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Touring the Northeast

February 4, 2004 Columns No Comments

Touring Around the Northeast

by Phil Kasiecki

Eagles’ Skid Continues Despite Valiant Efforts

Boston College took on two of the nation’s best teams this past week, with the same result in each one: despite a valiant effort, they fell at Pittsburgh (68-58) and at home against Connecticut (63-58).

The Eagles jumped out to an early lead against the Panthers in one of the toughest buildings to play in, but couldn’t sustain their play. The Panthers took the game over late in the half as they rallied to tie it with a 10-2 run, then scored the first 12 points of the second half. The Eagles rallied, but didn’t have enough at the end of the game as the Panthers pulled out another close game.

On Saturday, the Eagles again had plenty of energy at the outset, leading for most of the first half and consistently making plays at both ends of the floor. Louis Hinnant (10 points) scored 5 points in the early minutes and 8 in the first half as the Eagles held a 30-29 lead at the break.

In the second half, the Eagles slowed on offense as they weren’t making the mid-range shots they made in the first half. Meanwhile, Emeka Okafor (16 points) came alive at the offensive end for the Huskies, and Rashad Anderson (16 points on 5-7 shooting off the bench) continued his solid play picking up the slack for the injured Ben Gordon. Gordon, wearing a mask while playing with a broken nose, was just 2-12 from the field but had 8 assists and no turnovers.

In the final minutes, the Eagles were unable to make some plays to win the game. With the game tied, they threw the ball away one time that led to an easy layup, then a three-pointer by Anderson on the next possession gave the Huskies a 5-point lead. With 23 seconds left, Josh Boone put back a missed free throw to seal the game, as it put the Huskies up by four.

Al Skinner was pleased, by and large, with how the Eagles played, aside from not making a couple of key plays late in the game.

“We did what we needed to,” said Skinner. “I have no complaints about the way we played the basketball game. The thing that probably disappoints me the most is that we shot no free throws in the first half – I think our first free throw we shot was with eight minutes left in the game – you’re not going to win any ballgames that way.”

Skinner wasn’t the happiest with the referees, as he felt the Eagles probably should have gotten a few more calls and that it was part of their lack of free throws.

“I know that Connecticut is a good defensive team, but to say that they didn’t foul one time while we were shooting the basketball?” Skinner said. “I find that kind of hard to believe.

“I’m finding it very tough. Teams are allowed to be as aggressive as they can be against us, which is fine – we’re willing to handle that. But don’t be calling fouls on us then; when they push, we’re going to push back. If that’s the way the game’s going to be played, that’s the way we’ll play.”

Connecticut head coach Jim Calhoun praised the job Skinner did with the BC game plan, not allowing them to do what they normally do.

“Al devised a game plan to make sure we stayed on defense a long time and couldn’t run our fast break, and it almost worked to perfection,” Calhoun said. “It was really a terrific job – it got us standing around, it got us not really flowing on offense, and really was a masterful coaching job.”

During the losing streak, the shooting slump of freshman Sean Marshall has accelerated. In the last four games, Marshall has shot 8-39 from the field. The Eagles need his offense from the perimeter, as Hinnant won’t often score like he did in the first half (3-4 from the field for 8 points) and Jermaine Watson isn’t the shooter he is.

Skinner isn’t very concerned about how his young players take to three straight close losses, aware that his young guys previously pulled out the close ones.

“They’re going to bounce back and continue to fight,” said Skinner.

The Eagles host Notre Dame on Wednesday in a matchup of teams needing a win, then they travel to New York to play St. John’s on Sunday.

Friars Can’t Score, Lose Against Hall

Providence finally got a good break between games, as they went five days without a game after playing five games in ten days. They won all five games as part of a six-game winning streak, and perhaps they needed the short turnaround time to continue. On Sunday, they welcomed Seton Hall, and were gracious hosts at the offensive end in a 55-46 loss to the Pirates.

The Friars seemed sluggish throughout the game, and it affected their play at both ends of the floor. Defensively, the Pirates got the ball inside when they wanted to, scoring 36 points in the paint and shooting over 54% in the second half. At the offensive end, Ryan Gomes was the only Friar able to score, as the Friars shot a woeful 31% from the field and committed 17 turnovers. Take away Gomes’ 11-22 shooting (tied a season high with 28 points, 13 rebounds) and the Friars shot below 20% from the floor.

“We never got into a good offensive rhythm,” said head coach Tim Welsh. “They were getting the ball to the rim pretty much when they wanted to. Our defense really didn’t create anything for us.”

Both teams set season lows in points in the game; the Friars’ 46 points was their first game scoring under 50 points in over two years.

