Team of the Week: Fairfield
Results: W 66-61 @ Manhattan, W 68-59 vs. Iona
Don’t look now but the Stags are only one game out of third place in the crowded midsection of the MAAC standings. After the whipping they took at the hands of cellar dweller Canisius back on February 1st, such a statement would seem to be a pipe dream, better to be left to next season. The key to the 2-0 week: junior guard Herbie Allen. In the two Fairfield victories, Allen averaged 15.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game. Allen’s numbers for the season: 8.4 ppg, 1.7 rpg and 1.8 apg. In Friday’s win at Manhattan, Allen posted his first career double-double with fifteen points and ten boards.
On Sunday, sophomore forward Anthony Johnson chipped in with sixteen points and five rebounds in the Stags’ nine-point win. Fairfield won the game thanks to an outstanding defensive effort in the second half, limiting the Gaels to twenty-nine percent from the field in the final stanza. The two wins give Fairfield an 8-6 conference record, just one game behind the three-team logjam for third place. And just as important as staying within striking distance of Marist, Niagara and Loyola (MD) is the fact that they now are two games clear of seventh, since teams 7-10 have to play on the opening Friday of the MAAC Tournament.
Honorable Mention: Columbia (wins over Penn and Princeton); St. John’s (2-0 week in the Big East without Anthony Mason Jr.); Yale (2-0 weekend in the Ivy League).
Player of the Week: Jason Thompson (Rider)
Numbers for the Week: 18 points, 14 rebounds vs. Niagara, 26 points, 24 rebounds vs. Siena
Thompson becomes the first repeat winner this season and rightfully so as the senior averaged 22 points and 19 rebounds per game in two contests. Unfortunately for the Broncs, his Herculean effort on Sunday wasn’t enough to keep their win streak alive, falling 80-77 to Siena at Alumni Gymnasium. The preseason choice for MAAC Player of the Year may have all but sewn up the end of season honor with Sunday’s effort, the third time this season in which he has gone for more than twenty points and twenty rebounds in a game. Thompson has amassed sixteen double-doubles this season, and it’s a safe bet that a few more are on their way.
Honorable Mention: Antoine Agudio (Hofstra): 23.5 ppg, 3.0 apg in two games; Herbie Allen (Fairfield): 15.5 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 3.5 apg in two games; Manny Ubilla (Fairleigh Dickinson): 20.0 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 4.0 apg in two games.
Turnaround of the Week: Fairleigh Dickinson winning at St. Francis (PA), just two night after losing at Robert Morris by fifty.
When you have to play a game without three starters and have only eight players available, bad things can happen. This was the situation for Tom Green and the FDU Knights heading into their game at Robert Morris, one of the best teams in the NEC. But to get beat by fifty points (95-45) is something that can sink a team’s season on the spot. But credit the Knights for not only showing up two days later at St. Francis (PA) but managing to win the game 79-61. Two days after allowing RMU to shoot fifty-four percent from the field, FDU held the Red Flash to thirty-five percent from the field, completing the sixty-eight point turnaround.
Other Observations on the week
Just two games after getting Paul Gause back from a broken hand; Seton Hall has now lost him for the year to a torn ACL. Gause only saw three minutes of action in their home loss to Notre Dame due to the knee injury, leaving Bobby Gonzalez to figure out how to make up for the loss of his best defensive player. Gause could wreak havoc on the defensive end of the floor, harassing opposing guards into making poor decisions with the basketball. While Eugene Harvey and Brian Laing are adept at stealing the ball as well, they are also Seton Hall’s two best offensive options, which may mean that more may be expected defensively from Larry Davis, Jamar Nutter and Jeremy Hazell.
St. John’s is now on a three-game win streak, with the last two coming without Anthony Mason Jr. Just when it looked like the Red Storm would be spending another March watching the Big East Tournament, they’ve put together a three-game win streak. Making the current run all the more impressive is the absence of leading scorer Anthony Mason Jr., currently out with a sprained ankle. How have the Red Storm done it? Balanced scoring and taking better care of the basketball.
At least three players have scored in double figures in each of the three wins, and St. John’s turned the ball over an average of ten times per game. For the season, the Red Storm are averaging fifteen miscues per game. Now they’re only one game out of a spot in the top twelve, something that didn’t seem to be within reach as recently as two weeks ago.
Hofstra puts up its best defensive effort of the season in holding Georgia State to forty-five points. The previous low for points allowed in a game this season for Hofstra was fifty-eight, reached twice in wins over Drexel and Delaware. But Saturday’s home effort against the Panthers took the cake, and not just because of the point total. The Pride, allowing teams to shoot forty-one percent from the field for the year, held Georgia State to thirty-four percent shooting while forcing twenty turnovers. While Hofstra had eighteen turnovers of their own, their work on the other end of the floor allowed them to get away with it. If they can continue to force turnovers, their remaining schedule sets up for them to make some headway in the CAA standings, important when it comes to seeding in the conference tournament.
