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Touring the Northeast

February 17, 2004 Columns No Comments


Touring Around the Northeast

by Phil Kasiecki

Eagles Split Two

After getting a big overtime win in Miami on Wednesday night, Boston College returned home to face their nearest Big East rival, Providence. Jared Dudley came up big in the extra session against Miami, scoring 9 of his 24 points to lift the Eagles to the victory over the struggling Hurricanes.

While the Eagles brought a two-game winning streak into Saturday’s game, the Friars entered with a two-game winning streak of their own and were ranked 22nd in the country. After getting an early 8-6 lead, the Eagles never led the rest of the way as the Friars scored seven straight points to take the lead for good en route to a 61-52 win at Conte Forum.

The Friars held several double-digit leads, but the Eagles fought back from most of them. They led 30-16 late in the first half, before the Eagles finally got the ball inside to Craig Smith (13 points, 8 rebounds) where he could score. Smith scored six straight points as part of a 9-2 run to end the half, putting BC back in the game at 32-25.

Head coach Al Skinner said that not getting the ball into Smith early on was by design.

“We want to look at some other things,” Skinner said. “I didn’t think it was important for us to establish him early in the game, I thought it was important for us to do some other things. The reason for that is, hopefully, we can get some balanced scoring.”

The lead would get back to double digits, but the Eagles kept coming. They scored six straight points to cut an 11-point lead down to 41-36, then eventually cut the lead to 48-45 after Providence center Marcus Douthit picked up his fourth foul. But Providence then scored 11 straight points to put the game away in the final minutes, getting five points in that stretch from Rob Sanders (9 points) and taking advantage of some carelessness on the part of the Eagles.

At the end of the game, Ryan Gomes dribbled the ball up the floor for the final seconds and got a little fancy with the ball. He then reached Louis Hinnant and dribbled it right over him as time expired, prompting Hinnant to throw the ball at him.

The Eagles may not have Smith’s services for Monday night’s game at Seton Hall. He fell on another player’s foot on a play in the second half and hurt his lower back when he tried to resist falling down afterwards. After the game, he said it was really bothering him and that he doesn’t know if he will be able to play Monday night.

With a 16-8 record overall and an RPI in the top 30, Boston College looks to be in good shape as far as the NCAA Tournament goes if they don’t collapse in the final games. Uka Agbai knows they can’t slow down now.

“Everyone knows how important this is,” Agbai said of the Seton Hall game.

Friars Continue To Play Well, Face Another Long Layoff

Providence won both of its games this past week to keep pace with Big East leaders Pittsburgh and Connecticut. Now, they don’t play again until Saturday, when they welcome Miami to the Dunkin’ Donuts Center.

Rob Sanders has almost made the full return, as he looks better and more in sync every game. He hit a couple of clutch shots on Saturday and is playing the kind of basketball the Friars need him to play.

As the postseason approaches, the continued development of Dwight Brewington will be a real key for the Friars. Brewington filled the stat sheet on Saturday, scoring 10 points, handing out 4 assists and getting 4 steals. His points all came at key junctures of the game.

“We’ve got a good look to us again,” said head coach Tim Welsh after Saturday’s game. “Rob’s back in the mix, feeling good about what he does on the floor; Dwight comes in and Tuukka (Kotti) off the bench.”

Welsh said they will change up from the last time the Friars did not have a mid-week game, when they came out sluggishly and lost a poorly-played game to Seton Hall.

“I don’t like it, but what can you do? It’s here,” Welsh said. “The last time we had a week off, we didn’t come back very well.

“We’ll change our approach from that week a little bit, but the basic thing is a reminder of what happened.”

Rams’ Slump Continues With Losses to Philadelphia Teams

Rhode Island’s slump in Atlantic 10 play continued with two more losses this past week, a 69-53 home loss to Temple and a 73-59 loss at St. Joseph’s on Saturday. While there is no shame in losing to undefeated St. Joseph’s, the Rams’ losses put them at 14-11 overall and 3-8 in Atlantic 10 play.

