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MSG Doubleheader Notes

February 3, 2008 Columns No Comments

Hoyas Defend Their Way to Victory

by Ray Floriani

NEW YORK – There have been a number of surprises in this Big East season. On Wednesday at Madison Square Garden there would be little drama. Sixth-ranked Georgetown dominated St. John’s 74-42 in the first game of a doubleheader.

This one had few surprises and was played out as many expected. It was 6-2 Hoyas after four minutes and that was about as close as it would stay. A steal and coast-to-coast layup by Austin Freeman then a Jeremiah Rivers foul line jumper made it 10-2 and the rout was on. But the difference was defense, where Georgetown simply put on a clinic.

The Red Storm was prepared offensively and actually ran some good sets and attacked the baseline with dribble penetration. Unfortunately finishing was another issue as Georgetown’s size and quickness were difficult to overcome.

“They are long, aggressive and probably the best defensive team in the country,” St. John’s coach Norm Roberts said of Georgetown, which played man-to-man. St. John’s did not score a field goal until four and a half minutes remained the opening half. At the break it was 41-14.

St. John’s shot 12.5 percent (2 of 16) from the field and didn’t get a basket until 4:30 remained in the half and Justin Burrell nailed an eight-footer. The first half numbers alone are astounding.

In the first half alone St. John’s committed 13 turnovers. The second half saw St. John’s play a little better and start to hit a few shots, but they never made any threat. Hoya coach John Thompson III substituted frequently and often as his club was in complete command. Almost forgotten was the fact DaJuan Summers of Georgetown was sidelined with an injury.

With seconds left, 6-6 Bryon Jansen took a pass and attempted a three-pointer. Georgetown’s reserve forward banked it in as the buzzer went off. That basically summed up the night St. John’s had.

  • Thompson talked about the Hoya defense, how pleased he was with the effort and “how our guys were attentive, helped each other and had a great understanding of stopping what they (St. John’s) were trying to accomplish.”
    The Hoya mentor said he expected St. John’s to make a run but it never materialized. “Their shots weren’t dropping,” Thompson said of St. John’s, “but that happens to all of us on a given night.”
  • Red Storm coach Norm Roberts repeated on several occasions the common mantra of taking the blame, getting ready to play and having to get his team to play tougher. On the 10 of 47 (21 percent) shooting, Roberts said, “We work on shooting 35 minutes a day”.
    Roberts just seemed very uncomfortable throughout the interview. When one writer asked if he was mad, Roberts responded, “Yes I’m mad, I’m pissed.”
    The losses are taking their toll, “Fire Norm” chants are being heard at MSG and the fan forums are burning up. Truth of the matter is that Roberts is in an uneasy situation as the fans are restless.
  • A bright spot for St. John’s: the play of freshmen Justin Burrell and D.J. Kennedy. Burrell had a nine-point, four-rebound night but kept working hard all evening. Kennedy had nine boards, seven on the offensive end.
  • Roy Hibbert scored 11 points and had 6 rebounds in 19 minutes action. Thompson had Hibbert and Vernon Macklin on the floor at the same time and the double low-post combination provided an intriguing offensive look. Georgetown’s leading rebounder was neither a big man nor a starter. Rivers, a 6-4 sophomore guard, came off the bench to contribute five points and grab nine rebounds.
    The Hoyas improved to 17-2 (7-1 Big East) while St. John’s is now 7-12 (1-7). Macklin paced the Hoyas with 18 points while Burrell and Anthony Mason Jr. led St. John’s with nine. The Red Storm had almost twice as many turnovers (19) as field goals (10).

Iona Pulls Out Nightcap

In the nightcap Iona held off Manhattan 62-60 in a MAAC contest.

“We shot ourselves in the foot,” Manhattan coach Barry Rohrssen said. “We came out and we couldn’t make shots.”

The Jaspers also had a tough time down low. They were unable to mount an inside attack and on the other end Gary Springer was dominating in the paint for Iona.

“Gary should dominate night in and night out in this league both offensively and defensively,” Iona coach Kevin Willard said. “That’s how I expect him to play.” Springer, a 6-9 junior center, finished with a game-high 18 points and 10 rebounds.

Manhattan shot 25 percent in the first half but only trailed by four. In the second half Iona built a 13-point lead with just under seven minutes to play and appeared to be in the driver’s seat. The Jaspers made a run in the stretch largely due to the efforts of Antoine Pearson (a team-leading 15 points) and Devon Austin (14 pts). After Kyle Camper missed the front end of a one and one with 26 seconds remaining, the Jaspers had one last effort but two shots in the final possession missed the mark.

“We have had a tendency to let teams back in,” Willard said, adding about Manhattan, “But give them credit, they kept the pressure on.” Willard was also critical of the Gaels’ decisions in the stretch. “We were up late,” Willard said, “and we shot threes on five straight attempts.”

Iona is now 8-15 (4-7 MAAC) while Manhattan is 8-13 (2-9 in conference).

  • Bob Leckie, formerly of St. Peter’s, joined Barry Rohrssen’s staff two weeks ago. It’s a good move adding Leckie, as with former St. Francis (NY) mentor Ron Ganulin, the Jaspers have two former head coaches on staff.
  • Former Seton Hall star Shaheen Holloway is on Kevin Willard’s staff at Iona. “It’s been great working with him (Willard),” Holloway said. “He brings a lot of energy and comes from a great coaching background. This is just a great situation.”
  • Manhattan gave up a home game for the date at the Garden. “Coming here put our home game on the line,” Rohrssen said. “But I think it was important for our upperclassmen to get to play at the Garden. It’s beneficial for our program and a significant playing experience.”
    Iona’s Willard agreed, noting, “I have played and coached here and it’s just great. I told the kids Mohammad Ali, Michael Jordan and Larry Bird have all performed here. This is hallowed ground, the mecca of sports.”


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