UConn Won But Don't Be Fooled: Monday's Quick Hitters
We're going with a different setup for daily recaps in hopes of making the reading easier. One piece will focus on the game of the night (or day) and the top individual performances, and the other will touch on other key happenings and some quick hitters on other games.
1. Shabazz Napier's shot gives UConn a much-needed win, but calm down on the "turning point" talk.
The battle between the Huskies and Villanova was a matchup of teams trending in the wrong direction at this point in the season. Jay Wright's young Wildcats were without point guard Maalik Wayns as well as coming off of a tough overtime loss to Notre Dame on Saturday night, and UConn was looking to rebound from a 15-point loss to Marquette. Shabazz Napier called out his teammates following that loss, so it was fitting that the sophomore ended up being the difference in UConn's 73-70 win. Napier knocked down a 30-footer with two-tenths of a second remaining, and with #2 Syracuse next on the slate this was big win for the Huskies.
But to used the phrase "turning point" ignores both the fact that Villanova lacks any kind of depth and the Huskies' level of play throughout the night. There were still mental and physical errors being made, and Jeremy Lamb was UConn's lone player in double figures with 32 points. He's a likely lottery selection but to have that kind of split between Lamb and the rest of the team underlines the issues that UConn has had to deal with this season. The consistency hasn't been there, and coming out of the gates and trailing by as many as 18 points early showed a lack of urgency on their part. The talent is definitely there but the effort isn't always present, which is why UConn finds themselves in their current position. Does all of that automatically change because of one shot? No.
2. Mercer falls two games behind Belmont in the Atlantic Sun race due to a loss at North Florida.
Bob Hoffman's Bears had two games to win to remain a game behind Belmont in the standings leading into the regular season finale between the two teams on February 28th in Macon. But they were unable to accomplish that goal, falling at North Florida 75-66, and that combined with Belmont's 88-79 win over USC Upstate pushed the margin out to two games. The culprit for Mercer in losses to Jacksonville and North Florida: defense, as the Dolphins shot 50% from the field and UNF 45.7%.
The Bears had no answer for Parker Smith, who went off to the tune of 46 points (11-17 3PT) to lead the Ospreys. Langston Hall scored 17 points and dished out four assists to lead Mercer but their inablity to slow down Smith proved costly. The good news for Mercer is that they also host the A-Sun tournament and the worst they'll finish is third, but with their defensive effort not being up to par the last two games the Bears need to correct some things if they're to threaten the defending champs. This should be seen as a minor bump in the road however, as Mercer defended at a high level during their nine-game win streak before this weekend.
3. Paul Crosby's three gives Mississippi Valley State the SWAC regular season title.
Sean Woods' Delta Devils were in good shape to win the SWAC heading into Monday night's game against Texas Southern as they led the pack by four games with four to play. Mississippi Valley State clinched the outright title and moved to 15-0 in league play with a 56-53 win over the Tigers, as Paul Crosby knocked down a three-pointer with six seconds remaining to break a 53-all tie. In fact Crosby did the same in MVSU's win over Prairie View A&M on Saturday, which clinched a share of the SWAC title.
Terrence Joyner led the way for MVSU with 17 points and Crosby tallied a double-double with 11 points and ten rebounds, as the Delta Devils won despite shooting 32% from the field and 9-for-31 from beyond the arc. Who has the ability to take out MVSU in the conference tournament? Texas Southern would be a clear choice with Southern ineligible for postseason play, and Prairie View A&M and Alabama State will also be heard from. But the Delta Devils are hot and have now won 15 straight, meaning that knocking them off will be an extremely difficult task for anyone in the SWAC.
1. Alabama head coach Anthony Grant made the move on Monday to keep suspended forward Tony Mitchell out of the lineup for the remainder of the season while reinstating JaMychal Green, which provides some needed closure to the situation. With Green back Alabama could lock down a tournament bid with good play down the stretch, but at the least Monday's decisions provide some closure for all involved.
2. The ACC reprimanded official Karl Hess for his actions in Saturday's game between Florida State and NC State in Raleigh. Once again the league noted that Hess' mistake was in using arena security instead of game management to remove Tom Gugliotta and Chris Corchiani from the arena and not whether or not the long-time official overreacted. Hess was in Queens officiating the DePaul/St/ John's game on Monday.
3. Keep an eye on Fairfield in the Metro Atlantic, and sure enough the Stags have a matchup with first-place Iona on Friday night. Derek Needham led three Stags in double figures with 16 points in Fairfield's 60-49 win at Marist, but the bigger story was the visitors' work on the defensive end. Marist shot 32.7% from the field and turned the ball over 16 times against Fairfield's tough defense, and the Stags have now won seven straight MAAC contests to move to within a game of Iona.
4. Tahj Tate and Marques Oliver scored 20 points apiece to lead Delaware State past Hampton in double overtime by the final score of 73-68. The win keeps the Hornets a game behind Savannah State, who whipped Bethune-Cookman 67-44, in the race for first place in the MEAC with three league games remaining.
5. The race for Big East Rookie of the Year should be fin to watch if only because there's the question of whether or not two St. John's players could cancel each other out in the voting. D'Angelo Harrison scored 23 points while also racking up five assists and five rebounds in the Red Storm's 79-72 win over DePaul, and Moe Harkless added another double-double with 14 and ten rebounds. Harkless would be the pick here, but you never know how the voting may break down.