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Touring the Northeast

January 23, 2004 Columns No Comments

Touring Around the Northeast

by Phil Kasiecki

Eagles Split, Learn Lesson From Midweek Loss

Last Wednesday, Boston College struggled at the defensive end for much of the second half as Villanova broke open a close game before hanging on for a 92-89 win. The Eagles allowed the Wildcats to shoot 14-20 on three-pointers, including 9-10 in the second half and most on open looks.

It’s not surprising, then, that head coach Al Skinner was much happier on Saturday after the Eagles’ 72-63 win over Seton Hall, sending the Pirates to their second straight loss after eight straight wins.

“You have to trust your teammates defensively,” Skinner said of his team’s lapses Wednesday compared to Saturday’s effort. “In the second half, they started to trust each other defensively.”

The Pirates ended the first half by scoring the final seven points for a 33-26 lead, then extended the lead to 37-26 with the first four points of the second half. The Eagles then came alive with a 19-5 run to take a 45-42 lead. They never trailed after that, though the Pirates tied it at 47 with under nine minutes left to play.

Craig Smith led the Eagles with 26 points and 9 rebounds to continue his solid play, and he had plenty of help. There was much concern about the absence of starting point guard Louis Hinnant, who suffered an ankle injury against Villanova and has been playing with a left wrist injury, but freshman Steve Hailey and sophomore walk-on Tavio Hobson both more than held their own against one of the nation’s point guards, Andre Barrett. Barrett had 19 points to lead Seton Hall, but 15 came in the first half on 6-8 shooting; in the second half, Hailey and Hobson put the clamps on him as he shot just 2-10.

“I took up the challenge of going against the best players by coming to the Big East,” Hailey said after not scoring, but handing out 6 assists and then handing one out to Hobson after the game. “I have to give much credit to Tavio. I started the game off, he finished it off big.”

Skinner had much to say about his other two freshmen, who combined to score 20 points in the second half. Jared Dudley had 18 points and 4 assists, while Sean Marshall had all ten of his points in the second half.

“If you never looked at the media guide and saw ‘freshman’, you would never know it,” Skinner said of Dudley. Dudley, the Eagles’ second-leading scorer, finished his best week as a collegian thus far, as he had a career-high 19 points in the loss to Villanova.

Marshall has been a key to the Eagles’ offense with his shooting, and they didn’t get it in the first half. But his efforts in the second half were just what the Eagles needed, as he started their big run with a three-pointer and he hit another during that stretch.

“Shows a lot of maturity on his part,” Skinner said of Marshall’s second half play. “When he’s suffered in the first half, he’s gone in the tank later in the game. Even though he made mistakes, he stayed in there today.”

The Eagles host North Carolina State on Tuesday night in a matchup that will happen more in the coming years as Boston College moves to the ACC. Skinner said he expects Hinnant, who was up off the bench cheering more than anyone else during Saturday’s game, to be ready to play.

Friars Bounce Back With Two Wins, Begin Key Stretch

After losing two games, including the heart-breaker to Texas, the previous week, Providence bounced back last week with two wins. They started off the week by holding off a hot Seton Hall team for a 63-60 road win, snapping the Pirates’ 8-game winning streak. The Friars had to survive four three-point attempts in the final 17 seconds, all missing, for the win.

Saturday night, Providence had no trouble with West Virginia, scoring nine straight points to take an early lead and never trailing in an 87-66 blowout of the Mountaineers. The Friars never let the Mountaineers get going on the offensive end, and consistently scored at the other end off turnovers (27 points off 14 West Virginia turnovers) and when they got open looks, making 13 of 19 three-pointers en route to shooting nearly 57% from the field.

Ryan Gomes (24 points, 12 rebounds, 5 assists) led the charge, but the night belonged to Sheiku Kabba, who nearly equaled his career-high with 24 points (missed by one) on 9-11 shooting. He was 5-6 from behind the arc and handed out 6 assists. The Friars had 27 assists on 33 field goals, which head coach Tim Welsh was quick to mention after the game.

“First thing I look at tonight, as I look at the stats, that impresses me, is that out of 33 baskets, we had 27 assists,” Welsh said. “That’s just incredible, it’s a big-time number right there. We shot the ball well, but we made the extra pass.

“You’re really starting to see this team come together a little bit more offensively, get into a great rhythm.”

