Sunday, November 23, 2014

Ryan Canty to medical redshirt for Fordham, return next year

Ryan Canty will miss remainder of season for Fordham and return next year after medical redshirt. (Photo courtesy of the New York Post)

Fordham's front line has become thinner for the short term, but its 2015-16 look took a step in the right direction.

A Daly Dose Of Hoops has learned that senior forward Ryan Canty, who had missed each of the Rams' first three games while recovering from offseason back surgery, will be a medical redshirt this season and will miss the remainder of the 2014-15 year for Fordham after head coach Tom Pecora revealed the decision in his pregame interview with WFUV.

The 6-9 Canty, who averaged three points and six rebounds per game for the Rams last season, will return to Rose Hill for a fifth year, according to Pecora.

A Daly Dose Of Hoops will provide further details as they become available.

Bucknell 61, FDU 60: Ray Floriani's Photo Essay

Teaneck, NJ – On an afternoon when Bergen County in Northern New Jersey was inundated with Pre­-Black Friday shoppers, at Rothman Center it was basketball. The malls are within walking distance, but this day was reserved for women’s basketball.

FDU, off a tough loss to NJIT on Wednesday, was hosting Bucknell. The game itself played out as a close contest. It also served as a reminder of how the ebbs and flows of the game itself often change. Coaches are entrusted in ‘managing’ the game but in the end, players must execute and make plays.

FDU was defeated 61-­60 in overtime to drop to 1­-2. The Knights trailed early, overcame the deficit with some full court pressure, and owned an eight-point advantage down the stretch. Bucknell forced the extra session. FDU struck first, scoring the first four momentum-gaining points in the overtime period. Bucknell, (now 2­1 with all three games on the road) again dug deep and regained a lead they held on to.

The teams played to their strength, with the Bison size owning a 28­-10 points in the paint advantage. FDU, utilizing athleticism, forced 18 turnovers.

In the end, execution was the difference. A missed free throw by FDU and or inability to get a loose ball or prevent a second shot, these were the contributing factors. Again, a perfect example today of coaches managing but players having to execute.

FDU coach Pete Cinella surveys the action:
Joe Barrise, an officiating friend with whom I have enjoyed working with, worked the game with Theresa Funk and Kristie Mosley:
Amanda Andrades setting up the FDU offense:
Bucknell head coach Aaron Roussell on the sidelines while assistant Kate Adams also notices a detail needing attention:
FDU's Erika Livermore logged 40 minutes, and during a free throw, gets a much-needed; though short, break:
The FDU men practiced after the women's game. Captain Mustafaa Jones and head coach Greg Herenda were courtside to support the women:
Is it 824 or 825? Public address announcer Burt Shoobs puts the final touch on a consecutive game streak reaching over 800:

Duke, led by MVP Cook, wins Coaches vs. Cancer Classic

Duke setting up their offense. Pictures by Jason Schott
By Jason Schott of - Daly Dose of Hoops Contributor - @JESchott19

The Duke Blue Devils beat the Stanford Cardinal 70-59 to win the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic at Barclays Center on Saturday night.

Quinn Cook at the bench after a big performance. 
Duke senior guard Quinn Cook won Most Valuable Player honors, as he scored 18 points on 5-for-12 and 4-for-9 from the three-point line, 5 assists, and 3 rebounds. Cook had 17 points, 5 rebounds, and an assist in their win Friday night over UNLV in the opening game of the tournament.

Duke also got contributions from Justise Winslow, a freshman forward, who had 14 points, 9 rebounds, and 4 assists; freshman center Jahlil Okafor had a double-double with 10 points and 12 rebounds; and sophomore guard Matt Jones had 10 points on 4-for-7 from the field, including 2-for-3 on threes, off the bench.

The game started off pretty even, with Duke clinging to a two-point lead for the opening ten minutes, then took a 28-21 lead on a Cook three with 7:33 left. Another Cook three at the 3:55 mark made it 35-25 Duke. The biggest lead Duke had was 13 points, at 40-27 with 37 seconds left, and a layup by Stanford's Stefan Nastic made it 40-29 Duke at the half.

