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St. Peter’s takes some positives despite close loss to Loyola-Chicago

by - Published December 23, 2012 in Columns
author_floriani

JERSEY CITY, N.J. – When you break down film undoubtedly the technical errors will surface. In the wake of Loyola-Chicago’s 54-49 victory over St. Peter’s at Yanitelli Center, a number jumps off the stat sheet, 6 of 19. That is the result for the Peacocks on the foul line. The main points:

1. Numbers wise the pace was slow to moderate as Loyola had 66 possessions to St. Peter’s 62. The efficiencies show the type of afternoon it was:

Loyola-Chicago 82
St. Peter’s 79

… 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

Loyola-Chicago Ramblers 2011-12 Preview

by - Published November 3, 2011 in Conference Notes

Loyola-Chicago Ramblers (16-15, 7-11)

 

 

 

 

Projected starting five:

Jr. F Ben Averkamp
Sr. GF Jordan Hicks
Sr. C John Benkoske
Sr. G Courtney Stanley
Sr. G Walt Gibler

Important departures:

Geoff McCammon: 14.4 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 1.0 apg
Terrance Hill: 11.9 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 1.9 apg
Andy Polka: 6.3 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 1.8 apg

The Ramblers lost three starters in the offseason. Geoff McCammon, Andy Polka and Terrance Hill graduated.

% returning scoring and rebounding:

Scoring: 49 percent
Rebounding: 55 percent

The Ramblers return two starters: Ben Averkamp and Courtney Stanley.

Additions:

Joe Crisman is a freshman guard from Indiana who was a First Team Indiana Basketball Coaches Association All-State selection. London Dokubo is a freshman guard who is a local product from Schaumburg, Ill. Christian Thomas is a swingman from Missouri who earned Missouri Basketball Coaches Association Class 1 All-State status.

Schedule highlights:

The Ramblers’ biggest nonconference matchup is against Kansas State. During Horizon League play, the Ramblers face a tough three-game stretch against Butler, Detroit and Valparaiso.

Prediction: The Ramblers will finish ninth.

Next: UIC Flames

Back to Horizon League preview

Health Comes Before Hoops

by - Published April 18, 2011 in Full Court Sprints

BASELINE TO BASELINE

Go coast to coast with a roundup of news from across the nation.

When forward Emmanuel Negedu transferred to New Mexico, he figured he had a fresh start ahead after heart problems at Tennessee. While with the Volunteers, he entered a sudden cardiac arrest in 2009. He had the all-clear to play, barring any more bad news. But more bad news struck in December 2010 when he a bad reading on a defibrillator, according to Diamond Leung of ESPN.com’s “College Basketball Nation” blog. And that means Negedu’s playing career is through, though he’ll remain on scholarship to complete his degree as a Lobo.

Washington State fans are holding their breath that Klay Thompson won’t follow junior DeAngelo Casto to the NBA after the Cougar forward announced that he’ll enter the draft and hire an agent, according to the Associated Press. Casto was Wazzu’s top big man last season, with 12 points and 7.3 rebounds per game.

In addition to losing Josh Selby and the Morris brothers to the NBA and Tyrel Reed, Brady Morningstar and Mario Little to graduation, Kansas will be without guard Royce Woolridge, who announced he is transferring, according to the Associated Press. Woolridge said he wants more playing time, which he apparently isn’t convinced he’d get in Lawrence despite the roster turnover.

In other transfer news, Loyola Chicago is getting some Big Ten talent in Iowa guard Cully Payne, who will have three years of remaining eligibility, according to ESPN Chicago’s Scott Powers. And sparingly used forward J.J. Richardson is leaving Pittsburgh in search of a better fit, according to the Associated Press.

On the flip side, the Jayhawks could be on the receiving end of a transfer if La Salle’s Aaric Murray picks Kansas over West Virginia. According to Jon Rothstein, the sophomore big man is leaving the Explorers for one of those destinations after averaging 15.2 points and 7.7 rebounds per game this past season.

