.

The Eagles disposed of Holy Cross on Tuesday, nearly a year to the day that Holy Cross upset the Eagles and BC forward Uka Agbai suffered a season-ending neck injury. This time around, Agbai helped anchor a strong front line in the win, as Craig Smith (14 points, 12 rebounds) and freshman Jared Dudley (12 points, 10 rebounds) each had double-doubles to go with Agbai’s 15 points. The Eagles go to the foul line much more than Holy Cross and took full advantage of it.

Smith continued his solid play in Saturday’s win, but he had to redeem himself along the way. He missed two late free throws in regulation that could have locked up the game, but made two 14.6 seconds left in the extra session to give BC the win. Smith (19 points, 11 rebounds) was part of a balanced attack with four players in double figures, led by freshman Sean Marshall with 21 points.

BC’s frontcourt has been their anchor, and the play of freshmen Dudley, Sean Marshall and Steve Hailey has also been a big key. With Louis Hinnant playing with a fractured left wrist, Hailey will be needed more at the point as the season goes along. If the Eagles can get some decent guard play, their frontcourt has a chance to do some real damage against St. Joseph’s in the team’s next game, as the Hawks have a tremendous group of perimeter players but are thin up front.

Rams and Friars Weather the Storm, One A Little Better

It was a week of games in the home state for the top two Rhode Island teams, who then met up Saturday to renew their rivalry.

Providence started the week by knocking off South Florida. The Friars were in control for most of the game, though there were some moments in the second half where it looked like it could be just like the game a few nights prior when the Friars nearly blew a big lead before holding off Alabama. They led 39-21 at the half, shooting over 55% from the field, but a 7-0 run by South Florida got them within 49-39 nearing the halfway point of the second half. The Friars then put the game away, with the 84-60 final matching their largest lead of the game.

Meanwhile, the Rams first had to hold off a pesky Brown Bears team on Wednesday behind Brian Woodward’s heroice before hosting Providence at the Ryan Center. Woodward scored the last seven points of the game to bring the Rams back from being down 62-59 with 1:48 left.

Saturday’s game marked the first time the Rams and Friars met at URI’s campus in 31 years, and a sellout crowd showed up despite blizzard conditions in the Ocean State. The game was sold out before tickets could even become available to the public, so one had to know the fans were intent on getting their money’s worth.

The game was close throughout the first half, with ten ties and six lead changes and the score tied at 42 at the break. But the Rams, who set a school record by connection on 10 of 14 three-pointers (71%), broke the game open later, shooting 57% from the field in the second half and getting its largest lead near the end of their 89-79 victory.

While the Rams were paced by perimeter stars Dawan Robinson, Dustin Hellenga (26 points, 6 assists each) and Brian Woodward (19 points), the frontcourt continues to improve. The Rams are getting good help from players like Jamaal Wise, Marcel Momplaisir and Jon Clark, which will be important as the season goes along.

Gut-Check Time Ahead For the Huskies

Northeastern split two games last week, blowing out Division III Suffolk and losing at Fordham on Sunday. Both games were played without super sophomore guard Jose Juan Barea, who underwent successful arthroscopic surgery on his left knee Thursday and will miss 4-6 weeks.

With Barea out, the Huskies now look to Marcus Barnes to run the show, which means other players have to step up and score. Barnes won’t fare as well with the ball in his hands all the time, and without him running off screens to get shots or create off the dribble, the offense will suffer aside from the loss of Barea’s 17 points per game unless someone else steps up as a scoring threat. Since the Huskies have had no trouble scoring thus far (averaging 82 points per game to lead America East), this might not hurt them too much in the end.

The Huskies travel to Villanova on Friday, then come home to take on Marist on Sunday.

Brown Shows Promise

Brown lost several key seniors from last season’s team, including all-time leading scorer Earl Hunt and the guy who’s third on that list in Alai Nuualiitia, but the Bears are showing some promise.

In Brown’s 66-62 home loss to Rhode Island last Wednesday, the Bears trailed at one point by 15, as a run of eight unanswered Ram points gave the Rams a 48-33 lead. But the Bears stormed back, getting within 57-56 on a layup by Patrick Powers with 3:15 left. Then with 2:12 left, a breakaway layup by freshman Marcus Becker gave Brown a 60-59 lead, and Luke Ruscoe later hit two free throws to move the lead to 62-59 before Brian Woodward came alive and scored the last seven points.