Duke came out firing in the second half, and opened up a 15-point lead, 50-35, on a Cook three at the 15:49 mark. A jumper by Chasson Randle cut Duke's lead to 51-43 at the 10:57 mark, and Duke responded with a 10-2 run capped by a layup and a separate free throw from Okafor to make it 61-45 Duke with 5:48 remaining. The closest the Cardinal got the rest of the way was 11 points, at 65-54 on an Anthony Brown layup with 2:19 left, and the final score of 70-59.

Stanford was led by senior guard Randle, who had 22 points on 8-for-17 from the field and 2-7 on threes, with a rebound and a costly five turnovers. Nastic had a double double with 13 points and 13 rebounds, but shot a disappointing 5-for-15 from the field.

Duke Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski. 
Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said of the game, "We're obviously extremely pleased to win the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic. I thought our guys played really good defense again tonight. Our guys followed the lead of Quinn (Cook). He was a great leader for us and so was Amile (Jefferson). Amile was a warrior. We subbed him out because they were small and against the zone, Justise (Winslow) was a little bit better in the middle. Matt Jones was playing well. Matt came off the bench and gave us a big spark. I'm really proud of my team. It was a really good performance for us without it being pretty offensive. I liked the personality of our team."

Coach K said of Stanford, "They're such a well-coached team. They run a different offense - the triangle - and I thought that we defended that well. Then, they went to some alternate stuff." (Wonder if Stanford can go over to The Garden to teach the Triangle to the Knicks.)

Stanford Head Coach Johnny Dawkins, Stefan Nastic, and Chasson Randle.
Stanford head coach Johnny Dawkins played for and was an assistant coach for Krzyzewski, and he said of coaching against him, "It was difficult to compete against a friend and mentor. Of course, it was very awkward. You get so used to being on the same bench and then you are somewhere different. I don't think that's something you look forward to. That's why we don't schedule each other. It happens in tournaments where you can run into each other, but it's not something we intentionally try to do. I will always be proud that I was part of a (Duke) class that made such a contribution. I was fortunate to be there when it was just starting to form under Coach K's leadership. I wouldn't trade my place for anyone else's place because of all that we went through together."

Dawkins said of Jahlil Okafor, who had 10 points and 12 rebounds against his team, "Okafor is a great player. He's a force inside. We tried to give him as many different (defensive) looks as we possibly could...You just aren't going to completely stop him. He is too good a player."

Nastic said of playing Okafor, "Jahlil is a great player. We definitely prepared for him. You have to respect a guy that is that type of threat. I just tried to give my best effort."

In the consolation game to open the doubleheader, UNLV beat Temple 57-50.

UNLV was led by sophomore forward Christian Wood, who had 18 points (8-15 FG, 1-2 on 3-pt) and 13 rebounds. Senior guard Cody Doolin had 10 points and 5 assists.

UNLV head coach Dave Rice said of the game, "It was a character win for us. We didn't play very well last night. Stanford played incredibly well. It was a quick turnaround, but I could tell last night at the hotel as we watched game film that our guys were focused and ready to go. I had a lot of confidence going into the game that we would play hard and (play) together."

Rice said of Wood, "I thought that Chris was extremely aggressive down the stretch and did a great job scoring the ball in the post and rebounding the ball as well."

Temple was led by senior guard Will Cummings, who had 21 points on 6-of-14 from the field and 2-of-3 on threes, with 7 rebounds and an assist.

Temple head coach Fran Dunphy said of the game. "I thought we challenged (UNLV's) shot blockers way too much. We didn't pay attention when we tried to drive and we should have kicked it out to open shooters. When we did have open looks we didn't knock them down. We had some shots that just didn't go in and they hit some big shots."

Temple shot just 15 percent in the second half, making just 5 of 33 shot attempts. Dunphy said of that, "We need to work a lot more on our offensive game. Duke was a very good defensive team and (UNLV) was very athletic. When we tried to get it to the rim, they were not allowing it. We were not careful enough with our shot selection. We need to step up and make shots when we get decent looks."

