Saint Mary's Makes History: Monday's Quick Hitters

    
March 6th, 2012

VCU jumped out to a big lead in the first half, holding on to beat Drexel for the CAA title.

1. Saint Mary's rebounds from a Gonzaga rally to force overtime, beating the Zags to win the WCC crown.
Both late title games featured wild comebacks to force overtime, but ultimately the team that could have been too crushed to rebound ended up winning. Elias Harris scored the final five points of regulation for Gonzaga, including a three-pointer in the final seconds to send the WCC title game into overtime, but his efforts wouldn't be enough as Saint Mary's won 78-74. Randy Bennett's team made history with the win, as it marks the first time in school history that the Gaels have won the regular season title outright and won the conference tournament in the same season.

Matthew Dellavedova scored 22 points and dished out four assists to lead the Gaels and Rob Jones added 18 and nine boards, but Jorden Page was just as important. Page scored 16 points on a night that saw Gonzaga's guards, most notably Kevin Pangos (3-for-18 FG), struggle while their big men played well. Harris finished with 22 points and 13 rebounds, and both Robert Sacre' (17 points) and Sam Dower (14 points) reached double figures. Saint Mary's out-rebounded the Bulldogs by four and outscored them by five at the foul line, but ultimately it was Gonzaga's three-point shooting (5-for-22) that caught up with them. Both teams will dance, and Saint Mary's likely improved their seeding with the result as they can now claim two wins over the Bulldogs this season.   

2. Davidson finds away to survive Western Carolina despite some poor late-game execution.
Saint Mary's issues late in regulation had nothing on Davidson's, as the Wildcats looked nothing like the team that ran through the SoCon during the regular season. There were turnovers as well as silly fouls of jump shooters, but thanks to the efforts of De'Mon Brooks, Jake Cohen and JP Kulhman the Wildcats survived 93-91 in double overtime. Brooks and Kuhlman scored 19 points apiece while Cohen and Nik Cochran added 17 and 16 respectively, and Clint Mann added ten points off the bench. WCU, who entered the game having won seven straight games, had three players score 20 points or more but it wouldn't be enough to get them into the NCAA tournament.

Keaton Cole led the Catamounts with 21 points, and Tawaski King (ten rebounds) and Harouna Mutombo (seven rebounds, four assists and three steals) scored 20 apiece. Davidson shot 52.9% from the field but got themselves in trouble with the turnovers (15 total) and 5-for-21 night from beyond the arc. But it would be wise to not write off the Wildcats due to this performance, as Bob McKillop's team plays under control in most instances. Just so happened that they ran into a team that could speed up their thought process and force things to happen, and it very nearly got Davidson beat. 

3. Loyola (MD) completes a long journey, going from 1-27 to an NCAA tournament berth.
In Scott Hicks' final season in charge the Loyola Greyhounds went an embarrassing 1-27, a clear indication that change is needed. Jimmy Patsos was hired and from there he began to rebuild the program, and the goal of getting to the NCAA tournament was final achieved on Monday night. Loyola ramped things up defensively in the second half, pressuring full-court on made basket, which negated the Stags' advantage inside. The Greyhounds went on to win 48-44 due to both their defense and the versatility of tournament MVP Erik Etherly, who finished with ten points, seven rebounds, three blocked shots and two steals.

Ryan Olander and Rakim Sanders both reached double figures but they combined to shoot just 6-for-25 from the field, and point guard Desmond Wade wasn't a whole lot better as he shot 1-for-5. Loyola limited the Stags to just 28.8% shooting for the game and 14 second-half points. While Patsos tends to be the center of attention from a media standpoint when the Greyhounds are playing, it's also important to recognize that there's a good team at Patsos' disposal as well. If Loyola can get the right matchup with a 14 or 15-seed, they've got the ability to throw a scare into someone. 

Quick Hitters

1. The top four seeds in the Sun Belt are all gone before the final, with three-seed Denver being the last to go. Western Kentucky knocked off the Pioneers 67-63 in the second semifinal in Hot Springs, setting up a date with North Texas for the title. The Mean Green beat Arkansas State in the first semifinal. 

2. There was also an upset in the Summit League semis as top-seed Oral Roberts lost to Western Illinois 54-53. Dominique Morrison led the Golden Eagles with 23 points, but his teammates shot just 11-for-36 from the field. Terell Parks led the Leathernecks with 14 points and eight rebounds, and Ceola Clark III added 11 points. WIU will take on two-seed South Dakota State in Tuesday's title game, as the Jackrabbits beat Southern Utah 63-47.

3. Two of the four road teams in the first round of the MAC tournament found a way to win, with Northern Illinois knocking off Eastern Michigan and Central Michigan upsetting Bowling Green. The first half between NIU and EMU featured just 29 points (18-11 NIU) and 17 combined turnovers. As for CMU, a Derek Jackson three with 1:40 remaining put the Chippewas up for good and Austin McBroom scored a team-high 20 points. 

4. It was a busy day on the coaching carousel as Winthrop decided not the bring back Randy Peele, and Miami (OH) head coach Charlie Coles retired following the Redhawks' 60-53 loss at Toledo in a MAC tournament first round game. One name that has already been mentioned in regards to the Miami (OH) job is Arizona associate head coach James Whitford, as he spent 11 years on Coles' staff with eight of those being as the top assistant.

5. Two other coaching moves that didn't surprise many were Brown deciding not to renew Jesse Agel's contract, and UNCG removed Wes Miller's interim tag. Miller's the youngest head coach in college basketball, but his promotion sparked the Spartans run to the North Division title in the SoCon.