Morning Dish

by - Published March 13, 2004 in Conference Notes




The Morning Dish – Saturday, March 13th

Top Seed Battles: Things are looking up for No. 6 Pittsburgh, 62-53 winners over Boston College in the Big East semifinal, and looking down for No. 4 Mississippi State, 74-70 losers to Vanderbilt in overtime in the SEC Tournament. The Panthers (29-3) won a back-and-forth battle with big plays late from Carl Krauser, as the sophomore guard scored six of his 18 points in the final minute. Craig Smith led the Eagles (23-9) with a game-high 20 points and 12 rebounds.

Meanwhile, Vanderbilt rallied from an 11-point deficit early in the second half to send the game to overtime, where Mississippi State’s luck ran out after surviving an overtime game with Alabama last night. The Bulldogs (25-3) didn’t get stellar outings from stars Lawrence Roberts (13 points) and Timmie Bowers (14 points, 8 turnovers), and the Commodores (21-9) took advantage, clinching the game with free throws. Mario Moore led Vanderbilt with 17 points.

Also Playing For a Top Seed: Other teams vying for a No. 1 seed that won on Friday include No. 8 Kentucky (24-4), 69-60 winners over Georgia (16-13) after losing twice to the Bulldogs in the regular season; No. 7 Oklahoma State (25-3), 83-75 winners over Iowa State (17-12) behind 25 points and 9 rebounds from Joey Graham and 23 points from John Lucas; and No. 5 Duke (26-4), 84-74 winners over Virginia (17-12) behind 27 points and 8 rebounds from Shelden Williams and 26 points from Daniel Ewing.

Another Team In: The Southland Conference held its championship game on Friday afternoon, a dandy between Stephen F. Austin and host Texas-San Antonio. Texas-San Antonio (20-12) pulled out a close game that went back and forth, 74-70 behind 23 points and 9 rebounds from Leroy Hurd.

Aggies Knocked Off: Cal State-Northridge got 27 points from Ian Boylan, and made two defensive plays in the final seconds to upset No. 23 Utah State, 63-62 in the semifinals of the Big West Tournament. Joseph Frazier, who had missed 11 games earlier in the season in a suspension for violation of team rules, hit a three-pointer from well beyond the arc with under 30 seconds left to make the difference. The Aggies (25-3) will miss the championship game for the first time since 1999.

Big East Is Down to Two: The Big East championship game on Saturday night will bear a striking resemblance to recent championship games — that’s because No. 9 Connecticut ended Villanova’s run with an 84-67 victory to advance to take on Pittsburgh in the championship game. The Huskies (26-6) jumped out to a big lead early, then broke the game open later in the second half after the Wildcats (16-16) tried to rally. Emeka Okafor did not play again Friday night, but Ben Gordon made sure that wasn’t a problem with a game-high 29 points, while Rashad Anderson added 19 and Josh Boone picked up the slack inside with 11 points and 15 rebounds. Villanova was hurt by Allan Ray’s off night, as he had just two points on 1-10 shooting and was limited due to foul trouble.

Atlantic 10 Final Is Set: The Atlantic 10 held its semifinals on Friday, with the favorites winning both games. Xavier continued its tournament run with a 70-47 blowout of George Washington, while Dayton survived against Richmond, 58-56. The surging Musketeers (22-10) got 18 points and 11 rebounds from Romain Sato and 14 points from Justin Doellman to knock off the Colonials (18-11). In handing the Spiders (20-12) a big loss while on the bubble, Dayton (24-7) got 17 points and 12 rebounds from Sean Finn and held the Spiders to 34.4% shooting.

Conference USA Finalists: No. 13 Cincinnati advanced to the Conference USA championship game with a 66-46 romp over St. Louis. The Bearcats (23-6) held the Billikens (18-12) to 27.5% shooting and were 10-21 from behind the three-point line. Tony Bobbitt had 12 points and Nick Williams had 11 as the only Bearcats in double figures. The Bearcats will take on DePaul in the championship game, as the resurrection project under Dave Leitao took its next step forward on Friday with a 75-74 overtime win over UAB. The Blue Demons (21-8) shot 49% and held a 38-25 edge on the boards, but committed 20 turnovers to help make this game interesting. UAB (20-9) got 14 points and 11 assists from Carldrell Johnson in the defeat, while the Blue Demons got 21 points and 9 rebounds from Delonte Holland.

Two Left In Los Angeles: No. 2 Stanford advanced to the Pac Ten championship game with a 70-63 win over Oregon. The Cardinal (28-1) shot over 47% from the floor and held the Ducks (15-12) below 36%, getting 18 points from Josh Childress to lead the way. They will get a rematch with surging Washington (19-10), which knocked off No. 21 Arizona 90-85 behind 20 points from Nate Robinson. Arizona (20-9) got 30 points from Hassan Adams, but it wasn’t enough to stop the Huskies.

Thrillers in Charlotte, Atlanta: No. 14 Georgia Tech got a 15-foot jumper by Jarrett Jack with 1.4 seconds left to knock off No. 17 North Carolina, 83-82 in the ACC quarterfinals in Charlotte. The Yellow Jackets (23-8) got 17 points and 17 rebounds from Luke Schenscher and 17 points from Jack, while Sean May led North Carolina (18-10) with 27 points and Rashad McCants had 25.

In Atlanta, Florida got two last-second shots in its 75-73 overtime win over Alabama in the SEC quarterfinals, but one didn’t count. With the scored tied in the final seconds of regulation, Anthony Roberson hit a three-pointer as time expired — but further review showed that the ball left his hand after the red light went on, sending the game to overtime. Then with the score tied at 73, Roberson missed a three-pointer, but freshman Lee Humphrey picked up the ball after a couple of deflections and made a jumper from the baseline as time expired to give the Gators (19-9) the win. Ernest Shelton led Alabama (17-12) with a game-high 27 points in the loss.

Key Bubble Team Results: Important bubble team results of the day include wins by Maryland and Utah and losses by Oklahoma, Missouri, Colorado, LSU and Florida State. Check all the latest recaps of the busy Friday of action in Championship Week.

Vermont Star Expected To Play: Vermont junior forward Taylor Coppenrath, the two-time America East Player of the Year, is expected to play in Saturday’s America East championship game against Maine. Coppenrath said last week he was shutting it down for the season, but has practiced all week and was good in Friday’s practice, which was expected to be the big test point prior to the game.

Tonight’s Menu

Check out all the latest recaps during Championship Week.

• The America East championship game is the first of 11 championship games on the day as Vermont hosts Maine.

• DePaul takes on No. 13 Cincinnati in the Conference USA championship game.

• No. 2 Stanford takes on Washington in the Pac Ten championship game, as the Cardinal looks to avenge its only loss of the season.

• The Atlantic 10 championship game pits Xavier against the host school, Dayton.

• The Big East championship game features the same two teams from the previous three years — No. 6 Pittsburgh taking on No. 9 Connecticut.

• Utah takes on UNLV in the Mountain West championship game.

• Nevada takes on UTEP in the WAC championship game.

• In the Mid-American Conference championship, Western Michigan takes on Kent State.

• The Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference title game has Florida A&M taking on Coppin State.

• It’s an in-state battle in the Southwest Athletic Conference championship game as Alabama State takes on Alabama A&M.

• The Big West championship game has Cal State-Northridge taking on Pacific.

• Semifinal action in the ACC features No. 5 Duke taking on No. 14 Georgia Tech, followed by No. 16 North Carolina State taking on Maryland.

• Semifinal action in the SEC features No. 8 Kentucky against South Carolina, followed by Florida taking on Vanderbilt.

• In the Big Ten semifinals, No. 12 Illinois looks to stay hot as they take on Michigan, then Michigan State takes on No. 11 Wiscsonsin.

• The Big 12 semifinal matchups have No. 7 Oklahoma State taking on Texas Tech and No. 10 Texas matching up with No. 18 Kansas.

Morning Dish

by - Published March 12, 2004 in Conference Notes




The Morning Dish – Friday, March 12th

St. Joe’s pummeled for first loss: From perfect to pummeled. Saint Joseph’s first game as the nation’s No. 1 team also was its first loss of the season, a shocking 87-67 collapse against unranked Xavier in the Atlantic-10 quarterfinals Thursday. The Hawks came in with a 27-0 record, three victories from becoming the first team since 1991 to enter the NCAA tournament undefeated. But they trailed Xavier by as many as 37 points, and the upset raises questions about how serious a contender the tiny Philadelphia school will be for the national championship. The rout also tarnishes a magical run by a team that was one of the biggest surprises in sports this year, and it could cost Saint Joseph’s a top seeding in the NCAAs. “I’m assuming that the televisions wherever that committee is meeting didn’t work,” Hawks coach Phil Martelli said. “This was our 20th game away from our own fieldhouse. We’re 19-1 in those games. They (the committee) will understand that. The committee will do us right because of our body of work. Not 40 minutes.” It’s the worst loss ever by a No. 1 team against an unranked team. A partisan crowd began rubbing it in midway through the second half, chanting “Sloppy Joe’s!” Romain Sato led Xavier with 24 points and 11 rebounds, Lionel Chalmers scored 23, and Anthony Myles had 19. Saint Joseph’s backcourt stars Jameer Nelson and Delonte West were held to a combined 11-for-35 shooting, and scored 16 points each. Xavier (21-10) made 71.1 percent of its shots, while holding Saint Joseph’s to 35.4 percent — its worst showing all season. “Any loss is devastating, especially when you work so hard,” Nelson said. “We take pride in our defense and we let ourselves down with our defense today.” At one point, Saint Joseph’s was limited to one field goal over more than 10 minutes. And the Hawks’ biggest weakness, their inside game, was exposed by the Musketeers, who out-rebounded Saint Joseph’s 43-18. “They’re a great team. They didn’t go 27-0 for no reason. They made history,” Chalmers said. “They’re one of the great teams in the country. They deserve a No. 1 seed.”

Cardinals band escapes from fire: The charter bus for the University of Louisville pep band caught fire Thursday night outside U.S. Bank Arena, where the men’s basketball team was playing in the Conference USA tournament. No one was aboard the parked bus when the fire started about 8 p.m. EST and no one was injured, said District Fire Chief Steven Phillips of the Cincinnati Fire Department. Phillips said the fire apparently was sparked by an electrical short in the engine. The bus sustained significant damage on the outside, but none on the interior, Phillips said. The fire occurred while the Cardinals were losing to Cincinnati in the tournament quarterfinals. The band and the cheerleaders used the same company, but went to Cincinnati on separate buses, sports information director Kenny Klein said Thursday night. The company sent another bus to bring the band back to Louisville. He did not have the company’s name.

Cowboys working on contract extension: Officials at Oklahoma State are working on a contract extension for associate head coach Sean Sutton that would keep him in Stillwater and possibly position him to replace his father, Eddie Sutton, as head coach of the Cowboys, according to published reports. OSU athletic director Harry Birdwell said Sean Sutton’s contract would be reviewed after the season but he declined to elaborate. Sean Sutton told the Tulsa World that he and Birdwell “have had some discussions, and when the time is right and this season’s over with, there’s a good chance we’ll sit down again and visit about my future. There certainly has not been anything guaranteed at this point.” Sutton said Wednesday he has withdrawn his name from consideration for the vacancy at Southern Methodist. “I’m not a candidate for any job at this point,” Sutton told The Oklahoman. “I really like the job I have right now.” Sutton, 35, interviewed for the opening at Clemson last year and was thought to be a candidate for several other jobs. Sutton played four seasons for his father, two at Kentucky and the final two at Oklahoma State. He’s since been an assistant under Eddie Sutton at Oklahoma State for 11 years, being elevated to associate head coach in 2000.

MAC Tourney Update: Juby Johnson scored 20 points — 13 on free throws — and Miami of Ohio moved into the semifinals of the Mid-American Conference tournament with a 72-67 quarterfinal win over Ball State on Thursday. Chet Mason added 14 points for the third-seeded RedHawks (18-10), who had failed to reach the semis the past two years after 10 straight appearances. But Miami made all the big plays and its free throws down the stretch in holding off the sixth-seeded Cardinals (14-15). Robert Owens scored 17 and Matt McCollom 13 to lead Ball State, which has won more MAC titles (seven) than any other school. Miami will play second-seeded Kent State in Friday night’s second semifinal. DeAndre Haynes scored a career-high 26 points as the Golden Flashes (21-7) advanced with a 79-66 win over seventh-seeded Bowling Green. The RedHawks swept both games from Kent State during the regular season. In the evening quarterfinal session, top-seeded Western Michigan plays eighth-seeded Marshall and fourth-seeded Toledo plays fifth-seeded Buffalo.