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Texas takes 2K Classic; Syracuse wins Consolation Game

The Texas Longhorns with the 2K Classic Championship trophy. Photo by Jason Schott.
By Jason Schott of - Daly Dose of Hoops Contributor - @JESchott19

The Texas Longhorns, the 10th-ranked team in the country, beat California handily in the Championship Game of the 2K Classic, 71-55, on Friday night at Madison Square Garden.

Texas dominated this game from the start, and they jumped out to a 14-4 lead on a Jonathan Holmes layup a few minutes in. They expanded the lead to 14, at 26-12, on a Connor Lammert layup with 5:33 left in the first half. They took a 31-21 lead into halftime.

California came out strong in the second half, and cut it to 6, at 33-27, on a Tyrone Wallace jumper with 17:02 left. Texas responded with an 8-2 run, capped by a Demarcus Holland three-point play to make it 41-29 at the 15:39 mark. The closest Cal got after that was 43-36 on a Tyrone Wallace jumper with 13:36 left. From then on, Texas was in full control, and blew it open when Cameron Ridley hit a jumper to give them a 17-point lead, at 60-43, with 5:12 remaining.

2K Classic MVP Jonathan Holmes of Texas. Photo by Jason Schott.
Holmes, the Longhorns' senior forward, won 2K Classic MVP honors with 21 points on 6-for-11 from the field (1-3 on 3-pointers) and 13 rebounds in 32 minutes. Holland had 11 points and 5 rebounds, while Lammert had 6 points and 9 rebounds. Junior point guard Javan Felix had 9 points, 4 assists, and 3 rebounds, and freshman forward Myles Turner had 5 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 assists.
Syracuse lost to California in the opening game on Thursday night, while Iowa lost to Texas, setting up the consolation game to start Friday night's doubleheader.

Syracuse led Iowa 34-29 at halftime and opened up a 50-35 lead eight minutes into the second half on a layup by Chris McCullough. Syracuse maintained that lead for the next few minutes, going up 14, at 57-43, on a Michael Gbinije dunk with 8:36 left.

Iowa responded, and went on a 15-2 run over the next five minutes, led by forward Jarrod Uthoff, who had 8 points in the stretch, Aaron White, and Adam Woodbury. Syracuse responded, as McCullough got a dunk to make it 61-58 with 2:21 left, and White responded with a dunk of his own to cut it back to a point.

Syracuse got a big layup from Trevor Cooney with 1:25 left, and Iowa got a layup from Woodbury to make it 63-62 with 55 seconds left. Syracuse's Kaleb Joseph missed a jumper with 40 seconds left, leaving Iowa with plenty of time to get a go-ahead basket. The Syracuse defense tightened up, and Iowa was forced to call a timeout with 14 seconds left, and when they came out of that, McCullough got a steal. That was essentially it, as they traded free throws in the final 10 seconds leading to Syracuse's 66-63 win.

Syracuse was led by the Bronx native McCullough, who had 20 points on 7-for-12 shooting and 9 rebounds in 38 minutes. Senior center Rakeem Christmas was able to do whatever he wanted on offense, and he finished with 18 points on 7-for-11 from the field, and 6 rebounds. Cooney finished with 14 points, 4 assists, and 2 rebounds.

Syracuse Head Coach Jim Boeheim said of the win, "In the first part of the second half, I thought we finally got our offense going. We were able to get different guys to get into position to score and we played really the best offense that we've played and then with the lead they came with a three-quarter-court trap and we threw it away fur times. That allows people to get open shots and now they're back in the game. Kaleb made a good play when we had the and-one and then he tried to win the game with a jump shot when he should have really been thinking about trying to get the ball inside to Chris or Rak, but freshmen are going to do that.

"I thought at the end of the game Chris made a great steal, came across our trap and just made a great play and that was the game. If he doesn't come across and get that one, we don't win. It was a great play. You know, we obviously have a lot of work to do on offense. I thought Trevor and Kaleb were more aggressive today and that's good and Chris and Rak were good, we've just got to do a better job of getting them the ball down low, but we did a fairly good job, but we've certainly got a lot of work to do on the offensive end," said Boeheim.

