Thursday, February 19, 2009

Another Wild Night in the CAA and for Elite Bracketbuster Teams

If I was to tell you that the two best teams facing each other in the Bracketbuster matchup on Saturday, Butler and Davidson (at home) both lost convincgly last night, endangering their at large bid hopes, would you believe me?

Now, if the scenario above happened and that the first place team in the CAA, Northeastern would lose in the last second AT HOME to eighth place Georgia State who only had two road wins ALL SEASON, would you still believe me?

Ok, it gets better. What if the first two scenarios happened and also George Mason - Drexel would have 12 lead changes and would see Darryl Monroe score the last four points with 42 seconds left to put George Mason into a tie for second, would you still believe me?

Wait, wait it gets better (I feel like Billy Mays)! What if I threw in that James Madison and Hofstra, the second worst team in FG percentage in the CAA, played a double overtime shootout won by Hofstra 99-96, would you believe all these scenarios??

But wait, act now, and you also get two Big Ten teams, one ranked at playing at home combine for only 71 points in a 38-33 classic, would you believe all this?!!!

Well, welcome to Wacky Wednesday Night in College Basketball. First, that above Big Ten game did happen as Penn State beat Illinois 38-33. Yes, a ranked Illini team lost at home and scored 33 points.

As for Butler and Davidson, not good. First Butler, who has lost two in a row and 3 of its last 6 and has probably knocked themselves out of the rankings. The Bulldogs lost at Milwaukee 63-60. This is due in large part to the Bulldogs shooting 3 of 16 from beyond the arc. But lets give UW Milwaukee some credit, especially "Big Lumber" James Eayrs, the 6 foot 5 310 pound forward who had 15 points on 4 of 8 shooting from three.

Meanwhile Davidson played at home vs. the Citadel without Stephen Curry and got smoked by the Citadel 64-46. The Wildcats were held to 25 percent shooting. The Citadel, one of the surprise stories of the year, are now 13-4 in the SoCon. Andrew Lovedale had a double double with 18 points and 11 rebounds for the Wildcats.

Well, in the CAA, it was "Something's Gotta Give Wednesday" as you had the two teams tied for third playing each other while two of the teams tied for fifth playing each other. Little did I know that something else major was going to give, the tie for first place in the CAA.

Northeastern continues its very fast downward spiral as it lost at home to Georgia State 70-68 on a last second layup by Ousman Krubally. It was only Georgia State's third win on the road this year. The Panthers shot 55 percent from the field, including 9 of 19 from beyond the arc. It was the third loss in a row, their second straight loss at home and fourth loss in their last five games for the Huskies. This was due in large part to shooting an unseemly 5 of 24 from beyond the arc.

The Huskies fell out of first and into a tie for second place with George Mason as VCU came back from an eleven point first half deficit to beat Delaware 78-67. As what has become a common occurrence in CAA games, Eric Maynor scored 21 of his 30 points in the second half for VCU. Larry Sanders added 19 points and 15 rebounds in the victory.

Northeastern is now tied with the Patriots as Darryl Monroe scored the last four points in the game as George Mason defeated Drexel 49-48 in a slogfest that featured 12 lead changes. The defensive struggle featured both teams shooting under 35 percent from the field (Mason was 2 of 10 from beyond the arc, while Drexel was 3 of 12 from beyond the arc).

I was at Hofstra last night for the fifth place showdown between Hofstra and James Madison. The game had everything; lots of scoring, three players injured during the game, a shot clock malfunction, terrible officiating (resulting in one technical for JMU coach Matt Brady), several lane violations, a rarely seen inbounds violation, inexplicable coaching decisions, inexplicably bad fouls, two overtime periods with lots of three point bombs, and a wild wacky ending.