UMBC coach resigns: Maryland-Baltimore County men’s basketball coach Tom Sullivan resigned Friday. Sullivan compiled a 106-145 record in nine seasons at UMBC. The Retrievers went 7-21 this season and Sullivan was not with the team at the America East tournament for a 65-59 first-round loss to Stony Brook. Assistant Randy Monroe filled in for him. “Tom Sullivan provided UMBC Basketball with many fine moments during his tenure here,” athletic director Dr. Charles Brown said. “We wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors.” Sullivan, a former assistant under P.J. Carlesimo at Seton Hall, was named Big South Conference Coach of the Year in 1998 and earned Northeast Conference Coach of the Year honors the following season after UMBC switched leagues.

Big East Tourney Update: Jaron Brown scored 20 points and Pittsburgh opened its defense of the Big East tournament title with a quarterfinal victory over Virginia Tech. Carl Krauser had 16 points for the Panthers (28-3), who will face Boston College in the semifinals. The game was the last in the Big East for Virginia Tech (15-14), which moves to the Atlantic Coast Conference next season.

Jared Dudley made four free throws in the last 93 seconds and Boston College overcame an 11-point deficit to beat Syracuse in the Big East quarterfinals. Craig Smith added two late free throws to help the Eagles (23-8) beat the defending national champion Orangemen (21-7). Smith led Boston College with 22 points, and Dudley and Uka Agbai had 13 each. Gerry McNamara topped Syracuse with 15.

With Emeka Okafor on the bench in street clothes, the ninth-ranked Huskies got big efforts from three players to beat Notre Dame 66-58 Thursday night in the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament. “We knew we had to pick up the slack and we got the job done,” said Ben Gordon, who had 29 points. “We all knew we had talent. We just proved it to other people. The guys stepped up and made key contributions.” Freshmen Josh Boone and Charlie Villanueva had strong games on the boards for the second-seeded Huskies (25-6), who advanced to the semifinals for the ninth straight year. They will play Villanova, which beat No. 20 Providence 69-66 in the late game. “You know, it’s a real big thing,” Boone said. “The last time we played Notre Dame the kid had 22 rebounds and 16 points. We really saw me and Charlie needed to step up tonight, and I think we did a good job of that.” Okafor, a 6-foot-10 junior, did not play because of back spasms related to a small stress fracture of the fifth lumbar vertebrae. He will be re-evaluated Friday, with Dr. Jeff Anderson, the school’s director of sports medicine, saying Okafor could be available for the semifinals depending on the pain. “It’s ver
y conceivable,” Anderson said.

Pac-10 Tourney Update: The Stanford Cardinals returned to their winning ways and got Justin Davis back, too. Josh Childress scored 17 points and the second-ranked Cardinal led all the way in defeating Washington State 68-47 Thursday in the first round of the Pac-10 tournament. Stanford had lost its opening game both times since the Pac-10 revived the tournament in 2002. Before Washington ended Stanford’s 26-game winning streak last Saturday, the Cougars put a scare into the Cardinal, who needed seven points in the final 25 seconds for the victory. “They concerned us because they gave us a great game a week ago,” Stanford coach Mike Montgomery said. “We came out and played harder and defended the shooters better.”

Conference USA Tourney Update: Armein Kirkland worked free against a smaller defender and made a short bank shot with 16.9 seconds left, giving No. 13 Cincinnati a 64-62 victory over Louisville on Thursday night in the Conference USA quarterfinals. Taquan Dean’s rushed 3-pointer at the buzzer was off the mark, providing a second consecutive dramatic finish this season for the longtime rivals. Cincinnati (22-6) lost by 27 points at Louisville in January, ending its season-opening winning streak at 13. The Bearcats needed overtime to beat the Cardinals in the rematch on their home court. Playing in a downtown arena near campus, the Bearcats overcame Francisco Garcia’s career-high 28 points and one of the nation’s stingiest defenses. It came down to one play suggested by Kirkland. During a timeout to set up Cincinnati’s last shot, the 6-foot-8 forward told coach Bob Huggins that he was being guarded by Dean, a 6-foot-3 point guard who is limited by a groin injury. The idea: Let Kirkland get in position under the basket for a pass. “It’s just a play we have in practice,” Kirkland said. “We didn’t run it at all in the game. I said, ‘Coach, I’ve got a mismatch,’ and we’ve only run that play a couple of times in 20-odd games.” Louisville (20-9) surrounded power forward Jason Maxiell when he got the ball near the free-throw line, leaving Kirkland open to catch a pass and make an easy shot that snapped the game’s seventh tie.

Tonight’s menu

• Conference tournaments continue. ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, SEC, Conference USA and Big East are to just name a few. Among those playing: Duke, Wisconsin, Kentucky, Oklahoma State, Illinois, Texas, Pittsburgh and Mississippi State. Catch a full recap tomorrow!

My Field of 65

by - Published March 11, 2004 in Columns


My Field of 65

by Jim Woods

Here are the final picks.

Strictly Automatic

America East, Atlantic Sun (Central Florida), Big Sky, Big South (Liberty), Big West, Colonial, Horizon, Ivy (Princeton), MAAC, Mid-Continent, MEAC, NEC, Ohio Valley (Murray St.), Patriot, Southern Conference (ETSU), Southland, SWAC, Sun Belt, WCC, MAC.

Issues

Out of these above conferences you have the potential for upsets and a second team to go. This applies to the WCC and Big West. Gonzaga (WCC) and Utah State (Big West) are going to get in regardless of winning their league tournament. For the purposes of this article I am assuming these two schools will garner the conference’s automatic bid. Last week I said Southern Illinois would be in this situation and they did get beat in the conference tourney so the Missouri Valley becomes a multiple bid league.

That accounts for 20 Automatic Bids

Here is what remains. Each of the below conferences I believe will get multiple teams into the tournament. Again, for the purposes of this article, one of the teams listed I am assuming to win the conference tournament and the automatic bid.

Atlantic Ten: St. Joe’s, Dayton.

ACC: Duke, NC State, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Maryland

Big 12: Oklahoma St., Kansas, Texas, Texas Tech, Missouri

Big East: Pittsburgh, Connecticut, Providence, Syracuse, Boston College, Seton Hall

Big Ten: Michigan St., Illinois, Wisconsin

Conference USA: Memphis, Cincinnati, Charlotte, Louisville, DePaul, UAB

Mountain West: Air Force, Utah, BYU

Pac 10: Stanford, Arizona, Washington

Southeastern Conference: Kentucky, Vanderbilt, South Carolina, Mississippi State, Florida, Alabama, LSU

WAC: UTEP, Nevada

Missouri Valley Conference: Tourney Winner, Southern Illinois

Thoughts, Changes and Analysis

I already know that my inclusion of Missouri in this week’s field is probably my most questionable. They are going to beat Texas A&M in their first round Big 12 game to get to sixteen wins. If they can win one more game in that tournament to get to seventeen, with their RPI of 36, they will get in. They have to root so hard for Gonzaga and Utah State to win their respective conferences. If those two are to fall, Missouri and South Carolina could be the first two out. South Carolina better win an SEC game to feel safe heading into Sunday. Other teams that could sneak in with good conference tourneys are Colorado and Oklahoma. These teams are so similar it is tough to pick between. Right now I feel like both are out. Richmond is this week’s highest rated team not to dance. They just did not play well enough in a mediocre Atlantic Ten. A run to the A-10 Final by Richmond or Xavier could change things. An early conference tourney loss by any of UTEP, Nevada, Utah, and Air Force could change which side of the bubble they fall on. None of them should feel very secure right now.

More Notes from “The Sideline”

• Did anybody else think the one of the best parts of the Jim Harrick Jr. Final Exam was the final question about the best assistant coach in the country? I don’t mean the actual question, but the fact that he spelt Steve Wojciechowski correct and Ron Jirsa (incorrectly spelled Jursa) wrong when Jirsa was previously the Head Coach at Georgia!

• The only New Yorkers who will rejoice over the potential Vin Baker signing are the bartenders.

• I went to the RAC yesterday to see Rutgers host Seton Hall. A great college atmosphere to see first hand, and the game was excellent. That rivalry is on the verge of being something really great as both teams are well coached and will continues to recruit the fertile ground of the New York metropolitan area.

• Stony Brook knocking off Boston University was probably the most shocking upset of the first weekend of Championship Week. BU was the host school and favorite to take the America East crown. Vermont will now host Maine this Saturday and the big question is whether Vermont star Taylor Coppenrath will come back from a broken wrist to play.

• Everybody seems to think Jeff Jones will be the next head coach at SMU, and do not be surprised to see Maryland assistant Jimmy Patsos take Jones’ place at American.

• Northwestern assistant coach Paul Lee would be a perfect candidate to take over the reins at Dartmouth. Lee was a player and longtime assistant at Columbia, and has spent time under former Princeton head coach Bill Carmody at Northwestern. Lee would bring national and international recruiting ties to Hanover, as he has played a primary role in the turnaround of the Northwestern program.

• I promised my friend Murph that I would get him in a column because he hasn’t been in one yet and he is feeling left out. So far all he has given me though is Quin Snyder looks like the Patrick Bateman character in “American Psycho.”

• The Florida Gators have taken on a new slogan and have even been wearing tee shirts for warm-ups with the slogan printed on it. It reads, “We All We Got.” This slogan tells me two things: 1) The Gators are focused, together and ready for a tournament run, and 2) Jim Harrick Jr. has resurfaced as an English Professor in Gainesville.

Enjoy the rest of your Championship Week.

     

Metro Atlantic All-Tournament Team

by - Published March 11, 2004 in Conference Notes




Metro Atlantic Conference All-Tournament Team

by Jesse Ullmann

Albany, NY – In March, come tournament time, the high profile players usually bring their A-game and rise to the occasion with scoring-savvy performances, usually, that is. In the 2004 MAAC championship tournament, it was the role players who elevated their level of play and although the official league all-tournament team almost got it right with their list, there need to be a couple of adjustments.

1. Luis Flores, Manhattan Jaspers

Lets get him out of the way immediately. Uncontested this man is the best player in the conference. The senior guard from New York City scored 32 points in a semifinal showdown versus Saint Peters and the nation’s leading scorer sophomore guard Keydren Clark. In the finals Flores was held to 14 points but was pesky on defense forcing three turnovers in 40 minutes of action in the win. Flores, one of three mid-major All-American nominees (Blake Stepp, Corey Violette from Gonzaga), averaged 24.1 points per game during the ’03-04 campaign and is the reason for the Jaspers top seeding in this year’s tournament.

2. Ricky Soliver, Iona Gaels

This sophomore guard lost minutes when Iona acquired Syracuse transfer, an All-Big East Team selection, DeShaun Williams. Williams, as expected, was kicked off the team and Soliver since has excelled. Also born In New York City, Soliver put his smooth-style game on display scoring 31 points and grabbing eight rebounds to go along with five steals in a second round loss to No. Two Niagara. Soliver scored a game-high 19 points, dished out five assists and had nine rebounds in a first round win over Canisius.

3. Michael Haddix, Siena Saints

With an upset over No. Three Fairfield and a five point loss to Niagara in a semifinal showdown, Six-seeded Siena saw the future of their program step up in big-game situations. The sophomore forward shut down Niagara’s star player Juan Mendez, a First-Team All-MAAC selection, holding him to ten points and four fouls. Haddix scored a team-high 21 points and pulled down eight rebounds against Niagara. Haddix averaged 12.5 ppg plus a combined nine blocks versus both Fairfield and Marist.

4. Juan Mendez, Niagara Purple Eagles

Mendez is an extremely versatile athlete, able to hit the ten foot jumper, post up down low or drive hard to the basket. He showcased his abilities this weekend as the catalyst for his No. Two seeded Purple Eagles. With teammate Tremmel Darden in foul trouble, Mendez dominated the Gaels, who were clearly on the verge of a big-time upset over the Two seed. The Montreal-born Mendez drove on nearly every possession forcing four Gaels to foul out and three others to pick up four apiece. Mendez scored 27 points and grabbed a career high 16 rebounds.

In three games in as many days, he averaged 22 ppg, 12 rebounds per game and had a combined seven blocks.

5. Tremmel Darden, Niagara Purple Eagles

A senior guard, Darden proved why he is, arguably, the most versatile player in the MAAC. Trailing by double figures in the title game versus Manhattan, Darden scored 12 of his 18 points in the second half. While the Jaspers looked to run away with their second consecutive conference title, the senior Darden came up big, clawing away at Manhattan forcing fouls and putting Niagara in the double bonus with over seven minutes to play in the second half.

In Sunday’s overtime win against Iona, Darden scored 21 points on seven of 13 shooting while scoring six of his 23 points in the final 34 seconds of Sunday’s 79-74 semifinal win over Siena.

     

Touring the Northeast

by - Published March 11, 2004 in Columns


Touring Around the Northeast

by Phil Kasiecki

Eagles Get Momentum Before Big East Tournament

If there were any doubts about Boston College being in the NCAA Tournament, Saturday’s 63-54 win at Providence – the team’s fifth straight win to close out the regular season – put those to rest. It came three days after they came back from an 11-point first half deficit to beat St John’s in Uka Agbai’s final home game.

