Friday, December 30, 2016

St John's Rallies to Beat Butler to Start Big East Play

Good game and great atmosphere at a sold-out Carnesecca Arena last night as St John's rallied from a ten point second half deficit to defeat Butler 76-73 in the opening Big East conference game for both teams. Even got a free Jack Kaiser Bobblehad doll and a souvenir t-shirt.  Red Storm shot 54 percent for the field in the victory.  For further details, see Jaden Daly's terrific recap of the game -  Here are pictures from last night.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Hofstra Gives Their Fans an Early Christmas Present (Recap of Siena vs. Hofstra)

Last season, Hofstra was one regulation free throw away from winning the CAA Tournament Championship and an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.  Instead, the Pride lost in overtime to UNCW and ended up playing in the NIT, where they would lose a first round heartbreaker to eventual NIT champion George Washington 82-80.

During last season, Hofstra suffered its worst loss, certainly by point margin, at Siena.  The Saints would go out to a thirteen point halftime lead and coast to an 81-68 victory.  This season, a good number of Saints' fans made the three hour trip from Albany down to Hempstead, New York to see if Siena could make it two in a row against the Pride on Thursday night.   This time, Hofstra had the home court advantage at the David S Mack Arena and within a few minutes of game action, it was apparent that Siena would not win two in a row.

The Saints would actually go out to a 4-2 advantage on a layup by Marcus Wright.  From there, Hofstra would outscored Siena 25-7 over the next seven and a half minutes, keyed by five three pointers, to take a 27-11 lead.  The Saints would then go on a 7-0 spurt to cut the deficit to nine, which would eventually be the margin at halftime, with Hofstra up 38-29.

Siena would cut the Hofstra lead down to seven, 40-33, early in the second half.  But the Pride would go on a 15-4 spurt, thanks to, what else, three 3 pointers, two by Deron Powers to go up 55-37 and the game was basically over with 13:44 left in the game.   All that was left was for Hofstra to avoid fouling out their two big men - Rokas Gustys and Hunter Sabety and get Gustys into double figures in scoring, which gave him is twenty eighth career double-double (Gustys had 10 points and 15 rebounds).  The Pride would win handily 84-64.

When you did the post mortem of the game, it was easy to see how Hofstra won the game.  The Pride shot eleven of twenty one from beyond the arc, while the Saints were two of fourteen from the same distance. The Pride also had fifteen assists, eight of whom came from Powers.  Sabety added five of the seven Hofstra blocks in only eleven minutes of action (also had six rebounds).    

Powers led all scorers with twenty one points on seven of thirteen shooting, including four of five from beyond the arc.  Along with Powers and Gustys, Hofstra got double figure scoring from Justin Wright Foreman, who scored sixteen points off the bench, Eli Pemberton added thirteen and Brian Bernardi chipped in with eleven points.  Nico Clareth led the Saints with sixteen points.

The Saints did a poor job guarding the three point line.  In fact, Powers at least twice dribbled down the court, squared up and shot an open three.    Also, the game would had been a lot closer had Siena 's big men made the most of the open chippies in the paint that Hofstra gave them.  

As for Hofstra, Powers is incredibly quick.   He knifed through the lane several times and had a three point play on a layup and a foul.  That likely is why Siena's guards gave him repeat open looks for three pointers.   I also finally got to see Eli Pemberton in person.  The Hofstra freshman has a nice all around game and Coach Joe Mihalich and his staff should be commended for successfully recruiting such a talented player.

The Pride should try to get Gustys, who has solid post moves for a big man, more field goal attempts - he only had eight and was fouled only once in the act of shooting (and yes, he needs major work on free throw shooting.  He missed both.   The balance of scoring by the Pride offense was nice to see, though Ty Greer, who only had six points,  isn't shy shooting from anywhere, which mind you is a problem when you only go two of seven from the floor.

