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Touring the NE

February 11, 2004 Columns No Comments

Touring Around the Northeast

by Phil Kasiecki

Eagles Snap Skid, Then Sleepwalk to Victory In New York

Boston College came into Wednesday’s game with a chance to snap their three-game losing streak, and did just that by knocking off struggling Notre Dame, 76-69, on Wednesday. They then headed to New York for what would seem like an easy game against a very depleted St. John’s team, but it was a struggle for much of the game before the Eagles broke the game open to win going away, 89-61.

Against Notre Dame, the Eagles got a big effort from Jermaine Watson, who saw former high school teammate Torin Francis opposite him. Watson scored a career-high 22 points and made several big plays for the Eagles, giving them the energy off the bench they always need from him.

“He’s been giving us good, solid minutes the last 4 or 5 games,” said head coach Al Skinner after the game.

Watson was 9-11 at the free throw line to lead a big night for the Eagles there. The Eagles made 20 of 29 free throws, including 19 of 25 in the second half, and that was a big key just like their inability to make some was in previous games.

“We’ve lost past games due to free throws, and it came and bit us in the butt at the end, so we just really concentrated and got the job done,” said forward Craig Smith.

The Eagles held Notre Dame’s stars in check, as Chris Thomas had 11 points on just 3-18 shooting and Francis had just 6 points, not getting the ball often. Instead, it was sophomore guard Chris Quinn who kept the Fighting Irish in the game, tying a career-high with 25 points. The Fighting Irish shot just over 37% from the field, while the Eagles shot over 48% and held a 42-31 edge on the glass.

With 6:38 left in the second half, Smith reached 1,000 career points in just his 52nd game, tying Troy Bell for the fastest Eagle to that mark. He said after the game that he had no idea he was even near it, or that he tied the record for being the fastest Eagle to it, then quipped about chasing Bell’s all-time scoring record.

“Two more years, I’m coming for him,” he said.

On Sunday, the Eagles played much of the game as though the thought they would win just by showing up against the depleted St. John’s team. They committed several unforced turnovers among their 19 for the game, and allowed the Red Storm to hang around – exactly what a team can’t do against a big underdog. They finally broke the game open in the second half and outscored the Red Storm 55-34.

Sean Marshall broke out of his shooting slump in a big way, scoring a career-high 23 points on 8-13 shooting. He made 4 of 7 three-point attempts and led the Eagles 53.6% shooting effort. Uka Agbai helped the Eagles control things inside, scoring 18 points and grabbing 8 rebounds to lead them to a 50-36 edge on the glass.

The Eagles head to a warmer climate to take on Miami on Wednesday before returning home to play Providence on Saturday.

Friars Lose Another, Then Come Back With a Big Win

When Providence dropped its second straight game on Wednesday night, a 69-57 decision at Virginia Tech, the Friars had lost two in a row after winning six straight. The last win they had was not the most impressive game, either, so Saturday’s game against visiting Syracuse took on some added importance.

The Friars responded after Syracuse scored the first six points of the game, capitalizing on turnovers often in a 74-61 win that snapped a six-game home losing streak against the Orangemen. The Friars led for the final 31 minutes after breaking an 11-11 tie with a 12-1 run that was spearheaded by 7 points from Dwight Brewington (10 points, 5 rebounds), who continues to play well for the Friars.

The Friars had much better balance in the scoring column in this game, as Donnie McGrath and Marcus Douthit each had 16 points to lead the way, with Douthit adding 11 rebounds and 5 blocks. Three others scored in double figures, giving the Friars more double figure scorers in this game than they had in the two losses combined.

“You look at the numbers again, and that’s what we’re looking for – the balance,” said head coach Tim Welsh. “We can have Ryan (Gomes) get 25 and then everybody else get 4 – we’ve got to be a balanced team.”

Welsh was quite happy with the play of Douthit, who was a difference-maker.

“Marcus had the look of a big-time player today,” said Welsh. “He played like he did in the Texas game, all the way through January in that stretch where he really had to help us and carry us.”

Rob Sanders, in his third game back from two broken fingers, didn’t score in just eight minutes of play. He didn’t play at all in the second half, which Welsh attributes to him not being fully in sync yet.

“He’s just playing on guts right now,” Welsh said of Sanders. “I shouldn’t even let him dress. But he means a lot to us energy-wise, and it’s frustrating for him because he’s a great player. It’s hard to play with pretty much one hand.

“He’ll get back. Hopefully in another week he’ll be able to remove the splints from his finger, and then he can play pretty much freely.”

Freshman Dwight Brewington continues to play well during the minutes Sanders normally played. He had 10 points, 5 rebounds and 2 blocks on Saturday, redeeming himself after being suspended for Wednesday’s game.

