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A look around the country – February 10, 2013

by - Published February 10, 2013 in Columns

Saturday was quite a day of basketball all across the country. A blizzard that hit much of New England a day earlier into Saturday morning did more than just dump 31.5 inches of snow on my home area – it also affected a few games. St. Bonaventure and Rhode Island played at 7 p.m. instead of the originally scheduled 2 p.m. tip, and with no television coverage. In addition, Sacred Heart will play at Bryant, Harvard will play at Columbia and Dartmouth will play at Cornell on Sunday and Manhattan will play at Fairfield on Monday instead of Saturday as originally scheduled.

That aside, there were a lot of noteworthy games on Saturday, and not just the one many will be talking about for a while that was near the end of the day. Here are some thoughts coming from those games.

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Lehigh continues to overcome adversity

by - Published February 10, 2013 in Columns

WORCESTER, Mass. – A blizzard that hit much of New England was an added challenge for Lehigh as they came to play Holy Cross. But for this team, it wasn’t as much to overcome as some of what they have faced this year, or in what became a back-and-forth game in which they pulled out a 68-61 win.

The biggest impact the storm had on the team was that they had to leave Bethlehem a little earlier than they planned. Instead of leaving early in the afternoon on Friday, they left first thing in the morning and headed straight to Holy Cross to practice. With a statewide travel ban in effect in Massachusetts, they couldn’t go anywhere for about 24 hours and weren’t sure for a while when the game would be played.

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Bryant continues to win with offense

by - Published February 8, 2013 in Columns

SMITHFIELD, R.I. – If you like offense, Bryant is a team you would like to see this season. That’s not something many would have figured prior to the season given their struggles in Division I, but an unexpected cast has become a team that can score with a lot of teams. Shootouts have been the norm with this team, and on Thursday night they won another one against St. Francis Brooklyn on account of their offense, this time by an 84-77 margin.

Scoring is the key to how this team wins games. After Thursday night, the Bulldogs are 13-2 when they score at least 70 points, which puts them at 3-4 when scoring less than 70 points. In past years, they weren’t built to win games like this, but a lot has changed and that includes the results.

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Offense the first problem for Cincinnati in loss at Providence

by - Published February 7, 2013 in Columns

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Cincinnati has lost five games this season, and in four of them, the offense has been on a milk carton. One of those games was Wednesday night’s 54-50 loss at Providence, and it was a textbook case of a bad night offensively.

Cincinnati shot 37.5 percent from the field and committed 15 turnovers in a relatively low-possession game. The score was indicative not only of the defense of the two teams, but also the slow pace and difficulty both teams had making shots. The Bearcats have more assists than turnovers on the season, but that’s not the case in Big East play and Wednesday night’s game added to that as they had just eight assists.

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Old Dominion’s firing of Taylor makes no sense at first glance

by - Published February 7, 2013 in Columns

There has to be more to the story at Old Dominion than what’s currently out there. It simply doesn’t make sense.

Why in the world would Old Dominion fire Blaine Taylor with his record of success at the school? Granted, the Monarchs are having a forgettable season at 2-20, but this season is very much an aberration for the winningest coach in school history. It would be one thing if this was the worst of a steady downward trend over several seasons, but that’s simply not the case.

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Boston University needs to grow by finishing games better

by - Published February 6, 2013 in Columns

BOSTON – As the season has gone along, Boston University’s young team has grown.  They have grown past the disappointment of losing several games in the final seconds early on and past the season-opening five-game losing streak.  Now, as the Terriers go two games above .500 in conference play after a 79-72 win over Maine on Tuesday night, it is clear that the tougher part of their growth is what lies ahead.

The Terriers have plenty of talent, and that was one reason to believe this team would start winning games at some point.  It was just a question of when that would happen.  The Terriers bounced back from the tough start to the season to win six non-conference games, and before losing at Hartford on Saturday they had won five of six and made it a game above .500 overall on the season.  They also got themselves on the other side of some tough games, as they were able to win games late or with the odds very much against them.

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Drexel has had to beat more than just opponents this season

by - Published February 3, 2013 in Columns

BOSTON – Raise your hand if you thought Drexel would be in the middle of the pack in the CAA this season.

No hands? None at all?

It’s hard to blame anyone who would keep their hand down. There was just about every reason to think Drexel was the clear team to beat in the CAA this season, and we won’t go through those now. But as we are more than halfway home, the Dragons are mired in mediocrity with a 5-5 conference record after losing 59-52 at Northeastern on Saturday night.

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For Boston College, getting a win to break the losing streak is all that matters

by - Published February 2, 2013 in Columns

CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. – Boston College could have used a win like the one they appeared headed for much of Saturday afternoon. The Eagles looked to be well on their way to a convincing win over Clemson before the Tigers mounted a big comeback and got within one. The Eagles made the stops they needed to and held on for a 75-68 win, one that might have been a little too close for comfort under normal circumstances.

A win is a win, even if it wasn’t as comfortable as it once looked like it might be.

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Clemson shows promise and room for growth in loss at Boston College

by - Published February 2, 2013 in Columns, Your Phil of Hoops

CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. – Brad Brownell’s body language said it all. The Clemson mentor watched Boston College miss two free throws and his team not hang on to the rebound, giving BC the ball back with a fresh shot clock while already having a ten-point lead late in the game. It was that kind of afternoon for the Tigers in their 75-68 loss to the Eagles, an afternoon that masks the potential this team has.

The Tigers never looked like you would expect a Brownell-coached team to and then seemed to lose their cool at times. They finally showed some life in the final ten minutes of the game, rallying to within one late, but they dug themselves too deep a hole to rally from. Perhaps this might just be a case of growing pains, something this team has had with only two upperclassmen on the roster.

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Behind young guards, Harvard’s offense has become a big part of the story

by - Published February 2, 2013 in Columns

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – Over the past few seasons, as Harvard has become an Ivy League contender and then champion, the Crimson developed an identity. They were known as a defensive team, one that would shut you down no matter the style of play. They became known as a team that lives off its defense. That’s still important, but this year’s team is making its mark on the offensive end in a big way, and that was apparent once again in their 67-64 win over Yale on Friday night.

Harvard is shooting a little under 49 percent from the field on the season, a figure that puts them in the top 15 nationally. They also shoot over 41 percent from long range, good for fifth nationally, and assist on over 60 percent of their made field goals. They average nearly 70 points per game, which won’t put them among the national leaders but is a pretty good number nonetheless. About the only knock on the stat sheet is that they have a few more turnovers than assists, though they closed the gap on that one Friday night.

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