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Metro Atlantic Notebook

January 23, 2004 Conference Notes No Comments



Metro Atlantic Conference Notebook

by Keith Burdette

This season, we’ve seen the two opposite ends of the spectrum as far as teams go. At the top, we have Manhattan who is 6-0 in conference and 11-3 overall. Their three losses have come to the hands of Syracuse, Penn and Wichita State. With wins over Richmond and Fordham coupled with a current RPI ranking of 45th, the Jaspers have the potential for an at-large bid to the tourney if they slip up in the MAAC tournament. At the bottom, the VERY bottom we have Loyola-Maryland. They stand at 0-16 and are ranked dead last in the RPI at 326th. They have a 29 game losing streak which dates back to last season and is only four games shy of the NCAA record held by Grambling. Monday was the one year anniversary of their last win, a 74-69 overtime affair against Rider. They came close to ending the streak Sunday against Canisius losing by only two. With seven out of the next nine games on the road, we may very well see them set the record. Their best chance to stop the streak appears to be a January 29th game at home against Marist which would leave them two games short of the record.

The MAAC has no shortage of great scorers and currently has three of nation’s top eleven in points per game. Luis Flores, preseason conference player of the year, currently is 11th at 22.7 points per game. Juan Mendez is 10th at 22.9 points per game. Keydren Clark is 2nd at 26.4 points per game and has spent time at the top of the list. Each player was selected to the preseason all-conference team so their production was expected; but other than Flores not at such a high level.

Canisius Golden Griffins (7-10, 2-4 MAAC)

The Golden Griffins have split six games since the new year. They opened the year with two conference losses, at St. Peter’s on the 3rd 87-63 and at home against Manhattan on the 7th 81-63. They picked up a win over Florida International 67-57 on the 10th but then lost another conference game to Iona 78-68 on the 13th, falling to 0-4 in the MAAC. But last weekend they picked up a huge road sweep for their first two conference wins. Last Friday night they took out Marist 78-74 and on Sunday they beat Loyola 66-64 on a three-point play from DeWitt Doss with four seconds remaining. In the last four games it has been Kevin Downey leading the way for the Golden Griffins. Against Manhattan he scored only four points but since that game he’s lead the team in scoring each night out averaging 16.5 points per game. Iona and Rider come to town this weekend while a road trip to Iona and Manhattan awaits the week after.

Farfield Stags (9-7, 2-3 MAAC)

Coming into the New Year, the Stags were 7-2 and had a couple games against major conference foes to prove their record was legit. Unfortunately they couldn’t pass the test. They played Michigan at Madison Square Garden on the 3rd but lost 66-43. Then they traveled to Duke on the 6th but lost again 99-58. They ended a three game losing streak on the 8th against Elon 69-64 in their last non-conference game of the season. Since then, the Stags have dropped three out of four conference games. They lost in overtime to St. Peter’s 72-68 on the 11th, fell to Marist 59-50 on the 13th and lost 89-69 to Manhattan on the 18th. Sandwiched between those losses was a 81-78 win over Iona on the 16th. The game against Manhattan marked the end of ten straight road games which started with the Rainbow Classic in Hawaii at the end of December. Deng Gai and Rob Thomson have solidified the frontcourt and started every game, both scoring in double figures and grabbing over seven boards a game. Terrence Todd has stepped like he needed and now leads the team in scoring with fourteen points a game. With a 4-6 record on the huge road trip, they’ve fallen back to the middle of the pack in the league but now look to climb back up to the upper echelon of the MAAC with four straight games at home against Manhattan, Loyola, St. Peter’s and Siena.

Iona Gaels (5-11, 3-4 MAAC)

The Gaels were dealt a big blow this week when starting forward Steve Smith was declared academically ineligible. He had been fourth on the team in scoring with just over ten points a game and second in rebounding with five and half boards a game. Iona is left with just four frontcourt players. Freshman Anthony Bruin and Sophomore Kiril Wachsmann will be looked upon to fill the void; but if they can’t, we may see a lot of small four guard sets from the Gaels. In the new year, Iona has gone 2-4. They closed out their non-conference season with a loss at Davison 85-74 on the 3rd. They split double digits wins over Marist and Canisius around a 105-87 loss at Niagara but have since lost to Farfield and Siena to fall back under .500 in conference. DeShaun Williams and Steve Burtt lead the team in scoring but will have to step up their play in Smith’s absence. Greg Jenkins is probably the player most affected though as the team’s other starting frontcourt player. He’s third on the team in scoring and first in rebounds but will have to play more than the 27 minutes a game he’s been getting. His numbers will more than likely go up but watch his effectiveness, especially late in games, to see if opponents can take advantage of the inexperience or size-differential in the paint. St. Peter’s and Manhattan will be the first to test the new look Gaels this weekend with Canisius and Niagara getting the chance next week.

Loyola Greyhounds (0-16, 0-7 MAAC)

The Greyhounds weren’t expected to do much this year but no one thought they’d struggle this much. They almost broke the streak Sunday against Canisius when they took a one point lead when Shane James hit two free throws with 11.3 seconds to go. But DeWitt Doss came right back and got the game winning two and the foul with five seconds to play. Early in the calendar year, Loyola came close to knocking off Central Connecticut State and Navy but couldn’t overcome late deficits. Marist, Rider, Siena and Niagara all handed the Greyhounds double digit conference defeats in 2004 as well. With the losing streak at 29, Loyola is four games from tying the all-time record for consecutive losses. Those games would be at Manhattan, at Fairfield, at home against Marist and back on the road to St. Peter’s. The game versus Marist seems to be the best chance to end the streak but they have already lost to them 64-48 this season. If they do reach the 33 losses, they’d have an interesting game at home versus first place Manhattan for sole possession of the record. Lost in the hoopla surrounding the losing streak, sophomore Charlie Bell and freshman Shane James have settled in as the starting backcourt. Bell has more than doubled his scoring average from last year and leads the team with 13.9 points per game. James has started from day one and averages 10.2 points per game which is second on the team behind Bell.

