RICHMOND, Va. – The first round of the CAA Tournament is in the books. The seeds held to form save for the first game of the day, although Towson had a chance to change that before Delaware was able to hold them off. William & Mary also made a charge at Northeastern, but to no avail, and the best team performance of the day came in the last game as Georgia State dominated Hofstra, playing like a team on a mission as head coach Ron Hunter described after the game.
Here are some quick hitters on what happened Friday:
- UNCW head coach Buzz Peterson said the Seahawks had a solid week of practice leading up to Friday’s game. The Seahawks had some of their best practices, and Peterson also managed around the fact that the first game on Friday is typically a little different than the rest without much of a crowd. He took the team out bowling on Thursday before the awards banquet, and said director of basketball operations Dante Calabria beat him by three pins. Most of all, though, it seemed to loosen his players up.
“They came up this morning ready to play,” said the UNCW mentor.
- One noteworthy contributor to UNCW’s win was forward Shane Reybold, a bit player during the season. The sophomore played just 35 minutes the entire regular season, scoring six points and grabbing nine rebounds. On Friday, he surpassed the season scoring total with seven points and grabbed six rebounds in a career-high 17 minutes. He did a lot of it early, as he came into the game in the first half and made an impact right away with a conventional three-point play and a tip-in in the first couple of minutes, as the Seahawks ralled from an early nine-point deficit.”He’s the motor with the post, we feed off his energy,” said freshman Cedrick Williams, who led the Seahawks with a career-high 22 points and eight rebounds.
- Asked how he can best lead James Madison next year as one of the presumptive leaders, Devon Moore was quick to point to one of this year’s seniors, Humpty Hitchens. While Moore has plenty of leadership qualities, he noted how Hitchens was this season, just as Hitchens said that he had some difficulty at first as a transfer before everything was different this year.”Follow that man down there’s energy,” said Moore. “Hump was amazing in practice, he was amazing on the court. He led the team when I didn’t play the first seven games, and for him to have a great season like this, I’m sorry we couldn’t send him out on a bang, on a win.”
“Last year, I could tell you my mind wasn’t in it, my head wasn’t in it,” said Hitchens. “This year, I care about winning, I care about my team.”
- Matt Brady was asked about his job status at James Madison, and hopes he won’t be judged just off this year’s bottom line. Brady still has a year left on his contract, and the lack of results isn’t for a lack of trying, including for a lack of trying to keep injuries from happening. He said they have examined what they do as far as practice and conditioning goes, because they don’t want their players to get hurt. Of note, they have had three players in his tenure with heart conditions, which is just about impossible to fathom.
- Delaware pulled out a win despite some challenges being thrown their way. Hakim McCullar and Kelvin McNeil both went down in the first half, and Jamelle Hagins battled foul trouble for a lot of the game. That led Monte Ross to have to play Larry Savage, a wing, at the power forward spot for some minutes. Savage’s stat line was mostly empty, but he held down the fort in 12 minutes.”We needed him to play big for us, and he did,” said Ross. “That’s one of the things that we tell our guys. The way that we practice, we practice a certain way so that whenever your number is called, you’ll be ready. He was ready when his number was called.”
- Towson finished the season at 1-31, but had a big bright spot on Friday in the play of Robert Nwankwo. The senior big man had 27 points and 20 rebounds along with three steals, the first 20-20 game in CAA Tournament history. The 20 rebounds also ties a record first set by Larry Sanders in 2009.”Rob today showed why we felt he was as good as any post guy in the league,” head coach Pat Skerry said.
- Northeastern beat William & Mary in the state of Virginia for the first time ever. The Huskies had to weather a couple of storms, with Jonathan Lee fouling out with 10:38 left, but withstood the challenges as players like Quincy Ford and Reggie Spencer picked up the slack. Ford had 18 points and seven boards, and a couple of times seemed to understand that the Huskies needed to make a play. Although Spencer had just six points, he scored four during a key stretch in the second half and had ten rebounds.”He’s probably the first guy we can’t afford to lose,” said head coach Bill Coen of Lee. “Jon’s been there for everybody all year long, and it was his turn to sit and watch as other guys got the job done for him.”
- Hofstra struggled to score all season, and that was the big Achilles heel for this team. What’s more concerning is that the offense seemed to get worse as the season went along. The Pride shot over 44 percent from the field in November, 41 percent in December, over 39 percent in January and 38 percent last month. They took better care of the ball in February than any other month, averaging just over 10 turnovers per game for the month, but that didn’t help much. On Friday, they ran into a buzz-saw.