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Metro Atlantic Notebook

February 10, 2004 Conference Notes No Comments



Metro Atlantic Conference Notebook

by Jesse Ullmann

Technical Error

MAAC officials had a rough start to the “month of love”. They issued technical fouls to head coaches Joe Mihalich, Bobby Gonzalez, Jeff Ruland, Tim O’Toole, Mike MacDonald and Scott Hicks this past week during games.

Bracketology

If you build it they will come. The MAAC’s flagship, the Manhattan Jaspers, will receive a nationally televised game during ESPN’s Bracket Buster Saturday. On February 21st, the Jaspers will travel to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee to take on the Panthers at the U.S. Cellular Arena at 2 p.m. on ESPN2, announced this past week. The Panthers stand atop the Horizon League at 10-1 and are 15-6 overall with impressive wins over Valparaiso, Detroit, and Butler. After losing to No. 14 Wisconsin and N.C. State in non-conference games, the Panthers have won nine of their last 10 meetings.

Senior forward Dylan Page is the big offensive threat on Wisconsin-Milwaukee, averaging 21.1 points per game. Junior guard Ed McCants is not far behind with 17.5 ppg. Page and McCants, along with the rest of the team, played a thriller last season in the Bracket Buster, traveling to Southern Illinois and losing on a tip-in at the buzzer in Carbondale, Ill.

Player of the Week

It’s Simple. “To play in the National Basketball Association, you must have a quality about you and your game that separates itself from others,” a Memphis Grizzlies scout explained sitting alongside a representative from the Denver Nuggets on press row during halftime of the St. Peter’s-Siena game Monday night. “You must be different. You must be Unique.”

Sophomore guard Keydren Clark (Rice, NY) led all scorers Monday night in Jersey City, New Jersey with 25 points and then went off Friday night for 28 points in an overtime win against in-state rival Rider, 77-69, the game carried by the MSG Television Network. Clark played all 45 minutes.

The nation’s second-leading scorer with 27.0 points per game, as a sophomore, has already surpassed 1,000 career points (Jan. 3) and has been awarded MAAC Player Of The Week four times. The 5-5 Clark is carrying his team closer and closer to the top-spot in the conference standings, currently in second place behind Manhattan. St. Peter’s has a record of 10-3 in MAAC play this year. The program has not seen a winning season since ’96-’97.

On the fan, sports radio sixty-six

On Friday evening, WFAN and Steve Somers welcomed Iona Head Coach Jeff Ruland to the evening show. Ruland, when asked about the problems at St. John’s, said, “They obviously have to find a coach who cares about changing this once successful program around. It will take at least 3-4 years to get that program back as one of the nation’s top contenders.” Ruland was also asked about taking the job. “I have a contract with Iona for another five years, so I’m committed”.

1. Manhattan Jaspers 12-1, 17-4

Manhattan put a virtual lock on the top spot in the MAAC with a big win Sunday afternoon over the second place Peacocks, winning at St. Peter’s, 77-73. The Jasper’s 12-1 record matches that of the best in the programs history plus the win yesterday, next to Fran Fraschilla, puts Head Coach Bobby Gonzalez fourth on the all-time wins list at Manhattan.

Earlier in the week, Manhattan went into Baltimore and rolled over last-place Loyola 91-54, eclipsing their 33-point margin of victory on January 28th over the Greyhounds. The Jaspers shot 53 percent from behind the arc and, in dominating fashion, Flores poured in 32 points, a season high for the three-time MAAC Player Of The Week. Loyola (1-11, 1-20) looked out of sync, shooting 34 percent from the field and a miserable 53 percent (14 of 26) from the charity stripe.

Next in Action: Friday v. Iona at 8 p.m. (MSG), Sunday v. Siena at 4 p.m. (MSG)

2. Saint Peter’s Peacocks 10-3, 14-8

It would be false to say a win over Manhattan Sunday would have been huge. Unfortunately for St. Peter’s, a 77-73 defeat at the hands of the Jaspers was the outcome and now the Peacocks can look not too far back in the standings to find Niagara, Rider and Fairfield all knocking on their door.

A marquee match-up in conference play, the Yanitelli Center in Jersey City featured the two best point guards in the MAAC, New York products’ senior Luis Flores and sophomore Keydren Clark. Flores, plagued with foul trouble, went for 24 points on 6 of 18 shooting from the floor, 10 of those points were free throws. The Rice high school product Clark was one of four players for the Peacocks scoring in double digits, finishing with 22 points on 7 of 17 shooting. Both players battled back and forth, Clark scoring and then Flores, on the other end, scooping it up and in with the foul. Flores was called for a travel and Clark, in transition, drove to the basket for the left-handed lay-up to tie the game. In the end though, it was the senior getting the victory. Clark will have plenty of opportunities to come in his young career.

Besides the loss to Manhattan, the Peacocks had a very productive week with wins over fourth place Rider and Siena. Junior forward Ron Yates played large, grabbing 17 rebounds and dropping in 21 points as St. Peter’s knocked off Siena in overtime by a score of 77-69. Clark led all scorers with 28 points.