Iowa Head Coach Fran McCaffery said, "In the first half, I thought we attacked the zone pretty well early. We were getting the ball to to the rim, we fumbled it out of bounds, we fumbled a lob that looked like it was going to be a dunk. You shouldn't turn the ball over 11 times against the zone. That really put us in a tough spot, down five at the half. First part of the second half, I thought we were really good, which is an important step because last night coming out of the half we weren't very good. We played better, then they go on a run and give them credit for how they played and how they executed at that point of the game. They stretched it a little bit but we didn't panic, we didn't collapse, we kept executing, we pressed them, we got positive play from our press, created some offense, Jarrod (Uthoff) hit a couple of big shots, we played with a lot of energy and managed the game well, I thought. We put ourselves in position to win and that's a good step for us."

Hofstra wins Battle of Long Island on Nesmith's last-second shot

Dion Nesmith had 18 points, but none bigger than game-winning jumper with 1.6 seconds left as Hofstra won first game against Stony Brook since 2008. (Photo courtesy of Hofstra University)

It was billed as a local Super Bowl of sorts, the "Battle of Long Island;" and for each second of its 40-minute duration, it was just that, a battle fought to the bitter end between two programs that had not shared the same space on the hardwood in nearly six years.

Upon its conclusion, the prevailing feeling among fans and media alike called for an encore.

In a clash of Nassau meeting Suffolk for the first time since December 10, 2008, it came down to the final seconds to decide a winner, taking a jumper from Dion Nesmith with 1.6 seconds remaining in regulation to separate Hofstra (2-1) from Stony Brook (1-2) as the Pride emerged from their home floor at the Mack Sports Complex 66-65 winners over their geographic adversaries, the Seawolves.

"I thought it was two teams that just went toe-to-toe, fought their brains out, and competed like crazy," Hofstra coach Joe Mihalich said. "Fortunately, we were the team to make the last shot. The buildup was really fun, it felt like a big game three days ago. They should all feel the same, but this one felt more special."

Mihalich's counterpart felt similarly, albeit having come up one point short.

"I just thought, (it was) a great college basketball game," Steve Pikiell, whose Seawolves were denied a chance to win on the coach's 47th birthday on Nesmith's dagger. "They were one point better today, but I like my team. We're young as can be, but we're going to get better and we're going to be a real good basketball team, too."

Trailing 65-64 after Jameel Warney, whose 26 points and 14 rebounds led all players in both categories, got a friendly roll on a layup to put the Seawolves ahead with 9.2 seconds to play in regulation. On the ensuing possession, a play designed for Juan'ya Green broke down, setting the stage for Nesmith's heroics with a step-back rainbow from the foul line.

"The play was actually to get the ball to Juan'ya," said Nesmith, who ended his night with 18 points on 8-of-12 shooting. "They face-guarded him, he passed it to me and I saw the clock was running down."

Green scored 22 points to lead the way for Hofstra, who scored 27 points off 19 Stony Brook turnovers while registering only eight giveaways of their own, overcoming a night where the Pride shot a meager 8-for-16 at the free throw line, and 4-for-10 in the first half.

Despite Hofstra's foul shooting woes, the Pride were able to stay in a game that neither team led by more than seven points thanks to Stony Brook's carelessness handling the ball, a trait uncharacteristic of the Seawolves' trademark offensive discipline .

"I'm disappointed in our turnovers," head coach Steve Pikiell lamented. "(All) 19 of them. I'd like to have any one of those back. Ray(shaun McGrew) had six, that's not him. We're a good defensive team, and we still had chances to win."

After Hofstra led most of the first half, Stony Brook seized momentum on a combination of defensive stops and Warney's matchup advantage in the paint to go on a 9-0 run before an Ameen Tanksley layup inside the final minute cut the Seawolves' halftime advantage to 30-25. The two teams traded baskets for the first several minutes following the intermission before a 10-3 Hofstra run capped by a Green layup with 12:57 to play put the Pride ahead 45-42. A seesaw exchange ensued once more until Stony Brook utilized an 11-3 spurt of their own to take a 61-54 lead with 5:03 remaining.

The Seawolves would not make another field goal for another 3:14 thereafter, leading to a seven-point Hofstra swing that sent the Hempstead crowd into a delirium; first on a three-pointer by Tanksley before Brian Bernardi drew contact against Rayshaun McGrew deep in the left corner en route to another trey, prompting a foul and a trip to the line for the Staten Island native, who calmly buried the free throw to convert the four-point play and even the proceedings at 61.