Miami’s coaching search continues, writes the Miami Herald’s Michelle Kaufman, as new athletic director Shawn Eichorst talked to Wisconsin-Milwaukee coach Rob Jeter about the position. Eichorst has connections to the state after coming to Miami from Wisconsin, where he was an associate athletic director at the school.

Whoever ends up in south Florida as the Hurricanes’ coach might not bring highly regarded recruit Bishop Daniels to Coral Gables. According to Barry Jackson’s “Sports Buzz” blog at Miami Herald.com, Daniels wants a release from his letter of intent so that he can choose Tennessee or Rutgers. Given that the Scarlet Knights are the only team of the three with a returning coaching staff, that could bode well for Mike Rice’s squad.

HOME COURT ADVANTAGE

You’ve got to feel for New Mexico’s Emmanuel Negedu.

The Lobos sophomore overcame the scare of a cardiac arrest at Tennessee and found a fresh start in Albuquerque. New Mexico is one of the top programs of the Mountain West Conference, especially with BYU bolting for the West Coast Conference.

But it just wasn’t in the cards for Negedu to make an impact on the court. A bad reading on a defibrillator means team doctors won’t clear him to play ever again. It’s just too risky.

Although Negedu must manage his condition carefully, his life is still full of opportunity. The Lobos intend to keep Negedu on scholarship, which will give him the opportunity to earn his degree as a Lobo. And if Negedu has interest in contributing to team activities, the squad should be able to find an off-court role for him.

For players gifted enough to earn a Division I scholarship, the concept of imminent mortality might not be an everyday realization. But Negedu now has a perspective that gives him the opportunity to keep his teammates grounded in the face of adversity and focused on greater goals.

And that’s a perspective that could allow Negedu to make an on-court impact vicariously through the rest of the Lobos.

Bracketbusters 2010 in Omaha

by - Published February 21, 2010 in Columns

OMAHA – It is Bracketbusters Saturday and time for some of the better mid-major teams to step outside conference play and maybe impress some of the members of the NCAA Tournament selection committee.

But for Creighton and Loyola (Ill.), there was no TV for their Bracketbusters game tonight, so they were both trying to get back on track after suffering losses in last games in conference play.

As it worked out, Creighton broke their two-game losing streak with a convincing 78-58 win over their Horizon League foe, but it took a second half spurt to put away the Ramblers after they pulled to within one at 34-33 on a jumper by Andy Polka with four seconds left in the first half.

In the first half Loyola got their largest lead of the game at the 17:31 mark on a jumper by Ben Averkamp to make it 10-5. Then Creighton (14-14) went on a 27-10 run to take a 12-point lead at 32-20 with 4:45 left in the first half.

But just when it looked like the Bluejays were going to put this game away, the Ramblers got back into the game on two free throws and a layup by Walt Gibler, four free throws by Geoff McCammon, a three-pointer by Terrance Hill and the aforementioned jumper by Polka.

Loyola (14-13) seemed to be in good shape coming out in the second half and then in just over four minutes the Bluejays had another 12-point lead at 47-35.

Creighton’s second half lead stayed at around 10 points until just under five minutes remained. A couple free throws by Antoine Young got the Bluejays to finish out on a 15-6 run with six different players scoring multiple points close out the game.

In the first seven or eight minutes Creighton got up in us and we just didn’t take care of the ball. We didn’t get any in and out. We just didn’t have many quality processions when they went on their run to start the second half,” said Loyola coach Jim Whitesell. “It is execution where we need to improve, but give Creighton credit, they had only 10 turnovers and six more possessions than we had and we need every possession possible.”

Creighton’s coach Dana Altman thought their second half run was triggered by good defense.

Defensively, I think we were better. We got a lot of points on turnovers. Then Casey (Harriman) hit a big three and Kaleb (Korver) hit a big three and they had been struggling. So that helped us open up a lead,” explained Altman.