But in all, it was a very good end to the Pride's non conference schedule.   Their next game starts #CAAHoops conference play, a road trip to the Bob to play Delaware on New Year's Eve.   Outside of the decent size contingent of Siena fans, most of the nearly 1500 in attendance went home happy.  For Hofstra fans, the twenty point win didn't give them visions of sugar plums this holiday season.  It's that ever elusive NCAA Tournament bid that dances in their heads.   

Monday, December 12, 2016

Jaden Daly Previews the Pirates for the Seton Hall-South Carolina Game at MSG

Good morning, college hoops fans!  It's time for the annual Daly Dose of Hoops/College Hardwood preview swap as South Carolina takes on Seton Hall tonight at MSG.  While I preview South Carolina for Jaden Daly on his terrific Daly Dose of Hoops site,  Jaden previews Seton Hall for us on this site.  Enjoy!

Hi everyone, Jaden Daly from Daly Dose Of Hoops here, joining you once again to preview the Pirates of Seton Hall University as they take on South Carolina in the Under Armour Reunion event at Madison Square Garden.

My staff and I have covered Seton Hall extensively over the past few years, and have seen them in person three times already this season. Below you will find game recaps and postgame thoughts from each of those games: (Feature on Myles Powell)

Starting Guards
Seton Hall's strength is in its backcourt, and Khadeen Carrington leads the way following the transition of Isaiah Whitehead into the NBA. Still primarily used as a two guard, Carrington will move on to the ball and run the point during games, and still provide the same lethal scoring ability. Once predicted to be the all-time scoring leader before his career was over, Carrington leads the Pirates with a 20 point-per-game average, becoming the latest in a long line of scorers from Brooklyn. His shooting has picked up where it left off in the Big East tournament, shooting 55 percent both from the floor and three-point range. If the Hall needs a bucket, you can bet Carrington will be the first option for it.

Desi Rodriguez is more of a wing, but still a slasher at 6-foot-5 who can be a guard in a conventional lineup and a small forward in a smaller lineup. The most athletic of the Pirates, Rodriguez is the source of many highlight-reel dunks throughout the year, and will seek opportunities to drive the lane against South Carolina. With averages of nearly 15 points and seven rebounds per game, his numbers have improved enough to where the offensive production vacated by Whitehead and Derrick Gordon is no longer a question. His defense is still a work in progress, though, so if the Gamecocks can exploit him on the perimeter, it could change the game.

Madison Jones usually gets the start at the point guard spot. A graduate transfer who came to South Orange from Wake Forest, Jones made a strong first impression with ten assists in the season-opening win over Fairleigh Dickinson, and has since continued to be a deft passer who knows how to thread the needle in almost any situation. Like Rodriguez, his defensive ability needs work, which has explained a slight dropoff in minutes while he learns the nuances of the defense-oriented Pirate system. But when he is on the floor, he will always look to get his teammates involved before taking a shot of his own.

Starting Forwards
Any mention of the Seton Hall front line has to start with Angel Delgado. By far the best big man in the Big East, the junior has been unceremoniously snubbed of all-conference honors in each of his first two seasons, and is still making his opponents pay every time out. The 6-foot-10 Dominican is a walking double-double, averaging nearly 14 points and 11 rebounds per game, all the while shooting 59 percent from the field. Delgado is, in my opinion, a cross between former Pitt forward DeJuan Blair and a player some of you may already be familiar with from Gary's past chronicles, Stony Brook's Jameel Warney. An evolving part of Delgado's game has been his ability to elude double-teams and pass out of the post, freeing up players like Carrington and Rodriguez; and even Myles Powell, for long-range jumpers or threes on the baseline.

Next to Delgado is Ismael Sanogo, who is the most underrated big man in the New York area. A 6-foot-8 forward built like a linebacker, Sanogo has a nose for the ball unlike any other, and makes so many defensive plays that box scores simply will not do any justice. Without Sanogo, the Pirate interior is significantly weakened, as there is no one else to do the dirty work under the rim when Delgado gets into foul trouble. His stats may not seem like much, but look at what Sanogo affects on the defensive end before you read a stat sheet.

