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UAB off to a rough start

by - Published November 21, 2011 in Conference Notes

UAB has dropped its first two home games this season. The Blazers’ first loss was to the Creighton Bluejays, 70-60. Three Blazers scored in double digits. Ovie Soko had 10, while Jordan Swing and Jekore Tyler both had 14.

The second loss came at the hands of Murray State, 62-55. Cameron Moore recorded a double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds. Soko chipped in with nine rebounds and 10 assists. No other UAB players scored or rebounded in double digits.

One of the Blazers’ biggest problems has been 3-point shooting. Over two games, UAB is shooting 22.6 percent from behind the arc. This must change as 3-pointers account for 30 percent of the shots they take.

Turnovers have also been an issue. Against Creighton, the Blazers had 18 turnovers. They didn’t fare much better against Murray State, recording 14.

These issues must be addressed quickly. UAB still has a chance to put together a good season, but the Blazers are going to have play at a much higher level.

The Big Sky’s big day

by - Published November 20, 2011 in Conference Notes

Here we go again. Weber State showed no letdown after a midweek win over Utah State, beating UC-Irvine convincingly on Saturday. In addition, Montana State beat Utah to even its record to 1-1 against the Pac-12 . MSU is now minus-2 against the Pac-12 in terms of point differential (minus-6 at Arizona State, plus-4 at Utah), and Brad Huse bested one of his mentors, Larry Krystowiak, whom he coached under at Montana for two seasons.

Speaking of Montana, the Griz won Thursday and play again today. In other Thursday action shorthanded Sacramento State fell to Washington State and Eastern Washington let a nine-point lead slip away at Oregon. Northern Arizona won Thursday, Idaho State won Friday.

The Big Sky’s record was 11-5 this past week, not counting Montana and Northern Colorado‘s games tonight. We will, later, though. The Bears spend all week in South Padre Island, Texas, and come back after Thanksgiving. Boy, will it be easier to update things and plan features when we hit December and a sense of normalcy comes in.

Cleveland State edges St. Bonaventure in hard-fought match up

by - Published November 19, 2011 in Conference Notes

In his postgame comments, Cleveland State Vikings head coach Gary Waters described Friday night’s game against the St. Bonaventure Bonnies as “a test of resiliency.”

Coach Waters’ statement might be the understatement of the year.

In a physical, hard-fought game that resembled a rugby scrum more than a basketball game at times, the Vikings pulled out a 67-64 comeback victory against the visiting St. Bonaventure Bonnies when senior guard Trevon Harmon nailed a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 2.8 seconds left.

Heading into the game, the Vikings knew that they would face a tough task in containing the Bonnies’ Andrew Nicholson, a senior forward and future NBA draft pick who was named to the Preseason Wooden Award Watch List. Earlier in the week, the Vikings were unsure if senior center Aaron Pogue, the key to the Vikings’ defensive attack against Nicholson, would be available for tonight’s game. Pogue missed Tuesday night’s game against Rio Grande with an injury. Fortunately for the Vikings, Pogue recovered from his injury and reclaimed his usual starting spot. Pogue has been one of the Vikings’ most improved players this season. He lost weight during the offseason and worked on his game, making him an improved defender and athletic scorer and enabling him to evade the foul trouble that plagued him throughout last season.

Fueled by a larger-than-normal home crowd and boisterous student section, the Vikings jumped out to a 12-9 lead with 14 minutes left in the first half. Motivated by a sizable contingent of vocal fans seated behind their bench, the Bonnies responded with a 13-3 run of their own to take a 22-15 lead with slightly more than 10 minutes left in the first half. Three of the Vikings’ senior leaders—D’Aundray Brown, Harmon and Pogue — combined to score seven quick points to tie the score at 22-22 with slightly less than seven minutes remaining. From that point on, neither team held more than a four-point lead until Nicholson sank a jumper at the end of the first half to send the Bonnies into the locker room with a five-point lead.

The second half was as intense and hard-fought as an NCAA Tournament game. Although the Vikings never reclaimed the lead until three minutes remained in the second half, the Vikings’ unyielding pressure defense kept them in the game and prevented the Bonnies from pulling away. The Vikings forced a total of 23 turnovers on the night with a relentless pressure defense that coach Gary Waters claimed would cause “everyone in the country” to struggle.

After the Vikings briefly reclaimed a three-point lead with 2:21 left in the second half, the Bonnies tied the game on a 3-point play by Michael Davenport with 1:30 remaining. After the teams traded missed baskets, the Vikings took possession with 30 seconds left in the game. As the Wolstein Center screamed in support, the Vikings ran the clock down with the intent of leaving no time left on the clock for a final shot by the Bonnies. Senior forward Tim Kamczyc, whom Waters described as “the glue to what we do,” passed to a surprisingly open Harmon who had shed his defender on a pick from Pogue, and Harmon nailed the game-winning shot.