Creighton’s Kenny Lawson had a double-double with 19 points to lead all scorers and 10 rebounds. Cavel Witter also scored 12 points for the Bluejays.

For Loyola, Walt Gibbler had 15 points, Terrance Hill had 12 points and McCammon had 11 points. Polka had 10 rebounds.

Whenever a team interrupts conference play to play a non-conference game there is always the possibility in some players’ minds that this type of game can be a distraction or maybe break up the rhythm they are in playing conference games. That line of thought was not shared by the Creighton’s Justin Carter, who thought it was an opportunity to get on the winning track.

It was great stepping out of conference play when we could see someone new and try to get something going,” Carter said.

Notes

  • This series dates back to 1926 and Loyola leads the series 11-6.
  • Dana Altman is the dean of Missouri Valley coaches in his 16th year with a 322-174 (.649) record.
  • This is just the second time in eight years that Creighton’s Bracketbusters game did not air on national television.
  • Loyola’s trainer Dr. Ton Hitcho has worked 952 consecutive Loyola basketball games. Since joining the staff in 1977-78 he has witnessed 445 Rambler victories.
  • Creighton draws 14,093 during the last six years, but during the four Bracketbusters games held here at the Qwest Center the Bluejays have averaged a little over 17,300 per game.
  • During the National Anthem every Creighton player and coach put their hands on their heart. Not many teams do that anymore. In fact, the vast majority of the crowd did that too.
  • Tonight’s match-up is part of the nationwide Jesuit Basketball Spotlight project, using Jesuit basketball to raise awareness of Jesuit education. They highlight games between the 28 Jesuit colleges and universities.
  • Creighton’s next game is Tuesday at Southern Illinois at 8:05 EST.
  • Loyola’s next game is at home against Milwaukee Thursday at 8:00 EST.

Wright State Shuts Down Loyola

by - Published January 24, 2009 in Conference Notes

DAYTON, Ohio – Another day, another defensive gem for the Wright State Raiders as they held Loyola to 29.4 percent shooting for the game and 15.4 percent in the second half to get a homecourt win, 68-47.

The final score was not a true indication of how tight the game was until the end. It took a Wright State defensive lock-down that held Loyola scoreless from the 9:46 mark until there was 2:02 left in the game to put the Ramblers away for good. In the same time frame the Raiders were not exactly shooting lights out, but they did manage to score 14 points thanks to their foul shooting, which accounted for nine of those points.

Loyola’s Walt Gibler finally got some points on the board to end the scoring drought when he made two free throws after getting fouled by Will Graham. Two more free throws by Loyola’s Courtney Stanley and the Ramblers were done scoring for the game. They made just four field goals in the second half.

“Their defense is very good, we had to have better ball movement and defend better against the three,” said Loyola coach Jim Whitesell. “We have to rebound better too. We played well for spurts, we just didn’t have enough good minutes to beat Wright State.”

Wright State (11-8, 5-3 Horizon) held a 41-30 lead at the half. The Ramblers came out and went on a 10-3 run in the first five minutes to cut the lead to 44-40 on a layup by J. R. Blount, another by Gibler and a 3-pointer by Justin Cerasoli. After that Loyola (11-9, 3-5 HL) scored just seven more points in the game.

For Wright State, in the second half Cory Cooperwood came alive to score 10 points after not scoring in the first half.

In the first half Cerasoli hit a 3-pointer 52 seconds into the game to give Loyola their biggest lead of the game at 3-0. The score went back and forth until with 11:26 left in the first half Loyola had a 17-15 lead, then 43 seconds later when Wright State’s Todd Brown hit a 3-pointer to give the Raiders the lead that would hold the rest of the game.

The game plan the Raiders used worked well. Wright State coach Brad Brownell wanted his team to concentrate on rebounding and defending Loyola’s guards and it worked pretty well with the Raiders holding a 38-30 rebounding edge and keeping Loyola’s guards from scoring in double figures.