The Friars began a stretch where they play five games in a nine-day stretch. They host Loyola-Chicago on Monday night in a non-league game they had to re-schedule due to playing Illinois in the Jimmy V Classic, then host Villanova on Wednesday before traveling to Connecticut on Saturday and finishing the stretch next Monday at home against Georgetown.

Freshman guard Dwight Brewington made his first career start and played well, though he didn’t put up big numbers. Later in the game, he was the primary ball-handler on the floor and did well, and all in all Welsh was happy.

“He’s been playing well, and I like Tuukka (Kotti) off the bench,” Welsh said of the decision. “Dwight gives us another ball-handler out there, and he’s a gamer.”

Earlier in the week, West Virginia dismissed leading scorer Drew Schifino from the team for repeated violations of team rules. The absence of the guard was certainly apparent Saturday night.

Terriers Stay Hot, Then Run Into Defending Champs

Boston University continued its hot streak, winning their 11th straight game on Wednesday at UMBC by a score of 59-55. Then on Saturday, defending America East champion Vermont came to town with the nation’s third-leading scorer to challenge the Terriers. Vermont won the America East Tournament at BU last year, so the Catamounts knew how to win at the Terriers’ home, and they pulled it off again on Saturday with a 59-57 decision.

Taylor Coppenrath remained hot as he led the Catamounts with 28 points, including key scores late in the game, and he also blocked a three-point attempt by Terrier guard Chaz Carr as time expired that could have won the game.

Carr led the Terriers with 18 points, continuing to show the form of his freshman year. He scored eight of those points in the first ten minutes as the Terriers ran out to a 23-10 lead before allowing the Catamounts to go into the locker room down just three, 32-29.

In light of the sloppiness of Wednesday night’s win, Saturday’s low-scoring affair isn’t surprising. The Terriers welcome Maine on Wednesday night before playing at cross-town rival Northeastern on Saturday.

Huskies Continue to Win, Without Star Guard

Northeastern won both of its games last week, at home against Hartford (76-59) and at UMBC () on Saturday. The Huskies are now 11-6 overall and 5-1 in America East play, and have won six of their last seven as they prepare for a home stretch this week.

The Huskies played both games without junior guard Marcus Barnes, the conference’s second-leading scorer, as he was suspended for an incident during their loss against Vermont. In his absence, Jose Juan Barea stepped up, earning conference Player of the Week honors with 52 points in the two games, but he had good help from senior Javorie Wilson. Wilson had 34 points in the two games, including 20 against UMBC, and hauled down 13 rebounds. He continues to be the team’s unsung hero, playing solidly behind the star-studded backcourt the Huskies have.

Sylbrin Robinson is coming alive in the frontcourt, aided by freshman Bennet Davis, who has started the last three games. Robinson had 25 points and 19 rebounds in the two games, getting 11 rebounds and blocking 3 shots against a Hartford team that is depleted up front. They also continue to get good minutes off the bench from freshman D’wan Youmans, which they needed this past week in Barnes’ absence as Bobby Kelly made his first two career starts.

The Huskies welcome Binghamton on Wednesday, then host cross-town rival Boston University on Saturday in the second game of a double-header (the women from both schools play in the first game).

Other Notes From Around the Nation

• It’s still early, but one team that seems to have been exposed thus far in conference play is Nebraska. After a 10-1 showing before Big 12 games, which included a home win over Tennessee (another team that has been exposed early in conference play), the Cornhuskers have lost their first three Big 12 games.

• Things could get interesting in the SEC now with the upsets over the weekend. Georgia’s upset at Kentucky could be the spark the Bulldogs need, while Vanderbilt proved it can hang with the better teams, though they beat Florida at home. South Carolina now leads the SEC East at 3-1 after blowing out Tennessee, which continues to look like a team that played a cupcake non-conference schedule as they are now 2-2 and lost the two games by a combined 58 points. Alabama’s big win over Auburn puts the Tigers at 1-3, and the Crimson Tide is tied with LSU right behind Mississippi State in the SEC West.

• Four undefeated teams remain, but one team that isn’t and continues to win is Central Florida. The Knights have won 11 straight games for one of the nation’s longest winning streaks, and stand 13-2 overall (8-0 to lead the Atlantic Sun). What is perhaps most notable of all is that six of the wins are on the road. The biggest one is at Niagara, but the Knights have proven they can win on the road and that will be a key when they’re in postseason play if they want to pull off an upset.


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