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Metro Atlantic Notebook

February 18, 2004 Conference Notes No Comments



Metro Atlantic Conference Notebook

by Jesse Ullmann

‘Cuse Transfer: Asset or Liability?

Iona guard DeShaun Williams (Paterson, NJ) is known for his off-the-court antics and this past week, his actions were rewarded with an indefinite suspension for the remainder of the season. According to the Iona athletic department, Williams, once a third-team All-Big East selection and rising expectations, has not met the academic standards held by that of the university and has missed two games since the suspension.

Bar fights with sorority sisters, sexual acts in the bathroom at Konrads (the local hot spot at Syracuse University), and sleeping in front of a judge at an appearance in court seemed to have now carried over to the New Rochelle campus. Williams once spread a rumor that he had impregnated his teammate’s girlfriend and it caused a ton of hostility between the team and a buzz on campus that lasted the season.

Williams leads Iona in scoring averaging nearly 19 points per game in conference play thus far. As far as his return, Iona head coach Jeff Ruland hinted during an interview aired at halftime of the Iona-Siena game that DeShaun may be done for the year. Sophomore guard Ricky Soliver has replaced Williams for now in the starting line up.

MAAC Player of the Week

With the lone two Manhattan games this week televised by MSG, senior guard Luis Flores continues to flourish with game highs of 25 and 27, respectively at home against Iona and Siena. Friday night Flores, on 11 of 20 shooting scored 27 points, picked up five steals and turned the ball over just once, giving Iona some payback after the Jaspers were dealt their only conference loss of the season courtesy of the Gaels back on January 25th.

With the win against Iona the Jaspers now had a chance Sunday, in front of yet another packed house, to clinch the top spot in the MAAC tournament at home against Siena. They did just that destroying the Saints, who hung tough for a while, 79-62, Flores again coming up with a big stat line. With 11 points from the charity stripe, Flores scored 25 points on 6 of 15 shooting in 39 minutes. He turned the ball over just twice and helped his team clinch a bye to the semifinals in MAAC tournament play, now officially clinching the top seed.

1. Manhattan Jaspers 14-1, 19-4

Sporting the pink tie and pink handkerchief in the spirit of Valentines Day, head coach Bobby Gonzalez and his Manhattan Jaspers manhandled Iona Friday night 88-69 in a televised game. Redemption was on the minds of folks in Riverdale, NY as Iona, in their first head-to-head battle this season, defeated Manhattan 79-62 holding Flores to six of 23 shooting. DeShaun Williams had 18 points on three of five shooting from downtown in the first meeting.

Flores was one of three players scoring double figure for the Jaspers. Starting senior forward Dave Holmes had 16 points and junior forward Peter Mulligan added 11.

The story went the same Sunday afternoon at Draddy gymnasium as the Jaspers swept the season series with Siena, defeating the Saints 79-62. With the win Manhattan grabs the No. 1 seed for the MAAC tournament, beginning March 5.

Flores had the same supporting cast in this one as Holmes went for 17 points and nine rebounds and Mulligan added 20 in 30 minutes of action.

The Jaspers, like many mid-major programs, have perhaps the biggest weekend of the season ahead. With a national audience of ESPN2 viewers tuned in at two o’clock this Saturday afternoon, Manhattan travels to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (17-7, 12-2 Horizon) for Bracket Buster Saturday. The Panthers have an RPI ranking of 58 and Manhattan 54.

Next in action: Wednesday v. Marist at 7:30 p.m., Saturday @ Wisconsin-Milwaukee at 2 p.m.

2. Saint Peters Peacocks 10-4, 14-9

With Niagara, Rider and Fairfield all slowly creeping up behind St. Peters, Keydren Clark and his Peacocks had just one game this week to try and pull ahead of the pack. The only problem was it was versus, arguably, the most physical and athletic team in the conference this year. Niagara visited Jersey City this past Saturday and though four Peacocks scored double figures, it was no contest. St. Peters shot a weak 39 percent from the floor and lost by 14 to Niagara, 87-73. St. Peters had no answer for the three-guard offense the Purple Eagles implemented as Niagara’s Tremmell Darden went for 25 points. St. Peter’s shot a miserable 26 percent from three-land and made nine of 17 at the charity stripe.

The Peacocks may be in for some serious trouble on the horizon. Canisius, who is hot off an overtime victory at Fairfield, will host the Peacocks this week and then look for redemption at Niagara Saturday.

Next in Action: Thursday @ Canisius at 7 p.m., Saturday @ Niagara at 3 p.m.

3. Fairfield Stags 9-5, 16-9

The Stags seemed to be on the verge of a collapse. “If we do not fight like tonight there will be no tomorrow. We will lose from here on out. Hopefully, this will be a lesson for these guys.” Fairfield head coach Tim O’Toole had these heated words to say about his team after a brutal 65-61 overtime loss Saturday in Bridgeport to Canisius. Fairfield had reeled off six straight wins and was being hyped by MAAC media people as the best all-around team in the conference.