He said, “We did what we were trying to do. Their guards are so good, you are trying to keep them from penetrating. Then you want to keep them off the glass. Offensively we tried to be aggressive and try to have a little better flow.”

Notes

  • Wright State has won 11 of the last 13 games, losing only to ranked programs, Wake Forest and Butler, both on the road.
  • When Loyola scores at least 70 points, good things happen. Last year the Ramblers were 7-0 hitting the 70 mark. Dating back to the 2005-06 season they are 17-2 when scoring 70 and this year they are 5-1.
  • Wright State leads the all-time series 16-14.
  • Loyola’s next game is on Saturday at Detroit at 1:05 p.m., and it is televised on Fox Sports Detroit.
  • Wright State’s next game is Saturday against UIC at home at 7 p.m.

Horizon League Notebook – Scheduling Issues and Cupcakes

by - Published December 18, 2008 in Conference Notes

When college basketball begins each November (soon to be October?), scheduling disparities make it difficult to evaluate teams early, even harder to compare them. Mid-majors like the teams in our league often have incredibly uneven schedules; for example, Detroit played NAIA Division II Aquinas College on Wednesday night, managing a 58-48 win at home, but is now en route to Champaign-Urbana for a game tomorrow night at Illinois.

This happens for reasons many of you are familiar with: first, there just aren’t always enough regional mid-majors – particularly outside of the northeast – to fill up one another’s schedules. Second, while major programs generally won’t play at mid-majors, the financial “guarantees” they pay to mid-major programs to play in their gyms provide resources many universities depend on to fund their basketball programs. Third, recognizing that casual and less knowledgeable fans (including some in the ranks of university administrators and boosters) just count wins and losses each season, irrespective of the opponents, mid-major coaches who like their jobs often lobby to play schools from lesser Division I conferences, Division II and Division III opponents, and NAIA schools. Fourth, many coaches believe that at least some wins during the season – no matter against whom – are essential to help maintain the enthusiasm and commitment of their players.

Doubtless some of you remember that in the days John Thompson, Jr. coached at Georgetown, most years they opened their season with a lopsided win over Division III St. Leo’s College. And while St. Leo’s and other D-III’s no longer appear on the Hoyas’ schedule, Coach John Thompson III was following in his father’s footsteps last week when Georgetown hosted one of the weakest teams in Division I, managing to keep the score differential against Savannah State under 100.

If you’re inferring some annoyance on the part of this writer with schools scheduling “cupcakes,” well, you’re inferring correctly. In addition to Detroit’s game this past week with Aquinas, Jimmy Collins’ vaunted UIC team played D-II Lewis College (a school I’d never heard of), and on its upcoming three-game home stand, Cleveland State will play both D-III La Roche College and D-III Notre Dame College (that’s not the Notre Dame we all know and love – the one CSU should be playing). If any of these schools find themselves on the wrong side of the bubble for an at-large NCAA bid (or for an NIT bid), they need look no further than their own schedules to learn why.

Last on this, I just took a peak at the schedule for recent D-I admit New Jersey Institute of Technology. As many of you know, since moving to Division I, the most widely known fact in the history of NJIT undoubtedly is that its basketball team failed to win a single game last year; they have maintained “perfection” to date this season, losing their first 8 games. That said, I recognized every single school listed on NJIT’s 2008-09 schedule, and every one is an NCAA Division I member. So while that program obviously has hurdles to overcome, kudos to Coach Jim Engles and Athletic Director Lenny Kaplan for jumping into the deep end, and not manufacturing wins by playing the local junior high in their own gym!

With that lengthy introduction, now that Horizon teams have as many as eleven games under their belts, in some cases against common opponents (including two conference games for everyone except UIC and Loyola), the league appears to have separated itself into two “divisions.” Butler and Illinois-Chicago have been by far the most impressive, with preseason favorite CSU, Wisconsin-Green Bay and Wisconsin-Milwaukee rounding out this writer’s “first division.”

