NYC Weekend Preview: Pirates, Red Storm Get Needed Weekend Off

January 29th, 2010

Given their wins over Louisville and Pittsburgh over the last week, it would have been easy to fall into the trap of thinking that Seton Hall would have a relatively easy time in Tampa last night. But in a game that may have led some Bulls fans to use the word "karma", USF won consecutive conference games for the first time as a Big East member by knocking off the Pirates 76-74 in overtime. The scoring duel between Jeremy Hazell and Dominique Jones did not disappoint but the difference was one-time SHU recruit Jarrid Famous, who finished with 15 points and 14 rebounds.

Why karma? Well, head coach Bobby Gonzalez made the statement a couple of weeks ago that the Pirates would be well-served to play a lower-tier team in the midst of their rough schedule to start conference play. Not so much. The much-improved Bulls fought throughout the game and Seton Hall was unable to gain any kind of separation, eventually needing a Keon Lawrence driving basket to send the game into overtime. In the extra session a Chris Howard layup gave the Bulls a 75-73 lead, setting the stage for a bizarre final minute.

Hazell's missed three turned into a long outlet pass to Anthony Crater, who inexplicably turned down an open layup that would have pushed the least to four in order to run more time off the clock. The only problem: he stepped out of bounds in doing so, giving the ball back to the Pirates. Herb Pope would be fouled on the other end, making one of two free throws to cut the lead to one. But instead of immediately fouling Famous the Pirates allowed two seconds to trickle off of the clock. Famous made one out of two, but you have to wonder if those extra two seconds allow Robert Mitchell to not rush to the point of dribbling the ball off of his own foot.

To say the least this is a very tough loss for the Pirates, and with their next two games being road contests at Villanova and Pittsburgh they may be in serious trouble in regards to a possible NCAA Tournament bid. Although the Bulls have improved this is still a game you can ill-afford to lose if you're to make a run at a tournament berth.

Thursday's Scores

Pittsburgh 63, St. John's 53
Fairfield 73, Loyola (MD) 69
Quinnipiac 66, Wagner 57
Rider 74, Manhattan 71
Siena 66, Saint Peter's 58
Saint Francis (PA) 71, St. Francis (NY) 63
Mount St. Mary's 64, Sacred Heart 52
Iona 61, Marist 42
CCSU 66, Monmouth 44
Robert Morris 66, LIU 58
FDU 67, Bryant 55

St. John's drops another one due to their inability to finish
The Red Storm once again had a second half lead on a Top 25 opponent. And once again their lack of a guy who can go out and get you important baskets when needed to fend off a charging opponent came back to bite them. Pittsburgh closed the game on a 9-1 run in winning 63-53 at the Peterson Events Center, nullifying the Red Storm's 41-31 rebounding advantage. As a team St. John's made just nineteen of fifty-eight shots in the second half to fall to 2-6 in Big East play (12-8 overall). Justin Burrell led the Johnnies with fourteen points while Pitt's Brad Wanamaker led all scorers with sixteen. Next up for St. John's is Rutgers on Tuesday night in what should be a charged game; at this stage both teams need wins desperately.   

Saint Peter's turnovers cost them against Siena
The Peacocks were the trendy pick of many (myself included) to at least put a scare into the first-place Saints at the Yanitelli Center last night. But due in large part to eighteen turnovers and some poor free throw shooting when they got to the charity stripe (3-8), the Saints proved to be too much when combined with the solid play of Ryan Rossiter (21 points, nine rebounds). The loss dropped the Peacocks to 7-4 in the MAAC, one game behind Fairfield and Iona for second place in the conference standings. Wesley Jenkins led the Peacocks with 13 points and SPC hit seven three-pointers to the Saints' one, but those turnovers proved to be the difference.   

Friday's Schedule

7p Pennsylvania at Yale
7p Harvard at Columbia
7p Princeton at Brown

Game of the Night: Harvard at Columbia
Two of the better players in the Ivy League will be on display at Levien Gym, with Harvard's Jeremy Lin and Columbia's Norwua Agho sharing the floor. Agho leads the nation in three-point percentage but he's a more versatile player than that stat's implication (read: spot-up shooter and nothing more) would lead many to believe. Norwua is averaging 16.8 points per game, good for fourth in the Ivy League while Lin is just above him at 17.1 ppg. Jeremy Lin has received a good deal of press this season for his performances in the Crimson's nonconference slate and rightfully so. This is a versatile senior who knows how to play the game; he will be a handful for the entire league much less the Lions.

The keys tonight: rebounding and field goal percentage. The Crimson lead the Ivy League in rebounding margin and while the Lions aren't too shabby themselves, ranking third in said category. As for field goal percentage, Harvard leads the league in both field goal percentage and field goal percentage defense. If Columbia is to win tonight they need to: find and make good looks while limiting Harvard's. Pretty straightforward but the simple answers are sometimes the toughest to execute.    

Saturday's Schedule 

Noon Sacred Heart at Wagner
1p FDU at Central Connecticut State
3:30p Monmouth at Bryant
4p Utah Valley at NJIT
4p Rider at Fairfield
4p Siena at Marist
4p Delaware at Hofstra
6p Princeton at Yale 
6p Notre Dame at Rutgers (ESPN2)
7p Dartmouth at Columbia
7p Boston University at Stony Brook 
7p St. Francis (NY) at Robert Morris 
7p LIU at Saint Francis (PA)
7p Army at Bucknell

Games of the Day: Notre Dame at Rutgers and Boston University at Stony Brook
The Scarlet Knights host one of the favorites for Big East Player of the Year in Luke Harangody as the Irish visit in a game that usually guarantees a good turnout at the RAC. The good news for Rutgers: Mike Rosario had his most efficient offensive game in Big East play in their loss at Marquette on Tuesday night. As for how to break a guy out of a shooting slump, Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey (who's coached a few good shooters himself) offered up the following advice:

"The one this is that the coach has to show confidence in you. You just keep a guy's confidence up and you're not turning any good shot down." Coach Brey also added that he's been very impressed with freshman Dane Miller, stating that "he doesn't look like a freshman". If Rutgers is to win they're going to have to play solid defense, and both Rosario and Miller will need to be on since they lack an interior scorer to take the heat off of Mike (Gregory Echenique would have provided that balance). If this is a shootout the Scarlet Knights will be in serious trouble.

As for the Seawolves, they sit a half-game out of first place (Maine) going into their matchup with the Terriers. Stony Brook won the first meeting 84-75 back on January 2nd but since that meeting BU has won six of their last eight games, including a loss to Maine on Wednesday night. BU has four players scoring in double figures with the tandem of John Holland and Corey Lowe combining to score just over thirty-five points per game. Stony Brook hit 48.1% of their shots in that win while holding BU to 37.7% shooting and eighteen turnovers. A duplicate performance would go a long way in keeping the Seawolves within striking distance of the first-place Black Bears.   

Sunday's Schedule 

2p Manhattan at Saint Peter's (ESPNU)
2p Fordham at Xavier