The Pirates normally play a seven-man rotation for the most part, meaning Myles Powell and Michael Nzei are the two you will see in the game most often. Powell is a precocious freshman whose three-point shooting conjures up memories of former Seton Hall legend Jeremy Hazell. Having lost 45 pounds in the offseason, Powell is most dangerous on the perimeter as evidenced by his 42 percent shooting from beyond the arc. He can also step in and take a mid-range shot in a smaller lineup. Nzei is a 6-foot-8 high-energy forward, a lot like ex-Fordham center Ryan Canty. A redshirt sophomore, Nzei is developing more with each passing game to become an integral piece of the puzzle for the reigning Big East champions.

Should one of the bigs get in foul trouble, Rashed Anthony will likely see a handful of minutes, as will Veer Singh. Singh is a stretch four who has become a fan favorite for his tendency to shoot NBA-range threes and connect on a fair share of them.

This is where Seton Hall has undergone its biggest evolution. The improvement in Kevin Willard's execution over the last two seasons has been unparalleled. Once rumored to be on the hot seat after the alleged rift between Whitehead and Sterling Gibbs, which ultimately saw Jaren Sina transfer to George Washington, Willard stepped back and assessed the situation, and applied a renewed sense of energy into offseason workouts and practices prior to last season. The result paid off with a conference title, and with four returning starters back this season, the expectations in South Orange remain high. In some ways, Willard's upward trajectory is quite similar to that of Frank Martin. Take a look:

2010-11: 13-17, 7-11 Big East
2011-12: 21-13, 8-10 Big East (second round of NIT)
2012-13: 15-18, 3-15 Big East (dropoff due to younger team, first true post-Bobby Gonzalez roster)
2013-14: 17-17, 6-12 Big East
2014-15: 16-15, 6-12 Big East
2015-16: 25-9, 12-6 Big East (conference champions, lost in NCAA round of 64)
2016-17: 7-2, picked in a fourth-place tie in Big East

Seton Hall was picked low presumably because those unaffiliated with the program really did not know what to expect as the Pirates adjusted to life without Isaiah Whitehead. Their 1-2 record in November's Advocare Invitational proved that much more remains to be accomplished, but wins over Hawaii and California in the Aloha State last week also serve as proof that the core of last year's championship squad remains very much alive.

The best part of this roster is that only one player, Madison Jones, is a senior. Assuming no one else takes their talents to the professional ranks, the Hall has a chance to potentially three-peat in the Big East, which would establish them as the first true dynasty in the league since it was restructured in 2013. Reaching the NCAA Tournament as sophomores, albeit overachieving, was a significant feather in the cap of the program in that the resurgence Willard spent a half-decade building toward came a year ahead of schedule, with the realistic opportunity to use last year as a foundation.

With in-state rival Rutgers coming up one week from Friday, the Pirates get yet another strong test to prepare them in the form of South Carolina. The loss of Sindarius Thornwell presents a huge opportunity for Seton Hall to take advantage, as does Angel Delgado against an undersized front line. The biggest key to victory, however, will be what happens at the free throw line. Foul shots have been Seton Hall's Achilles' heel all season, and if they leave points at the charity stripe, the door will be open all night for the Gamecocks to push through.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

St Bonaventure Rallies Late and Defeats Hofstra 81-75

Last night in Hempstead, St Bonaventure, down four points, 72-68 with 5:15 left, outscored Hofstra 13-3 the rest of the way to win the game 81-75.  The Bonnies' win broke a three game winning streak for the Pride, while the Bonnies won their fifth game in the row.  It also avenged a home loss last season to the Pride up in Oleana, New York.

We're going to do a new segment here breaking down games on the College Hardwood.   It's called "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly".