The first half featured Hofstra's Charles Jenkins and his usual slicing and dicing to the basket for 12 points while often setting up teammate Nathaniel Lester for some of his 9 points. Meanwhile Dazz Thornton was dominant inside for the Dukes scoring 10 points and creating foul trouble for the Hofstra big men, who were already short in the frontcourt. This was due to sophomore shot blocker Greg Washington being out with the flu. Hofstra had an edge on the rebounds in the first half but Madison was 10 of 12 from the line as compared to the Pride's 1 for 2 and entered the half with a 34-30 lead. It might have been more than that but with the Pride having the ball in the waining seconds of the half, the Dukes had two fouls to give. Unfortunately they never used them except for one..while in the act of Jenkins shooting. Thus a four point deficit instead of a six point deficit.

Who knows, that might have turned out huge. The Pride came out strong in the second half (more on that in a second) and went ahead 43-42 on a three point play by Nathaniel Lester, who has really come into his own in the second half of the season. That was the beginning of a 13-3 run for the Pride who went up 53-45 lead with 7:47 left in the game. But a combination of Hofstra inexplicably slowing the pace and the Dukes' Kyle "Hungry Man Dinner" Swanston nailing a couple of threes, and Pierre Curtis blowing by everyone on a couple of high screens and the Dukes were up 57-56. After a free throw by Darren Townes and the second of many threes by Ziggy Sestokas, the Pride were back up three, 60-57.

The Dukes would tie it back up at 62 on four three throws by the "Hungry Man Dinner". Townes would hit a dunk and a foul shot for a three point play but Julius Wells, the best freshman in the CAA after what I saw last night, bombed another three to tie the game. Jenkins would put the Pride up again with an off balance jumper with 1:16 left before Wells knived through the defense to tie it up. After Jenkins turned the ball over, the Dukes had the last shot. But they pulled a Hofstra and ran the clock down too late and thus the first overtime tied at 67.

During this time, three players got injured in the second half; Greg Johnson for the Pride left with a sore shoulder. JMU's Devon Moore injured his hand underneath the basket with eleven minutes left and was on the bench in a sling at the end of the game. And Dazz Thornton left the court with 9 minutes left for some unknown reason and never returned.

During the first overtime, Hofstra again would march out to a 79-73 lead as Jenkins would score five points to lead the way. However, due to some miss free throws and an explicable lane violation by Hofstra's Dane Johnson, the Dukes would creep back into the game as Juwann James was the man, scoring eight points during the first overtime period. During this time, two of Hofstra's big men, Johnson and Arminas Urbutis fouled out, leaving the Pride with just two frontcourt players. Hofstra would miss a couple of more foul shots by Cornelius Vines and Jenkins, and again the Dukes capitalized as Wells and Pierre Curtis blew by for easy layups and the first regulation period would end tied at 81.

In the second overtime period, the Dukes and the Pride traded jabs and three pointers as Wells and Sestokas tried to top each other during the second overtime period, each of them having three three pointers in the period. Hofstra would move out to a 96-90 lead on two free throws by Vines with 27 seconds left, but no lead was safe in this game. Two Julius Wells three pointers sandwiched around two Charles Jenkins foul shots cut the lead to 98-96. During this time, Darren Townes fouled out for the Pride and Hofstra was left with seldom used big man Mike Davis Sabb in the frontcourt. This would result in the Dukes fouling Sabb with three seconds left. Sabb missed the first free throw, then Swanston inexplicably did a lane violation while Sabb missed the second free throw. Sabb hit the second chance opportunity and the Dukes missed a game tying three pointer at the buzzer.

The Pride were led by Jenkins 32 points, 13 assists and 7 rebounds. Lester had 22 points and 11 rebounds. Sestokas had 19 points on five three pointers while Townes added 15. Wells had 32 points on 11 of 20 shooting, James added 19 points, Curtis had 14, Swanston 11, and Thornton and Moore each had 10 for the Dukes. Hofstra shot 53.8% from the field including 65 percent in the second half and 72.7 percent in the OT periods. JMU shot 50.8 percent from the field including also 72.7 percent in the OT periods (each team shot 8 of 11 in the OT periods). JMU shot 27 of 37 from the line while Hofstra shot 23 of 32. The Pride are now 10-6 in the CAA and tied for fourth with ODU and Drexel while JMU falls to 9-7 in seventh place in the CAA.

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