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Metro Atlantic Notebook

February 4, 2004 Conference Notes No Comments



Metro Atlantic Conference Notebook

by Jesse Ullmann

Hallelujah!

On the verge of setting a new school record for most losses in school history, Loyola (1-10, 1-19) snapped a 31-game losing spell last Thursday night defeating Marist (3-7, 5-14) 63-57. The Greyhounds have gone 375 days without a victory but the fans had the inkling something “special” was happening at Reitz Arena in Maryland.

Throughout the game 2,311 student-dominated fans poured in to watch the spectacle, developing one of the largest turnouts the ‘Hounds have seen in years. The win ensued with jubilant students rushing the court. “We knew the streak was on our heads, and we had a chance here,” said Charlie Bell, who led all scorers with 25 points for Loyola. “We go into every game expecting to get a win.”

The Loyola-Marist game saw national attention as the ‘Hounds drew closer to breaking the 33 straight losses set by Grambling State, and 32 by Cal. State-Sacramento. The big record-breaking day would have come Saturday in Jersey City, at the Greyhounds versus St. Peter’s game.

Unconstitutional

Fairfield sophomore guard Terrence Todd, the team’s leading scorer with 14.9 ppg, has been dismissed for conduct detrimental to the team. As usual, the information released by the university is being kept to a minimum saying his actions violated university policy. Head Coach Tim O’Toole, who himself is facing an investigation by authorities for allegedly giving money to his players, said, “this team has a lot of heart and will succeed with or without Todd.”

The loss of the Neptune, New Jersey product comes less than two weeks after junior shot-blocker Deng Gai suffered a severe ankle injury against Manhattan. Deng (13.3 ppg, 8.6 rpg) is expected be sidelined 3-4 weeks.

Bracket Buster Saturday

One year after an NCAA first-round loss to eventual national champion Syracuse, the Manhattan Jaspers find themselves, again, in the mix of things. Later today, ESPN will announce the 46 teams participating in its second annual event, Bracket Buster Saturday, Manhattan to be included as a road team. The 23 non-conference match-ups will represent 11 conferences including the Metro Atlantic. “Manhattan is the best team in our conference and we made the decision last summer,” Assistant Commissioner Joe Del Balso explained why the Jaspers will represent the MAAC in the Bracket Buster. “It would be phenomenal if we could get this game on television.”

February 21st, College hoop fans will salivate at the mouth with 46 teams vying for the national spotlight for a potential bid into the NCAA’s. UNC-Wilmington (Colonial), Gonzaga (West Coast), and Creighton (Missouri Valley) are amongst the other mid-majors participating in the BBS.

1. Manhattan Jaspers 10-1, 15-4

With ten wins in the last eleven games and the best player in the conference in senior guard Luis Flores, the Jaspers find themselves atop the MAAC this week. Niagara came to the Bronx Friday night in a dogfight and led Manhattan the first 38 minutes of play. Pre-season conference player of the year nominee Flores (NY, NY) hit up the Purple Eagles for 32 points, including the three-point dagger sealing a 65-62 victory in the end.

Flores’ success continued yesterday at Draddy Gymnasium leading all scorers with 29 points and shooting 10-of-22 from the floor in a 72-56 win over Canisius.

Next in Action: Wednesday at Loyola at 7:30 p.m.

2. Saint Peter’s Peacocks 12-7

One name. Keydren Clark. That’s all you need to know about. The sophomore guard’s nine three-point field goals in Saturday’s 76-61 win over Loyola tied the MAAC record and almost broke his own school record of ten treys set in November, 2002. Clark (Rice, NY) leads the country in scoring with 27.1 ppg and is shooting an impressive 44 percent from the floor.

He was unstoppable Thursday night at Harbor Yard as Ty Goode was a non-factor defensively against Clark, finishing with a game-high 23 points in an 84-72 loss to Fairfield. Freshman guard Shane Nichols (Notre Dame Prep) is also showing promise. Nichols received league rookie of the week honors with 14 points against the Stags and 12 against Loyola. The Peacocks half-court offense is fierce and Clark plus Nichols, if hot, equal trouble.

