CAA play has begun in earnest, and already it’s gotten interesting.
As we enter the middle of the big five-day stretch with three games for each team (save for Drexel and VCU, who play their third game of the stretch on Thursday), there is some symmetry in the standings as three teams are 2-0, six are 1-1 and three are 0-2. But that’s not all. After five of the six games played in December went to the road team, the home teams had their revenge on Saturday as only Drexel pulled out a road win at Hofstra.
On Monday, the earliest game of the day is the only matchup of 2-0 teams as Georgia State visits George Mason at 5 p.m.
Husky Guards Lead Them to 2-0
BOSTON – It’s not a surprise that Northeastern is likely to go as their guards go, especially since that can be said of a lot of teams. On Saturday, we saw Exhibit A of that as Matt Janning and Chaisson Allen led the Huskies to a 60-44 win over William & Mary.
Janning had an excellent shooting game as he scored a game-high 22 points on 7-9 shooting, including 5-7 from long range. He did most of the damage in a couple of stretches, most notably in the first half when he scored the last 12 points of a 16-0 run that saw the Huskies take the lead for good. The first nine came on three shots from deep, then a conventional three-point play finished it.
Janning didn’t get a shot off in the second half until 13 minutes in, but it was a big three-pointer that put the Huskies up by double digits for the remainder of the game.
“He had a couple of shots in that second half that were just daggers,” William & Mary head coach Tony Shaver said of Janning.
The other player Shaver was quick to mention, Allen, came through in the interim. Allen is starting to show the improved jump shot that was evident in early practice, and had it on display at a couple of key moments in the second half when the shot clock ran down. That helped them fend off the Tribe until they could pull away in the final minutes.
“I thought he played a terrific game,” head coach Bill Coen said of Allen, who had 12 points and eight rebounds. “From a defensive perspective, he really guarded for us and set the tempo, and then on the backboard. When you get eight rebounds from the point guard spot, that’s a bonus.”
The Huskies need both players to lead the way if they are to win. Coen said if that happens, other players can do what they do best and things have a better chance to fall into place from there. The captain can see the confidence Allen is developing with his jumper, as well as its importance.
“It’s the biggest thing for the whole team, if he can knock down that shot, it’s going to open up everything else,” said Janning. “If he’s playing well, that’s going to get us going.”
Tribe Faces Difficult Change of Pace
William & Mary played just four games in December, closing the month out with two games in the last 25 days. It’s partly due to having to schedule around the school’s two weeks of final exams, whereas most schools have one week. As a result, November was a packed month, and now they go from that long stretch without much game action to playing four games in eight days.
The Tribe didn’t begin it well, losing 60-44 at Northeastern in a game where they struggled offensively. They shot 34 percent, and Shaver was quick to note that their top two scorers, Danny Sumner and David Schneider, combined to go 3-16. Chris Darnell and Peter Stein didn’t do much in the frontcourt as well, getting just seven shots combined. Stein had a solid four-game stretch heading into Saturday’s game where he was finally coming alive offensively, something Shaver thought would happen this season.
One player they got a good game from is emerging freshman Quinn McDowell. He followed up a double-double against Harvard with 12 points on 4-5 shooting on Saturday, and his minutes look like they will continue to go up as he has now posted double figures in scoring in the last two games.
“We expected great things out of Quinn, really,” Shaver said. “He’s what we need a little bit more of right now, he’s good in all phases of the game.”
The Tribe’s first CAA game came against VCU last month, and after playing at Northeastern, they return home to play Old Dominion, which was also projected by many to finish in the top three, on Monday before a visit to UNC-Wilmington and a return home against James Madison. While the VCU game came last month, it’s nonetheless a challenging stretch to start, especially when the Northeastern game changes up the pace of games played.
“We have to be mentally tough enough to deal with it,” said Shaver. “Our first three conference games are against probably the best three teams in our league. It’ll be a great measuring stick for us, and we’re going to see what we’ve got to get better at to get back to the top.”
- Shaver added that the Tribe may sit Sean McCurdy, who has been hit with multiple injuries, for a couple of weeks in the interest of getting more from him at the right time. The junior guard, who transferred from Arkansas, played in just his sixth game of the season against Northeastern on Saturday and had his struggles, scoring five points on 2-6 shooting with four turnovers. Then he got hurt again in the final minute. “It’s killed him, it’s killed us,” said Shaver of the injuries. “We may just have to sit him down for 2-3 weeks to get his body healthy and help us down the stretch.”
- Georgia State had lost four in a row and seven of eight before knocking off Old Dominion on Saturday. The Panthers’ lone wins in the last nine games have been against CAA teams, and it will be interesting to see if they are now rounding into form as there are some bad losses in the non-conference slate.
- Delaware’s win over VCU was the team’s fifth in six games and the first in five against VCU for head coach Monte Ross. Jawan Carter has now scored in double figures in 13 straight games after he didn’t in the first game of the season.
- In Towson’s win over James Madison, it was an unexpected player who came up big. Senior Rocky Coleman, who is basically a bit player as he averages nine minutes per game, scored 12 points in 19 minutes off the bench.
- UNC-Wilmington has lost eight straight games after Saturday’s blowout loss at George Mason, which is their biggest CAA loss ever. The trouble spot was defense again: the Patriots shot nearly 70 percent from the floor in the second half to blow open what was a 10-point game at the half, and they shot nearly 62 percent for the game. What bothered head coach Benny Moss was what led to the number. “This team has been competing hard, but tonight’s effort was not up to par,” said Moss. “We didn’t give it everything we had and that’s inexcusable.”