A Carson Puriefoy basket gave Stony Brook a brief two-point lead, which was cut in half when Green made one of two foul shots with 1:09 left in regulation. The Seawolves' next trip down the court came up empty, as Scott King's errant entry pass gave Hofstra the ball to set up Nesmith's first of two final-minute buckets, this one a reverse layup with 33 seconds to go. Warney answered with his layup, but it was the Pride's sixth-year senior who fired the final salvo in the restoration of a rivalry that has only just begun to regenerate.

Prior to tonight, the last time Hofstra and Stony Brook matched wits, George W. Bush was still in the White House, Brett Favre had only danced with retirement once, and both schools had football programs. However, any fear of another six-year hiatus was soon put to rest.

"Give them a tip of the hat," Pikiell respectfully directed toward Hofstra. "They got the home game first, and we'll have them at home next year. It's a good rivalry, it'll be good and it's good for New York basketball."

Friday, November 21, 2014

2K Classic: Ray Floriani's Photo Essay

NEW YORK CITY­ - It has been said before, but bears repeating: There is nothing like the experience of Madison Square Garden, as a player, coach, official, fan and yes, writer. Entering the hallowed edifice quickens the pulse. On this chilly November evening, we are treated to the 2K Classic, featuring Iowa versus Texas and Syracuse facing California.

All four teams have played, winning relatively easy matchups. Today, with Thanksgiving still a week away, the four assembled will face difficult competition.

In the media room, the ubiquitous Ronnie is on hand and asks my prediction. ‘Syracuse and Iowa for the final,” is the reply. The prognostication was dead on, if I was choosing the consolation. Both went down in defeat and would be relegated to tipping it off at 4:30 on Friday. 

The idea of a third-place game is inviting. It is early season and the teams on the short end anxiously await the chance for redemption from the prior night. The third-place victory could be one allowing entrance or boosting one’s NCAA seed on Selection Sunday. Plus, it is another game at The Garden.

The two contests gave us a look at each team’s strengths and what is needed to work on. For Texas, ‘Garden jitters’ may have contributed to a double-digit first half deficit. That was reversed as they put together a strong twenty minutes after intermission. Texas prevailed 71-­57. Cal, with new coach Cuonzo Martin, looked very comfortable in handling the Syracuse zone en route to a 73-­59 victory.

It is still very early in the season, but there are ample story lines and assessments to make regarding all four in the field. The game prediction may have been 0-for-2, but one forecast is certain, the Garden experience never loses excitement or gets old.

The temptation across the street from Madison Square Garden. The obligatory cold one will wait...there's a job to be done:
The West Essex High School band is excited about a Garden appearance. The New Jersey school played for Texas:
Rick Barnes (left) and Fran McCaffery (right) share a relaxed pregame moment:
Texas assistant Rob Lanier supervises the Longhorn pregame shootaround:
Hotly contested perimeter play between Syracuse and Cal:
Good officiating friend Brian Dorsey worked the Syracuse-Cal game with Roger Ayers and Mike Eades, and took a timeout to chat with a volunteer:
The Cal staff leaves the floor after a convincing win over Syracuse:

Hofstra/Stony Brook Preview

Steve Pikiell and Stony Brook resume Long Island rivalry with Hofstra for first time since 2008. (Photo courtesy of Big Apple Buckets)

For the first time in 2,172 days, a span that has seen three (four if you want to get technical) coaches come and go at one institution, new athletic directors at each one, and a change in surname on the mailbox at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Hofstra and Stony Brook will once again take the floor on the same night in the same building when they face off tonight at the Mack Sports Complex in Hempstead.

The Pride and Seawolves will become intimately acquainted with one another for the first time since December 10, 2008, when a Tom Pecora-coached Hofstra team defeated Stony Brook by the final of 61-56. Nearly one year later, Hofstra president Stuart Rabinowitz made the all-important decision to drop football, a life-changing course of action for both programs. With Hofstra football out of the picture, then-Stony Brook athletic director Jim Fiore, ironically a former Hofstra defensive back in the late 1980s, took advantage by expanding the profile of his institution's football team and university as a whole, gaining media attention in areas outside of Suffolk County as Stony Brook continued to grow both on and off the field of play.

