Sunday, February 8, 2009

Bad Day at Black Rock for Top Mid Major Teams and Saturday CAA in Review

An FYI for you all.  You can find all the Bracketbuster scheduled games at  But again, try to find the link on ESPN's college basketball site. Good luck.

It was not a very good day for top mid major teams.  In fact four of the top eight teams in the Mid Majors Baker's Dozen lost yesterday (that actually makes eight of the top thirteen teams in the most recent countdown have lost a game this week).  

First, in Lawrenceville, New Jersey, Siena was up thirteen points, 67-54, with 10 minutes left.  Unfortunately, the Saints could not hold the lead and lost 90-88.  Justin Robinson torched the Siena defense for 25 points, shooting 9 of 12 from the field,  including 5 of 6 from beyond the arc. Rider as a team shot 55 percent from the field including 11 of 19 from beyond the arc.  Siena's Kenny Hasbrouck led all scorers with 29 points as all five Saints' starters scored in double figures.  Unfortunately for Siena (18-6,12-1 MAAC), who suffered their first conference loss of the season, they doomed themselves by only shooting 10 of 18 from the free throw line in the second half.

On ESPN2 yesterday evening, another top mid major team that also had a large second half lead, but saw that lead slip away and lose their first conference game of the season was Davidson (20-4, 13-1).  The Wildcats were shutdown by the College of Charleston defense in the second half and lost to the Cougars 77-75.  Antwaine Wiggins, who did an absolutely terrific job clamping down on Stephen Curry in the second half, blocked a potential game winning three point attempt by Curry at the buzzer to save the win for the Cougars.  Curry, who led all scorers with 25 points, was held to six second half points on 1 of 12 shooting mainly due to Wiggins hounding him with his six foot seven inch frame.  With Wiggins clamping down on Curry, the Wildcats had no other scoring options and often forced up a lot of three point bricks.  Bryant Barr, 16 points, and Andrew Lovedale, 13 points, did help contribute but the team as a whole shot 10 of 30 in the second half while Charleston shot 43 percent in the second half and the game.  Tony White Jr led the Cougars with 19 points.  With the loss, Davidson's 43 game conference winning streak ended, one short of the SoCon record by West Virginia in the late 50's. 

At least Davidson and Siena were competitive in their games for the most part.  The same could not be said for Gonzaga.   On national TV on ESPN, the Zags led 8-6 with 14:40 left in the first half.  That was their last lead for the game as Memphis dominated the rest of the way and coasted to a 68-50 win.  The Tigers were up by as many as 26, 60-34 with 8:34 left, before a run by the Gonzaga subs actually cut the lead to 62-50 with 1:24 left, but the Zags could get no closer.  Memphis shot 44 percent from the field, which is eight percent higher than normally Gonzaga allows (36 percent).  Also the Tigers crushed the Bulldogs on the glass, outrebounding Gonzaga 37-21.  The Tigers also clamped down on the Gonzaga starters as Jeremy Pargo, Matt Bouldin, Stephen Gray and Austin Daye combined to shoot a paltry 6 of 26 from the field as Gonzaga as a team only shot 36.7 percent.  Tyreke Evans, the super freshman for Memphis, led all scorers with 22 points while Robert Dozier added a double double with 18 points and 10 rebounds.  Micah Downs came off the bench to lead Gonzaga with 13 points. 

At least Gonzaga got dominated by a ranked team.  The decline of St Mary's (19-4, 6-3 WCC) continued with a beat down by the Broncos at Santa Clara 70-52.  Kevin Foster and John Bryant combined for 47 points on 17 of 23 shooting from the field.  Santa Clara shot 58.5 percent from the field as opposed to St Mary's 35 percent, including 4 of 14 from the beyond the arc.  Bryant had his 19th double double of the season with 15 rebounds.  Omar Samhan had 10 points and 15 rebounds for his ninth double double of the season.  With the loss, the Gaels have now lost three of their last four games due to the Patty Mills injury.  It only gets tougher for the Gaels who now have to face Gonzaga this Thursday and then Portland on Saturday, both home games.  The Gaels are in desperate needs for a couple of wins this week.

