Sunday, December 13, 2009

Pride Win Handily, Purdue Turns Up the Heat to Turn Back the Tide and What Happened in Cedar Falls?

As you can tell from all the live updates I posted yesterday, Hofstra defeated New Hampshire 75-58. A very solid win for the Pride. Hofstra was up twelve, 43-31 and basically ended the game by starting the second half on a 10-2 run. The Pride shot 10 of 15 from beyond the arc, held New Hampshire to 3 of 19 from beyond the arc and 34.5 percent overall. Charles Jenkins led the way with 21 points and Cornelius Vines had 16 points on 5 of 6 shooting from beyond the arc. Hofstra took the lead with 16:41 left in the first half and never trailed again, going up by as many as 24 points in the second half.

Richmond played its third CAA team of the season last night at the Spiegel Center in Richmond as they faced VCU in their annual Black and Blue Classic. The Spiders went out to a twelve point first half lead before being up nine 29-20 as the Rams missed 17 of its first 22 shots. The second half was MUCH different as VCU shot 12 of 21 from the field and more importantly, cashed in from the charity stripe, going 18 of 23 from the free throw line.

Larry Sanders had his usual solid game with 12 points, 13 rebounds and of course 5 blocks. However, the Rams got help from the bench as TJ Gwynn had a career high 20 points and Brandon Bozzell went 3 of 3 in the second half from beyond the arc to power VCU to the win. The Rams came out on a 19-4 run to start the second half to win their sixth Black and Blue Classic in a row.

I watched a good part of the second half of Purdue vs. Alabama. Alabama had been dominating most of the game and was up fifteen, 51-36 with 15 minutes left when I started watching it. Then it was like someone, most likely coach Matt Painter, who told his team to start playing defense. And then Purdue went into lockdown mode. The Boilermakers held the Tide the rest of the way to 4 of 20 shooting, as well as forcing eight turnovers. As a result, Purdue went on a 37-14 run the rest of the way to win 73-65 in their first road game of the year.

It was really one of the best defensive clinics I have seen. Alabama struggled mightily to get shots off during those final fifteen minutes. It really was outstanding man to man defense by Purdue. And they cashed in on the offensive end. A very solid all around team. They truly deserve their #5 ranking.

Western Carolina came into its road game vs. Louisville at 9-1. The Catamounts had solid wins on their resume, a home win over A10 Duquesne and a road victory over Bradley. But this was the first of their two big road tests, the Cardinals on their home court. Well by judging how well Western Carolina did against Louisville, if I was Clemson, I would get ready, as the Catamounts stunned the Cardinals 91-83 yesterday. The Catamounts shot over 50 percent from the field and were 29 of 41 from the free throw line. Yes, Louisville may not be as good as last year, but they were ranked to start the season. With this win, the Catamounts have sealed a place in the rankings for the first Mid Majors Baker's Dozen coming out this week!

Speaking of the Mid Majors Baker's Dozen, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa yesterday, one team sealed their ranking in the Baker's Dozen, while one slipped out as Northern Iowa used a big second half to crush Siena 81-65, in a Bracketbusters return matchup from last season. Northern Iowa had a key 18-5 second half run that turned a three point game into a rout. The Panthers did it in their usual style, burying the three ball. Northern Iowa shot 9 of 15 from beyond the arc. Ali Farokhmanesh led five Panthers scorers in double figures with 15 . A telling stat from this game was assists to turnovers. Northern Iowa had 19 assists to 13 turnovers, Siena had 10 assists and 9 turnovers.

So what's with Siena? A preseason favorite by many people, including me, with four starters returning has seemingly struggled from the gate only winning six of their first ten games. A closer look shows that it it is really not so bad. Three of the four losses were on the road - at Temple, at nationally ranked Georgia Tech, and at Northern Iowa. Their only other loss was a neutral site loss to St John's at the Philly Hoop Classic. Combined record of those four teams - 27-5.

If you remember last season, the Saints struggled from the gate, going 6-4 in their first ten games in a row (against also very good teams). In fact, Kyle Whelliston gave the Saints the award for most disappointing mid major team in the first half last year. Then the Saints went 21-4 the rest of the way, knocked off Ohio State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, then nearly beat #1 Louisville in the second round. The Saints will be just fine. But they won't be in the first Mid Majors Baker's Dozen rankings for the season (they will be a honorable mention).

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