Yet football is not the reason why we are here, even if the hashtag #ThanksStu has become something of an unspoken reminder of Hofstra's halcyon days. The basketball programs of both schools have a great deal of palpable buzz surrounding them; Hofstra for having arguably its most talented contingent since 2006 and their now-infamous NCAA Tournament snub at the hands of George Mason, who capitalized with a Final Four run, and Stony Brook for being the class of the America East on a seemingly annual basis, but ultimately proving to be the Jim Kelly of the New York area as opposed to the Phil Simms, Jeff Hostetler, or even Eli Manning.

Marques Colston, Hofstra University, back when the Pride still received publicity for their popular Division 1-AA football team. (Photo courtesy of Newsday)

Head coach Joe Mihalich has been an advocate of resuming series with local competition, and his forces led by Niagara expatriates Juan'ya Green and Ameen Tanksley; as well as Staten Island native and SMU castoff Brian Bernardi, take on a Stony Brook unit led by juniors Jameel Warney and Carson "Tre" Puriefoy.

The combatants on the court have been introduced, and now to help preview tonight's contest even further, we will turn it over to two men who know these two teams a little better than we do, Jerry Beach of Defiantly Dutch and America East expert Ryan Restivo of Big Apple Buckets, who will represent Hofstra and Stony Brook, respectively in a town hall of sorts moderated by our own Jaden Daly. And with that, a mighty cheer will rise from either Nassau or Suffolk County, and although the winning coach will no doubt get stuck with the impound fee, they can easily afford it.


Jaden Daly: Through the first two games, what have been the biggest strengths and weaknesses, and also, what is most impressive about Hofstra or Stony Brook?

Ryan Restivo: What's been impressive about Hofstra has been that this team just appears to be as good as advertised with no growing pains with new players. For Stony Brook, they are, as Steve Pikiell has said plenty of times "a work in progress" and they are going to continue to be. They have solid one and two options with Jameel Warney and Carson Puriefoy, but some of these freshmen are going to have to step up. I think they will be lucky if they win half their non-conference games, and I know Pikiell wants his team to face adversity so that he can see if they come out of it in good shape.

Jerry Beach: After four seasons in which I wasn’t entirely sure the Dutchmen would have enough players to field a team, Hofstra now has this thing called depth. (At least until the meteor hits the Arena) Against Jacksonville, Joe Mihalich was switching up lineups like he was a hockey coach across the street. And his first full recruiting class is full of guys who can run up and down the floor all night, which gives Hofstra the type of up-tempo offense rarely seen on Hempstead Turnpike. Forward Malik Nichols pulled down a rebound against Jacksonville and sped up the court like he was Playstation Johnson. Minus driving the lane for two down three.

With Nichols, Moussa Kone and Rokas Gustys, the Dutchmen should have one of the best front courts in the CAA. Being able to throw multiple bodies down low will come in handy Friday night against the beastly Jameel Warney.

Ameen Tanksley and, particularly, Juan’ya Green have been as good as advertised thus far. They don’t wow you with Charles Jenkins-esque brilliance, but you look at the boxscore at the end of the night and they’ve stuffed it, as Tom Pecora would say. Green is reminiscent of Loren Stokes in that way. Hopefully minus the nut punch.

With so many players who sat out last season or played elsewhere, the Dutchmen’s biggest weakness is simply inexperience, or more accurately a need to shake off the rust. Brian Bernardi couldn’t miss from beyond the 3-point line on Friday and he couldn’t hit a shot on Monday. I’d expect a few of those yin-and-yang efforts from different players as they get their legs back and/or accustomed to the Division I level.

JD: I'll ask a Jon Rothstein-esque question here: Who is the biggest X-factor, and why?

RR: The biggest X-factor is the soda at Hofstra's arena, so many choices!