Head coach Glen Miller was still pleased with his team’s effort, especially with star guard Jason Forte out, though he knows that a loss is a loss.

“They got a sniff of what they can do against a very good team, and we need to build from here,” Miller said after the game.

Forte missed the game with some pain in his ear from a few nights prior, and was a game-time decision. He returned for Saturday’s 71-62 loss at Ohio, coming off the bench to score 9 points. Meanwhile, Mike Martin remains out with an ankle injury, and Miller is not certain when he can return, as he gets evaluated each week to see when he can take the ankle boot off. He knows that the senior’s return would certainly benefit a relatively young team.

“He gives us a lot of toughness and organization on the court,” said Miller.

Right now, the Bears have two solid seniors in Jamie Kilburn, who has shed some pounds and will anchor the frontcourt, and Patrick Powers, joining Forte and good young talent in sophomore Luke Ruscoe and freshman Sam Manhanga. Ruscoe had a limited role on last year’s veteran team, but is harnessing the potential he did show last year right now. Manhanga has good size and strength, and looks like he will be a force in the Ivy League this year and the following three.

Yale Starting Well, But Slips Up Sunday

Yale started the season 4-2, playing preseason No. 1 Connecticut very well in the season opener before losing the game. With five seniors, two in the starting lineup joined by three juniors, the Bulldogs have an experienced team that should compete for the title in the Ivy League this season.

Sunday, the Bulldogs didn’t play like a senior-laden team on offense, as they didn’t make many good decisions with the ball in losing to Fairfield at home by a score of 71-57. Both teams shot 38.5% from the field, but 18 offensive rebounds by Fairfield, 18 Yale turnovers and the Bulldogs shooting 5-21 on three-pointers are the stat sheet numbers that stand out as team stats go, and Yale head coach James Jones certainly saw them.

“40 percent of our shots came from the arc, and we only make five of them – it’s kind of tough to win a basketball game,” said Jones.

“We have to understand the flow of the game – when is a good time to take a three and when is a good time not to take a three. I think that’s the understanding that we need to come to as a team, and we haven’t done that yet.”

For individual stats, DeWitt Maxwell came up just short of his career high for Fairfield, scoring 22 points and hauling down 9 rebounds, but it wasn’t just his numbers that made a difference. Maxwell scored 14 of his points in the second half, and they often came at key junctures of the game, including a back-breaking three-pointer with the shot clock running down to slow a run by the Bulldogs.

Every time Yale made a run, Maxwell and Fairfield had an answer. Maxwell also had help from senior center Rob Thomson, who was 4-5 on three-pointers en route to 19 points – the four three-pointers being the first of his career.

For Yale, Princeton transfer Dominick Martin continued to play well, giving them a real post scoring presence. He scored 15 points and had 3 blocks. The Bulldogs will get better games from junior Edwin Draughan than his 3-11 shooting on Sunday, as Draughan has proven he can score the ball.

Other Notes From Around the Nation

• Don’t look now, but South Carolina – thought by many to be a team in trouble with its off-court issues and lack of backcourt scoring ability – is off to an 8-0 start. The Gamecocks haven’t played a schedule full of world-beaters, but they have defeated Southwest Missouri State, Richmond and Clemson. The backcourt is scoring, as sophomore Terance Kinsey has jumped his scoring average by 11 points thus far this season, junior college transfer Josh Gonner is the team’s third-leading scorer, and Michael Boynton has become a scorer at the point. They are off for finals until next Monday, when they travel north to take on Temple, and could be 10-0 when they face off with North Carolina State in Columbia.

• For the second weekend in a row, a mid-major school knocked off one from a major conference in a blowout. Last weekend, Murray State did the deed with a 94-54 win over Southern Mississippi, and on Saturday, Oakland thrashed Texas A&M by a 90-58 score.

• Some teams lose personnel – even key personnel – but don’t lose their touch: Creighton and Southern Illinois are currently the only undefeated teams in the Missouri Valley Conference despite big personnel losses (and the coach moving on in the latter case). With Wichita State being the preseason favorites and having lost only to undefeated Boston College so far, as well as the good showing early by Bradley and Southwest Missouri State, the Missouri Valley not only looks to be the best mid-major conference right now, but might even be better than the bottom high-majors like the WAC, Mountain West or Atlantic Ten.


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