Poor shooting plagued the Rams in both games, as it has throughout conference play; they shot just over 32% against Temple and 36% against St. Joseph’s. Only Dayton has a better rebounding margin in the conference, but all too often they are rebounding their own misses (they lead in offensive rebounding). The Rams aren’t doing much with turnovers at the defensive end, as only three teams force fewer turnovers.

Jim Baron was cautiously optimistic when the Rams started out 12-3 against a tough non-conference schedule, and his words are proving to be prophetic right now.

“We’ve got a target on our back, and teams are coming at us,” Baron said after the Temple game, the 10th straight loss against the Owls. “We’ve got to get back to the high energy.

“We’ve got to get back and challenge our upperclassmen – we’ve got two with Steve Mello and Brian (Woodward), and our juniors.”

Baron spent a lot of time after the Temple game talking about how the team looked to have made a full comeback earlier in the year, but is still as much a work in progress as before.

“Where we are right now, winning 34 games in two years – coming off three years with 8, 7, and 5 wins – we’re still putting this thing together. It’s a process.”

The process continues this week with a visit to Massachusetts and a home date with St. Bonaventure. In the game at Massachusetts, former Ram head coach Al Skinner will have his jersey retired by the school at which he played his college ball.

Terriers Take Over First Place

Boston University took over the top spot in America East with two wins this week, but they almost didn’t get the chance for it. Before heading up to Vermont and knocking off the Catamounts, the Terriers had a struggle before knocking off UMBC on Thursday night.

Against UMBC, the Terriers started fast, then the Retrievers took over with a 14-1 run to take the lead for the rest of the first half. The run got going once Kareem Washington entered the game, as he scored 7 of his game-high 19 points in that stretch for the Retrievers and led them to a 33-26 halftime lead.

The Terriers had plenty of life in the second half, tying the game with just over 14 minutes left, then later taking the lead for good when one of two free throws by Rashad Bell started a run of eight unanswered points to break a 41-41 tie. They would finish the game on a 16-4 run to put it away at the 71-59 final margin.

“I thought that we were, obviously, very sluggish in the first half,” head coach Dennis Wolff said after the game. “I think we got a real false sense of the way the game started, and didn’t respect how hard they were going to play. So when they came back and punched us back, we fell back.

“That being said, I don’t think we can play much better than we played in the second half.”

Asked if he thought the players were looking ahead to Sunday’s game, Wolff didn’t think that was the case. He attributed their sluggishness in the first half in part to a few players arriving late at shoot-around due to late classes, as well as a general lack of toughness.

On Sunday at sold-out Patrick Gym, the Terriers had a similar result, although they led at the half in this game. They broke it open at the start of the second half by scoring the first six points, then later used an 11-0 run to take a 64-47 lead with under 8 minutes to play. They would later run the lead to 71-52, but Vermont then ran off 11 straight points to get back in the game before the Terriers put the finishes on an 80-70 win.

The Terriers shot 54% from the field, including a scorching 65% in the second half, and also did something few teams have done to the Catamouts this season: beat them on the glass, which they did by a 37-29 margin.

Chaz Carr had the best week scoring-wise for the Terriers, as he had 25 against Vermont and 38 for the two games. Shaun Wynn continues to have a nice season, filling the stat sheets with 18 points, 17 rebounds, 15 assists and 6 steals in the two games. Wynn leads the Terriers in assists and steals, ranking second in the conference in the latter category.

The Terriers are now 19-4 overall, having won 19 of 20 since starting the season by losing their first three games. They have a tough road date at Maine on Wednesday before returning home to face cross-town rival Northeastern on Sunday.

Huskies Win Two More, Keep Pace

Northeastern won both of their games this week to remain near the top of the standings in America East. They won at Hartford in a late game on Wednesday night, then posted an 81-78 win over visiting UMBC on Saturday. With the two wins, the Huskies are now 16-9 overall and 10-4 in America East play, as they enter a crucial week.