The Friars lost because Gomes’ supporting cast was lacking. Starting guards Donnie McGrath, Sheiku Kabba and Dwight Brewington each shot 1-7 from the floor; after Gomes, the next top scorer was Rob Sanders, who scored 5 points off the bench in his first game back after suffering two broken fingers against Virginia on January 3.

“When you have one guy get 28 points, and the next guy gets 5, that’s not the balance we’re looking for,” Welsh said. “That’s not how we’re made. Sure, Ryan gets his points, but we’ve got to have other guys helping him, both on the backboards and in scoring production, and today we didn’t. We didn’t have it. Nine assists, 17 turnovers, that’s just not the way we play.”

Sanders had his moments, but clearly has to get back into the flow of things with his practice having been limited.

“He was rushing a little bit, with his turnovers, but he gave us life, he gave us energy,” Welsh said. “He’s still not comfortable out there offensively, he doesn’t have his wind yet to play major minutes, or his timing. But he gives us some life out there.”

Notable is that Sanders went 1-4 on three-pointers, with only two being the wide-open shots he normally took when he was hot from long range prior to his injury.

The Pirates’ key producer was Andre Sweet, who led the team with 18 points on 7-9 shooting, including two key three-pointers.

The Friars enter a difficult stretch this week, playing at Virginia Tech before coming home to play defending national champion Syracuse on Saturday. The Hokies aren’t a very good team, but they are almost always tough at home.

Rams’ Slump Hits Low Point Against Minutemen

Rhode Island has hit the skids since starting Atlantic Ten play, and it hit a low point on Saturday when they lost another home game, 67-63 to struggling Massachusetts. The Rams started the season 12-3, but now have won just one of their last six, with four losses coming against teams with losing records.

The Rams had a halftime lead, but four missed free throws in the final minute helped seal their fate. They also allowed the Minutemen to shoot over 47% from the field, and all five starters scored in double figures.

The game follows the trend of the entire month of January, where the Rams allowed nearly 72 points per game in their six losses. In their three wins, no opposing team topped 60 points, and the Rams lost their touch in close games, dropping all three that were decided by 5 points or less in the month. With four of their next five games on the road, the Rams have to get back on track quickly.

The Minutemen, meanwhile, have now won four straight after winning at Rider on Tuesday night and appear to be hitting their stride. Rashaun Freeman continues to be solid inside for them, while fellow newcomer Art Bowers has come alive and led the Minutemen on Saturday with 18 points. Bowers named Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Week this past week, marking the seventh time in 11 weeks that a Minuteman has picked up the honor.

The Minutemen have certainly hit their stride at the offensive end, where they have shot 52.4% from the field in the last four wins. It coincides with Bowers coming alive, and the Minutemen looking to finally turn the corner on the offensive end.

Huskies Get Back on Track, Win Two

After a bad week with two home losses, Northeastern rebounded with two wins this week, at Maine (82-79) on Wednesday and at home against New Hampshire (76-69) on Saturday.

Jose Juan Barea has really come alive for the Huskies, and he led their offensive attack in both games with a season-high 33 points against Maine, then 21 and handed out 9 assists against New Hampshire. Barea, who is averaging nearly 24 points per game in America East play and is second in the conference in scoring, scored the winning basket on Wednesday night as the Huskies blew an 11-point lead in the final seven minutes, but held on to win the game.

Against New Hampshire, the Huskies led for all but one minute of play, but got all they could handle from the Wildcats. They were erratic, but had answers for every mini-charge the Wildcats made after they jumped out to an early 18-5 lead. Later in the game, they broke the Wildcats’ press several times, but more importantly were very opportunistic when they created turnovers. The Wildcats turned the ball over 17 times, and the Huskies scored 25 points off those turnovers to win despite shooting below 35% from the field.

Head coach Ron Everhart was happy to gut out another one against the tough Wildcats.

“There’s not a better 1-9 team in the country than (New Hampshire)”, said Everhart, referring to their record in America East play. “Their kids played hard and they got after us.”

The Wildcats, who are now 2-7 in games decided by 10 points or less, got 21 points from Marcus Bullock, the conference’s top three-point shooter. Craig Walls, saddled with foul trouble in the first half, had just three points and three rebounds, not getting the ball much on offense. Damione Liddell continued his solid play of late, posting his first career double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds off the bench, both career highs.

Marcus Barnes continued his recent shooting slump, though foul trouble dogged him on Saturday, but he did make a big three-pointer from the corner in the final minute. Everhart is happy with his defense, and Barea has picked up the scoring slack with help from Javorie Wilson (19 points, 11 rebounds Saturday). Bennet Davis continues to improve while in the starting lineup, though Saturday was the second straight home game where he had a good first half and was quiet in the second half.

The Huskies play at Stony Brook on Thursday, then come home for a big game against Vermont on Sunday.

