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The Morning Dish – Tuesday, January 30, 2018

January 30, 2018 The Morning Dish No Comments

You just never know where you’ll find a college basketball game that you can’t take your eyes off of. Maybe even whether you want to or not.

Siena and Saint Peter’s-a pair of Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference teams part of a four-way tie at the bottom of the league entering the night-played a game Monday night that will be remembered for quite some time. The Saints and Peacocks put on a triple-overtime contest in Upstate New York, one that was heavy on drama but light on points.

Siena topped Saint Peter’s 59-57-in triple overtime. Even after 55 minutes of play, neither team could top 60 points, and this came after both struggled to hit 40 in regulation.

The game was tied at 40 after 40 minutes of play. It was tied at 45 after 45 minutes. And it was tied at 50 after-you guessed it-50 minutes.

(Siena TV play-by-play man Robert Lee, a real pro in every way, captured what was happening perfectly, his delivery at the end of each period a perfect descriptive mix of drama and bemusement.)

It was captivating, spellbinding, or a trainwreck one couldn’t look away from. Or maybe all three. In the end, the game did finally feature a good finish at the end of the third overtime. The Peacocks’ Cameron Jones hit a jumper with 41 seconds left for a one-point lead, but Siena’s Ahsante Shivers answered with a tough baseline bucket, which stood up as the winning points after a final SPU attempt to send the game to a fourth extra session was off target.

The teams combined to shoot 29.4% from the field. At times it looked like there was a stiff breeze blowing inside the Times Union Center, so far off were some shots. Or maybe the baskets were moving, the TUC turned into a full-sized version of Pop-A-Shot.

At the same time, there was some charm to it all. There was Saint Peter’s coach John Dunne orchestrating a game like a master yet again, doing so in ways that have made him almost a cult figure in the East. He also did it without using a single timeout in the second half, and just one in the first 14 minutes of overtime.

It’s also undeniable that every single possession mattered in this game, and when was the last time you said that about an NBA regular season game? Shoot, how about an Oklahoma game, where we’re told by some that Trae Young’s five turnovers per night are just the cost of doing business?

And it must be noted, the defense really was good. There are good reasons why Dunne has become so respected as a coach, and it’s because his squads aren’t far behind teams like Virginia, Cincinnati or Texas Tech when it comes to outstanding halfcourt defense. The choreography when the Peacocks help each other to cover cutters on a pick-and-roll or converge to double-team a post player is expert. And offensively, his teams control tempo as well as any in the country. He has given a young team chances to win, even as it has lost seven times this season by six points or less.

There have been a few (hundred? thousand?) prettier games this season. There will be games with more points scored-maybe in a half. But there won’t be many that will be as easily remembered as this one. For better or worse.

Side Dishes:

  • Siena and Saint Peter’s hardly had the market cornered on tough-to-watch hoops last night, anyway. In fact, the Big Ten offered up at least 50 minutes worth of its own last night, probably more. First there was Michigan slugging out a 58-47 win over Northwestern, a high-major game filled with high-major players that was 21-19 at halftime, and not just because of superb defense. Credit the Wolverines for at least finding a way after looking really bad early. Then it was Nebraska winning at Wisconsin 74-63, with the Badgers coughing up an 11-point lead at home in the final 10 minutes by making two field goals the rest of the game. In a disappointing season for a young Wisconsin team, this may be a new low yet.
  • The other irony is that the most entertaining game of the night probably was played in the MAAC, where Fairfield upended Iona 103-100 in overtime. The Gaels were tied for second in the league entering the game, one-half game out of first, while the Stags were tied for last. Tyler Nelson scored 32 for Fairfield, while Iona fell further behind Rider, which is now solidly in first after a 92-85 win over Monmouth.
  • Kansas just keeps taking care of business in the Big 12. And in other news, a pig is pork. The Jayhawks took over early and won at Kansas State 70-56, subduing Bramlage Coliseum and winning in a much more convincing outcome than in Lawrence where K-State gave KU a push several weeks back. Kellis Robinette of the Kansas City Star also had an excellent recap of the missed opportunity at home for the Wildcats.
  • Duke blew away Notre Dame 88-66, bouncing back just fine after a close loss to Virginia on Saturday. It’s beginning to look like the injuries were just too much for the Fighting Irish this season; that’s six straight losses now for ND.
  • East Tennessee State rallied late to win at The Citadel 73-71 for its 13th straight win. It says a lot that even on a night that they didn’t play their best that the Buccaneers found a way on the road against a team that has plenty of firepower.
  • It’s becoming a storybook season for Arkansas-Pine Bluff. That might sound funny to say about a team with an 8-15 record, but the Golden Lions are now 8-1 in the SWAC after a 60-58 win over Jackson State that included another great escape against a top team in the conference. UAPB rallied from a 19-point deficit, and Martaveous McKnight-whose had his share of big shots of late-hit the game-winner with two seconds left.

Tonight’s Menu:

  • The night starts with Rhode Island on the road for a tricky Atlantic 10 game at Massachusetts (6:30 p.m., CBSSN). The Rams mowed down the Minutemen by 22 less than two weeks ago, but UMass is 9-3 at home and figures to shoot better at the Mullins Center than 32.2% (as it did at URI).
  • Stubborn Indiana is at Ohio State, with the Buckeyes coming off their first Big Ten loss (7 p.m., ESPN2). First of two meetings between these two in the next 25 days.
  • Clemson has had some schedule of late, and North Carolina marks its fourth ranked team in six games (7 p.m., ESPN). Urgency will be high for both but especially the Tar Heels, who have lost two straight, both in somewhat concerning fashion.
  • Florida is on the road at Georgia, where the Gators will be the latest to attempt to crank up the pace (probably unsuccessfully) on the Bulldogs, who need a big win here in the worst way after fanning on winnable recent opportunities against Arkansas and Kansas State. (7 p.m., SEC Network)
  • Speaking of desperation, both TCU and Oklahoma State really need their matchup tonight in Stillwater (7 p.m., ESPNU). The Frogs’ loss at Vanderbilt on Saturday was not good, the Cowboys need to hold serve at home, and neither wants to be 3-6 at the halfway mark in the Big 12.
  • Another busy MAC Tuesday night is led by Buffalo at Kent State, with the Bulls looking for their 10th straight win but facing a team that has moved into second in the conference’s East Division and along with Buffalo and Toledo is one of just three MAC teams (out of 12) with a winning conference record. Oy.
  • A very important Missouri Valley game is Southern Illinois at Drake, and who ever would’ve thought that before the season? Barry Hinson has quietly done a superb job guiding the Salukis through a mass of injuries this year, and the winner is in sole possession of second in the MVC.
  • Auburn looks to keep rolling on the road at Mississippi (9 p.m., SEC Network), another homecourt hero this year that is 10-3 in Oxford (including 4-0 in the SEC), just 1-7 outside of it. Also, a pair of teams on some serious positive momentum meet with Vanderbilt at Kentucky (9 p.m., ESPN), where veterans Riley LaChance and Jeff Roberson try to fend off the Wildcats’ young brigade.
  • If Texas A&M is going to make a late-season run, it probably needs to start tonight at home against Arkansas (9 p.m., ESPNU).

Do enjoy your Tuesday.

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