Wednesday night, the Eagles started out much like they did in the first meeting with St. John’s, not playing well and allowing Daryll Hill (13 of his game-high 24 points in the first 9:11 of the game) and the Red Storm to control the game early. At one point, they led 26-15 before an 18-5 run gave the Eagles the lead at the half. The Red Storm tied it on two occasions in the second half, but the Eagles went on a 12-3 run to break the second tie and finished the game on a 10-2 run.

Although the Red Storm shot below 40% in the first half, the Eagles were much better in the second half as they held them just above 24%.

“I was more disappointed about the way we played defense, because that’s effort, that’s attitude, that’s just getting after it, and we just did a better job in the second half,” head coach Al Skinner said after the game.

On Saturday, the Eagles jumped out to a 23-4 lead early and shot nearly 54% in the first half, making the early lead stand up to a late Providence run with late free throws. The Eagles won despite not making a field goal in the final five minutes of the game, and they also had more turnovers than assists for just the seventh time all season.

“The first time we played them, I didn’t think we were well-prepared, and I take a lot of fault in that,” Skinner said after the game. “I thought today, we were a little better prepared, and from there, our guys came out and executed pretty well on the offensive end.”

Boston College is now confident that they are in the NCAA Tournament, although there’s probably part of them that’s not sure after what happened last year. Skinner said after the game he doesn’t think they’re playing to get in now.

“I think we’re playing for a seed now, and most guys want to avoid that 8/9 game if they can possibly do that,” he said. “Once we beat St. John’s, I think we were just playing for a seed. Any success that we can have in the Big East Tournament is only going to help us and advance what we’re trying to do.”

The Eagles finish the regular season in fifth place in the Big East, and will take on Georgetown in the opening round. No one has won the Big East Tournament without having a bye before, but if there was ever a year where it could happen, this is it.

On another note, congratulations to BC Director of Basketball Operations Bonzi Colson, who was not with the team on Saturday to be with his wife as she delivered their second child.

Friars Lose Momentum To Close Regular Season

Providence put together an excellent regular season all in all, but didn’t look much like it in their two home losses last week to close out the regular season. The Friars had no life in the second half against Pittsburgh as the Panthers broke open a close game to win by 27 points, then they seemed to have a carryover into the first half against Boston College en route to losing on Senior Day.

The Friars were within six at halftime against Pittsburgh, but went to sleep in the second half. On five occasions, the Panthers made a long downcourt pass to an open play for an easy basket. When that happens once or twice, it’s one thing, but to happen five times in one half is another story and indicative of how the Friars were playing.

“I was just disgusted with that – I couldn’t believe what I was seeing,” said head coach Tim Welsh, who was surely joined by the 12,993 in the sold-out Dunkin’ Donuts Center with that sentiment.

It wasn’t the way they wanted to head into the final game of the regular season, and Welsh wound up being a prophet.

“We don’t want to drop two in a row heading to New York,” he remarked in looking ahead to Saturday’s game. “We played an NCAA team tonight, we’re going to play another one on Saturday.”

The Friars had the carryover into the first half on Saturday, before their man-to-man defense came through. The Eagles had trouble moving the ball and committed some unforced turnovers in the active defense of the Friars. But the Friars’ inability to score on Saturday did them in; they shot just over 28% from the field on the afternoon. The shooting woes were shared; Donnie McGrath and Sheiku Kabba both shot 3-12, including a combined 2-14 on three-pointers; Ryan Gomes was 4-15.

But Welsh, who didn’t like the way they competed, is trying to take the positives out of it, and the most notable one is on the defensive end, much as they struggled with their 2-3 zone. He said the zone won’t go away.

“We can play man-to-man, we proved it today – we played pretty good man-to-man in the second half,” he said after the game. “We’re not going to scrap something because we lost two games.”

The Friars finished in third place, getting a bye in the Big East Tournament. They will play the winner of Seton Hall/Notre Dame, both of whom they have defeated during the regular season although they split with the Pirates. Both are dangerous teams. The Friars are playing for seeding at this point, and if they win the Big East Tournament, a No. 3 seed is a good possibility.

Rams Solidify Their Postseason Status

Rhode Island already looked to be headed to the NIT, but solidified their status for at least that with their 65-63 win at Dayton on Wednesday night. It puts the Rams at 18-12 as they head to the Atlantic 10 Tournament.

Dustin Hellenga made the shot of the game, a three-pointer at the buzzer for the win, but he did more than that and looks to have broken out of a mid-season slump he had. He scored 18 points, leading a 16-3 second half run that was a key in getting the chance to win the game.

Baron moved Hellenga to the bench five games ago, and thus far it is working well. Hellenga is shooting the ball better, and the Rams have gone 4-1 with a starting lineup of Dawan Robinson, Brian Woodward, Jon Clark, Jamaal Wise and Terrence Mack. Wise has played well since moving into the starting lineup, save for a scoreless outing against Richmond (although he had 8 rebounds).

The Rams start the Atlantic 10 Tournament on Wednesday night against LaSalle, a young and talented but underachieving team this year.

Other Notes From Around the Nation

• A five-way tie atop Conference USA? What may be more amazing than that is that DePaul is the team that gets the top seed in the Conference USA Tournament by way of all the tie-breakers. The Blue Demons should be in the NCAA Tournament now, and Dave Leitao has done an excellent job of getting them turned around in his second season. What’s also surprising is the absence of two of the teams not in that mix – Louisville and Marquette. The Golden Eagles may still have a chance for an NCAA bid, but they likely need to win the tournament to get there, especially with Southern Illinois losing in the Missouri Valley. It would be a stretch for Conference USA to expect six or even seven bids.

Washington did more than end any hope Stanford had of an undefeated season on Saturday night. The Huskies are now 17-10 and have won 12 of 14 entering the Pac Ten Tournament, and may present an interesting case for the NCAA Tournament. But with their RPI (76), they might need to win it in order to get in. The aforementioned loss of Southern Illinois was not one that folks in Seattle were hoping for.

• In a day where home court advantage has meant a great deal, here’s a stat to keep in mind: Mississippi State finished its regular season 12-0 on the road. With winning on the road being important for the NCAA Tournament, the Bulldogs should get a No. 1 seed as long as they at least reach the SEC championship game, although just getting to the semifinals might be enough.

     

SEC Notebook

by - Published March 11, 2004 in Conference Notes



SEC Notebook

by Matt Jones

And just like that, the season is over. Mississippi State, the team so unknown that even their coach needs a roster to name any of the players, finished with a stunning come-from-behind win on Saturday against Alabama to take the SEC regular season title. The win capped off one of the most balanced years in the conference in recent memory, as the league had two top-tier teams, Mississippi State and Kentucky, and another solid pack of eight clubs, all of whom played each other close throughout the season. This makes the SEC tournament take on a greater importance than any year in recent memory as the Wildcats and Bulldogs attempt to get a national No. 1 seed and the other teams try to make a case for an at-large NCAA tournament bid.

However you could get that kind of information from any Web site and any two-bit sportswriter’s column. What you came here for was a review of the season that is in-depth and hits on the stories behind the stories. Therefore I give you the true SEC Season in Review and Awards.

Best Team

It is likely the case that the best team in the conference every year is the one that wins the most games. Thus many of you may be saying, “Matt, why would you waste our time telling us about Mississippi State and how they are the best team when we can get the record book and see it for ourselves?” The reason is very simple…many of you still do not believe it.

All season long the Bulldogs have had the most balanced offense in the conference, led by one of the premier big men in the nation, Lawrence Roberts, and a sharp-shooting guard who has perplexed SEC coaches for years, Timmy Bowers. Yet most of America, heck, most of the SEC can tell you very little about what is going on in Starkville, Miss.

It is time for us to all pay attention. Bob Ryan, substituting on the ESPN show Pardon the Interruption, said that he gave little credence to the fact that the Bulldogs did well during the season because he believes what goes on in Starkville is shady. Although Dhante Jones and his 36 junior college credits in one summer in 1996 did make me raise an eyebrow, nothing should take away from what this team has accomplished. I do not believe they will win the SEC Tournament, but nothing can take away from the fact that they were the most consistent force in the conference this season.

Player of the Year

My controversial pick for this award is Matt Freije. Many will say that Lawrence Roberts should be the shoo-in as he has led the Bulldogs to the regular season title and will be on many All-American teams, but the simple fact is that he did not have the season that Freije did.

We should be honest here and note that without Freije, Vanderbilt would be HORRID, as we will see next year. He provides leadership, scoring and a degree of athleticism that is absolutely crucial for a jump-shooting team such as the Commodores. In addition, he has saved coach Kevin Stallings’s job, something that may have been unimaginable to anyone who sat in Rupp Arena last year and saw the Commodores lose by 62 points in the season finale. Vandy will be in the NCAA this year, and Freije deserves not only some but all of the credit. There is a reason why NBA scouts call him the best prospect in the conference, and this season he showed it to the nation, or at least central and western Tennessee.

All Conference Team

Matt Freije, Vanderbilt
Lawrence Roberts, Mississippi State
Jaime Lloreda, LSU
David Lee, Florida
Justin Reed, Mississippi

These picks should be fairly uncontroversial. Roberts and Lloreda are two of only a handful of players in the entire nation to average a double-double. David Lee has rebounded from what has to be considered a disappointing opening to his college career to have a great junior season and provide the only semblance of leadership on a disappointing Florida team. Justin Reed is known by few and cared about by fewer, but he will leave Ole Miss as one of the top scorers in school history.

I always hate to see players like Reed, who play for schools where the team goes unnoticed, not only not get their due but also get no attention whatsoever. However, like Ansu Seasy before him, I will remember Reed and write about him in future columns next year when there is nothing else to say about the Rebels.

The only other controversy that could exist over this team is the exclusion of any players from Kentucky. Although I believe that Eric Daniels, Cliff Hawkins, Gerald Fitch and Chuck Hayes all could be legitimate second team all-conference players, I cannot replace on this list. Their unselfishness causes none of them to stand out for all-conference honors, but it also allows them to be a consistent winner.

Coach of the Year

Once again many will say that Mississippi State’s Rick Stansbury deserves this honor, and although I sympathize with that view, I will have to go with Tubby Smith at Kentucky.

Stansbury has done an amazing job and were it not for St. Joseph’s Phil Martelli and Stanford’s Mike Montgomery, he may have been awarded the national coach of the year. However, much of the Bulldogs’ success comes from the fortuity of the Lawrence Roberts transfer and thus he loses just slightly to the Tubster.

It is truly amazing what this Kentucky team has accomplished with their 23-4 record. This is a team with less visible talent than any since the early days of the Rick Pitino years, but they nevertheless have confronted one of the hardest schedules in the country head-on and had a stunning season. They are in the running for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, and are some, including me, people’s darkhorse pick for a shot at the national title. All with a team that has not one sure-fire NBA player or even an all-conference selection. At that point, credit has to go to the coach.

So those are the more traditional awards that you would expect. I am sure that all of these individuals will be excited to have the Hoopville trophies on their mantle for years to come. However, the season was about more than just these usual honors. Much more occurred, and we must give these stories their due as well.

Most Overrated Player in Conference History

Can we all agree that there is nothing better for a college basketball fan than the end of the Christian Drejer era at Florida? Has there ever been any player who has done less and received more accolades than this flying Dutchman?

When Drejer first arrived in Gainesville, Fla., the media hyped him as the second-coming of Dwayne Schintzus, with the possibility of producing all the star-power without the burden of a mullet. There were talks of his sure-fire lottery status and his potential to set the SEC on fire. However, I never once watched a game and thought that Drejer was anything but a marginal player. He looked lost and a step slow too many times to mention and had a knack for making the big turnover.

When he left for Europe to pursue his professional dreams – running into other legends such as God Shammgod, Trajan Langdon and Jess Settles on the way – some announcers acted as if this had ruined an otherwise promising Florida team. One announcer went so far as to say that Florida would have to “learn to win without their star.” I do not know which Florida team these guys were watching but what has been clear is that this Florida team is the same as it was before, meaning that they are unable to play with Kentucky. The league is better off without Christian “I put the pan in flash-in-the-pan” Drejer.

The Jerry Stackhouse Award

It pains me to give this award, as I like the player a great deal, but he has left me no choice. It is rare for a college coach to spend the waning weeks of his best player’s senior year questioning his heart, but coach John Brady may have been justified in wondering out loud if Jaime Lloreda’s season-ending foot injury was legitimate.

Lloreda has been a joy to watch since his freshman year with the Tigers, looking like Craig Mack and playing like a skinny Charles Barkley. Before his injury, he was second in the country in rebounds, an almost unheard of accomplishment for a player who is not a center and is also his team’s primary scorer. Nevertheless, his decision to pull himself out of the lineup at the end of the year and then skip his Senior Day to go to a doctor in Florida leaves one wondering if the NBA Draft became more important in Lloreda’s waning days than the SEC and NCAA Tournament.