Terriers Stay Hot, Win Two More

Boston University continued its winning ways last week, winning at Stony Brook (66-56) and at home against Albany (67-55). The Terriers are now 15-4 and have won 15 of 16 after starting the season with three straight losses.

Both games were won at the defensive end. Against Stony Brook, the Terriers held the Seawolves below 39% from the field and forced 22 turnovers, then they duplicated the turnover number against Albany. They lost the battle on the glass in both games, something they haven’t done often this season.

Sunday’ game didn’t start out as they wanted, as the Terriers were sluggish and trailed by five on three occasions. They finally grabbed the lead late in the first half and never looked back, shooting almost 58% in the second half.

The Terriers head to New Hampshire on Wednesday, then welcome Hartford on Saturday.

Brown Splits Weekend, Harvard Goes Down To Rising Teams

While Brown remained right in the thick of the Ivy League race in the early going by splitting its weekend games against traditional powers Princeton (64-49 loss) and Pennsylvania (92-88 overtime win), Harvard lost its two games to rising Cornell (91-79) and Columbia (78-67) in games that bore quite a resemblance to each other.

Brown didn’t play their best basketball on Friday night against Princeton, struggling on offense and unable to play 35 seconds of defense on several occasions as the Tigers hit shots as the shot clock ran down. While star forward Judson Wallace struggled mightily (2 points in just 10 minutes) with foul trouble, Will Venable helped pick up the slack. Venable went 8-9 from the field for 18 points, getting in the lane when he wanted to. Although the Tigers had 17 turnovers, they shot nearly 54% from the field.

Jason Forte led the Bears with 18 points, but the big key was Princeton shutting down hot shooters Patrick Powers (1 points on 0-3 shooting) and Mike Martin (2 points on 0-6 shooting). With their shooters neutralized, the Bears had a hard time getting untracked offensively.

“An atrocious performance by us,” said Glen Miller after the game. “I was very disappointed, we’ve been playing much better basketball than that. It’s disappointing because we have a 2-0 start and have (Princeton) at our place early in the season.”

The Bears bounced back Saturday night, sending Pennsylvania home with an 0-2 Ivy League start behind a career-high 26 points from Jamie Kilburn. The win was even better considering they trailed 75-71 with 4 seconds left. Kilburn rebounded a miss and made a layup, getting fouled on the play. He missed the free throw intentionally and Martin rebounded the miss, putting up a fade-away as time expired that was good and sent the game into overtime tied at 75.

Harvard led in the first half of both of its games this weekend, only to lose the game in the second half. They got a big game from Matt Stehle on Friday, as he scored 20 points and hauled down 16 rebounds in the losing effort, but he couldn’t duplicate those on Saturday. Against Columbia, he had 11 points, 8 rebounds and 4 blocks, but fouled out with 5:43 left to play.

Columbia took over the game in the second half with their press, as the Crimson struggled with it and had trouble scoring even when they broke it. The press also created some offense, as the Lions had 25 points off turnovers.

The Lions swept the Ivy League weekend, which new head coach Joe Jones was certainly happy with. But he isn’t ready to stop just yet.

“They have to stay hungry,” said Jones. “This is good, but we’re looking for more. We’re just going to keep trying to get better.”

While Harvard heads on the always difficult trip to Pennsylvania and Princeton this weekend, Columbia plays at Yale and Brown. On Friday night, Jones and big brother James clash in New Haven when the Lions take on Yale, the first time the brothers will meet.

Other Notes From Around the Nation

Rutgers’ win over Notre Dame on Saturday is consistent with each team’s season. The Scarlet Knights, who are shooting the lights out from long range, have an RPI near the top 30 and could make a case for an NCAA at-large bid if they can finish respectably in the conference. Meanwhile, the Fighting Irish were ranked in most preseason polls, but have an RPI in the 70s and desperately need to pick up some wins if they want to make the NCAA Tournament.

Stanford has lost starting forward Justin Davis for at least three weeks. He leads the Cardinal in rebounding and is their third-leading scorer, but don’t expect them to miss a beat. They’ve won without Josh Childress, and on Saturday, sophomore Matt Haryasz took his place quite capably in the starting lineup with 19 points and 7 rebounds.

• Is the Ivy League turning upside down? After the first weekend of Friday-Saturday night games, Cornell leads the way with a 4-0 mark, with Princeton at 2-0, Brown right there at 3-1 and Columbia at 2-2. Meanwhile, two-time defending champion Pennsylvania is the only winless team in league play at 0-2 and had its 23-game Ivy League winning streak snapped Friday night at Yale. Of course, this is deceiving: it’s early, and improving Cornell and Columbia haven’t yet tangled with the traditional powers. A promising note is that they are a combined 5-1 on the road thus far, which will help their confidence entering a road stretch this weekend at Brown and Yale.


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