Thursday, February 12, 2009

Just When You Figure Things Out, Then Comes the CAA

Looking at last night's games on the schedule. I figured all four home teams would win. William and Mary home vs. UNCW. Check. Easy win for the Tribe. Towson at home vs. Georgia State. Close game as expected, overtime even but the Tigers win. Check. Then things got a little interesting.

Northeastern was home to Drexel last evening. I figured that Northeastern's style play fit perfectly against Drexel's. Slug it out, defensive game but the Huskies had much better shooting. A loss by Drexel and Madison would create a four way tie for fourth (with ODU and Hofstra) with four games left in conference for each team. Ah, the possibilities!

The game showed early on it was going to be a game of runs. Northeastern jumped out to a 11-4 lead. Drexel game back with a 9-2 run to tie it at 13. Then the Huskies came back with a 10-2 run to make it 23-15 Northeastern at the half.

The Huskies came right out and went on a 8-3 run, with the score 31-18 Northeastern with 17:20 left as Matt Janning nailed two three pointers during the beginning of the second half. The Huskies were shooting 50 percent at this point (12 of 24) and the Dragons were shooting 7 of 24, typical for the team last in the CAA in FG percentage. It looked like a done deal as far as the outcome of the game.

Then a funny thing happened. As it was a game of runs, Drexel caught fire from the field. And the Huskies went ice cold. First, the Dragons went on a 15-0 run over the span of only four and half minutes. Over the next seven minutes, the teams traded baskets and free throws and the score was tied at 42 with 4:47 left. But during this span of nearly 13 minutes, the Huskies were 1 of 9 from the field and committed four turnovers. All but 2 points came on free throws and the Huskies were missing several including sure fired Matt Janning who missed two from the line during this time. Unusual for a team that came in second in the CAA in free throw percentage.

The Dragons then sealed the game with a 17-6 run over the next four minutes and change to go up 59-48, 11 of which came from the line (Drexel only missed one free throw during this stretch). The Huskies would end with a 10-3 run over the last 47 seconds that was too little too late. And they would fall into a first place tie with VCU. The Huskies, despite shooting 6 of 10 from beyond the three point arc, shot 38 percent over all. This was due in part to the Huskies frontcourt going 6 of 18 from the field.

Scott Rodgers scored 15 of his 17 points in the second half. When Rodgers, the leading scorer on the season for Drexel, scores in double figures, the Dragons are 10-5 (3-5 when held under 10 points). The Dragons who started out the game 7 of 24, would go 12 of 19 the rest of the way to shoot 44 percent from the field, which is like 60 percent shooting for the way they shoot.

VCU did their best to try to blow the chance to tie Northeastern. The Rams shot 14 of 25 from the line during their game with JMU. But Eric Maynor scored 13 of his 22 points in the final 8 minutes of the game, including the five minute overtime period to bring VCU back from the brink of disaster at home to win 76-71. Maynor hit two free throws with 6.7 seconds left in the second half to tie the game.

So now VCU is tie with Northeastern for first place in the CAA at 11-3. But Northeastern has the tiebreaker, winning the only game the two teams will play this season. As for Drexel, they stand alone in fourth place 9-5, one game ahead of the trifecta of Hofstra, ODU and James Madison who are in fifth place. But already Drexel and Hofstra have beaten Northeastern. Hell William and Mary beat Northeastern. And VCU has a loss to UNCW and if not for Maynor, should have lost to JMU last night. Simply put, it's the wild wild CAA. It's anyone's guess who is going to win the tournament.

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