I hope you all had a very Merry Christmas and if you don't celebrate Christmas, Happy Festivus. It's been a quiet last few days in the college hardwood world. There were no games on Christmas Eve, only four games yesterday for the Hawaiian Diamond Head Classic (only two of which were televised), and today you have West Virginia vs. Seton Hall, the first game this season in the Big East Conference. It's the brief time of the college basketball season where either you can unwind for a few days with a break from basketball or desperately crave college hoops like a junkie needs a fix. I happen to be the latter and thankfully, I got my hoops fix yesterday.
I was over at my wife's Uncle Frank's house and I have to give my wife's Aunt Joanne major props. Every room in the house is decorated with a different tree and different motif. It's like my mother in law's brother was married to Martha Stewart (thankfully she is a hell of a lot nicer than Martha). My two sons were the only kids there, so they ended up retreating to my wife's uncle's spacious bedroom, which was almost as big as my old apartment in Seaford. Frank was kind enough to turn on the TV for my kids, but they were too busy playing with the cars they brought, or chasing each other around the bedroom and the den in the next room.
So I got to take over the bedroom TV and immediately turned on ESPN2 for the third place game in the Diamond Head Classic - St Mary's vs. Hawaii. Now the first two days of the tournament, December 22 and December 23 were for the most part on ESPNU (they took off yesterday for Christmas Eve). Had ESPN stuck with that formula, I might have been suffering severe withdrawal symptoms.
Now locally here in Long Island, you can only get ESPNU on Verizon Fios (which I have) or if you have Direct TV or Dish TV. It's not on Cablevision/Optimum, which Chelle's Uncle Frank has. Thankfully, since the only sports played on Christmas were the NBA (shown on ESPN and ABC) or NFL (shown on the NFL Network another channel Cablevision doesn't have), ESPN2 needing programming, showed the consolation game and the championship game (UNLV vs. USC).
I always laugh at the Cablevision response commercials to FIOS where they try to challenge Fios' claims about being faster (which Fios is - I have had both cable modem services- I switched to Fios from Cablevision) among other things. All you need to know is this - 1) Fios has ESPNU, the NFL Network and the Big Ten Network. Cablevision has none of these. 2) Cablevision is run by the moronic Dolans who have run the Knicks, the Rangers and Newsday into the ground and are responsible for killing the Jets' West Side Stadium hopes (a discussion for another time). As much as I am not a big fan of Verizon, Cablevision is run by even worse slugs and having access to ESPNU is huge for me when covering hoops, especially the CAA.
Ok, now that I am off my soapbox, let's get back to the game in hand - the Gaels and the Rainbow. I was very disappointed by the St Mary's performance in losing to USC on Wednesday. The Gaels did not get Omar "Enter the Sandman" Samhan involved and the guards had a difficult time getting shots off against the Trojans' defense. Apparently Coach Randy Bennett was not happy with the Gaels performance either.
Well, last night, St Mary's found their "Inner Samhan" and got the ball often to Omar. And Samhan was aggressive with 24 points on 7 of 17 shooting and he got to the foul line often, going 10 of 10 from the charity stripe. The play that most exemplified Samhan's aggressive play was when he stole the ball at the top of the key and drove the rest of the court for a thundering duck. Pretty impressive for a 6 foot 11 265 pound center, who also had four blocks as well.
Now what I was really impressed with the Gaels was that unlike their game against USC, they took the ball to the basket against the Rainbows (who were minus their leading scorer Roderick Flemings due to a bruised knee). St Mary's had only five 3 pointers, three of which came from Mickey McConnell (17 points). Ben Allen was particularly impressive. When Samhan sat down with his third foul 18:25 left, the score was 41-34 Gaels. Allen would score nine points over a five minute span as St Mary's actually extended the lead with Samhan on the bench to 55-40.
The Rainbow, despite 36 points from Dwain Williams, would never get any closer than six points the rest of the way. Allen would in fact score all his points in the second half and end up with 15 on the game. Clint Steindl and Matthew Dellavedova each had 12 as all Gaels scored in double figures.
USC (8-4) would upset UNLV (12-2) in the championship game 67-56, which now makes St Mary's loss to USC not so bad (by the way, I was too tired to stay up to watch the Rebels-Trojans and besides I already got my fix). The Gaels are now 11-2, while Hawaii is now 6-6. The enigmatic Northeastern Huskies finally won a game in the Diamond Head Classic Tournament defeating SMU 73-62 in the seventh place game. Matt Janning led four Huskies' players in double figures with 16 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists. Western Michigan edged Charleston in the fifth place game 66-63 as David "Super" Kool had 16 points to lead the Broncos.
Slowly things turn back to normal for me with eleven games scheduled for tomorrow and then fifty games Monday (I will be at Iona for the Lady Gaels game with Saint Francis). Now that I am done with this column, I can return my festivus pole back to the store for a refund. Happy Holidays!