Over the last 10 days, UIC backed up its earlier monster win at the SEC’s Vanderbilt with a home conference win over its biggest rival, Loyola. Then they went to Atlanta, besting the ACC’s Georgia Tech last Sunday, 66-60. Both of Collins’ senior stars came up big in the win over the Yellow Jackets, preseason Player of Year point guard Josh Mayo with 17 points on 6-14, 7 assists and 6 rebounds, and center Scott VanderMeer with 19 points on 8-15 shooting and seven rebounds. Coach, even with your two stars graduating this June, please don’t schedule Lewis College again next year!

If a loss can make a previously undefeated team look even better, that’s just what happened to Butler this week. Coming into December 5-0 with wins at Drake and over Northwestern, Butler began the month with Zach Hahn’s buzzer-beating trey at CSU, 50-48, won a workmanlike second conference road game in snowy Youngstown two nights later, 79-71, and then beat Bradley in Peoria, 87-75. Then they lost a titanic defensive struggle at OSU, 54-51. But what a game it was.

First, that game showed that Butler’s guards can really guard, holding vaunted Buckeye Evan Turner to 14 points (making him take 10 shots to get them), and holding Turner’s athletic running mate David Lighty to 10. And behind Matt Howard’s 10 boards – now a sophomore and a burgeoning star, Howard seems to play better against better opponents – Butler was able to win the battle of the boards by one, 34-33. Above all, that game was the coming out party for freshman sensation Gordon Hayward, who’s fast becoming the star of this space, as well as of the Horizon, and of college basketball in the state of Indiana. With OSU in man-to-man all afternoon, and assigning forwards rather than guards to defend him, Hayward rewarded those of us who love his stroke by hitting 7 treys in the game (in 11 tries) for a total of 25 points. He also asserted himself on the boards (as he had at CSU with Howard in foul trouble), pulling down 7 rebounds. And he had a trey in the air at the final buzzer that would have tied the game.

The only questions I have left is how good Hayward will get this year (in the conference, in the conference tourney and beyond), how he’ll fair against UIC (now that he’s no longer a surprise), and whether Butler Coach Brad Stevens no longer has reason to expect that he’ll have Hayward around for a full four seasons.

For Cleveland State it was a mixed week, shooting just 33 percent in a ten-point loss in West Virginia (27 percent in the second half, and 25 percent from the arc), then improving in that category against rebuilding Marist (56 percent for the game), and then saving December with a win at then-11th ranked Syracuse on Monday night. Put aside that Syracuse isn’t anything close to the 11th-best team in America (that darned schedule-maker again, bringing a parade of Ivy and Patriot teams into the Carrier Dome so far this season), that Syracuse’s heralded 2-3 zone is the least mobile, least aggressive, and most permeable defense this writer has ever seen (just the opposite of the 1-1-3 match-up Coach Greg Kampe of Oakland used to nearly beat CSU in Cleveland), and that the Orange played this game with less intensity and emotion than any of us could imagine. Still, CSU was the better team on Monday night, and star forward J’Nathan Bullock rebounded from an 0-9 first half to shoot 8-12 in the second to keep CSU in the game and even get the Vikings a 5-point lead in the final minute.

After a trey and a put-back tied the score for Syracuse, CSU had the ball with 3 seconds left on its own baseline. The ball was inbounded to underperforming senior guard Cedric Jackson (who’d previously played in the Carrier Dome with St. John’s), and Jackson launched a 70-foot heave at the buzzer, which banked in (I thought you had to call “bank”) to give Coach Gary Waters a much needed win, 72-69.

In fairness, CSU could be viewed as “entitled” to those D-III’s coming into Wolstein, having already played Washington, Kansas State, Butler and West Virginia. Moreover, with Jackson severely disappointing over the first third of the season – he came in to the dome averaging just 9.4 and shooting 30 percent, 14 percent from the arc – perhaps that 70-foot heave will turn Jackson’s season around. Certainly, it put a smile on Ced’s face that hadn’t been there in weeks.