It came down to free throw shooting and the Stags choked, shooting 40 percent with chance upon chance to win this game at the line. With :16 left in regulation, junior guard Ty Goode missed both free throws to make it a two-possession game and, as time expired, senior forward Jon Ferris nailed a three to tie the game at 52-52 and head to overtime where Canisius took control and the victory.

And just when it seemed Fairfield would succumb to the pressures of riding a seed into the MAAC tournament, they make the biggest statement of the year.

Trailing by 23 points at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport to the team they’re tied for third with in conference play, the Stags’ 6-10, 200-pound senior Rob Thomson exploded in the second half leading his team to a very impressive 70-65 win this past Monday on President’s Day. Thomson went for his seventh double-double of the season scoring 21 points and grabbing 13 rebounds. Freshman Dewitt Maxwell also had a double-double with 15 and 10 in 35 minutes. The streaky sophomore Michael Bell scored 16 points on three of seven shooting from the perimeter.

Next in action: Thursday v. Iona at 7:30 p.m., Sunday v. Rider at 1:30 p.m.

4. Rider Broncs 9-5, 15-10

The Broncs had another busy week with three games in five days and were able to win two out of the three against Marist and Canisius. The loss came to Fairfield last Wednesday, 65-40, the 40 points being the lowest final margin scored by Rider in 13 years. Sophomore forward Ed Muniz paced Rider with 12 points (eight coming from the free throw line). Rider shot 16 percent from the floor and a woeful 13 percent from downtown (one of 11) in the second half.

Besides the debacle versus Fairfield, the rest of the week went as planned for Rider. The Broncs’ free throw shooting in the final two minutes sealed a 74-67 victory over Marist Friday night in Poughkeepsie, NY. Muniz scored 25 points and junior guard Jerry Johnson had 22 points, Rider sweeping the series this season against Marist College.

The Broncs escaped with a win over Canisius this past Monday, 66-63. The Muniz-Johnson tandem prevailed again, this time Johnson scoring a game-high 25 points, knocking down five of nine from behind the arc. Muniz finished with 15 points in 37 minutes.

Next in action: Sunday @ Fairfield at 1:30 p.m.


5. Niagara Purple Eagles
9-5, 15-8

Clinging to third place in a three-way tie in the MAAC standings, Niagara split games this week with a solid win over No. 2 St. Peters and a loss versus Fairfield. The Eagles senior Tremmell Darden had an awesome week, playing nearly to his potential. Darden plays above the rim and proved it this week, quieting down a raucous 1,058 student-based crowd at the Yanitelli Center in Jersey City Saturday afternoon.

The Las Vegas native scored a game high 25 points and dropped in a career high four three-pointers leading Niagara to an 87-73 victory over the Peacocks. Junior center Juan Mendez (Quebec) scored 19 points and grabbed 13 boards. Mendez will surely be a leader come tournament time. He leads the team in scoring with 20.9 points per game and is also averaging 8.5 rebounds per game.

Head coach Joe Mihalich, despite a 23 point lead in the first half, watched his team collapse against the Fairfield Stags in an afternoon match up on President’s Day. Niagara committed 17 turnovers and shot 36 percent in the second half losing 70-65 at the Arena at Harbor Yard on Monday. Five Eagles players had at least three fouls in the waning minutes and conservative play underneath the basket on the defense led to a loss. Unlike the game against Canisius, Fairfield was able to close the game out at the foul line. Junior guard David Brooks led all Niagara scorers with 17 points and received support from Mendez (16) and Darden (11).

Next in action: Thursday v. Loyola at 7 p.m., Saturday v. St. Peters at 3 p.m.

6. Siena Saints 6-9, 9-15

Thursday Siena welcomed Loyola to Albany with a 77-67 defeat, sparked by the performance of senior guard Jamal Jackson, who finished with 12 points and 11 assists. 5,318 showed up at Albany’s Pepsi Arena (site of the MAAC tournament) to cheer on their Saints, which trailed by as many as ten on two separate occasions.

Though three of the five starters scored in double figures, the main attraction at Siena is Mike Beers. The freshman guard continues to come off the bench and reign superior from downtown, dropping in four of 10 from three land in 21 minutes Thursday versus Loyola. On February 7th, Beers came off the bench and made four of seven from downtown for 12 points in a 61-60 Siena victory over Iona. He scored nine points in 16 minutes of action, again coming off the bench, in a 78-71 loss versus Rider.

So as Siena continued to cruise, riding two wins out of the last three games played, Manhattan was ready to welcome the Saints with open arms Sunday afternoon at Draddy. With MSG showcasing their MAAC game of the week, the Jaspers ran head coach Rob Lanier and his Siena Saints out of the gym, with the quiet assassin Luis Flores leading Manhattan to a 79-62 victory.

Returning from a severe ankle injury, sophomore forward Antoine “Scoop” Jordan scored 14 points. Forward Michael Haddix had a team high 20 points and junior guard Tommy Mitchell chipped in with 13 points.

Next in action: Saturday v. Marist at 7 p.m.