The “That’s Coach Stansbury to you Son” Award

I have often lamented in recent years that the coaching profession is losing some of its more colorful characters. This is a conference that once featured Wimp Sanderson, Sonny Smith, Dale Brown and Nolan Richardson, who should still be upset that someone shot his horse, on the sidelines and now has the more, to put it politely, sedated figures of Buzz Peterson, Stan Heath and Cliff Ellis.

However, Rick Stansbury did his best to change that this season, showing animation on the sidelines that would have even made the late Dick Fick proud. When one looks at Stansbury, it is easy to only focus on his pretty eyes, but after this season we have learned that, if given the right situation, such as an inadvertent three second call, he can be quite the intimidator.

Kentucky Fan Complaint of the Year

There is no doubt that Kentucky fans are the best in the country. They support their team rabidly and live and die with each game that the Wildcats play. However, these same qualities that make them the best group in the nation also lead them to occasionally get a bit out of hand in their expectations and their complaints.

This year, this undying – and sometimes blinding – devotion could be seen best after the Wildcats’ huge road victory over then-undefeated Mississippi State. After Eric Daniels had picked up a deflected game-ending pass and made a layup at the buzzer, one Kentucky fan complained on a radio show that “if the Cats do not execute better on last second plays, they will not make it anywhere.” This after the Cats had made the last basket.

At 23-4 Kentucky fans have had little to complain about, but luckily for those of us that love them, it still does not stop a small minority of them from trying.

The It’s Alright to Gloat Award

I have to present this award to myself this season. When I first began writing this column, I quickly realized that it was a great deal of fun to make light of the absolutely absurd non-conference schedule that many SEC teams play. With all of the directions, states, techs and A& Ms, it was always fun to play the, “where in the world is that school” game. Most teams and fans were fine with this criticism because their coaches admitted that the schedule was weak but justified it because the team was young.

That is except the Auburn fans. They were convinced that the team was an NCAA contender and told me that I would realize it once the conference season started. E-mails came in promising that Auburn would prove to the nation on national television, in that prime midnight eastern time slot, that they were for real. Not only were they destroyed in that game, but they put together another subpar year and never seemed to click as a group. I will not say that their inability to perform was due to their weak non-conference schedule, but they certainly did seem unprepared when the big boys came around.

Jason Moore Award

This is in honor of my good friend from college who never likes to leave his house and can go for literally days without moving from a spot on the couch. Tennessee was forced this season to leave the friendly confines of Thompson Boling Arena (motto: Enough empty seats to house all of J-Lo’s ex-husbands!) numerous times and managed to find a way to not win one conference game on these trips.

This has to be considered a huge disappointment for Volunteer fans who, like me, thought that this team had the potential to not only make but also make noise in the NCAA Tournament. I have to say that I actually really enjoy this team and said in this very column that Buzz Peterson will bring a winner to Knoxville. However until he can take that winner and achieve success in arenas where fans do not show up dressed as empty seats, there will continue to be frustrating years ahead for the Vol faithful.

Mike Tyson vs Lennox Lewis Award

Is there any fight in America that you want to see more than the Matt Walsh vs. Josh Carrier bout? If you watched the Florida-Kentucky game on Sunday, you would realized that these two gladiators have the potential to change the way we not only look at the three-point shot but also the world of fist-a-cuffs.

Florida’s Matt Walsh, the one with the hair, and Kentucky’s Josh Carrier, the one on the bench, have both had up-and-down careers but may have had their defining moments last week. Walsh is a true scorer but played one of his worst games of his Florida career while allowing the UK student section to get inside of his head. Carrier has never exactly been a UK fan favorite, but his tossing of the ball in Walsh’s direction may have finally won over the UK faithful.

Either way I will remember Sunday’s game as having narrowly averted a true tragedy. In the same way that one’s spirit is broken when he hears that the only two contestants in a bikini contest are Rosie O’Donnell and Sally Struthers, a basketball fight with Walsh and Carrier would surely have only led to disappointment.

The “Your Degree Now Means Nothing” Award

This award goes to anyone who has ever attended the University of Georgia. The news was released last week that former assistant basketball coach Jim Harrick Jr. – all the corruption of his dad with only half of the age! – produced a final exam for a coaching class he taught at the university that included the questions how many points for a 3 pointer and draw a picture of a free throw line.

Because this class was given for actual credit by the university for its students, most of whom were, surprisingly, athletes, there should be a requirement that all Georgia alums must report to Athens, Ga., and immediately return their diplomas. Until then, we can only hope that like UCLA, Rhode Island and Georgia, another proud state university will look past its educational mission and its academic purpose and hire the Harricks to dismantle their basketball program as well.

That is all I have for now. Be sure and check back for the individual team season reviews and SEC Tournament predictions. Until next time, say a prayer for Martha Stewart and be careful who you go duck hunting with.

     

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Big 12 Notebook

by - Published March 11, 2004 in Conference Notes



Big 12 Conference Notebook

by Zach Ewing

It’s hard to believe how soon March, and more importantly Championship Week, rolls around. All over the country, people like me are glued to ESPN and CBS, trying to get work done while really just trying to figure out whether it will be Troy State or Central Florida, Stony Brook or Maine that will be first-round fodder in two short weeks. Things are a little different in the Big 12, where seven different teams have a chance to dance.

Seedings for Big 12 Tournament in Dallas are set

It took until the last week to figure anything out as far as who plays when and where in the Big 12 Tournament in Dallas next week. It finally started to come together on Monday in Stillwater, where Oklahoma State wrapped up the first seed and a tie for the conference championship with a 76-67 win over Texas. Joey Graham and John Lucas controlled the game for OSU, which found itself in a fourth straight close game down the stretch but never trailed in the second half. The Cowboys broke open a tied game at halftime with a 15-3 run that ended up being the difference. The win gave Eddie Sutton’s team, picked fifth in the conference by the media and coaches before the season, the No. 1 seed in Dallas this week. Texas secured the No. 2 position.

The next step of deciding conference seeds came Wednesday. Kansas used a 26-4 run wrapped around halftime to beat Nebraska with ease. The final score was 78-67 and the Jayhawks clinched the No. 3 spot in the tournament. Texas Tech beat Missouri 87-76 but Colorado failed to capitalize in Ames, falling to Iowa State 83-77. However, by some strange twist of tiebreakers, CU was assured of no lower than the No. 5 seed in the tourney, meaning the Buffs would have a first-round bye.

Saturday, Texas Tech beat Iowa State to keep the pressure on Missouri for a bye. The ISU loss also locked the Cyclones into the No. 8 seed and Oklahoma into the No. 7 seed. Nebraska came up three points short at Colorado, but Kansas State upset Texas in one of the ugliest games of the year. Translation: K-State gets the No. 9 seed and Nebraska is left to the No. 10. Texas A&M, 0-16 in the Big 12, will be the No. 11 seed because Baylor is ineligible for postseason play.

That left the fates of Missouri and Texas Tech all that was left to decide. Mizzou came up short in a heartbreaker in the Hearnes Center, losing 84-82 to Kansas when David Padgett hit a short jumper with two seconds left. That negated the play of Arthur Johnson, who scored 37 points on 9-of-13 shooting for the Tigers. The MU loss allowed Texas Tech to get a bye and pushed Colorado to the No. 4 seed. The Tigers slipped to a Thursday date with Texas A&M.

So here’s what all of this madness means:

Big 12 Tournament (All times Central)

Thursday:
No. 9 Kansas State vs. No. 8 Iowa State, 2 p.m.
No. 10 Nebraska vs. No. 7 Oklahoma, 6 p.m.
No. 11 Texas A&M vs. No. 6 Missouri, 8:20 p.m.

Friday:
No. 1 Oklahoma State vs. KSU/ISU, noon
No. 5 Texas Tech vs. No. 4 Colorado, 2:20 p.m.
No. 2 Texas vs. OU/NU, 6 p.m.
No. 3 Kansas vs. MU/TAMU, 8:20 p.m.

Saturday: Semifinals, 1 p.m. and 3:20 p.m.

Sunday: Championship, 2 p.m.

Check Hoopville later this week for Big 12 Tournament coverage, live from Dallas

Everybody wants to dance

It was an up-and-down week for Big 12 bubble teams. Texas Tech, which had lost five of seven games before this week to fall back on the bubble, beat Missouri and Iowa State by double digits at home. This should assuage any doubts the Red Raiders are in the Big Dance, with a 21-9 record, 9-7 in the Big 12 and an RPI of 33.

Missouri continued a fairly high level of play this week but came up short in both of its games. Mizzou lost games to Texas Tech and Kansas in its two games, giving up a total of 171 points in the two games. It’s hard to imagine a 15-12 team dancing, even with a top-ten strength of schedule. MU needs to beat Texas A&M, Kansas and probably even its semifinal game to make the tournament.

The Oklahoma Sooners are still perhaps a few wins short of dancing, but they did what they had to this week. OU looked as good as it has since January in crushing Texas A&M 86-60 on Wednesday and then survived against a Baylor team playing its last game with a 46-41 win Saturday. OU though will need to beat Nebraska and perhaps Texas too in order to punch a ticket to the madness.

Colorado blew a second-half lead against Iowa State on Wednesday, leaving serious doubts as to this team’s ability to win on the road. Wins at Nebraska, Kansas State and Texas A&M aren’t especially impressive. Nonetheless, the Buffaloes were able to sneak past Nebraska 78-75 on Saturday. A win against Texas Tech on Friday and CU is probably safely in.

Simien: I’ll be back

All this talk about this year is starting to make my head spin, so let’s take a step into the future. KU fans are particularly interested in next season after junior stud Wayne Simien said he would be back for his senior campaign. Simien seemed persuaded by the Senior Day ceremonies at Allen Fieldhouse on Wednesday, and his return would make the Jayhawks a force in 2004-05. He averages 17.6 points and 9.0 rebounds per game, and would have a supporting cast of Aaron Miles, Keith Langford, J.R. Giddens and David Padgett. That’s pretty scary for everybody else in the country, much less the Big 12.

Senior Day equals don’t mess with the home team day

Nine teams in the Big 12 had their last home game of the season this week, a day normally reserved as Senior Day to honor all of the team’s graduating seniors. It’s probably not such a coincidence that seven of those nine teams won that game. Even Kansas State was able to send Tim Ellis, Jarrett Hart, Frank Richards and Josh Eilert off in the right way with a 58-48 upset of Texas. But in Columbia, it was more than just Senior Day, but there would be no storybook ending. It wasn’t just the end of an era for seniors Rickey Paulding, Arthur Johnson, Travon Bryant and Josh Kroenke, but also the last basketball game to be played in the Hearnes Center. The Tigers fought back from a late 10-point deficit but lost a heartbreaker 84-82.

A non-Big 12 note…

Yes, the Atlantic Coast Conference is the best conference in America this year and one of the best, top to bottom, in a long time. And yes, Duke-North Carolina is a great rivalry between two very good teams this year. But if I hear one more thing from a certain cable network or Dick Vitale about how great Duke is or how great the rivalry is, I’m going to advocate an official name change: from ESPN to the ACC Public Relations Network. Duke and Carolina will continue to get more than their fair share of blue-chip recruits if the Devils and Heels get on national TV 25 times every season. Spread the wealth, guys.

And now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Hoopville All-Big 12 team:

John Lucas, junior point guard, Oklahoma State
Andre Emmett, senior forward, Texas Tech
Wayne Simien, junior forward, Kansas
Tony Allen, junior forward, Oklahoma State
David Harrison, senior center, Colorado

Honorable Mention:

Arthur Johnson, Missouri; Curtis Stinson, Iowa State; Michel Morandais, Colorado; Brandon Mouton, Texas; Rickey Paulding, Missouri

Big 12 Player of the Year:

John Lucas, Oklahoma State – if you get a chance to see this guy play, don’t pass it up. Yes, he can drain impossible threes and knife to the basket like nobody’s business. But more than anything, he can go get Cowboy victories.

All-Big 12 Freshman team:

Curtis Stinson, point guard, Iowa State
J.R. Giddens, guard, Kansas
P.J. Tucker, forward, Texas
Drew Lavender, point guard, Oklahoma
Thomas Gardner, guard, Missouri

Honorable Mention:

Jarrius Jackson, Texas Tech; Will Blalock, Iowa State; David Padgett, Kansas; Linas Kleiza, Missouri

Big 12 Freshman of the Year:

Curtis Stinson, Iowa State – The New York kid came in with an attitude and led ISU to a 7-9 Big 12 finish, beating Missouri, Kansas, Texas and Colorado. Good things ahead in Ames.