On Wednesday, the Huskies scored a 73-61 win at Hartford with a big game from their frontcourt, which had a decided edge on that of the Hawks. They out-rebounded the Hawks 52-38 and got a career-high 18 points from freshman Bennet Davis and 12 points and 9 rebounds from Sylbrin Robinson. Jose Juan Barea led the offense with 21 points, 10 rebounds and 6 assists, but 18 Husky turnovers helped keep Hartford in the game for a while.

The Huskies shut down Ryan Stys (8 points on 3-12 shooting) and held Aaron Cook to 5-17 shooting, but Cook managed 20 points on the night. The Hawks shot below 32% from the field.

On Saturday, Barea kept up his stellar play, but the Huskies needed some big plays late from running mate Marcus Barnes. Barnes, who tied the game-high with 22 points, hit consecutive three-pointers in the final minute to break a 72-72 tie to give the Huskies the win.

The Huskies had good balance with five players scoring in double figures, several of them beneficiaries of a few of Barea’s 14 assists to go with his 12 points. They allowed the Retrievers to shoot over 58% from the field, but turned 17 Retriever turnovers into 31 points, and had just 10 turnovers while handing out 21 assists.

The Huskies have a tall order in the week ahead, as they travel to Binghamton for Wednesday’s meeting with the Bearcats, then head across town on Sunday to take on Boston University, which just took the lead in the conference standings.

Crimson Keep Improving, Finally Get Another Win

Harvard’s improvement is difficult to measure by their record or most numbers, but it is certainly there. They finally got something to show for it on Saturday night, when they knocked off Yale in a game that had a controversial ending where the Crimson got a break.

Friday night, the veteran Brown Bears came in and humbled the young Crimson with a 91-67 blowout. The Bears never trailed after Jamie Kilburn (20 points, 4 steals) ignited a run of 11 unanswered points with a short jumper less than six minutes into the game.

“I think you saw a veteran, strong offensive team against an inexperienced, very average at times defensive team, and I think it showed in the final score,” said head coach Frank Sullivan. “I thought their offensive momentum was just too tough for us to mentally contain.”

The biggest bright spot for the Crimson was the play of sophomore Matt Stehle, who had 18 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists.

The next night, the Crimson led at halftime for just the sixth time this season, though they trailed for much of the half. They shot nearly 48% in the half, leading 35-30, and they would extend that to 40-30 by scoring the first five points of the second half. They would match that lead on a layup by Stehle (13 points, 9 rebounds, 3 blocks) with 16:38 to go.

The Bulldogs got going after that, sparked by junior Edwin Draughan. Draughan scored 17 of his 21 points in the second half, getting seven of those points in an 11-3 run that cut the lead to 49-47. After the Crimson went back up 51-47, neither team led by more than four until Stehle made a layup for a 72-67 lead with 2:08 left.

With Harvard leading 73-71, Yale tried to tie the game and got the ball into Draughan’s hands. He got to the right baseline and was met by three defenders, but managed to go up for a shot and was hammered. No call was made and Harvard got the ball back, which gave Yale head coach James Jones every reason to be furious. He was, then was whistled for a technical foul that effectively clinched the game for Harvard. All four free throws – two technical, two personal – were made as Harvard took home a 78-71 win.

The Crimson shot over 53% from the field and had their best assist-to-turnover ratio of the season, which were both big keys to the win. Sullivan was pleased with what it represents.

“I think they were really relaxed tonight, in terms of shooting the ball,” Sullivan said. “I just think it’s maturity of the team. Offensively, they’re playing a little bit better; we’ve had back-to-back nights where we’ve had a couple of our better assist/turnover ratios of the season. To come out in the first half and have 11 baskets, 11 assists was a real plus for us.”

One player who had two very different nights was junior captain Jason Norman. Friday night, he had just 5 points and 4 turnovers, but on Saturday, he had 14 points on 5-7 shooting and made 3 of 4 three-pointers.