Elsewhere in the “first division,” Green Bay won its second home conference game, 66-59 over Wright State, beat Idaho State at home, lost at Wisconsin, and then lost a heartbreaker at home to Oakland, 79-76. (How good must Kampe be with 7 wins already, including road wins at Oregon and Green Bay, all without star senior forward Derick Nelson? Oh, if Nelson could somehow be ready for tomorrow afternoon’s “home” game against Michigan at the Palace…) And after beating Wright State at home for its second conference win, Milwaukee lost to Charlie Coles’ Miami team in Ohio, 69-45.

In the “second division,” Valpo lost at home to IPFW, and played Miami in Oxford tougher than Milwaukee did, losing 62-50. After losing at conference rival UIC, Loyola beat UMKC at home. And after losing its second conference game in Wisconsin (at Green Bay), Detroit also lost at Bowling Green before besting Aquinas.

After also losing its second conference game in Wisconsin (at Milwaukee), Wright State finally figured out how to win without injured all-conference selection Vaughn Duggins, beating Toledo at home, winning at Arkansas-Little Rock, playing tough and well in falling 66-53 at Wake Forest, and then making it 3 out of 4 by besting Norfolk State at home. And while for now residing in this writer’s “second division,” that recent “mini-run” of success combined with Duggins’ expected January return might combine to move the Raiders up into the “first division,” perhaps displacing one or the other of the Wisconsin schools.

Remember, while most pre-season publications predicted CSU atop the Horizon, expecting a healthy Vaughn USA Today preferred Wright State. Could this be one of those December injuries that helps a team succeed later on in conference play?

Lastly, after playing hard and shooting well in an 8-point home loss to Butler, YSU was competitive at Kent, losing 82-74. While sophomore wing Vytas Sulskis may be a “poor man’s Gordon Hayward,” junior guard Kelvin Bright may be a “poor man’s Shelvin Mack,” and senior center Jack Liles probably doesn’t quite qualify as a “poor man’s Matt Howard,” it appears Coach Jerry Slocum will get a lot out of this roster, and be competitive in conference play, at least at home.

Horizon News and Notes

  • With exam breaks coming to an end around the league, there will some great games Christmas week. Valpo will host North Carolina at the United Center tomorrow (2 p.m. on ESPNU), Detroit will play at Illinois tomorrow evening, and Wright State begins three straight days of play in the San Juan Shootout, facing Oral Roberts tomorrow, and South Florida and Murray State Sunday and Monday. On Sunday YSU will play at Charlotte. On Tuesday night, the night before Christmas Eve, Butler will play at Xavier, a game also on ESPNU. And in a battle of preseason favorites in the Horizon and the MAC, and of Gary Waters’ old and new schools, also on Tuesday CSU will host Kent State.
  • Merry Christmas, Horizon fans. And may Santa leave a wonderful season of conference games under all of our trees!

Horizon League Notebook – Early Showdown between Butler and Cleveland State

by - Published November 30, 2008 in Conference Notes

No, they’re not the best team in the country as their RPI of 1 earlier this week suggested. (RPI rankings really are silly, especially early in the year.) And no, they’re not the 27th-best team in America as their Sagarin ranking suggests. Yes, like teams in higher conferences they’ve played 4 of their 5 games at home, only venturing away from the friendly confines of Hinkle to visit Drake to open the season. And no, they haven’t faced the Dukes, North Carolinas and Connecticuts of the world, with Northwestern near the bottom of the Big Ten having been their most serious opponent – and at home. But to the surprise of some, with three freshmen in Brad Stevens’ starting lineup, the Butler Bulldogs have completed the first portion of their non-conference schedule undefeated, and will bring a 5-0 record into Wolstein Center Thursday night to face preseason Horizon favorite Cleveland State.