Around the Big 12

Baylor Bears (3-13 Big 12, 8-21 overall)

Big 12 Tournament: ineligible

What was supposed to be a tough campaign for the Bears was, but with a few exceptions. BU recorded three Big 12 wins, including one over Iowa State. But a Senior Day win would have been even sweeter for Terrance Thomas, R.T. Guinn and Matt Sayman. Baylor nearly got it, but fell 64-62 to surging Kansas State. Guinn had his chance to win it after BU fought back from being down 56-37. A 12-1 run narrowed the lead to 57-49, and Thomas banked home a three-pointer with 41 seconds left to make it 64-62. K-State missed two front ends on one-and-one free throws, and Guinn got open for a three-pointer late. It hit off the back glass, and Baylor lost its chance for the upset.

The Bears had a chance to ruin Oklahoma’s tournament at-large chances Saturday in a low-scoring affair, 46-41. But Baylor’s 18th and final turnover, an OU steal on the last Bear possession, gave Oklahoma the win. A 14-2 Baylor run to open the second half put the Bears on top 32-22, but OU was able to chip away and BU couldn’t slow the pace quite enough.

Colorado Buffaloes (10-6, 18-9)

Big 12 Tournament: No. 4 seed, play at 2:20 p.m. Friday vs. No. 5 Texas Tech

Usually, getting double digit wins in one of the four best conferences in America is enough to get you a NCAA bid, but the Buffs may need to beat Texas Tech on Friday to be sure. That’s because CU blew a 13-point lead and lost at Iowa State on Wednesday 83-77. Colorado certainly looked like it would get the big win in the first half, shooting 62 percent in the first half and taking a 47-41 lead to the locker room. The Buffs hit their first 8 three-pointers. In the second half, Colorado extended the lead to 56-43 in the early-going, but Iowa State was able to turn the tide with full-court pressure and ever-loudening crowd. Michel Morandais had 17 points and David Harrison finished with 16, but Cyclone runs of 19-5 and 9-1 were too much.

Colorado saved its season on Saturday with a 78-75 victory at home against Nebraska. It didn’t seem like CU wanted the win very badly, though: the Buffaloes missed five free throws in the game’s final minute. But they went to the line six times in the final 5.2 seconds and hit three shots for the final margin. David Harrison was magnificent, finishing with 24 points on 10-of-12 shooting and Michel Morandais had 23 points.

Iowa State Cyclones (7-9, 16-11)

Big 12 Tournament: No. 8 seed, play at 2 p.m. Thursday vs. No. 9 Kansas State

I can’t imagine a Cyclone team that’s 0-10 outside the state of Iowa doing much damage in Dallas. But when ISU is in Hilton Coliseum, it’s nearly unstoppable. Such was the case Wednesday, when the Cyclones came back to beat Colorado 83-77. Curtis Stinson and Jackson Vroman led the charge with 19 points each. Stinson gave Iowa State its first lead at 62-61, and with the score 80-77, Vroman drew a charge on CU’s Chris Copeland to secure the win.

Lubbock is a long way from Iowa and the Cyclones fell to 0-2 in Texas this year with a 72-58 loss at Texas Tech on Saturday. Stinson scored 17 more points, but Iowa State couldn’t stop Tech defensively and never got closer than eight points down in the second half. The Red Raiders shot 51 percent.

Kansas Jayhawks (12-4, 20-7)

Big 12 Tournament: No. 3 seed, play at 8:20 p.m. Friday vs. MU/TAMU winner

Here’s another team that has had a bit of trouble winning away from home. Earlier this month, Kansas lost by 19 to Nebraska in the Husker State, but when the venue was changed to Allen Fieldhouse, it was an easy Jayhawk win, 78-67. Things went pretty much as expected for the crowd on Senior Day: Wayne Simien had 22 points, Aaron Miles dished out 7 assists, and the Jayhawks used crowd momentum to go on several big runs late in the first half and early in the second half. As an added bonus, Simien, a junior, announced he has no plans to leave for NBA after this season.

It was hard to pick a hero for KU on Sunday as the Jayhawks prevented Missouri from one final Hearnes Center win with an 84-82 victory. As usual, the list starts with Simien. After a slow first half, he put Kansas on his back in the second and finished with 22 points and 7 rebounds. He helped the Jayhawks to a late 77-67 lead. But maybe the hero was Aaron Miles, with his 15 points, 8 rebounds and one huge three-pointer to put KU on top 82-80 with less than a minute to play. J.R. Giddens could also have been considered a hero: 4-of-7 from long range for 14 points. And, of course, there was freshman David Padgett, who took a pass from Keith Langford and nailed a baseline jumper with two seconds left to give Kansas victory.

Kansas State Wildcats (6-10, 14-13)

Big 12 Tournament: No. 9 seed, play at 2 p.m. Thursday vs. No. 8 Iowa State

A few bounces here or there, and K-State easily could have slipped below Baylor in the final Big 12 standings. Instead, the Wildcats finished with two straight wins, a 6-10 record and the conference tournament’s No. 9 seed. Wednesday against the Bears, Jeremiah Massey scored 21 points and K-State won 64-62. But KSU nearly blew a 19-point lead late. Jarrett Hart and Marques Hayden both missed important free throws down the stretch, and K-State only survived because Baylor didn’t have any points left in their final possession.

The free-throw shooting certainly didn’t improve for the Wildcats on Saturday against Texas, but the result stayed the same against a much better team. K-State was only 19-of-31 from the charity stripe and 17-of-50 from the floor, but Texas was equally as miserable and KSU won 58-48. Massey had 14 points and 10 rebounds and K-State scored the game’s last eight points and out-rebounded the bigger Longhorns 42-32.

Missouri Tigers (9-7, 15-12)

Big 12 Tournament: No. 6 seed, play at 8:20 p.m. Thursday vs. No. 11 Texas A&M

Thanks to two lackluster defensive efforts, Mizzou went from being the talk of the league to back on the bubble, and almost off of it. First, Wednesday, Texas Tech beat the Tigers 87-76. MU led 44-41 at halftime, but came out flat in the second half defensively and allowed the Raiders to build a 72-56 lead. MU fought back to within 78-74, but could get no closer. Arthur Johnson was great with 24 points and Jimmy McKinney had 14, but Rickey Paulding was held to 13 points with only 4 field goals.

Everything was set up for a storybook ending at the Hearnes Center on Sunday: last game in the arena against Kansas, last game at home for the highly successful duo of Arthur Johnson and Rickey Paulding, and an NCAA Tournament bid to lock up. But somebody forgot to ask the Kansas Jayhawks to cooperate, and MU lost 84-82. Johnson had one of the best games of the year in a losing effort. He scored 37 points on 13-of-17 shooting, pulled down 8 rebounds and made 4 steals without turning the ball over. Johnson and Jason Conley led the Tigers on a late 13-2 run that culminated when Conley stole an inbounds pass, streaked down the court and dunked to give MU an 80-79 lead with 47 seconds left. But Aaron Miles three-pointer put KU up two. Conley hit two free throws with 15 seconds to go, but David Padgett won the game for the Jayhawks. Free-throw shooting cost the Tigers dearly. They started the game 2-of-8 and shot a total of only 59 percent.

Nebraska Cornhuskers (6-10, 14-13)

Big 12 Tournament: No. 10 seed, play at 6 p.m. Thursday vs. No. 7 Oklahoma

The Huskers fell behind Kansas late in the first half, came back with an early second-half 10-0 run, but couldn’t fight KU’s wave of momentum and fell subject to a 10-0 Jayhawk run. Five Huskers scored in double figures, led by Brian Conklin with 14. But KU led by as many as 22 points in a laugher of a second half, and won 78-67.

Nebraska lost its chance to play Iowa State in Dallas when the Huskers lost 78-75 to Colorado on Saturday and Kansas State beat Texas later in the day. Instead, NU will have to play Oklahoma, and the winner will have to play the Longhorns. Conklin drilled a three-pointer to tie the game at 75 with 20.6 seconds to play, but couldn’t stop fouling CU in the last 10 seconds. John Turek led the Huskers with 19 points and 11 rebounds off the bench and fought back from nine points down, but NU had no answer for David Harrison inside and Michel Morandais outside.

Oklahoma Sooners (8-8, 18-9)

Big 12 Tournament: No. 7 seed, play at 6 p.m. Thursday vs. No. 10 Nebraska

With their backs against the wall, the Sooners did what was necessary in order to stay alive for the NCAA Tournament. It started Wednesday with an 86-60 trashing of Texas A&M. OU led 21-2, 33-9 and by as much as 30 in a game it controlled from the outset. The Sooners held the Aggies to 17 percent shooting in the first half. Drew Lavender scored 14 points and had 8 assists and De’Angelo Alexander scored 17 points. Five Sooners scored in double figures, quite a feat for a normally offense-challenged team.

It wasn’t nearly as pretty on Saturday when OU beat Baylor 46-41, but the Sooners got the win, and that’s what they needed. Only one Oklahoma player got into double digits in scoring, Lavender with 10. The Sooners enjoyed a big edge on the boards and forced 18 turnovers, but needed two Lawrence McKenzie free throws in the final minute and a steal by Jaison Williams to hang on for the victory. Center Jabahri Brown sat out both of last week’s wins, suspended after being charged with possession of marijuana. That could spell trouble for the Sooners in Dallas, even if they can get past Nebraska.

Oklahoma is 7-0 against teams below it in the standings and 1-8 against the teams in front of it. Texas waits in the second round.

Oklahoma State Cowboys (14-2, 24-3)

Big 12 Tournament: No. 1 seed, play at noon Friday vs. ISU/KSU winner

A big second-half run gave Oklahoma State a working margin, and the Cowboys hung on to beat Texas 76-67 in what amounted to the Big 12 regular-season championship Monday. OSU started the second stanza with a 15-3 run to take a 50-38 lead. Texas fought back to within 62-61 behind the play of Jason Klotz, but Oklahoma State played composed at home down the stretch and won its 13th game in 14 tries. Tony Allen took over the hero role from John Lucas for the game, keeping OSU with UT early. He finished with 19 points and 8 rebounds and held Texas’ number one offensive threat, Brandon Mouton, to 6 points on 3-of-11 shooting. He also came up with a number of big plays down the stretch. Joey Graham added 20 points and 9 rebounds and Lucas had 14 points and 7 assists.

No heroics were needed Saturday when OK State crushed Texas A&M 70-41 Saturday. The Cowboys clinched the regular-season title outright with the win, and Eddie Sutton got his first outright conference championship as OSU coach. Lucas led the Cowboys with 20 points on 8-of-14 shooting. This one was never close; the Aggies were able to keep from getting completely blown away by running the shot clock down on nearly every possession.

Texas Longhorns (12-4, 21-6)

Big 12 Tournament: No. 2 seed, play Friday at 6 p.m. vs. OU/NU winner

If Texas had been able to come back against OSU on Monday, the entire conference would be talking about Jason Klotz. The little-known big man had a career-high 19 points for Texas. In fact, the Longhorns made Klotz their first option in a 23-12 run that brought Texas back within one point with less than four minutes to play. But with hardly any help from the perimeter, UT lost 76-67 and fell to second place.

Klotz went from potential hero to goat after Texas lost 58-48 to Kansas State on the road Saturday. With both teams shooting a horrendous percentage, Kenny Taylor finally got a couple of three-pointers to sink late in the game to tie the contest at 45. But about a minute later, with KSU up by a single score, Klotz missed a point-blank, wide-open lay-up. Kansas State scored again, and Texas had trouble hitting the broad side of a barn in the final minutes. The Wildcats finally found their stroke from the free-throw line and hung on for the upset.

Texas A&M Aggies (0-16, 7-20)

Big 12 Tournament: No. 11 seed, play Thursday at 8:20 p.m. vs. No. 6 Missouri

Let’s get this statistic out of the way right up front: A&M is only the second Big 12 team to go winless in a season and the first since Baylor did it in 1999. And now for some equally unpleasant business: Melvin Watkins, I hope you have an enjoyable time losing to Missouri on Thursday, because it will be your last game at the helm of the Aggies.

A&M didn’t even bother to show up for either of its games this week. Oklahoma, desperate for a win, got out to a 21-2 lead on Texas A&M, desperate for the season to be finished. A&M trailed 35-20 at halftime and never got closer than 13 points down in the second half.

While Oklahoma State was celebrating a rare conference championship with a 70-41 victory on Saturday, the visiting team was getting through the second-to-last game of a miserable season. The Aggies seemingly wanted the clock to run out faster, letting time roll down on every possession. The result was a 29-point loss, when it could have been much worse, but only 41 A&M points and no individual player with more than 12 points for the Aggies. This team didn’t have a ton of talent coming into the season, but with Antoine Wright in the line-up, it should have done better than this. What happened?