Manhattan Jaspers (11-3, 6-0 MAAC)

The Jaspers haven’t lost since the final of the Dreyfus Holiday festival at Madison Square Garden. In that stretch they have beaten Niagara 90-81 on the road and St. Peter’s 87-60 at home. Those teams figure to be their biggest challengers to the league throne. They also defeated Rider back in December and hold wins over every team over .500 in MAAC play. Luis Flores continues his quest for MAAC player of the year and earned his third player of the week honor with a season-high 32 points in the game against St. Peter’s followed by a 27 point effort in a 89-69 win over Fairfield last Sunday. The Jaspers will stay busy over the next couple weeks with a rescheduled game with Fairfield in addition to the trip to Iona and home games versus Loyola, Niagara and Canisius. The Jaspers have set themselves up for a nice stretch run and will have one last chance to add to their at-large credentials in a Bracket Buster game on February 21st.

Marist Red Foxes (5-11, 3-4 MAAC)

The Red Foxes finished out their non-conference season with a nice win over Holy Cross the 3rd at Madison Square Garden. Despite scoring only four points the last six minutes of the game, Marist held on for the 59-55 win. Since then, they’ve beat Loyola and Fairfield for conference wins, but lost to Iona, Canisius and St. Peter’s. Jared Jordan has earned two separate MAAC rookie of the week honors in the new year to make it three on the season. He leads the team with just under four assists per game and leads the MAAC in assist-to-turnover ratio at 2.6. He took a large step to earning his fourth honor with a career-high eighteen points plus seven rebounds and five assists in the 70-64 loss to St. Peter’s on Monday. The Red Foxes will host the rematch with St. Peter’s this weekend before going back on the road for two against Loyola and Rider next weekend.

Niagara Purple Eagles (10-5, 4-2 MAAC)

The Purple Eagles ended 2003 on a bizarre note when their December 30th game versus Central Connecticut State was suspended when the power went out in the gym. Leading 40-33 when lights went out, Niagara finished the Blue Devils the next day, winning 79-74. The season has gone much like the stop-and-start nature of that game. Since opening the year with four straight wins, the Purple Eagles have yet to put a streak of more than two games together in either direction. The win over CCSU was followed by a 72-65 loss to St. John’s which was followed by a 75-72 win over American which was followed by a 90-81 loss to Manhattan. Niagara then put together two straight convincing wins over Iona and Loyola, only to drop their next game in overtime to Rider 93-90. Juan Mendez leads the team with 22.9 points per game and has gotten help from another potential all-conference performer in Tremmell Darden who has averaged 17.6 points and scored a team-high 32 points in the loss to Rider. Siena and Rider head west this week to face Niagara and next week it’s back on the road for rematches with Manhattan and Iona.

Rider Broncs (9-6, 3-2 MAAC)

Rider has struggled to develop continuity this season. They opened the season with nice wins over Brown and Quinnipiac, both teams expected to contend for their conference title. But those wins were followed by a loss to DII Hawaii-Hilo. The trend has continued in the new year. They started off with a 71-59 win over Loyola and then backed that up with an impressive 77-72 overtime win over Ivy League favorite Penn. Jerry Johnson had 27 points, including five in overtime in the come from behind win. But then the next game out, they fell at home to Siena 71-64. Last Sunday, the Broncs rebounded by beating Niagara in overtime 93-90. Again, Jerry Johnson was the man scoring 35 points. The Broncs are one of only four teams to be over .500 in the MAAC but have yet to win consecutive conference games this season. They hope to break that streak but the next three games are on the road, traveling to Canisius, Niagara and Siena before hosting Marist at the end of the month.

Saint Peter’s Peacocks (9-6, 5-1 MAAC)

The Peacock’s finished off their non-conference schedule by getting swept at the end of 2003 in the St. Mary’s tournament in California. But that didn’t prevent them from getting off to a running start in MAAC play. They opened 2004 with three straight wins over Canisius, Siena and Fairfield before finally succumbing to Manhattan. They bounced back Monday with a 70-64 win over Marist. Pacing the Peacocks this season has been Keydren Clark, the 5-9 sophomore dynamo. Last year he led the MAAC in scoring and this year he’s trying to one-up himself by leading the nation. Heading into the game versus Manhattan, he was at the top and had earned back-to-back MAAC player of the week honors on January 5th and January 12th. Though based on that game, he may have to wait another year for player of the year honors. In that game, this year’s favorite, Luis Flores, out-dueled him 32-22 and Clark has since fallen to second in the nation in scoring. He will have games against Iona, Marist, Fairfield, and Loyola in the next two weeks to try and regain the top spot.

Siena Saints (6-10, 3-4 MAAC)

The Saints have had a curious season to say the least. They opened the year with three straight wins but then lost the next ten straight, the last two of which came in 2004 to Manhattan and St. Peter’s. But since that stretch, Siena has run off three straight wins over Loyola, Rider and Iona. Michael Haddix leads the team with 14.5 points per game and 9.1 rebounds and led the team with 20 points in the 81-59 win over Loyola that sparked this win streak. Despite the mediocre record, the Saints lead the MAAC in attendance this season at 6938 fans per game. To put this in perspective, that average is nearly 900 more than the next three school’s averages combined. It’s also eight and a half times more people than St. Peter’s gets in a typical game to see the nation’s second leading scorer. Granted the Saints do play in Pepsi Arena which can hold over 15,000 fans but major props to the marketing department to get people to fill their abundance of seats.

     

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