On Tuesday, Siena came to town and gave good effort but again it was the Yates, Clark tandem overpowering their opponents. Clark once again led all scorers with 25 points and Yates added 23 as the Peacocks won 68-59.

Next in Action: Saturday v. Niagara at 3 p.m.

3. Niagara Purple Eagles 8-4, 14-7

Head Coach Joe Mihalich and his Purple Eagles took a blow from Fairfield Saturday losing at home 69-59, in a game that saw Niagara leading 33-30 at the half. Niagara, led by 17 points from the talented junior Juan Mendez, watched the Stags light things up from the perimeter shooting an impressive 65.2 percent from the floor in the second half. The versatile senior Tremmel Darden chipped in with 11 points. The loss puts Niagara in a three-way race for third place in the MAAC with Fairfield and Rider.

Thursday was a different story for Niagara, defeating Marist 87-51 with a well-balanced arsenal on the offense. Darden dropped in a game-high 21 points and was one of a handful of players in double figures for the Purple Eagles, including a career-high 13 points from freshman Lorenzo Miles. Marist, at no point in the game, made this one competitive, and watched Niagara knock in a season best 12 three-pointers on 50 percent shooting from behind the arc.

Next in Action: Saturday at St. Peter’s at 3 p.m.

4. Rider Broncos 7-4, 13-9

The Broncos had a rough week with an out-of-conference game against UMass and an overtime loss at home to St. Peter’s. Rider is right in the thick of things and will face a big test this week when they host Fairfield.

Junior guard Jerry Johnson (Lancaster, PA) is the man for the Broncos averaging 18.8 points for the season. The guard had 13 points and eight boards Sunday in a 58-51 versus Loyola. Sophomore Ed Muniz (Passaic, NJ) put up a double-double scoring 14 points, 12 in the second half, and 11 rebounds.

Johnson had a team-high 17 points in a tough 77-69, overtime loss to St. Peter’s. In foul trouble, Johnson went to the bench and guard Robert Taylor stepped in to score 16 points on 4 of 16 from three-land. Taylor’s three with .22 remaining tied the game, forcing overtime. Muniz fouled out with 11 points.

Next in Action: Wednesday v. Fairfield at 7:30 p.m., Friday at Marist at 7:30 p.m.

5. Fairfield Stags 7-4, 14-8

Fairfield did what they needed to this week, and that was winning out their scheduled games on the road against Canisius and Niagara. The Stags snuck out of Buffalo with a 67-63 win over Canisius and then carried their momentum into Saturday’s battle with the Purple Eagles, winning handily 69-59 at the Gallagher Center. Since the absence of center Deng Gai and guard Terrence Todd, Fairfield has reeled off five consecutive victories and is now tied for fourth place with Rider, steadily climbing up the ladder. The Stags will travel to Lawrenceville, New Jersey Wednesday to face Rider, in what will, arguably, be the most exciting game of the week in the MAAC.

The Stags received balanced scoring against Niagara with nearly all five starters putting up double figures. Forward DeWitt Maxwell had a game high 22 points while senior center Rob Thompson chipped in with eight rebounds and nine points. Junior guard Kudjo Sogadzi scored 16 points and 5’5″ muscle man Ty Goode made 2 of 3 from downtown to finish with 10 points.

Canisius saw much of the same when they hosted the Fairfield Stags. The Stags, again, received a good effort from Maxwell, who had 16 points and, as of late, Thompson has elevated his game, and finished with a double-double (21 points, 11 rebounds) against the Golden Griffens.

Next in Action: Wednesday at Rider at 7:30 p.m., Saturday v. Canisius at 3:30 p.m.

6. Iona Gaels 5-7, 7-14

If Iona’s intentions last week were to make the conference tournament, they’ve just moved much farther away from that reality. With two home games before the start of a three-game road swing, the Gaels fell flat at the Mulcahy Center losing to Niagara and Siena. Niagara shot 41 free throws and connected on 80.5 percent at the charity stripe while the woeful free throw shooting by Iona, in the end, could be the reason why they lost this one. The Gaels shot 50 percent from the line and had numerous opportunities at the end of regulation to tie or send this one into overtime. Syracuse transfer DeShaun Williams lit things up with 27 points for Iona connecting on 5 of 7 from downtown. Sophomore Kiril Wachsmann fouled out with 14 points and seven boards coming off the bench.

On Saturday against Siena, Jeff Ruland’s game plan failed miserably. Here’s what took place:

– Iona was tied with Siena at 60-60 with 6.6 seconds to play in regulation.
– Siena had the ball at half court and Iona had one foul to give.
– Iona guard Ricky Soliver was told by Ruland to foul in the nearside corner, forcing Siena to inbound from underneath the basket, limiting Siena’s options and giving the Saints less time to set up a play by running the clock.