Texas Tech Red Raiders (9-7, 21-9)

Big 12 Tournament: No. 5 seed, play at 2:20 p.m. Friday vs. No. 4 Colorado

Bob Knight’s squad didn’t much like being on the bubble and responded with two of its best performances of the conference season last week with wins over Missouri and Iowa State. Against the Tigers, Texas Tech never really found an answer for Arthur Johnson on the defensive end, but out-scored MU 87-76 behind 28 points from Andre Emmett, 19 from freshman Jarrius Jackson and 16 from Ronald Ross. Even when Robert Tomaszek fouled out and MU got back to within four at 78-74, Tech kept its composure and won a fight between bubble teams that locked up an NCAA bid.

When Iowa State came to town on Saturday, Texas Tech continued its string of good play and cemented a bid with a 72-58 win against Iowa State. Ross had 23 points and Jackson added 17. Knight got his 830th career win, tying him for third place on the all-time list with Jim Phelan. Knight is now behind only Dean Smith and Adolph Rupp on that list. This one wasn’t too tough for Knight, as his Red Raiders got out to a 40-24 lead with first-half runs of 20-6 and 11-2.

     

Johnny Dawkins

by - Published March 11, 2004 in Columns




The Next Great Head Coach

by Michael Ermitage

Buckle up and hang tight – the annual coaching carousel is just beginning to spin. Except in college basketball today, it’s less like a friendly carousel and more like a hairpin turn, upside-down, 75-miles per hour roller coaster. We’ve already lost a couple coaches at the first dip (bye bye Dan Hipsher and Ray McCallum). And we’re sure to lose a couple bigger names at the next turn (hope you’re hanging on tightly Steve Alford). If you’re not celebrating an NCAA Tournament bid right now, you’re most likely discussing who you’re next coach should be. And I’ll tell you who that man is – Johnny Dawkins. How is this guy still an assistant? Oh, I’m sorry, Duke elevated him to Associate Head Coach, as if that title is anything more than a hood ornament on a 300 Series BMW.

Dawkins is a smooth customer; he just looks the part. He fills out a $2000 suit better than Rick Pitino, and his game face on the sideline trumps Tom Izzo. And you can’t argue his pedigree. Dawkins is in his seventh year of coaching at Duke, his alma mater. In that time, he’s seen the Blue Devils capture four ACC championships, a National Championship, and record an amazing 164-19 record.

He’s a legendary player at the school, and is still the school’s all-time leading scorer. He was named one of the ACC’s 50 greatest players by the league office. Dawkins, however, isn’t just another name in a litany of great high school basketball players to go the school. Nope, Dawkins made that decision before it was “hip” to choose Duke. In fact, his first season as a Blue Devil resulted in a porous 11-17 record. Dawkins has been a part of building Duke into a powerhouse as both a player and a coach. He’s seen the transformation first-hand, and more importantly, he chose to be a part of that challenge at 18 years old. Then, after his NBA career ended, he took a job on the Duke bench as an administrative intern, eventually working his way up to his current position. This shows an incredible amount of character.

Of course, before his Duke coaching career, he was a solid NBA player, playing nine seasons for the Spurs, 76ers and Pistons. He was the 10th player chosen in the 1986 draft. It seems to me that alumni will respect Dawkins’ Duke coaching pedigree, and his willingness to work his way to a head coaching position. Recruits will no doubt be lured by both his NBA career, and his experience as a coach for many current NBA players. Dawkins is in charge of player development at Duke, and since his arrival, more of Duke’s players are making a splash in the NBA. Where Christian Laettner and Bobby Hurley failed, Elton Brand and Shane Battier are succeeding.

So why is he still at Duke? Well, Dawkins is an old-fashioned fella, and his family likes Durham, North Carolina. He’s married with four children. Also, his wallet is plenty fat from his numerous seasons in the NBA. So, while most assistant basketball coaches are eager for a serious payday, Dawkins can afford to wait for the perfect opportunity. Some speculate that at age 39, he’s waiting on the bench for Coach K to retire. However, Krzyzewski is just 57 himself, and could theoretically coach another 10 years. And it’s not like there isn’t a long list of former Duke assistants with head coaching experience who’d love to man the Duke bench.

Dawkins will change some program immeasurably; it’s just a matter of who gets him first.

     

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ACC Notebook

by - Published March 11, 2004 in Conference Notes



Atlantic Coast Conference Notebook

by Michael Protos

Watch Out

The regular season has ended and we have entered the realm of March Madness. The unexpected becomes expected. Miracles happen. A hot team or hot player can make the difference between meeting expectations and rising above everyone’s hopes and dreams.

For the ACC, there is no shortage of good teams or great players this year. Duke is the favorite to win the conference tournament and will likely claim a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Blue Devils have a host of great players, but sophomore sharpshooter J.J. Redick may be the linchpin to the team’s success. Redick is the type of shooter who must play well in the tournament. Redick has scored more than 20 points in five of his last 10 games.

Two teams that ended strongly are Maryland and Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets are one of the most dangerous teams in the ACC because they have athletes and shooters to keep up with any team in the country. But coach Paul Hewitt has Georgia Tech playing some of the best defense in the nation. The Yellow Jackets will likely draw a No. 3 or No. 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament unless they win the ACC tournament. But Georgia Tech could easily beat a lower seed in the Sweet 16.

Maryland, on the other hand, will be doing good to make the NCAA Tournament. But the Terrapins should get in after two huge wins last week against NC State and Virginia. The Terrapins will draw a higher seed than usual, maybe something along the lines of No. 8 or No. 9. But the Terrapins could easily upset the first round opponent and an ill-prepared No. 1 or No. 2 seed in the second round. The team is young and you never know if they will play great or play soft. But I wouldn’t bet against a team coached by Gary Williams.

For Georgia Tech, sophomore point guard Jarrett Jack is one of the best floor generals in the conference and is playing his best basketball of the season now. Jack is a big point guard who can bang with larger players. With the game on the line, Jack has the talent and skills to drive coast to coast and win a game on an off-balance layup or find one the Yellow Jackets’ many sharpshooters on the wing for a three pointer.

Two of the hottest guards in the conference are both sophomores. North Carolina’s Rashad McCants and Wake Forest’s Justin Gray are torching the nets recently. Both are more than comfortable taking the critical shots when their teams need points. Both have ranges that easily extend five feet behind the arc. Both can make shots with a hand in his face. They are the types of players capable of pulling off miracles in the NCAA Tournament. If either team is down by two or three in the closing seconds, look for Gray or McCants to get the ball for a final shot. If defenses can deny these two sensational shooters, the opposing team deserves to win. But more often, McCants and Gray will provide the winning margin for their respective teams.

Anything can happen in March and certainly the most exciting four weeks in college basketball can produce any number of new heroes. But keep an eye on these players and these teams because they have the makings of greatness. And March is the month to crown the kings of clutch.

Third by a Flip

Georgia Tech and Wake Forest ended the season tied for third. But ties complicate match ups in conference tournaments, so the ACC devised a tiebreaker. The first tiebreaker compares the team’s head-to-head results. The teams split. The winner of the second tiebreaker has the better record against the top ACC team. Both teams beat Duke once. Because that method does not break the tie, the same comparison goes for each team in order of their finish. Wouldn’t you know it, Georgia Tech and Wake Forest have the exact same record against every team in the conference.

So with no more tiebreakers to employ, the ACC falls back to a coin toss. A flip of luck to determine which team will play North Carolina in the first round and which team will play Maryland. Wake Forest won the toss, claiming third place and a date with Maryland. The Yellow Jackets fall to fourth and will play North Carolina.

Conference Tournament Match Ups

The following games represent the opening and first rebounds of the ACC conference tournament. A more thorough ACC conference preview will appear later this week.

Thursday: No. 8 Virginia vs. No. 9 Clemson
Friday: No. 1 Duke vs. the winner of Virginia and Clemson
Friday: No. 2 NC State vs. No. 7 Florida State
Friday: No. 3 Wake Forest vs. No. 6 Maryland
Friday: No. 4 Georgia Tech vs. No. 5 North Carolina

ACC Player of the Week:

Jarrett Jack, Georgia Tech

Jack had a phenomenal week last week, averaging 16.5 points, 10 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 2 steals per game. More importantly, he led the Yellow Jackets to a huge road win at Duke and helped the team rally to beat Florida State in the regular season finale.

ACC Rookie of the Week:

Luol Deng, Duke

Deng had a great week with 14 points, five rebounds and two assists per game. He struggled against Georgia Tech but bounced back to take the lead as Duke beat rival North Carolina. Deng scored 25 points in that game and killed the Tar Heels with his drives to the basket.

ACC Coach Watch:

Leonard Hamilton, Florida State

Hamilton has the Seminoles in an unfamiliar position – an opportunity to earn an NCAA Tournament bid. But to do so, Florida State must knock off NC State in the first round of the ACC tournament and win the semifinal game against Wake Forest or Maryland. The best way to ensure a bid is to win the ACC tournament. Hamilton’s team plays great defense, which is critical in the rapid fire format of the ACC tournament, which does not allow teams to have any rest before playing another talented opponent.

Duke Blue Devils (25-4, 13-3) Last week: 1-1

The streak is over. Georgia Tech upset Duke 76-68 to end the Blue Devils’ 41-game winning streak. The Yellow Jackets entered Cameron Indoor Stadium with the intensity needed to win, despite the frequently deafening noise created by Duke’s fans. Duke never seemed able to match Georgia Tech’s intensity. Nor could the Blue Devils find a shooting rhythm as they finished with 34 percent shooting. Sophomore guard J.J. Redick scored 24 points for Duke, but he made only 4-of-12 three-point shots. Duke’s poor shooting masked 23 turnovers forced by Duke. Usually the Blue Devils took advantage of such opportunities, but against Georgia Tech, the shots hit off the iron.

Duke finished the regular season with the rematch against North Carolina. The last game was one of the best games in this rivalry as the Blue Devils won 83-81 in overtime as senior guard Chris Duhon went coast to coast to drain a layup for the lead and the win. The rematch was another great game, although significantly more defensive. Duke trailed by three at halftime, but freshman forward Luol Deng was unstoppable, especially in the second half, and the Blue Devils rallied for a 70-65 win. Coach Mike Krzyzewski devised a great game plan that featured high screens and drives to the basket. Redick scored 15 points, despite shooting only 33 percent in the game. He was 8-of-8 from the line with all those opportunities coming off drives to the hoop. The team’s greatest weakness was rebounding as North Carolina outrebounded Duke 40-27.

NC State Wolfpack (19-8, 11-5) Last week: 1-1

For only the second time this season, NC State dropped a home game last week as Maryland came to Raleigh, N.C, and won 70-69. Junior guard Julius Hodge carried the team with 27 points, seven rebounds and three steals to lead a rally. The Wolfpack trailed by 10 at halftime but pulled to within two in the final minute. Senior forward Marcus Melvin missed a pair of three-point attempts that could have either taken the lead or tied the game for NC State. Melvin finished with 22 points and eight rebounds.

The Wolfpack played much better in the regular season finale against Wake Forest. NC State won 81-71 as the team shot an efficient 54 percent, led by Hodge and freshman guard Engin Atsur with 17 points apiece. The Wolfpack frustrated the Demon Deacons in the second half by slowing down the game and draining shots right before the shot clock expired. Hodge and Atsur both logged 37 minutes for NC State, which played essentially a six-man rotation. Coach Herb Sendek will have to manage his players’ fatigue during the ACC and NCAA tournaments, which feature intense games with little down time between them.

Wake Forest Demon Deacons (19-8, 9-7) Last week: 0-2

Wake Forest entered the week with an opportunity to move into second place with a series of events that needed to start with a win at Virginia. But the Cavaliers were not accommodating, winning 84-82 on yet another final-minute winning basket. The loss spoiled great games by freshman guard Chris Paul and sophomore guard Justin Gray, who continues to be one of the hottest players in the ACC. Paul finished with a game-high 21 points while Gray had 20 points and five rebounds. Wake Forest can look at the free-throwing shooting statistic to understand how this game slipped away. The Demon Deacons made only 12-of-24 free throws in the game. The team is usually a solid free-throw shooting squad, making 72 percent on the year. Just not that night, and it cost the Demon Deacons.

Despite the loss, a win against NC State to end the regular season would have given Wake Forest a tie for second with the Wolfpack. But NC State stormed Winston-Salem, N.C., intent on holding on to second place. The Wolfpack succeeded with an 81-70 win. Sophomore guard Justin Gray led Wake Forest with 23 points, his fifth consecutive game of 20-plus points. Gray has emerged as Wake Forest’s most reliable shooter. Paul is the team leader in terms of emotion and ball handling, but Gray is the team leader in clutch shooting. Junior forward Vytas Danelius, after two sensational games, had a quiet night with only two points on 1-of-3 shooting. Sophomore center Eric Williams had a strong game with 18 points and seven rebounds.