“I’ve really liked the way he’s been playing over the last month,” Welsh said. “He’s been giving us a big, big lift.”

The Friars enter a tough stretch, with four of the next five games on the road. They play at Villanova on Wednesday, then head up the road to play at Boston College on Saturday.

Terriers Keep Rolling

Boston University moved its winning streak to six games with two blowout wins this past week, winning at New Hampshire (70-50) and at home against Hartford (78-45). The Terriers are keeping pace with Vermont atop the America East Conference with an 11-1 record and are 17-4 overall, just a half game behind the Catamounts.

The Terriers have continued to win primarily with defense, as they are tops in the conference in scoring defense and second in field goal percentage defense. On the offensive end, Chaz Carr continues to lead the way, as he had 38 points in the two games. He got good support from Rashad Bell (30 points in the two games).

Next up for the Terriers is a home date with UMBC on Thursday, before traveling up to Vermont for a showdown with the Catamounts on Sunday.

Huskies Come From Behind To Win, Lose Close One

Northeastern scored a big road win on Thursday at Stony Brook, coming from behind to beat the Seawolves 73-61. That set them up for Sunday’s big game as conference leader Vermont came to town with a 10-game winning streak.

On Thursday, the Huskies trailed by as many as 18 early in the second half, but took the game over from there. They had a 28-3 run to take a 58-48 lead, then never let the Seawolves get closer than seven after that. The Huskies shot 63% from the field in the second half after shooting a dreadful 22.9% in the first half. Forcing 18 Stony Brook turnovers also helped the cause.

Jose Juan Barea led the Huskies with a game-high 22 points and 7 assists, while Marcus Barnes snapped out of his shooting slump with 17 points on 6-13 shooting.

On Sunday, a sellout crowd packed Solomon Court for the TV game against Vermont, and they weren’t disappointed as far as the quality of the game was concerned. But the end result wasn’t what most of the fans hoped for, as a corner three-pointer by Barea went long and the Catamounts held on for a 67-65 win.

“That was a great game,” said Vermont head coach Tom Brennan. “We were very lucky to win, very, very lucky, because if the game goes five more minutes, I don’t think we would have won it.”

The Huskies had the energy early on, making plays at both ends of the floor and not letting Catamounts star Taylor Coppenrath (18 points) get started after he burned them for 41 points last month in Burlington. They led for most of the first half thanks to forcing 15 turnovers and scoring 11 points off them.

The Catamounts scored the first 11 points of the second half as part of an 18-3 run, never trailing after that. Three straight baskets by Coppenrath, as well as plays by T.J. Sorrentine (13 points, 5 assists) and Martin Klimes (7 points, 10 rebounds and a solid interior defensive game), keyed the run.

The Huskies would charge back, eventually tying the game at 63, but it took a while because Alex Jensen seemed to have an answer every time. He hit four three-pointers within a four-minute span, including consecutive shots that opened up the largest lead for the Catamounts at 57-45 with 7:32 left to play. Jensen scored 12 of his 18 points in the second half, making 6-8 three-pointers and all of them at key junctures of the game.

Barea (28 points, 7 assists) and Javorie Wilson (all 10 of his points in the second half) keyed the rally, but it wasn’t enough. Bobby Kelly had another good game off the bench, scoring 12 points, grabbing 5 rebounds and continuing to play well at both ends of the floor.

The Huskies shot under 34% from the field in the game, but were also out-rebounded 46-35. The latter point is a big one, as only Albany has a worse rebounding margin in the conference and it has a lot to do with the game results for them: they have won all eight games where they out-rebound the opponent, but are now 4-9 when they get out-rebounded. It’s a point head coach Ron Everhart consistently stresses in looking at this team.

“We let them just beat us up on the glass,” Everhart said after the game. “We gave up 14 offensive boards, and that’s just too many to give to a team as good as Vermont.”

The Huskies travel to Hartford on Wednesday, then come home to play UMBC on Saturday.

Other Notes From Around the Nation

• Here’s a fine example of a tough place to play: Pittsburgh has never lost in the short history of the Peterson Events Center, extending its home winning streak to 39 games and having set a Big East record with 19 straight conference wins at home.

• Who leads the Big Ten after this weekend’s play? None other than Michigan State, a team that needs to finish high in the conference after its well-documented struggle in non-conference play. The Spartans took over the lead with a road win as well, which will help them along the way.

• The Missouri Valley Conference has once again turned into a race between Creighton and Southern Illinois. Southern Illinois figured to be hurt more by personnel losses, especially with head coach Bruce Weber moving on, but it’s the Salukis who now have all but clinched the regular season title. Saturday’s win over the Bluejays gave them a three-game lead in the standings with six games to play. They also have an RPI of 23, which puts them in decent shape should they not win the conference tournament.


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