Although Nicholson scored 19 points, blocked four shots, and pulled down six rebounds, the Vikings were able to limit his overall impact on the game with consistent double-teaming all game long. Pogue led a defensive effort in the first half that limited Nicholson to 13 quiet points. After Pogue picked up his fourth foul early in the second half, the Vikings employed a combination of sophomore Luda Ndaye and freshman Anton Grady to limit Nicholson to 6 second half points. Nicholson fouled out with 3:32 remaining in the second half after picking up several quick fouls during a particularly intense sequence.

Cleveland State’s talented freshmen came up big once again in Friday’s victory. Freshman Ike Nwamu made his regular-season debut for the Vikings and scored his first regular-season points on a layup with 14 minutes remaining in the first half. Sebastian Douglas, Charlie Lee and Grady all were praised in Waters’ postgame efforts for their outstanding play off the bench, which enabled the starters to receive much-needed rest throughout the game.

The Vikings improved to 3-0 and will now embark on a grueling seven-game stretch of road games beginning with Tuesday night’s contest against the Kent State Golden Flashes.

Missouri Valley Conference Notebook – November 18, 2011

by - Published November 18, 2011 in Conference Notes

Ranking the MVC through Week 1 (Games through Nov. 17)

 

  1. Creighton Bluejays (3-0)

On the surface, the Bluejays are cruising, nearly hitting the century mark in scoring the first two games and winning easily on the road in game three. Sophomore Doug McDermott is also just warming up, increasing his point totals from 13 to 21 to 27. The Bluejays will experience some close, heartbreaking losses this season though if they continue to shoot poorly at the free-throw line – a total of 44-for-66 through three games. Creighton will face a stronger test when traveling to play Iowa on Sunday afternoon.

 

… Continue Reading

Around the Horizon League: Week 1

by - Published November 17, 2011 in Conference Notes

Butler Bulldogs (1-1): The Bulldogs lost their regular-season opener in overtime against Evansville by a score of 80-77. Andrew Smith missed two free throws that could have won the game at the end of regulation. Butler rebounded Tuesday night to defeat Chattanooga by a score of 57-46. This Saturday, the Bulldogs will battle the Louisville Cardinals at home in a highly anticipated nonconference matchup.

Cleveland State Vikings (2-0): The Vikings shocked the nationally ranked Vanderbilt Commodores on Sunday by a score of 71-58. On Tuesday, the Vikings knocked off the Rio Grande Red Storm, an NAIA school, by a score of 86-57. Cleveland State will face another test on Friday evening at home when they square off against the St. Bonaventure Bonnies. Senior center Aaron Pogue missed Tuesday night’s match up with an undisclosed illness, and his availability for this important game is unknown. … Continue Reading

Hokies hope Green gets plenty of rest before clash with the Cuse

by - Published November 16, 2011 in Conference Notes

Virginia Tech beat back Isiah Thomas’ Florida International team with ease Nov. 15, despite losing Erick Green midway through the game.

The junior guard aggravated an Achilles’ tendon that forced him to miss Virginia Tech’s first game of the season, a 64-53 win against East Tennessee State Nov. 12. Green told the Washington Post’s Mark Giannotto after the Florida International game that he would be fine by the time Virginia Tech travels to New York next Wednesday to face Syracuse in the NIT Season Tip-Off semifinals.

The Hokies will need Green to be at full strength because he’s been hot from long range to start this season, making 4-of-5 3-pointers. Virginia Tech has shot 22-of-52 from deep range as a team this season, and the Hokies will need that sharpshooting to continue to stretch out Syracuse’s 2-3 zone. That would create more room for Dorenzo Hudson to operate off the ball and slash to the hoop. Green would be important in getting Hudson some good looks because he has five assists in 48 minutes.

In addition to Hudson, the Hokies will need Dorian Finney-Smith to continue playing like the ACC’s rookie of the year. The highly touted recruit has been a monster in his first three games, averaging about eight points, 11 rebounds and four assists per game.

Big Sky news and notes

by - Published November 16, 2011 in Conference Notes

We’ll start with simplicity: Sacramento State’s Joe Eberhard has been selected as the first Big Sky Conference men’s basketball Player of the Week. And here’s the weekly news and notes that come out each Tuesday afternoon.

Of course, it doesn’t include Weber State’s 73-63 win over Utah State. Junior shooting guard Scott Bamforth scored a career-high 28 points on 7-of-9 shooting from beyond the arc. His performance, and that of his team (12-of-23) brings the season total to 29-of-52 (.558), which is emblematic of an opening-week trend in the conference. The Wildcats (2-0) and Eastern Washington Eagles (1-1, 24-59, .407) have used the long-range bomb to score close to half their total baskets made (29-of-57, .508, Weber; 24-of-50 .480, EWU), and six teams have already sunk 10 or more 3-pointers just a couple games into the campaign. With five straight days of games opening today, it will be interesting to see how this early trend plays out.