As Ruland moped in the post-game press conference, instead, what ensued was Soliver accidentally committing a foul on Siena guard Jamal Jackson in the act of shooting. Jackson, A miserable 50 percent free-throw shooter (it’s only that high because he’s made his last eight) clanked the first, and connected on the second to give the Saints a 61-60 lead with 6.6 seconds left and eventually the win.

Like the Niagara game, bad boy Williams was big for the Gaels in the second half, connecting from three-land with 7:45 left to play to give the Gaels a 54-50 lead.

Iona trailed most of the second half but steadily fought back. Senior center Greg Jenkins had his way with Siena in the paint, making his way to the free throw line 12 times and finishing with 16 points.

Next in Action: Friday at Manhattan at 8 p.m. (MSG), Sunday at Marist at 4 p.m.

7. Siena Saints 5-8, 8-14

The Saints started off the week with a sloppy 68-59 loss in Jersey City to St. Peter’s. Siena scored a measly 18 first-half points shooting 25 percent from the field. Starting forwards Austin Andrews and Justin Miller led the way for the Saints with 12 and 10 points respectively. Sophomore guard Antoine Jordan, who is making a return from an ankle injury, came off the bench, adding seven points on 3 of 9 shooting.

Foul trouble and a physical 6’9″ 245-pound Greg Jenkins did not deter Siena’s Mike Haddix Saturday afternoon, scoring a game-high 20 points, routing Iona in a 61-60 nail-biter. Guard Jamal Jackson came up with the winning free throw. Siena’s defense forced a turnover in the final seconds to seal the victory. “You could feel it in the locker room afterwards, this was big for us,” Siena Head Coach Rob Lanier said following the win. “The intangibles on this team, Austin Andrews, Antoine Jordan’s return, this was a much-needed victory.”

Next in Action: Thursday v. Loyola at 7 p.m., Sunday at Manhattan at 4 p.m. (MSG)

8. Canisius Griffs 3-9, 8-15

Canisius snapped a five-game losing streak beating Marist 78-63 Saturday. Five players led the Golden Griffens in double figures including 10 points each from Yaku Moton-Spruill and Jon Ferris. The Griffs were minus junior starting guard Dewitt Doss, who is out for the season with a torn ACL, the announcement made earlier in the week by Head Coach Mike MacDonald.

Doss is second on the team in scoring, and first in both assists and steals. Doss red-shirted in 2003 so this is a rough break but perhaps even worse for his teammates as they will be minus Doss on the road this week against two of the MAAC’s premier teams.

Canisius lost a close one to a streaking Fairfield, 67-63. The Griffs struggled shooting just 45.8 percent from the floor. Senior forward Jon Ferris (Liverpool, NY) came off the bench to lead Canisius with 17 points in just 16 minutes of action. Junior forward Richard Jones (Boston) came off the bench to score 11 points and grabbed 10 rebounds.

Next in Action: Saturday at Fairfield at 3:30 p.m.

9. Marist Red Foxes 3-9, 5-16

The Red Foxes capped off a seven-game losing spell with four road losses. Thursday, Marist traveled upstate to second-place Niagara and lost by 36. Head Coach Dave Magarity played 14 guys, obviously with the theory that if the team is going to sink, why not give them all equal playing time! The charity stripe has not been kind to Marist, who is shooting 63 percent on the season.

The latest Marist casualty came against eighth-place Canisius, a 78-63 loss Saturday at the Koessler Center. The shooting problems continued, this time from outside the perimeter, shooting 26.3 percent for the game. Junior center Will McClurkin (UMBC) contributed 16 points and senior forward Chris Handy (Salt Lake City, Utah) 11 points, coming off the bench.

Next in Action: Friday v. Rider at 7:30 p.m., Sunday v. Iona at 4 p.m.

10. Loyola Greyhounds 1-12, 1-21

After the monumental win just two weeks ago, the Greyhounds have gotten back to true form currently on a three-game slide. Within the last 10 days, Loyola has faced the No. 1, 2 and 4 teams in the MAAC leader board. After a 76-61 loss at St. Peter’s, Loyola welcomed the top-ranked Jaspers to town, losing 91-54 to Manhattan last Wednesday. Sophomore guard Charlie Bell (Washington D.C.) had four fouls and eight turnovers but managed 15 points to lead the team in scoring. Freshman guard Jamal Dixon (Braintree, MA) added 14 points along with junior forward Jim Chavers (ST. Thomas Moore) who had 10.

Loyola is extremely small and is forced to start three guards and no center. You would think this would help defensively up top, however, it did not versus the Jaspers as Flores went off for a season-high 32 points.

The Greyhounds showed signs of life against Rider on Sunday. Freshman guard Shane James (Toronto) scored 17 points in Lawrenceville, New Jersey but had no supporting cast and that came back to bite the Greyhounds, who lost to the Broncs 58-51 at Alumni Gymnasium.

Next in Action: Thursday at Siena at 7 p.m.

     

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