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (22-8, 9-7) Last week: 2-0

The Yellow Jackets started the week with the mission impossible – beat Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium where the Blue Devils hadn’t lost in 41 games. But all good things must come to an end. Georgia Tech played from start to finish with the type of energy necessary to compete with Duke. It paid off as the Yellow Jackets won 76-68. Sophomore guard Jarrett Jack led the team with 15 points, eight rebounds, three assists and three steals. But it was a team effort. Junior center Luke Schenscher appeared unstoppable at times in the second half as he outplayed Duke sophomore forward Shelden Williams, despite posting slightly worse statistics. Georgia Tech’s defense harried Duke’s sharpshooters, holding the Blue Devils under 35 percent shooting.

Georgia Tech continued the momentum from the win at Duke with a come-from-behind win at home against Florida State, 63-60. Senior guard Marvin Lewis saved one of his best performances for last as he led the Yellow Jackets with 21 points on senior day. Lewis made 5-of-10 three pointers. Jack played another spectacular game with 18 points, 12 rebounds and six assists. Georgia Tech collected seven more rebounds than Florida State and held the Seminoles under 32 percent shooting in the game. The Yellow Jackets end the game on a hot streak that they will look to carry into the ACC tournament.

North Carolina Tar Heels (18-9, 8-8) Last week: 1-1

The story is really getting old. The Tar Heels beat Clemson in Chapel Hill, N.C. Again. For the 50th consecutive time, North Carolina unceremoniously crushed Clemson. The Tar Heels won 69-53 in a rather forgettable game. North Carolina played great defense, holding Clemson to 53 points, mainly because of 22 Tiger turnovers. Sophomore guard Rashad McCants was one of only two Tar Heels in double figures, scoring 30 points. He drained eight three pointers. Sophomore forward Sean May also had a strong game with 17 points and seven rebounds. Rumors that sophomore point guard Raymond Felton would miss the game proved false as Felton had a strong game as the offense’s maestro with nine assists.

The Tar Heels sought revenge at Duke to end the regular season. North Carolina lost a classic game in this rivalry in Chapel Hill earlier this year as Duke won 83-81 in overtime. Duke handed the Tar Heels another bitter loss as the Blue Devils won 70-65. North Carolina led for most of the first half, but Duke clamped down on defense and held North Carolina under 37 percent. McCants had 20 points for North Carolina, and May had 14 points and 15 rebounds. May has killed Duke on the glass in both games, sucking up every loose ball like a vacuum cleaner. But winning the rebound battle doesn’t win the game. North Carolina could not stop Duke’s drives to the hoop, giving up far too many easy layups, which provided the difference in the game.

Maryland Terrapins (15-11, 6-9) Last week: 2-0

One of the best ways for NCAA teams to get off the bubble and into the NCAA Tournament is to win road games against the best teams in the conference. Maryland did exactly that when the Terrapins stole a huge road victory at NC State to open last week. Sophomore guard John Gilchrist scored 21 points as Maryland outlasted the Wolfpack 70-69. Not a good free-throw shooting, Maryland hit several important free throws down the stretch to kill the Wolfpack’s rally. Maryland led by ten at halftime but watched the Wolfpack chip away the lead. Maryland ripped 15 steals, however, to force turnovers to squash NC State’s momentum.

Maryland was a little more than 19 minutes away from dropping the regular season finale to Virginia at home and likely dropping any chance to make the Big Dance. Coach Gary Williams called a timeout with the Terrapins down 38-27 and did not draw up a plan. In fact, he told his team to just play. And the Terrapins just played better than Virginia for the remainder of the game and rallied for a 70-61 win that likely punched Maryland’s ticket to the NCAA Tournament. Sophomore guard Chris McCray led the Terrapins with 20 points, including a reverse dunk off a steal that tied the game for Maryland. Neither team shot well as both teams shot 34 percent. But Maryland forced four more turnovers and collected eight more rebounds, including 22 offensive rebounds. The win takes a vast deal of pressure off the Terrapins entering the ACC tournament later this week.

Florida State Seminoles (18-12, 6-10) Last week: 0-1

The Seminoles had all week to prepare for the season finale at Georgia Tech, a game the Seminoles had to win to take a step closer toward the NCAA Tournament. But they lost 63-60. Despite leading by four at halftime and forcing 22 turnovers, Florida State could not hold on for the win. The team shot 32 percent from the field and no player scored more than 12 points. Senior guard Tim Pickett fouled out with a little more than six minutes remaining in the game. Pickett played in pain for much of the game and finished with 10 points. Freshman forward Alexander Johnson and junior forward Adam Waleskowski scored 12 points to lead the Semioles. The loss damages Florida State’s NCAA dreams because the Seminoles finish conference play winless on the road.

Virginia Cavaliers (16-10, 6-9) Last week: 1-1

All of a sudden, the world is looking brighter for the Cavaliers. Virginia upset Wake Forest 84-82 as junior forward Devin Smith orchestrated a late three-point play to give the Cavaliers the victory. Despite an injured back that makes him a game-time decision for nearly every contest, Smith had a huge game to lead the team with 15 points. The final points were the most important ones, but nearly every one of Smith’s baskets seemed to provide energy to the team. Sophomore forward Derrick Byars also scored 15 points for the Cavaliers, and freshman guard T.J. Bannister demonstrated that he is the point guard of the future for Virginia with 12 assists. He also added nine points. The win instantly put Virginia in the discussion for at-large bid.

To prove Virginia’s at-large case, compare the Cavaliers to Florida State. Both teams lack a marquis non-conference win. Their best wins are home games against North Carolina, Wake Forest and Georgia Tech. The two split their regular season meetings. Virginia’s best non-conference wins are against Iowa State and Minnesota while Florida State’s best are against Northwestern and at Miami.

A win at Maryland would have likely given the Cavaliers a better shot at an at-large bid. But a loss would mean that Virginia would finish eighth in the conference and force the Cavaliers to play Clemson in the opening round. If they beat the Tigers, they’d have to play Duke almost 12 hours later. Not an enviable task. And unfortunately, they must do just that after losing 70-61 at Maryland. The Cavaliers played great defense, holding Maryland to 34 percent shooting and built an 11-point lead coming out of halftime. But the Terrapins shut down Virginia, which also finished with 34 percent shooting. Junior forward Elton Brown led the team with 16 points.

Clemson Tigers (10-17, 3-13) Last week: 0-1

Guess what? Clemson lost at North Carolina. That’s almost as predictable as saying the sky is blue. The Tigers have visited the Tar Heels’ home 50 times now, and every game has resulted in a loss. The latest chapter in the not-exactly storied match up ended with a 69-53 loss. Clemson struggled to hold on to the ball, committing 22 turnovers. When they had the ball, the Tigers were not exactly productive, scoring only 53 points in the game. Junior guard Sharrod Ford led the Tigers with 14 points and five rebounds. The best statistic for Clemson came on the glass, as the Tigers outrebounded North Carolina 33-24.

     

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America East Tournament

by - Published March 11, 2004 in Columns





America East Tournament In Review

by Phil Kasiecki

Injured Stars Dot Tournament Landscape

Several of America East’s top talents were not in action at the tournament due to injury. The quality of the tournament in light of their absence showed the overall depth of the conference. This was especially the case with players like Vermont’s Taylor Coppenrath, who has won the league’s Player of the Year award the last two seasons, and 2002-03 Rookie of the Year Jamar Wilson among those on the sidelines.

Wilson accompanied Albany to the tournament and is in good spirits. He injured his knee in an early season practice, but the extent wasn’t known initially and x-rays didn’t show anything. He practiced through it and finally felt well enough to play in the Great Danes’ third game of the season at Colgate, where he scored 13 points. After that, an MRI showed that he fractured the lower end of his right patella, and he had surgery in late December and called it a season.

Although sitting through the games has been hard on him, he hasn’t wasted away. He’s taken set shots with the team in game warm-ups and feels like he’s been able to learn a lot from watching the team in practice and in games. Additionally, no one has been a bigger cheerleader on the bench for this team than he has. Recently, he’s moved around more and has begun lifting, and head coach Will Brown feels he will be ready for spring workouts next month. He’s also excited about the future, as they will return everyone from this team and bring in several transfers (notably former Loyola (Md.) guard Lucious Jordan and former Boston College center Kirsten Zollner) and incoming recruits that will add depth and size to the team.

“I’m really excited to play with them,” he said of the transfers. “To be able to play man and have depth will be great for us.”

Jerell Parker has been out much of this season for Hartford after tearing the quadriceps tendon in his right knee against Maine. It’s the same knee he had surgery on last July, which is one reason he’s taking things slowly right now. While his rehab is going very well, he doesn’t expect to work out at full speed until the summer months. It’s naturally been tough on him since he’s such a competitor.

“It’s been a long, rough year, almost depressing at times,” Parker said of this season. “Not being able to get going has been tough, seeing how I could help the team at times.”

Parker has tried to help the younger guards along, saying that head coach Larry Harrison has wanted him to be his “other assistant coach” while he hasn’t been playing. He’s watched how they play and cheered his team on, but there’s only so much to be gained in the former since he already sat out a year when he transferred from Loyola-Chicago. Because of that, the school is petitioning the NCAA for a sixth year of eligibility for him. Harrison said the NCAA has not indicated when they will make their decision.

Coppenrath accompanied the team and was the biggest cheerleader on the bench during the tournament as the Catamounts advanced to the championship game on Saturday against Maine. Head coach Tom Brennan said Coppenrath is in good spirits, although he would certainly like to play, adding that, “it’s been harder on me that it has been on him” (just further proof that Brennan is never at a loss for a good quote).

All in all, the quality of the tournament speaks to the depth of talent in the conference, and it’s a good sign for what’s ahead.

Vermont Keeps Accomplishing New Things

With their wins and the upset of Boston University on Saturday, Vermont will host the conference championship game on Saturday morning. It will be the first time that has happened, and this year marks the third straight 21-win season for the Catamounts, equaling the school record. It’s also the first time in program history that they have won 20 or more games three straight years, and making the semifinals of the tournament three years in a row is another first.

All of it hasn’t been lost on Brennan, who went through plenty of lean years before the recent success. The fans impress him as much as the players, and it was evident in Saturday’s semifinal win.

“It was like a home game for us,” Brennan said. “These guys (players) helped, but they (fans) won the game. You can see the love affair that this state has with this team. How many people travel, how passionate they are about these kids.”

The Catamounts got there led by former Player of the Year T.J. Sorrentine, picking up all the slack with Coppenrath (his best friend) out of action. He hit one clutch shot after another and controlled each game. He had 37 points and 9 assists in the two games, and he had good help from Germain Njila at both ends of the floor in each game. Njila came up one shy of his career high with 14 points in the semifinal win on Sunday. Also playing a key role inside was Scotty Jones, who is playing on a bad knee and whom Brennan says is “playing each game knowing it could be his last.”

Whether Coppenrath can play or not (he was quoted as saying that his season is over in the Burlington Free Press last week, but is reportedly practicing this week), the championship game should be a very good one. Both teams are playing well, and while Patrick Gym is one of the tougher places for a visiting team to play in the conference, Maine can bring in some confidence from having won at Vermont to end the regular season.

Terriers Must Now Wait It Out

After winning 23 of 24 games prior to the tournament, Boston University was upset by Stony Brook in the quarterfinals. The Terriers finish the season at 23-5 and will hope upon hope that they get into the NCAA Tournament. It’s not likely, but the NIT is a good bet to come calling after the Terriers went to the NIT last year.

“They played a terrific game, I thought they deserved to win the game,” BU head coach Dennis Wolff said of Stony Brook after the loss. “They out-played us for much of the game, they out-coached us for most of the game. I’m very disappointed for our kids. They’ve had an unbelievable season, which I hope isn’t over.”

The Terriers have quality wins at Fordham and at Michigan, but the loss to Stony Brook early in the NCAA Tournament likely finishes off any chance they have of being an at-large team. Their RPI is 82, and the loss by Southern Illinois in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament on Sunday hurts their chances that much more.

Maine Gets There With Help From All

Maine’s two victories to get to the championship game were very different games. They knocked off Binghamton in overtime on Saturday in the Bearcats’ tournament debut, then blew out Stony Brook on Sunday after the Seawolves upset Boston University on Saturday.

One thing that was apparent was that the Black Bears had a balanced attack, much as senior point guard Eric Dobson was the leader in each game. In the two games, he had a total of 31 points, 16 rebounds and 17 assists, including 11 points, 8 assists and 7 rebounds in the 78-54 semifinal win.

“I’ve often said that we go as Eric (Dobson) does, and many times I’ve emphasized the importance of the point guard position,” head coach John Giannini said after the semifinal game. “Obviously he was outstanding and continues to get better, and that has a lot to do with things.”