As this writer projected after attending an exhibition game four weeks ago, this is a different kind of Butler team, quite frankly a more interesting and more exciting Butler team. It is one that will be able to play the more physical and athletic style often required to beat teams from major conferences. At least for the moment – until Gordon Hayward really gets going – they’re not the three-point shooting team we’ve come to expect Butler to be: the team’s 32 percent three-point shooting puts Butler more than two percentage points out of the nation’s top hundred. What they’re doing it with is solid defense, defense already better than that which led the Horizon in fewest points allowed the last three seasons.

As has been suggested a time or two in this space, points allowed can be a deceptive stat, as teams like Princeton, Dartmouth, Wisconsin-Green Bay and Butler (like the Super Bowl winning Giants with O.J. Anderson) can use all of the shot clock each time down the floor, control the ball for 25 of 40 minutes, and limit opposition possessions and attempts to a precious few. And respectfully, it is that style more than great individual man-to-man pressure that has caused Butler to lead the league in scoring defense in recent years. No more.

In the five games Butler has played, they’ve yielded an average of just 50 points, and never given up 60. Their opponents are shooting a combined 37 percent from the field (and 32 percent from the arc), and while the NCAA won’t publish statistics on defensive field goal percentage until tomorrow, I suspect that 37 percent number will be in America’s top ten, maybe top five. Focusing as I often do on the point guard position, while Alabama native Ronald Nored has struggled offensively (particularly from the line, where he’s started his career 4-14), it was the freshman’s stout defense more than anything else that turned defeat into victory against Northwestern on Wednesday night.

In the Northwestern game, Nored was assigned the task of defending the opposition’s best player, backcourt star Craig Moore, fresh off of a 31-point performance and Big Ten Co-Player of the Week honors. Putting in yeoman’s work at the defensive end, Nored held Moore to just 11 points, on 4-11 shooting, 3-8 from the arc. And if the other team’s radio broadcasters were on the money (isn’t it wonderful to listen to faraway college basketball on one’s car radio after dark this time of year), it was Nored’s defensive work more than anything else that allowed Butler to come back from a deficit that reached 12-points in the first half and was 9 at intermission, to defeat the Wildcats 57-53.

Offensively and on the boards, it is no surprise that star sophomore Matt Howard is leading the way, holding the fort until the freshmen are truly ready. Howard is tied for fifth in the league scoring 13.3 per game, is second in shooting percentage at 57.5 percent, and tied for seventh with 6.3 rebounds. More importantly (though not surprisingly), 6-8 freshman guard Gordon Hayward is on Howard’s heels in every category and also shoots threes: through the first five games of his career Hayward is tied for tenth in the conference in scoring at 12 points per game, fourth in field goal percentage at 51.6 percent, fourth in steals at 2 per game (this is a surprise), fifth in treys made with 2 per game, and sixth in three-point percentage at 44.4 percent; he’s also grabbing 5 rebound per game. In the backcourt, with 18 points on 8-11 shooting in yesterday’s win over Evansville (including 2-2 from the arc), Lexington’s Shelvin Mack has raised his scoring average to 12 per game, and will be listed among the conference’s top twenty scorers when conference stats are recalibrated tomorrow. And in addition to Ronald Nored’s stellar individual defense, he’s dished out 2.8 assists per game, tied for ninth in the Horizon.

So while this edition of the Bulldogs doesn’t quite shoot like recent groups did (Hayward excluded, and maybe Mack), they may already be among the best defensive teams that has patrolled Hinkle, and are destined to become over the next two years the best Butler team ever. That said, they should be good enough to compete at Cleveland State Thursday night (in CSU’s second conference game in three days, but just Butler’s first), though perhaps not yet ready for their freshman to beat the Vikings’ seniors in their gym. Then the Bulldogs will proceed down the road and be more ready for a conference road win at Youngstown State on Saturday night. All being held together by Matt Howard, as those three freshman get better and better and better.