Next in Action: Tuesday v. Siena at 7 p.m., Friday at Rider at 8 p.m. (MSG).

3. Niagara Purple Eagles 7-3, 13-6

Junior forward Juan Mendez (Montreal) came up with a crucial block with 33 seconds left in regulation yesterday, which turned out to be the decisive play of the game as Niagara snuck out of the Mulcahy Center with a 97-91 win over Iona. This was Niagara’s first win at Iona in 15 attempts.

The win followed an emotional 65-62 loss at top-ranked Manhattan Friday night. Niagara could very easily be 16-2 at this juncture as all their losses have been by nine points or less. Coulda, woulda, shoulda, said head coach Joe Mihalich: “I think about it every night, in my sleep. I’ve calculated it out that we’ve actually lost three games within 3.5 seconds and then the five games by less than three points are killer.”

Niagara has now jelled with four players averaging double figures in points, Mendez leading the way. With arguably the biggest vertical in the conference, senior guard Tremmell Darden (Las Vegas) elevated his level of play recently with 24 points versus Iona and 12 against the Jaspers.

Next in Action: Thursday v. Marist at 7 p.m., Saturday v. Fairfield at 3 p.m.

4. Rider Broncos 6-3, 12-7

With six wins in the last eight games, the Broncos are riding a good start to the New Year. The Broncos defeated Marist Saturday 63-59 on Hall of Fame Day at Alumni Gymnasium in Lawrence, New Jersey. Basketball stars George Abel (1930’s) and Dick Kuchen (1960’s) were both inducted into the Rider Athletics Hall of Fame.

Abel and Kuchen watched their Alma mater fight back from a six-point halftime deficit, charged by junior guard Jerry Johnson’s (Lancaster, PA) 16 points. The come-from-behind win followed another stellar performance from Johnson earlier in the week. On Thursday night, Johnson led Rider with 24 points (eight from the line and 12 from downtown) in a 78-71 win over Siena, a game which saw Rider trailing with less than two minutes left in regulation.

It will be a horse race to the finish line in this conference and Rider may find themselves right smack in the middle of things. Oddly enough, they shift their attention elsewhere when they face Attlantic-10 foe UMass this week.

Next in Action: Tuesday v. Massachusetts at 7:30 p.m., Friday v. St. Peter’s at 8 p.m.

5. Fairfield Stags 5-4, 12-8

There’s no I in team and great distribution has led to success for the Stags. Fairfield is rolling with three straight wins over 2nd place St. Peter’s, Loyola and Siena. Though Terrence Todd’s absence is certainly affecting the Stags backcourt, junior Ty Goode is stepping up to the challenge. The 5-5 point guard from Brooklyn’s Grady high school dropped in 14 points in a 84-72 win over St. Peter’s and was one of five players in double figures. Sophomore Michael Bell (Marshalltown, Iowa) had 13 points on four-of-five shooting from three-land.

Junior guard Kudjo Sogadzi (Paris, France) poured in a career-high 25 points against Siena leading Fairfield past the Saints 91-80. Rob Thompson (the only player left on the team to start all 20 games) and Sophomore DeWitt Maxwell are the only two players currently averaging double figures. These two must play big down the stretch in order for this team to win.

Fairfield struggles on the road and the test will begin this week with three road games in five days.

Next in Action: Thursday at Canisius at 7 p.m., Saturday at Niagara at 3 p.m., Sunday at Rider at 7:30 p.m.

6. Iona Gaels 5-6, 7-13

The Gaels are in trouble. After a rough 97-91 loss Sunday afternoon to a fierce Niagara team, Iona will basically have to run the table to get that fourth seed into the MAAC tournament. Keeping the Gaels alive was a big victory over Manhattan last Sunday followed by a 70-66 win against Canisius, a game that saw four players score in double figures.

