College Hoops Sunday Recap: Big Day for the Atlantic 10

December 14th, 2009
Sunday turned out to be a very good day for the Atlantic 10 and that all began with a Big 5 showdown at the Liacouras Center between third-ranked Villanova and Temple. It's always been said that you never know what to expect from a Big 5 meeting and the Owls showed just that in their 75-65 win over the Wildcats in front of a frenzied crowd. Juan Fernandez put on a show for Fran Dunphy's club, scoring a game-high 33 points on 11-of-15 shooting from the field (7-of-9 from three). The Wildcats get the hype for their backcourt play but there was little doubt as to who the best guard on the floor was.

Fernandez, who idolized former Temple great Pepe Sanchez as a child, was unstoppable but he wasn't the only player that Villanova had a tough time with. Forward Lavoy Allen scored just ten points but grabbed a career-high seventeen rebounds and guard Ryan Brooks added twenty points in the win. Of Temple's twenty-six field goals twenty were assisted and the Owls also made eleven of twenty-two shots from behind the arc. This was a game in which the stats didn't lie with the winner outrebounding Villanova 32-24 and making 54.2% of their shots.

Scottie Reynolds led Villanova with twenty-three points and it was quite fitting that the player with the most experience in the Big 5 had the best game. The four freshmen in the rotation, Maurice Sutton (redshirt), Maalik Wayns, Dominic Cheek and Isaiah Armwood, played just twenty-five minutes and scored just one point (Sutton). If there was any doubt on their part about what can happen in the Big 5 there shouldn't be anymore. Temple picked up a big win not only for themselves but also for their conference, one that will be remembered in March as well as in the history books.

Three Key Happenings

1. If Rhode Island is the 8th-best team in the Atlantic 10 the league will be pretty good. Jim Baron's Rams went into their game at Boston College with a good shot a knocking off the Eagles, who were still dealing with the aftermath of their loss to Harvard and welcoming back Rakim Sanders from injury. But to focus solely upon the issues that the Eagles had working Sanders back into the rotation (Reggie Jackson didn't adjust well coming off the bench) would be unfair to Rhode Island, who put together an impressive effort in their 80-69 victory.

Five Rams reached double figures in scoring with senior Keith Cothran leading the way with nineteen on a night in which they made 50% of their field goals and 60% of their shots from behind the arc. Boston College struggled from behind the arc (3-for-14) and players such as Joe Trapani, who usually thrive on mismatches with bigger players, saw the edge nullified by a group that was quicker despite the relative lack of size. Rhode Island certainly didn't look like the eighth-best team in the Atlantic 10 (preseason poll) and if they can continue to play like this they won't finish there either.

2. Xavier knocks off city rival Cincinnati in the Crosstown Shootout. The intra-city battle between Cincinnati and Xavier is a heated affair and that rang true in the first half of their game at the Cintas Center on Sunday night. There were two altercations in the first half and trash-talking was the norm throughout. But there was also some very good basketball being played, with the Musketeers eventually picking up an important 83-79 win in double overtime. Terrell Holloway scored a game-high 26 points which included a crucial three-point play that tied the game late in the first overtime session.

A Deonta Vaughn layup that would have closed the deficit to one rolled of the rim late in the second extra session and Jason Love made one of two free throws to seal the verdict. Before this win the best result for Chris Mack's team was a win over Creighton in the Old Spice Classic and there would have been a lot more pressure to deal with at Butler on Saturday had they lost to the Bearcats.

3. Derrick Caracter returns...and UTEP falls to New Mexico State. It's hard to peg the Miners' 87-80 loss solely on the Louisville transfer since he played just twelve minutes. But you have to wonder if his return did something to the overall chemistry of a talented squad that lost a game that it should have won at home. While Jahmar Young led the Aggies with twenty-four the result was likely sealed by the matchup at center. Hamidu Rahman scored twelve points and ten rebounds while UTEP's Claude Britten finished with just eight points and three rebounds.

New Mexico State also took advantage of the foul line, making 28 of 32 attempts while UTEP made sixteen of twenty-five. It will be interesting to see how Caracter adjusts to his teammates and vice versa. To say the least it's a risky situation for head coach Tony Barbee, who has reported throughout that Derrick has been a model citizen. Unfortunately, many current naysayers have heard that same characterization in the past.

Top Three Games 

1. Xavier 83, Cincinnati 79 (2OT) See above. 

2. Temple 75, Villanova 65 See above. 

3. Florida A&M 60, Georgia State 58 The Rattlers picked up their first victory of the season with two Rasheem Jenkins free throws in the game's final nineteen seconds providing the final margin. FAMU's win leaves Division I college basketball with nine winless teams. 

Three Notable Performances

1. G Juan Fernandez (Temple) Fernandez scored thirty-three points on 11-for-15 shooting in the Owls' 75-65 win over #3 Villanova. 

2. C Keith Benson (Oakland) Benson tallied 23 points, 18 rebounds and six blocks in the Grizzlies' 76-52 win over a Green Bay team that beat Wisconsin last week.

3. F Deshawn Sims (Michigan) Sims scored twenty-three points on 10-12 shooting while also grabbing twelve rebounds and dishing out four assists in the Wolverines' 75-64 win over Detroit.