The Good - For St. Bonaventure, the dynamic duo of Jaylen Adams (31 points) and Matt Mobley (23 points) combined for fifty four points, twenty rebounds and shot seven of thirteen from beyond the arc.  This is a nightly occurrence for the two players, who both average over twenty points per game.  The Bonnies also out-rebounded the Pride 32-22.

For Hofstra, it was the return of Rokas Gustys' offensive game.  Gustys just missed a double double with twenty points and nine rebounds on nine of fourteen shooting from the field.  It was the most field goal attempts he had all season and only the third time this season where he had ten or more field goal attempts.   For someone who shot sixty six percent from the field last season and fifty one percent this season, that's just simply not enough field goal attempts for the big man.

Other than Gustys, freshman Eli Pemberton continues to impress, scoring fifteen points, his eighth double figure scoring game of the season.  Deron Powers had six assists and only two turnovers.  Also, Hofstra did a good job in the second half on defense, holding St Bonaventure to thirty three points and forcing sixteen turnovers the whole game.   However, see "The Ugly".

The Bad - For St Bonaventure, sixteen turnovers, compared to Hofstra only having eight, eliminated any advantage they had on the boards.  Consequently the Pride had seven more field goal attempts.  The Bonnies also had significant foul trouble last night with three players having four fouls, including their two starting front court players, Denzel Gregg and Josh Ayeni,  Fortunately, David Andoh gave St. Bonaventure good minutes off the bench, plus eleven points and five rebounds, along with the two starting guards Mobley and Adams combining for twenty boards.

For Hofstra, where to begin.  First, any time your assist-to-turnover ratio is 2-1 on the night, seventeen assists to eight turnovers, you should win the game.  Alas, the Pride went scoreless over the last five minutes and fifteen seconds of the game to negate that.

And it was easy to see why.  Shot selection. After Ty Greer's tip in made it 72-68 Hofstra with 5:15 left, the Pride were one of ten from the field to end the game.   Their next three shots were three point attempts, with Bernardi hitting one of them.  After that, it was either Deron Powers throwing up bad layup attempts (3 of 13 from the field) or the Pride taking three point attempts or outside jumpers.

After Rokas Gustys scored on a tip in with 6:44 left in the game, he touched the ball on offense only once the rest of the game, getting fouled on a put back attempt with less than a minute left in the game.  He missed both free throws, more on that later, but that's not the point.

This was eerily similar to the 2016 CAA Championship Game between Hofstra and UNCW.  In that game, with 12:30 left, Gustys made a layup to put Hofstra up 56-48.  It was his eighth field goal in only ten attempts at the time.  It was also his last field goal attempt of the second half and he didn't even get fouled and go to the foul line those last twelve and half minutes!  To me, that was the main reason why Hofstra lost in overtime to UNCW (Gustys would hit his only field goal attempt in overtime to finish with eighteen points in the championship game).

To be perfectly blunt, if you cannot get the ball to your leading scorer, a fifty percent plus field goal shooter, in the last six plus minutes of a close game, you deserve to lose.

The Ugly -  For the seventh time in ten games, Hofstra gave up eighty or more points.  It looked like it was going to be another ninety points plus allowed, as St. Bonaventure had forty eight at the half. Amazingly in these seven games, they are 3-4.  But given their record, that also means they are undefeated, 3-0, when they give up less than eighty points.  Simply put, you cannot win consistently night in and night out when seventy percent of the time you are giving up eighty plus points per game.

As aforementioned, I've been saying how Hofstra must get the ball in the hands of Gustys more.  Consequently, he needs to shoot MUCH better from the free throw line.   He has been simply awful, shooting eighteen percent from the charity stripe this season compared to forty three percent last season.  Gustys needs to get to at least shooting fifty percent from the line, otherwise he won't get the ball more down the stretch. 

St Bonaventure will give #CAAHoops folks a chance to compare the two teams from the 2016 CAA championship game, as they next host UNCW on Saturday.  As for Hofstra, they get Kentucky in the Barclays Center on Sunday.