Yale and Columbia get weekend sweeps in Ivy League play. Not saying that their 2-0 weeks make them challengers to Cornell for the league’s automatic berth, but it was a good weekend for both the Bulldogs and the Lions. In Columbia’s win over Penn on Friday night, three Lions reached double figures, led by Niko Scott’s nineteen. John Baumann added 18 and K.J. Matsui seventeen in the 74-58 win. And despite seventeen from Lincoln Gunn, Columbia held off Princeton 58-53 on Saturday.
Yale also got both of their wins at home, making short work of both Harvard and Dartmouth. Matt Kyle, despite playing only sixteen minutes, led the Bulldogs with 19 points in their 97-58 win over Dartmouth. Can these two keep the momentum rolling? Yale visits Penn and Princeton next week, while Columbia hits the road for Harvard and Dartmouth. But followers of the program should be encouraged by the recent results.
Games to keep an eye on
Wagner @ Quinnipiac (Monday, 7:30 PM)
One game separates these two in the NEC standings as both hope to make a run at Sacred Heart and Robert Morris. The Bobcats have one of the league’s most explosive scorers in DeMario Anderson, currently averaging 20.9 points per game. Wagner, coming off of an overtime win at Mount St. Mary’s, is 8-4 on the road this season.
#16 Marquette @ Seton Hall (Tuesday, 7:30 PM; ESPN Full Court)
The Pirates will look to end their current two-game skid when the Golden Eagles show up at The Rock. We all know about the firepower these two teams possess in their respective backcourts, but keep an eye on the frontcourt during this one. Anything these two teams can get from the likes of Ousmane Barro (Marquette) and the trio of Augustine Okosun, John Garcia and Mike Davis (Seton Hall) will be a bonus. If the Pirates are to entertain any thoughts of making a run at a postseason bid, they need this game.
Sacred Heart @ Wagner (Thursday, 7 PM)
Two of the main competitors in the NEC get together on Staten Island. Sacred Heart has now won eight straight games, and a win in their second-to-last road game of the season would put them in very good shape when it comes to winning the regular season crown. Wagner, depending on what happens against Quinnipiac, may need this one to bolster their chances of hosting a game in the NEC Tournament.
Marist @ Manhattan (Friday, 8 PM; ESPNU)
Within the crowded middle of the MAAC standings sits Marist with a 9-5 league record, and they’ll need another road win in the second of four straight away from Poughkeepsie. It’ll also be worth watching to see whether or not Louie McCroskey returns from an ankle injury suffered against Loyola (MD). As for the home standing Jaspers, they’re only 4-7 at Draddy Gymnasium this season.
Villanova @ St. John’s (Saturday, 8 PM; ESPN Classic)
The Red Storm will have a chance to get their win streak up to four in a game matching two teams in desperate need of wins at this point in the season. Both are in danger of missing the Big East Tournament, something the Wildcats have never done. Unfortunately for St. John’s, this has become commonplace in recent years. While the Johnnies have done a better job of taking care of the basketball, it’s been the failure to do so along with many defensive lapses that had Villanova mired in a five-game skid before their win over Seton Hall. Should be an entertaining affair from the Garden.
Charlotte @ Fordham (Sunday, 6 PM)
Speaking of teams struggling to simply qualify for their conference tournament, there’s the plight of the Fordham Rams. Currently just one game up in the loss column on George Washington for twelfth in the Atlantic 10, Fordham hosts a Charlotte team hoping to make a late run at an NCAA bid. Two of the better players in the conference, G Leemire Goldwire and F/C Bryant Dunston, will be on display in this one. With this game coming before a two-game road swing to St. Louis and Temple, the Rams must have this one.
Updated Rankings (previous week in parentheses)
1. Sacred Heart (3)
2. Rider (1)
3. Seton Hall (2)
4. Wagner (5)
5. Yale (7)
6. Army (6)
7. Marist (7)
8. Columbia (11)
9. St. John’s (12)
10. Iona (8)
11. Fordham (10)
12. Fairfield (15)
13. Rutgers (9)
14. LIU (13)
15. Hofstra (16)
16. FDU (14)
17. Monmouth (17)
18. Princeton (18)
19. Manhattan (21)
20. St. Peter’s (20)
21. St. Francis-NY (19)
22. Stony Brook (22)
23. NJIT (23)