7. Iona Gaels 5-9, 7-16

It was shocking, the first of its kind. No one had seen this coming from head Coach Jeff Ruland. The seven foot, 200-plus pound former NBA all-star had actually sat down, in his seat, on the bench with the rest of the coaches. It looked like the R or the V subway cars during peak rush hour. Ruland NEVER sits on the bench and this might have been a sign that he is throwing in the towel for the remainder of the season.

With a full week off after last Saturday’s killer one-point loss to Siena at the Mulcahy Center, the Gaels had some time to regroup, at least you would think. Head coach Jeff Ruland had to make the decision this week to suspend indefinitely starting shooting guard DeShaun Williams for not meeting the University’s academic standards. The off-the-court distractions have led to a somber locker room and a four-game losing streak, including two this past week to MAAC leader Manhattan and Marist. With Fairfield, Rider and St. Peters still to come on the schedule, the road ahead will not get any easier for the once dominating team in the MAAC.

The team that last year beat the North Carolina Tar heels (65-56 on Dec. 27, 2003 at the MSG Holiday Festival) and the team that this year beat Manhattan, has hit a low point. Ruland is down and out, the team is not playing cohesively and this week could have been the last straw. An 88-69 loss to Manhattan Friday and a 59-57 loss at Marist Sunday will most likely give this university just the second losing season out of the last nine.

Next in action: Thursday @ Fairfield at 7:30 p.m.

8. Canisius Griffs 4-10, 9-16

The Griffs displayed one of their best conference showings this past Saturday at Fairfield, defeating the Stags in a dramatic overtime victory, 65-61. This wide-bodied, Pittsburgh-mentality Canisius team was led by Toby Foster’s 15 points and eight rebounds. Kevin Downey came up clutch for the Griffs down the stretch nailing four key free throws to clinch the win in overtime. Downey finished with 13 points.

“We showed incredible resolve, toughness, and we beat the hottest team in the league,” Canisius head coach Mike Macdonald explained. “By playing zone defense, we clogged up the middle and I think that’s where this Fairfield team struggles.”

The Griffs were also given the best game of Darnell Wilson’s career. The freshman guard scored a career high 17 points and added 11 rebounds.

This past Monday night was a different story as Wilson was held to nine points and the Griffs dropped a nail biter to Rider, 66-63. Senior forward Jon Ferris came off the bench to score a team high 22 points while Downey added 15 points on six of 11 shooting and nine assists.

Next in action: Thursday v. St. Peters at 7 p.m., Saturday v. Loyola at 2 p.m.

9. Marist Red Foxes 4-10, 6-17

The Red Foxes put an end to their eight-game losing streak with a 59-57 win over Iona Sunday afternoon in Poughkeepsie. The Gaels tied the game with less than four minutes to play but junior guard Brandon Ellerbee scooped in his first basket of the game with 34 seconds to play, locking up the “W”. Marist saw four players in double figures led by sophomore forward Carl Hood’s 17 points and nine boards.

Earlier in the week Rider came to town and Marist hung tough but was not able to grab the lead, eventually losing control of the game. Again, Hood led all scorers with 17 points in the 74-67 loss. Junior center Will McLurkin finished with a double-double (12 points, 10 boards).

Next in Action: Wednesday v. Manhattan at 7:30 p.m., Saturday @ Siena at 7 p.m.

10. Loyola Greyhounds 1-13, 1-22

Loyola was served up a light plate this week with just one contest, against Siena. The Greyhounds led the first 18 minutes of play, mostly do to the contribution from sophomore guard Charlie Bell, matching his career high at 25 points and eight rebounds.

Loyola was very impressive from the free throw line shooting 94.4 percent for the game and a perfect 10 of 10 in the second half. Junior forward Jim Chivers was the other player scoring double figures for the Greyhounds with 11 points.

Loyola will no question be the lowest seed come MAAC tournament time and here’s the problem with that: four games in four days. So even if they do pull off a miraculous upset in the first or second rounds, they will have to next play the No. 1 seed and then the finals Monday evening.

Scott Hicks (LeMoyne ’88), the 19th head coach in the school’s history, I’m sure, just wants this season to be over already.

Appetizers

• Tim O’Toole used to be an assistant at Duke and has strong ties to the program but why do the mid-major program’s schedule national powerhouses? This does nothing for your team’s confidence level and why have your players ridiculed by media in the national spotlight?

• Does every team now have a “loose cannon”? The latest casualty came from Virginia Tech who suspended two players indefinitely. The Big East also saw St. John’s and Willie Shaw part ways, along with their most recent issues. Though Fairfield has run off three straight wins, the Stags take a big hit with Todd suspended for the year and it may come back to haunt them come tournament time. Do these ball players (free ride, meals, travel, room and board) have any incentive?

• Part two of the college hoops season is in full throttle, and is probably the most exciting time of the year. Part one you get cupcake upon cupcake schedule with an occasional Maryland-Florida or Texas-Providence clash. February is when the transfers, starting five and team faults are all sorted out. Who will hold the thrown? We will be that much closer to finding out four weeks from now.

     

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