TEANECK, N.J. – Earlier this week in a Big East matchup, Syracuse employed a 2-3 zone the entire game. No surprise as Jim Boeheim has been utilizing that signature defense with outstanding success since the days gas was under a dollar a gallon. No, this was actually the Syracuse women’s team who used in in a thorough 79-38 dismantling of Seton Hall at the Pirates’ Walsh Gym.
It seems coach Quentin Hillman, in his fourth year at the Big East school, was observing men’s practice his first year at Syracuse. “I looked up saw that (national championship) banner and thought about (Boeheim’s) years of winning and felt this was the way to go,” Hillman said. “I decided the 2-3 would be our main defense.” Hillman found early on that he has a friend and confidant in Boeheim. “Coach Boeheim has been great helping me with it. He has watched our practices, made suggestions and we both discuss it regularly.”
The women employ the zone in the same manner as then men. The guards and wings contest three-pointers and other perimeter shots. Seton Hall’s fine junior guard Ebonie Williams struggled through a two-point night on one for eight shooting. Williams was frustrated trying to get a decent look anywhere on the perimeter. Inside players like 6-2 Nicole Micheal and 6-4 Kayla Alexander clog the lane and use their length to break up passes in the paint.
The victory at the Hall left Syracuse at 13-1, the lone loss an OT setback at the hands of Georgetown. Life in the Big East conference for the women, as the men, is a succession of challenges and tough teams. Syracuse, with that patented 2-3, is certainly one of them.
- A little confidence goes a long way. Last week Fairleigh Dickinson rallied from 22 down with 12 minutes to play to earn an 88-85 victory over Sacred Heart. A few nights later Bryant got out to a 10-1 lead over the Knights. FDU interim coach Greg Vetrone called time out and saw a team unsure of what lie ahead. The Knights regrouped en route to a 66-50 victory over the Bulldogs.
Three nights later FDU defeated Central Connecticut State 83-74 , behind Sean Baptiste’s 26 points, to run their conference record to 3-1. FDU ended 2009 with a 1-12 record. The Knights took advantage of a three-game conference swing at home and are very much in the thick of the NEC race.
“We have a new coach, a new system and new point guard,” Vetrone said. “Some of the teams we played early we were not ready to face. I said it would take time but (the momentum) is definitely coming.”
Mike Scott scored 16 against Bryant. The junior point guard has been on fire for FDU. In the Sacred Heart and Bryant games, Scott had a combined 18 assists and zero (no misprint) turnovers in 70 minutes.
- Bryant, in their second year of Division I, is in the Northeast Conference but not eligible for post season play. Tim O’Shea’s group has had a murderous schedule. Included were Boston College, Providence, St.John’s, Indiana and an improved Army club. There were two Ivies as well which happened to be Harvard and Cornell. Following the FDU game Bryant was 0-15. To make matters worse, leading scorer (14.5 PPG) Cecil Gresham, a senior swingman, was lost for the year with an injury in late December.
- There is an interesting doubleheader at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday. Cincinnati visits St. John’s and Fordham meets Dayton at the “World’s Most Famous Arena.” Cincinnati faces another team in dire need of a conference win. The Bearcats faced Seton Hall at the Prudential Center and the Pirates took an 83-76 decision. Seton Hall earned their first win after losses in conference to West Virginia (overtime), Syracuse and at UConn.
St. John’s is also 0-3 and in a must-win situation after having lost a tough one at Georgetown, a home collapse down the stretch to Providence and another road game to Louisville. Highly-touted freshman Lance Stephenson will make his MSG debut in a Bearcat uniform.
Dayton survived a tough OT victory over Duquesne on Saturday and faces Fordham under interim coach Jared Grasso. The Flyers are the Atlantic 10 Conference favorites in the view of many experts. A pair of forwards, junior Chris Wright and senior Marcus Johnson, have been key players for Brian Gregory’s club.
- Seton Hall sharpshooter Jeremy Hazell had 33 points against Cincinnati, his fifth 30-point scoring game this season.
- The difference, from a tempo-free approach for St. John’s thus far:
W-L OFF EFF DEF EFF
Overall 10-5 100 93
Big East 0-3 90 106
The efficiency is the points per possession multiplied by 100. Offensively, the Red Storm overall average 1.00 points per possession on offense. The defense, at .93 is sound. In the Big East those numbers are reversed. The Storm is struggling overall on offense and a bit generous on defense.
A reason for the defensive slip, beside better talent in the Big east, is the turnover rate. Overall the Storm are forcing opponents into a 20 percent TO rate – that is, one-fifth of the opposition possessions are turnovers. In the Big East that rate on the defensive end is 16 percent. In conference, St. John’s has found it more difficult to force opponents to turn the ball over.