“He was distraught after (Friday) night’s game,” Sullivan said, noting that he had a hard time even earlier in the day. “I thought (Friday) night he tried to find some driving lanes that weren’t there trying to go to the basket, but he had a couple of big baskets for us tonight.”

Yale shot just 41% from the field, though it was behind the three-point line where the shooting hurt most, as they were just 7-25. It was also the one thing that stood out to Jones looking at his team’s part of the box score.

“We shot too many threes tonight,” he said.

The Bulldogs got a solid outing on the weekend from their two freshmen, Casey Hughes (14 points in Friday’s win) and Sam Kaplan (12 points in Saturday’s loss). Hughes had just one field goal on Saturday, but it was an impressive put-back of a missed shot where he looked like he rose well above everyone else on the floor. Although this is a veteran team whose time is now, Jones does like the future with those two players.

“Those two are the future of the program,” he said. “They’ll get better and more consistent with more minutes.”

Harvard heads on the road this week to play at Columbia and Cornell, while Yale travels down the east coast for the difficult weekend road games at Princeton and Pennsylvania.

Another Good Weekend For Brown

Brown won both of its games this weekend to stay in the thick of the Ivy League race. With their wins over Harvard and Dartmouth, the Bears are now 6-2 in Ivy League play and a half game behind league-leading Princeton.

The biggest reason for the Bears’ success has been the play of junior point guard Jason Forte, who has been unstoppable since Ivy League play started. He leads in scoring in conference games only, averaging just under 24 points per game, and he surpassed 1,000 career points in Saturday night’s win at Dartmouth. He also leads the Ivy League in assists in league games, and players like Patrick Powers (39 points in the two weekend games) and Jamie Kilburn (37 points) have benefited greatly from it.

“He’s been playing great basketball over the last six games,” head coach Glen Miller said after Friday’s win. “We want him to score, but we also want him to find a balance between looking for his shot and creating opportunities for his teammates, and being able to make a simple pass to get us going in our offense. He’s been making good decisions lately.”

Although he does more than just score points with his array of skills, sophomore Luke Ruscoe was quiet this weekend. He didn’t score in 38 minutes against Dartmouth, after scoring 10 points and handing out 4 assists Friday night. Miller would like to get more from him as the season continues.

“We need him to score more points,” Miller said. “At times, he has, but in this stretch run, if we’re going to have any chance of competing for a championship, Luke’s going to have to score points also.”

Brown continues that quest with what could be a make-or-break weekend trip down the east coast, playing at Pennsylvania on Friday and at Princeton on Saturday.

Other Notes From Around the Nation

• Missouri suffered another setback when freshman Linas Kleiza was lost for the season. The team’s leading rebounder, Kleiza was a force inside for the Tigers, especially when the veterans weren’t producing as they had been counted on.

• Tennessee signee Jackie Butler became the first underclassman this year to declare for the NBA Draft on Thursday. While he’s expected to be one of several – scouts and recruiting analysts think as many as a dozen high school players may attempt to skip college this year – he’s not likely to be among the first taken. He’s not a dominant inside player and needs to be more mobile inside.

• After Georgia upset Kentucky on Saturday to complete their second season sweep of the Wildcats in three years, one interesting fact emerges: Dennis Felton has never lost against Kentucky.

• A week before the Bracket Buster games, several mid-major teams suffered losses this past weekend that will severely damage their hopes for at-large bids to the NCAA Tournament. Wisconsin-Milwaukee lost at Youngstown State, Creighton lost at Drake in double overtime, Utah State lost at Pacific and Murray State lost at Austin Peay (undefeated in Ohio Valley play) on Saturday. Western Michigan lost at struggling Marshall on Sunday. Utah State and Western Michigan might have the best chances of still snagging an at-large bid, but getting one just became much more difficult or went by the wayside for each of these teams.

• Looking for the best photo finish among mid-major conferences? The place to look might be the Colonial, where three teams are tied at 10-4 and two and a half games separate the top three teams from the next three in the standings. A close second might be the Southland, where two and a half games separate conference leader Southeast Louisiana from UL-Monroe.

     

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