Iona has seen an upside as of late from Syracuse transfer DeShaun Williams, whose attitude problems (and knees) have kept him from developing into a solid shooting guard. Williams had a game-high 27 points yesterday in the loss to Niagara and he is averaging 20 ppg in conference play and his legs seem to be getting back to true form.

After the Iona game, a very disgruntled head coach Jeff Ruland ridiculed the fans for taunting both he and his players saying, “If you want to come say these things to my face, I work weekdays in the second floor offices in the Mulcahy building.” Any takers?

Next in Action: Saturday v. Siena at 2 p.m.

7. Siena Saints 4-7, 7-13

During a big week for the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, Siena drew national attention with an ESPN2 season debut at Harbor Yard on Saturday. The Saints hung tough in front of 2,800-plus but was unable to get over the hump, losing to the Stags, 91-80.

Freshman guard Mike Beers (Blair Academy) scored five of his 17 points to start the game with Fairfield taking a 5-0 lead in the early going. Senior forward Austin Andrews (New Britain) added 16 points while junior guard Tommy Mitchell (Tyler, Texas) scored 12. Senior forward Justin Miller (Lakewood, NY) poured in 20 points in a losing cause Thursday evening against Rider.

Next in Action: Tuesday at St. Peter’s at 7 p.m., Saturday at Iona at 2 p.m.

8. Marist Red Foxes 3-7, 5-14

Marist suffered what will probably be the most demoralizing loss of the year to Loyola 63-57 in Baltimore Thursday evening. The Foxes now find themselves riding a five-game losing streak and their schedule will not allow them to let up, this week visiting a hot Niagara.

In the match-up versus Loyola, junior center Will McLurkin (Medford, NY) paced Marist with 15 points and nine rebounds. Junior guard Pierre Monagan (Chicago) came off the bench knocking down four three-pointers for 12 points on the night.

The team’s leading scorer, junior guard Brandon Ellerbee, dropped in 15 points Saturday afternoon but his team fell just short, losing at Rider 63-59. This was a one-point game with three minutes to play but a three-point basket by Broncs freshman guard Terrance Mouton (Lafayette, LA) closed the door on Marist.

Next in Action: Thursday at Niagara at 7 p.m., Saturday at Canisius at 2 p.m.

9. Canisius Golden Griffins 2-8, 7-14

Canisius, at this point in the season, is just looking to stay ahead of Loyola at the bottom of the league. Currently riding a four-game skid, the Griffs were crushed by Manhattan and lost by four points each to Siena and Iona.

Senior forward Toby Foster (Candor, NY) led his team in scoring with 11 points in a 70-66 loss to Iona while junior guard Dewitt Doss added 10.

Some of head coach Mike MacDonald’s walk-ons are actually getting near or equal minutes as the starters, which may be a sign of the white flag being held up for the season. The Griffs will catch a bit of a break with a pair of upcoming home games on slate.

Next in Action: Thursday v. Fairfield at 7 p.m., Saturday v. Marist at 2 p.m.

10. Loyola Greyhounds 1-10, 1-19

An epic week for men’s basketball as Loyola ended a school record 31-game losing streak with a 63-57 win over Marist on Thursday. Sophomore guard Charlie Bell (Washington, D.C.) led all scorers with 25 points in 37 minutes of action. Bell, whose cousin Chris McCray plays for Maryland, was at the game. Marist’s last win came in overtime January 19, 2003 versus Rider.

With the hopes of setting a new trend in Maryland, Loyola held their confidence going into Saturday’s game with St. Peter’s. At the half, The Greyhounds trailed by two but Keydren Clark and the Peacocks proved too much, winning handily 76-61. Loyola led the No. two team in the conference St. Peter’s for 20 minutes and showed signs of respect.

Unfortunately for Loyola, their next game is at home against Manhattan and then a four-game road trip with stops at Rider and Niagara.

Next in Action: Wednesday v. Manhattan at 7:30 p.m.

     

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