He had plenty of help. Kevin Reed had 33 points in the two wins, and players like Ludmil Hadjisotirov (17 points in the semifinal win) and Joe Campbell (20 points and 9 rebounds in the quarterfinal, 8 rebounds in the semifinal) inside picked up the slack for Mark Flavin, who strained his calf in the quarterfinal win and played just ten minutes in the semifinal. They also got a good two-way effort in the semifinal from David Dubois, especially slowing down Stony Brook’s Cori Spencer. And that wasn’t all, but they were perhaps the ones who stood out the most.

“This was a tremendous team win,” Giannini said of the semifinal win.

The Black Bears can bring some confidence into the championship game after winning at Vermont on the last day of the regular season. This will be their chance to finally make the NCAA Tournament, after several good finishes under Giannini that have ended short a trip to the Big Dance.

Stony Brook Plays Well, Has Much To Look Forward to

One of the biggest upsets in America East Tournament history came on Saturday afternoon as Stony Brook knocked off regular season champion Boston University. It marked just the second time in tournament history a top seed lost to a No. 8 seed, and the first time in 16 years.

When all the historical notes were read off before the postgame press conference, Seawolves head coach Nick Macarchuk remarked, “Any other negative things about this?” But the Seawolves had pulled off a monumental upset after a tough regular season, and there were a couple of keys that Macarchuk and senior guard D.J. Munir commented on.

“I told our players before the game, to beat BU we have to play a perfect game,” Macarchuk said. “Today we played a perfect game. We sustained our effort, we sustained our defense, which is very important.”

“We just tried to play as hard as we could all the time and not take a possession off,” Munir said. “We tried to keep the score low averages like 80 points a game and I don’t think we had 80 all year unless it was a double overtime game.”

Two things the Seawolves did well was beat up the Terriers inside, as they had a 38-24 edge on points in the paint, and make tough shots in the clutch en route to shooting over 54% from the field in the game.

After the game, the team was emotional. Munir was speechless, while Macarchuk said on Sunday that he couldn’t come up with the words after the game.

“I don’t even know what to say right now,” Munir said. “I don’t have any words for this. This is probably the best team we’ve played all season – that’s counting St. John’s, Boston College, and Utah.”

“I tried for 15 minutes to say something to them and I couldn’t,” Macarchuk reflected. “They were so emotional in the locker room, they were so emotional last night – there were six or seven guys just crying last night. Everyone was crying. And I started to cry, too – I said to Robbie (Emmerich, Stony Brooks’s media relations director), ‘Robbie, I can’t cry in front of these guys! Most of them hate me already!’ ”

In Sunday’s game, the Seawolves looked a little fatigued, although Macarchuk thought the short time to go over a game plan was the biggest factor.

“We just didn’t have enough time to prepare,” he said after the game. “I’m not a bright guy – my guys are bright – but we need time to try to get (the players) the information. We tried to do it last night through film, and again this morning through film.”

The Seawolves lose Munir, a key component of their early Division I years, as well as forward Mike Konopka. But the future is bright; next year they will have plenty of size, and Mitchell Beauford and Mike Popoko (who sat out the last game with an ankle problem, though the team trainer is concerned that there may be an Achilles problem) had solid freshman seasons. Bobby Santiago had a difficult sophomore year between injuries and personal tragedy, but played better in the tournament and indicated that he should be ready to have a productive junior year.

Ford Makes Triumphant Return

Charles Ford was a constant thorn in Northeastern’s side in Hartford’s upset of the Huskies on Saturday night. He scored 18 points, with all nine of his second half points coming in the final 11:03, and he was able to penetrate to the basket on a consistent basis.

Ford didn’t have the same success on Sunday, although he had a carryover early on. He scored 11 points in the first half on 4-6 shooting, scoring 10 of the Hawks’ first 19 points in nearly 13 minutes. He was then slowed by a leg cramp, as he was noticeably grimacing while on the floor later in the half, and he missed all five of his shots in the second half.

Despite the bad second half, Ford finished the season strong and looks ready to break out next season. And it all comes after he took last season off.

Ford had to deal with some personal issues after his freshman year, so the native of Upper Marlboro, MD left the school and the east coast entirely to attend the College of Southern Idaho, with the help of head coach Larry Harrison. He didn’t play basketball, but continued in school and Harrison kept in touch with him. Harrison knew Ford was unhappy out there in part from missing the game of basketball, and when Ford came back east during spring break, Harrison caught up with him and offered him a scholarship for this year.

“I didn’t want to be out here at the University of Hartford and put my team in jeopardy if I knew I wasn’t going to be out there and give it 100 percent and be focused,” Ford said. “I didn’t want to be selfish about anything. I got to give it to coach Larry Harrison, he’s behind me 100%.”

He said that the year off did him a lot of good, and when Harrison offered him the scholarship, he felt ready to return. He’s glad to be playing again, and he finished the year playing it well. He averaged 15.6 points in his final five games and scored in double figures in all but one of his final eight games. He will need to cut down on his turnovers – he had over 20 more turnovers than assists for the season – but with more offseason work and his good finish to this season, he should be primed to break out next season.

Huskies End With Disappointing Loss

Both Boston teams lost on Saturday, as Northeastern lost 79-74 to Hartford on Saturday night. The Huskies didn’t work the ball inside much against a Hawk team that lacked size, instead settling for a lot of jump shots (including 30 three-pointers, of which they made only six). Even with that, they almost won, and if they game went to overtime, they may have won a battle of attrition since the already short-handed Hawks had three players foul out and two more playing with four fouls when the game ended.

“There wasn’t a lot of strategy, the main thing is that we had bodies,” Hartford head coach Larry Harrison remarked after the game.

Where the Hawks won the game was on the glass, with a 43-27 edge, and shooting the ball, as they shot 50%. They won despite committing 23 turnovers.

The game was lost after the Huskies ran out to a 25-11 lead behind 11 points from Marcus Barnes, who scored a career-high 36 points. The Hawks responded with a 17-2 run, taking the lead for good a short time later.

“We were 6-30 from the three-point line, so that’s not consistent with the way we’ve been playing, and that really hurt us because it led to a lot of breakouts and easy baskets for Hartford,” head coach Ron Everhart said after the game. “We took quick shots, we settled for threes early in the offense, and that was a big difference.”

The Huskies made charges in the second half, but the Hawks constantly had an answer. They brought a 15-point lead back into single digits, only to see the Hawks get it back to 13 before their final run, which was cut short on a terrible intentional foul call on Javorie Wilson with 23 seconds left that sealed the game. The Hawks were up by two at the time of the call, but got the ball back after one free throw was made and sealed the game with two more free throws.

For Everhart, the called capped an evening of questionable calls, starting with the night Jose Juan Barea had. He took a pounding all night long, having to leave the game with a cut after one play, and all he got to show for that play was a technical foul and he later fouled out.

“It’s disappointing to see Jose foul out of a game with 3 questionable touch fouls on the perimeter, and take the physical abuse he took driving to the basket and get no calls,” Everhart said after the game. “I’m really disappointed in that.”

Binghamton’s Debut a Short One, But They’ll Be Back

Binghamton was finally eligible for the conference tournament this year, but its appearance was short-lived as they lost in overtime to Maine on Saturday. But the Bearcats, who entered the season having to make up for the loss of three key starters, are primed to be a real factor in future tournaments, including the prospect of hosting it down the line.

The school opened its new Events Center in January, and had two sellout crowds along the way. In the five games they played there, the average attendance was 3,893, which helped them lead the conference in attendance. It’s also one reason why the school is expected to once again put in a good bid to host the conference tournament next year.

The Bearcats lose seniors Brandon Carter and Brett Watson, but have plenty returning. Carter will be a key loss for the intangibles he brought as much as his numbers, but the Bearcats will return four starters that feature center Nick Billings and point guard Troy Hailey. Billings improved his offensive game a great deal this season, while Hailey got better as the season went along and has a promising future. Solid defender Billy Williams, Sebastian Hermenier and Alex Adediran are also among the returnees, and Joe White gives them more size inside.

All in all, the Bearcats will be a factor in seasons to come, and their new gym will certainly help with their homecourt advantage.

Albany Looks To The Future

At last, the time has come to talk about how bright next year looks for Albany. The Great Danes were competitive all season despite being short-handed, something that shouldn’t be a problem next season.

“We’ll have a lot of bodies next year, that’s the biggest thing,” Brown said. “It’s tough to stay sharp even in practice when you’ve only got seven guys. I think we learned a lot, we got better.”

The Great Danes have a four-man recruiting class coming in that will add some size, while the aforementioned transfers will also provide instant improvement. Brown said that Jordan was the team’s best player in practice even when Jamar Wilson was healthy, and he feels confident that the current players will adapt to their new roles next season.

“I thought our kids did a good job every night of competing,” head coach Will Brown said after Friday night’s season-ending 43-38 loss to New Hampshire. “It was frustrating at times, just because when you’re limited depth-wise and have a lot of young kids, you go through some growing pains.

“We were more than competitive this year, and I firmly believe that our future is bright. We’re going to be in a situation next year where we’re going to move forward and we’re going to play on deep into this tournament, I firmly believe that.”

New Hampshire Closes Out Season of Improvement

Although the wins and losses don’t look like much, the season that ended with Saturday night’s 58-50 loss to Vermont was a step forward for New Hampshire. The Wildcats finish the season at 10-20, a jump from last season’s 5-23 showing.

Craig Walls missed both games this weekend with flu-like symptoms that kept him out of the last two games of the regular season. Walls was one of the reasons the Wildcats improved this year, giving them a rebounder and another who can score in the frontcourt alongside Ben Sturgill, who again struggled with injuries at times but played very well when healthy over the last month.

The pieces are in place for the Wildcats to continue to move up next year. Marcus Bullock, Griffin Walker and Kyle Peterson move on, but key players like Walls and Sturgill head the holdovers, while Shejdie Childs and Jermaine Anderson will lead the backcourt. Damione Liddell played very well later in the season in the frontcourt, and Blagoj Janev showed plenty of promise during his stint en route to earning All-Rookie honors. New Hampshire lost some tough games during the season, dropping ten games decided by ten points or less, which shows that they were in most of the games they lost.

The point guard position has been a question mark, but it looks like Anderson will be the incumbent heading into next season. Both he and Childs are quick, can penetrate and defend, but Anderson in particular has turned it up of late. Head coach Phil Rowe and Sturgill both spoke highly of his defense.

“We talk about defense, we talk about Jermaine Anderson,” Sturgill said after he shut down Rookie of the Year Jon Iati on Friday night, as he held Iati scoreless.

“If you haven’t seen him play the last month, you’ve missed something,” Rowe said. “He’s really guarded people.”

UMBC Finishes Transition Year

Friday night’s 65-59 loss to Stony Brook concluded the first season in America East for UMBC, which had previously been a member of the Northeast Conference. The Retrievers were without head coach Tom Sullivan, as he is currently on administrative leave. The school isn’t saying anything more right now, and Randy Monroe is currently serving as the interim head coach.

This year was viewed as a transition year by Sullivan, to get a sense of the conference level. The Retrievers finished 7-21 on the season, including a 4-14 mark in America East play. Overall, players and coaches alike feel positive about the years ahead.

“It’s a big step up in conferences,” said senior guard Kareem Washington, who closed out his college career with nine points and five rebounds. “It was a tough transition, but we handled it.”

“I think it was a big step up, but I know that this is where the program wants to be and wants to go,” said junior guard Rob Gogerty, who tied his career high with 20 points in the loss. “I think in a couple of years, we’ll be right up at the top of this conference.”

With just two seniors on the roster, the Retrievers figure to improve next season. Monroe also took some positives from the team’s showing in their first America East Tournament game, where they trailed by 19 points just over three minutes into the second half before rallying to get within four.

“I think the experience that they got tonight was tremendous, and I think the experience that they got tonight will put them in a position to be better players in the near future,” Monroe said.

A Few Notable Quotes

“It’s amazing what young people can do. It’s absolutely amazing. I can’t do it anymore, my life is going down the toilet, but their lives are just beginning. It’s unbelievable what young people can do, isn’t it?” – Stony Brook head coach Nick Macarchuk after Saturday’s win over Boston University

“I knew you guys didn’t have anything to do tonight, so we just prolonged the game. Longest game I think I’ve ever been associated with.” – Hartford head coach Larry Harrison after Saturday night’s win over Northeastern

“I just wish Wally (Jon Wallingford) had 100 years of eligibility. He’s the kind of guy that, if I were a pro coach, I’d sign Wally to a long-term contract. I’m going to miss him tremendously.” – Maine head coach John Giannini

“It’s been such a good team all the way through. These guys have been really wonderful. To get 13 guys to all want the same thing, think the same thing, do the same thing, for 8 months, is difficult in anything in life. For the last 8 months we’ve had 13 guys who have all done and wanted the same things, and that’s special. People take that for granted, but that’s the challenge of coaching. Think in life: put 13 people in a room, get them to all want and think and do the same things. It doesn’t happen, but it has with these guys.” – Maine head coach John Giannini

     

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