There’s not much else to discuss aside from a handful of blowouts over cupcakes and “moral victories” as Montana State came back from a 12-point halftime deficit before falling by six at Arizona State; Oklahoma dispatched Idaho State but just by four points; and Eastern Washington held a 64-62 lead at Gonzaga before the West Coast Conference powerhouse turned it around for an eight-point win. It did produce one of the better quotes I’ve read in a while.

“I am pleased with our effort,” Idaho State coach Joe O’Brien told isubengals.com. “I would have loved to win the game, but when you have 21 turnovers on the road, you don’t win. You can stay close and some people can call it a moral victory, but I am too old for moral victories. I am greedy. I want to win.”

We’ll have a more complete weekend wrap on Sunday — though there will be games Sunday and Monday — and then get into a regular news & notes blog for Wednesday mornings.

Cleveland State pulls away in second half to beat Rio Grande

by - Published November 15, 2011 in Conference Notes

After its upset victory over the nationally ranked Vanderbilt Commodores Sunday afternoon, Cleveland State could easily have been expected to face a bit of a letdown Tuesday night when the Vikings squared off against the Rio Grande Red Storm in their home opener at the Wolstein Center. Rio Grande is an NAIA school from southern Ohio, and some fans may have even expected the Vikings to overlook the Red Storm in their anticipation of Friday night’s matchup against the St. Bonaventure Bonnies.

As the Vikings headed onto the floor, the Wolstein Center crowd’s excitement about the home opener was tempered by the fact that senior center Aaron Pogue was not in uniform. Pogue later joined the team in street clothes on the bench to scattered applause with 2:25 left in the first half but did not play in Tuesday’s victory. Sophomore forward Ludovic Ndaye started in his place and scored seven points and pulled down seven rebounds. After the game, Vikings coach Gary Waters said Pogue’s lack of playing time was injury related and not a disciplinary matter.

Showing no signs of a letdown, the Vikings jumped out to a 14-6 lead. The Red Storm tied the game at 17-17 with 9:27 left in the first half. However, the Vikings proceeded to rip off a 9-0 run and grew their lead to 26-17 with 5:45 remaining in the first half. Fueled by their relentless full-court pressure, which forced eight first-half turnovers, the Vikings slowly extended their lead during the remainder of the first half. Notably, senior guard Jeremy Montgomery had a special moment as he surpassed 1,000 points in his Cleveland State career with a basket during the first half.

Following an acrobatic turnaround jumper at the buzzer by senior forward D’Aundray Brown, the Vikings headed into halftime with a 40-27 lead. Brown led all scorers in the first half with 13 points and has shown no signs of rust in the first two games after missing last season due to a finger injury.

In the second half, the Vikings opened with a 13-6 run in the first five minutes to extend their lead to 53-33. Jermaine Warmack, who came off the bench to score 24 points for the Red Storm, single-handedly kept the Vikings’ lead to around 20 for much of the second half.

However, the Vikings steadily expanded their lead throughout the course of the second half and led by 80-52 with 3:57 left in the second half after a spectacular three-point play by Brown.

The Vikings’ bench again played a key role in the victory. After a foul-plagued first half, freshman forward Anton Grady rebounded in the second half with 12 points, seven rebounds, and six blocks, many of which sent the Wolstein Center crowd to their feet in appreciation. In his postgame comments, Waters said he hopes to limit the starters’ minutes throughout the season and that the starters will receive further bench support when freshman Ike Nwamu, who has missed the Vikings’ first two games with a concussion, is cleared for play. However, Vikings fans shouldn’t count on seeing Marlin Mason in action this season, as Waters said he hopes to redshirt Mason this season to develop his ability to play the small forward position.

The Vikings’ next game will be this Friday at home against the St. Bonaventure Bonnies, which Waters as “a very big team” with a future high NBA draft pick in the frontcourt.

Memphis Tigers’ Big 3 put in work against Belmont

by - Published November 15, 2011 in Conference Notes

Memphis topped a Belmont team that lost to Duke at Cameron Indoor by one point four days earlier. The final seconds were not as tense for Memphis, as they won 97-81. The victory was due in large part to three players: Will Barton, Wesley Witherspoon and Joe Jackson. The three combined for 65 points.

Barton was the leading scorer for Memphis with 23 points to go along with five rebounds and three assists. He did force the issue at times, going 7-of-12 from the field and 0-of-4 from behind the 3-point line. Still, it’s hard to deny his talent. Barton can make shots that seem to have no chance of going in.

Witherspoon put his versatility on display against Belmont. He was the second-leading scorer with 22 points, tied for most rebounds with five and had two steals. His shot selection was superb. Witherspoon made 8-of-8 field goals, including 3-of-3 3-pointers. The only thing he did poorly was shoot free throws and a grab a poorly timed flagrant foul.

Jackson looked much better than he did most of last season. He had 20 points, four rebounds, seven assists and only two turnovers. He can blow by defenders at will, and he seems to have figured out what to do once he gets past them.

Barton has always been a good player, albeit a bit too flashy at times. If Witherspoon and Jackson can continue to play like they did against Belmont, Memphis will stay in the Top 10 all year.

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