One of the few top mid major teams to survive the day was Butler (21-2, 12-1 Horizon), who crushed Wright State (14-10, 8-5 Horizon) 69-51.  The Bulldogs roared out to a 19-2 lead forcing seven Raiders turnovers and holding the Raiders to 1 of 11 from the field.  The lead was eighteen, 39-21, at halftime.   Butler shot 50 percent from beyond the arc (12 of 24) led by Zach Hahn burying five three pointers.  Hahn led all scorers with 17 points.  The Raiders shot only 26.7 percent from the field.  It was the first win for Butler at Wright State in eight tries, and it was Wright State's third loss in their last fifteen games. 

In the CAA yesterday, things got a whole lot tighter for third and fourth place in the conference.  First, James Madison (16-9, 8-5 CAA) jumped into a three way tie for fourth place in the CAA as the Dukes held off third place George Mason (16-7, 9-4 CAA) 68-66.  Mason was actually up 60-57 with 4:41 left before Devon Moore scored seven of the last eleven Madison points.  JMU shot 46 percent from the field, led by Kyle Swanston's 19 points.  Jon Vaughan matched Swanston with 19 for the Patriots who have lost now four of their last six games in conference .   The Dukes are now only one game behind Mason, along with ODU and Drexel

That's because Drexel (12-10, 8-5 CAA) was the only CAA home team yesterday to lose as Old Dominion (15-9, 8-5 CAA) dominated from start to finish in an impressive 63-53 win over the Dragons.   Gerald Lee had a double double for the Monarchs with 23 points and 10 rebounds.   The Monarchs shot 47 percent from the field and 2o of 25 from the free throw line.   Drexel's largest lead was four, 11-7  with 13:25 left in the first half.  Then ODU went on a 19-3 run to go up 26-14 at the half and the Monarchs never looked back.  Drexel, last place in the CAA in FG percentage, shot true to form by shooting 32 percent from the field.  Only Jaime Harris, who shot 6 of 11 from three and had 20 points, was the only exception to the Dragon's shooting woes. Evan Neisler, Scott Rodgers and Tramayne Hawthorne combined to shoot 2 of 21 from the field.   Jonathan Adams added 12 points for ODU.  The Monarchs and Dragons are now tied with the Dukes for fourth place.

Hofstra (15-9,7-6 CAA) actually moved to within one game of fourth place after overcoming a hot shooting Towson (8-17, 3-10 CAA) for a 71-68 win.  Yours truly was there to see the coming out party for Hofstra's Nathaniel Lester who had 19 of his 21 points in the second half to lead the Pride to victory.  Charles Jenkins led the Pride with 24 points while Junior "Don't call me Happy" Hairston  had 23 points for the Tigers.

The first half saw Towson scorch the CAA's leading FG percentage defense team, Hofstra, for 50 percent from the field including 5 of 10 from beyond the arc.  Towson jumped out to a 30-18 lead before the Pride, despite shooting 26 percent in the first half, went on a 13-5 run to end the half to trail by four.   This was mainly due to two reasons.  One, Charles Jenkins had 16 first half points on 6 of 11 shooting.  Two, the Pride was able to get to the free throw line where they were 14 of 19.  The second half saw the six foot five Lester repeatedly get inside for layups.  And again, the Pride shot extremely well from the line shooting 10 of 13 from the charity stripe.  Contrast this with Towson shooting a poor 11 of 19 from the line from the line and you can see how their 9 of 17 shooting from three was counteracted.  Arminas Urbutis had a double double for the pride with 11 points and 10 rebounds, while Josh Thornton added 13 on four three pointers for the Tigers.  

Northeastern (16-7, 11-2 CAA) and VCU (17-7, 10-3 CAA) kept serves with home wins.  VCU had a very easy 76-54 win over William and Mary while Northeastern had to struggle somewhat to beat UNCW 77-65.  The last team to hold serve at home was Georgia State who rallied to beat Delaware 70-67.  For at least one day, the CAA's home winning percentage was .833 (5 of 6 home teams won) as opposed to the stunningly low season average of 55 percent.  Perhaps it's a sign of things to come for the rest of the CAA season. 

This week's action in the CAA will be very important in determining seeding.  Hofstra, coming off a much better effort against Towson (as opposed to the dreadful game vs. Mason on national TV), hosts Old Dominion on ESPNU.  A win by the Pride could very possibly force a wild four way tie for fourth place in the CAA by the end of Wednesday night's action.  That's due to Drexel having to travel to first place Northeastern on Wednesday and James Madison having to travel to face second place VCU on Wednesday as well.   Imagine four teams tied for fourth, the last first round conference tournament bye spot, with four games left in conference.  Now that would be cool.

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