Horizon News and Notes

  • Saturday was a big day for conference teams as in addition to Butler’s 75-59 win over Evansville, Loyola beat Holy Cross 58-53, Detroit beat St. Louis 62-57, Wisconsin Green-Bay beat Massachusetts 84-67 and Illinois-Chicago beat Central Michigan 77-67. Not surprisingly, Wisconsin-Milwaukee lost in Madison to the Badgers, 67-46; Youngstown State was edged at home by St. Francis of Pennsylvania, 66-65. Perhaps the biggest surprise is that after yesterday’s 84-65 loss to Sam Houston State, Wright State will begin conference play 0-4 on the season.
  • With many conferences now adding one or two pre-Christmas conference games, this week provides Horizon fans with a great taste of what January and February will be like. The conference schedule begins Tuesday night with just a singleton, Valparaiso at Cleveland State. Then four conference games tip off on Thursday: Valpo at Youngstown State, Butler at CSU, Detroit at Milwaukee and Wright State at Green Bay. Four more conference tilts come on Saturday: Butler at YSU, Wright State at Milwaukee, Detroit at Green Bay and Loyola at Illinois-Chicago. Enjoy your early taste!
  • Note that Thursday’s game between Butler and Cleveland State in Cleveland will start at 8 pm, rather than CSU’s usual 7 pm, and be telecast nationally on ESPNU.

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2014 Prep School Tour

Missed a recap of an open gym workout? We have them all right here for you.

Sept. 9: Putnam Science Academy
Sept 10: Commonwealth Academy
Sept. 11: St. Andrew's
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Sept. 17: Brooks School
Sept. 21: Holderness School
Sept. 23: St. Thomas More and Marianapolis Prep
Sept. 24: South Kent School and Kent School
Sept. 25: Williston Northampton
Sept. 28: Wilbraham and Monson Academy and Suffield Academy
Sept. 30: New Hampton
Oct. 5: Worcester Academy
Oct. 7: Brimmer and May
Oct. 8: Cushing Academy
Oct. 9: Tilton
Oct. 12: Tabor Academy and Rivers School
Oct. 14: The Master's School
Oct. 16: Vermont Academy

You can also find them all right here.

Even More: City Hoops Recruiting

Mass Elite and Boston Warriors hold college showcase

Mass Elite and Boston Warriors, two of the largest programs in Massachusetts, teamed up for a college showcase on Wednesday night. Here are some evaluations from that event.

Massachusetts 11th grade AAU Tournament recap

Teams gathered at Mass Premier Courts to chase the state title in the oldest age group, and one champion was a familiar one.

Travel team profile: All For One

All For One has been one of the better travel programs in Massachusetts for players before they reach high school

Travel team profile: Blackstone Valley Chaos

Size and options on the wing are not lacking for this year’s junior team

Travel team profile: Expressions Elite

Expressions Elite has quickly become one of the deeper programs in New England

Phil Kasiecki on Twitter

Recruiting Coverage

Marianapolis Prep will battle in Class AA

October 20, 2014 by

marianapolis

Marianapolis Prep is far from loaded with talent, but they have enough perimeter talent to be dangerous. As is usually the case, they will battle and be a tough out in Class AA.

New Vermont Academy coach has put together a contender

October 17, 2014 by

vermontacademy

Vermont Academy has a new coach for the second year in a row, but they shouldn’t skip a beat. They have enough talent to win a lot of games and make a deep run in NEPSAC Class AA.

The Master’s School has good students and talent

October 15, 2014 by

mastersschool

The Master’s School has a number of good students, and they will continue to head to college later. This time around, they also have some talent on the hardwood and should win a few more games.

Rivers will try to build on a breakthrough season

October 13, 2014 by

riversschool

The Rivers School had a breakthrough season last year, winning the Independent School League. They will try to build on that with a team that loses a lot but also returns a lot from last season’s team.

Tabor Academy looks to have more depth this time around

October 13, 2014 by

taboracademy

Tabor Academy will once again be headlined by a frontcourt player. This time around, though, the Seawolves appear to have a deeper support cast than in recent years.