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Touring the Northeast

December 23, 2003 Columns No Comments


Touring Around the Northeast

by Phil Kasiecki

When the Going Gets Tough, These Eagles Get Going

Boston College may be young, but the Eagles are playing like a veteran team when it comes to pulling out close games. Saturday was the latest example, as they pulled out a 58-54 overtime win over a tough Kent State team. The Golden Flashes showed that they will be a tough team to beat in the Mid-American Conference, as they shot the ball well from long range early and got some offensive rebounds along the way.

Once again, a balanced effort led the way, with younger players again making important plays and contributions. Jared Dudley (12 points) hit a big three-pointer early in the extra session that helped send BC on its way, while Craig Smith led with 14 points and 9 rebounds. Devon Evertsen was a key in the game, coming off the bench to give the Eagles great energy and a career-high 10 points as the Eagles continue to build some depth.

The Eagles next host Stony Brook on Tuesday, then take a week off to travel to South Carolina to play Clemson.

Friars Return to Action With A Gut-Check Win – Literally

Providence head coach Tim Welsh said after his team’s 72-67 win over Central Connecticut State that several players had been sick recently, and it also caught him during that time. That might help explain why the Friars got off to a slow start, much as some might first think the 12-day layoff since their last game was the big contributor.

The Friars went with the zone defense that shut down Illinois in their last game, but it didn’t work the same wonders against the Blue Devils as their shooters were hot in the early going. They moved the ball well and used picks to get good looks, and the shooting of DeMario Anderson (13 points) and Justin Chiera (12 points) only made Ron Robinson’s work easier, though Robinson did just fine on his own. He scored a career-high 29 points, and scored in a variety of ways, including steals and fast break dunks, while adding 9 rebounds. 16 of his points came in the first half, as the Blue Devils never trailed and led by 12 on two occasions before Providence made a late run to make the halftime score 37-33.

After the Blue Devils shot nearly 58% from the field in the first half, it went downhill in the second half. The Friars at times switched to a man-to-man defense, and held them to just over 32% in the second half. But the Friars didn’t run away with it, as it was a back-and-forth game for most of the half. They needed the big second half efforts they got from Ryan Gomes (11 of his 17 points in that frame, along with 9 rebounds) and Donnie McGrath, who hit two free throws with 10 seconds left to put it away.

Welsh said he didn’t know how Gomes, who is among the players that has been severely under the weather recently, managed to not only play the final minutes, but make the big plays he did.

“I knew he had nothing, but he just played to win,” Welsh said of his star junior forward. “He wanted to win the game. That’s what great players do, and hopefully we’re becoming a good team because of that.”

The Friars head to Richmond to take on the Spiders on Tuesday night.

The Blue Devils showed again that they will be a contender in the Northeast Conference. Robinson is probably the top player there, while Pittman complements him up front and shooters Chiera and Anderson can have field days if defenses key on the inside players. Robinson is the only senior on the team, but this is a solid, athletic group that is playing well together.

Barea Returns And Boosts Huskies

When the starting lineups were announced at Friday night’s game between Harvard and host Northeastern, there was one surprise.

Starting at guard for Northeastern, Jose Juan Barea.

“It feels good,” Barea said after the game of his return. “It was a little rough, but it’s good to be back.”

Barea had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee over two weeks before the game, but was back in the lineup for Friday’s game. Head coach Ron Everhart said he had practiced well the previous three days and felt he could go, so he was in the lineup. Although it was obvious he isn’t 100 percent, he gave the Huskies a big boost with 14 points and 8 assists as they held on for a 61-58 win over a Harvard team that out-played them in the second half.

Neither team put on an offensive clinic, with both shooting below 40% from the field and committing over 20 turnovers. Northeastern capitalized more on the turnovers, scoring 26 points off turnovers to the 17 Harvard had, which was one factor that made a difference.

Marcus Barnes struggled shooting for the second straight game, scoring 12 points on 3-12 shooting, but he more than made up for it on the defensive end as he shut down Harvard’s top scorer, Kevin Rogus, in the second half. Rogus scored all 10 of his points in the first half, shooting 0-11 in the second half and 1-9 on three-pointers for the game.

“There’s a lot of guys out there that can come out and go 3-12,” Everhart said of his star guard. “In my mind, offensively he was not very good. Defensively‚Ķ he held (Rogus) scoreless in the second half, and I thought that was a big key to what we did. We did a good job shutting him down in the second half and Marcus was the big reason why.”

“In the second half, I just had to come out and basically deny him the ball,” Barnes said of defending Rogus.

The Huskies travel to Gainesville to take on Florida on Monday. Barea was aiming to get back before that game to have one under his belt and get in the flow, which should certainly help the Huskies. This game will be a good test for the Huskies as they prepare for the start of America East play, getting to see where the team as a whole is against a top opponent.

Harvard is back on the court again Monday night, hosting Rider. The Crimson go into this game with some good things to build on, as they out-played Northeastern in the second half of the game and got good efforts from sophomores Matt Stehle and Mike Beal (career-high 13 points).

Other Notes From Around the Nation

• Is there a team in a major conference that appears to be in for a long season as much as Indiana? The Hoosiers have been blown out twice by more than 30 points, albeit against Wake Forest and Kentucky. But this is how the season will be unless some players emerge on the front line, especially while George Leach is out.

• Speaking of the Big Ten, it is home to the only freshman currently in the top five nationally in both scoring and rebounding – Minnesota forward Kris Humphries, who is tied for third in both categories (24.4 points, 11.4 rebounds). With Ben Johnson and Maurice Hargrow supporting him on the wing, Michael Bauer at another forward and Adam Boone settling in nicely at the point, the Golden Gophers look like a dark horse contender in the Big Ten.

• Dick Bennett’s teaching is working so far, as Washington State is quietly 6-2. They haven’t played the toughest teams, but this is surely building the team’s confidence for the final non-conference games at Fresno State and Gonzaga. The Cougars are third in the nation in scoring defense.

• If there’s a surprise conference among the major conferences thus far, it has to be the SEC. The conference is full of young talent, but only the ACC has a higher winning percentage thus far. How good the conference as a whole is remains to be seen, as teams like South Carolina, Vanderbilt and LSU have mainly won against lesser teams, but there probably weren’t many who figured the conference to fare this well thus far.

Slam Dunk To The Beach is coming up

Starting the day after Christmas is the Slam Dunk to the Beach Tournament. Once again, Bob Jacobs has assembled a tremendous amount of talent for this event, and Hoopville will have coverage every day of the tournament from Lewes, DE. With many college teams slowing up during the holiday break and just before conference play, we’ll break from exploring the progress of the New England schools next week with our continuing coverage of Slam Dunk to the Beach.

     

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