The Seawolves have to establish a third option, not really a problem that Hofstra has - they have plenty of options next to Juan'ya Green, Brian Bernardi and Ameen Tanksley who are already three legit options and I haven't mentioned the young projectable big guys. Stony Brook needs one of the Ray McGrew, Bryan Sekunda, Deshaun Thrower and Roland Nyama to come through and produce. The Pride, or Dutchmen as some others say, will throw man to man at Stony Brook, but they should also show some zone defense and that is what the Seawolves have struggled to do is score and move the ball strong against zones.

JB: I really like Nichols. He was a Mo Cassara recruit who ended up going the JUCO route before being brought back to Hempstead by Mihalich. His JUCO numbers (a shade less than five points and five rebounds per game last season) didn’t jump off the page at all, but Mihalich is fond of saying Nichols is a pure basketball player who fits in well with the type of offense he likes to run. If he has a big game Friday, the Dutchmen will cruise to victory.

JD: What does each team gain out of this matchup, and how will it set the table for their respective conference seasons?

RR: As we all know, the non-conference schedule helps sharpen your teeth for conference play, but this game will be about if the Pride can show why they are Long Island's best team. On paper, they are the better team at almost every spot, except maybe center where Warney is a great player inside. I'm not sure how Stony Brook can match or stop Juan'ya Green and Ameen Tanksley.

JB: Well, first of all, we’ll find out that Newsday knows where Hofstra is located. We already know they’ve got staffers living in the Stony Brook dorms. Perhaps a win by the Dutchmen will inspire Newsday to dedicate a beat writer to the team, instead of simply assigning the game to whomever draws the shortest straw in the office on game day. 

Hofstra needs to win to reassert itself as the premier Division I program on the Island. Stony Brook has made giant inroads over the last few years while Hofstra has been mired in misery, but the Seawolves still haven’t made the NCAA Tournament, thanks to that mean America East forcing them to play “neutral site” games at Albany and Hartford. A win by the Dutchmen on Friday will serve as a reminder that Hofstra not only still has the most tradition but is also well-positioned to contend in a tougher league this season.

A bragging rights game will be good training for March. There will probably not be a game—home or away—with an atmosphere as electric as the one the Dutchmen will play in Friday. An ability to thrive in such an environment will bode well for the one-and-done of the CAA Tournament.

JD: In your opinion, what are the keys to victory for each side, and reasonably speaking, how do you see this game playing out?

RR: I am on record that this will be a struggle for Stony Brook to anyone who asks. My prediction, after Friday night when Stony Brook snatched a win from the jaws of defeat by missing half their free throws, I feel like this game will be a bloodbath and that Hofstra - if they play their cards right the first 10 minutes - can run them out of the gym. I don't think the Seawolves can play and win a game in the 80's and I know that's where the Pride should try to push this game. I just feel this is a bad matchup for Stony Brook, facing an elite guard in Green, a tough small forward in Tanksley and talented bigs. I know they scratched and clawed and competed against a good Georgia team from the SEC, but I feel like this matchup is unfavorable and could get ugly. Though I did think Vermont would fall to Siena because of their strong depth and they beat the Saints, so what do I know?

JB: Hofstra will be in good shape as long as Green is making things happen on both ends of the floor. There may be some cause for concern down low if Kone can’t play, as that reduces the amount of fouls the Dutchmen can burn against Warney. But the Dutchmen are much deeper (seven players averaged at least 19.5 minutes in the first two games, as opposed to just five for Stony Brook) and have the best player on the floor—if not the entire metro area—in Green. I expect a fun and frantic first half before Hofstra gradually pulls away for a double-digit win. At least they’d better.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Niagara survives late Saint Peter's rally to win MAAC opener

Karonn Davis' three with 1:12 remaining in regulation gave Niagara a 61-59 win over Saint Peter's in first MAAC game of season. (Photo courtesy of the Philadelphia Inquirer)

Niagara's last win in the 2013-14 season was one in which the Purple Eagles built a comfortable lead, then had to endure a furious rally from Marist to prevail and advance to the quarterfinals of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament in Springfield last March.

Eight months later, playing the first conference game in the nation after scheduling issues forced their hands, Niagara had a similar experience, jumping out to a double-digit lead only to lose it with just over a minute remaining in regulation, then get it back on a three-pointer from freshman Karonn Davis to provide the final margin in the Purple Eagles' (1-1) 61-59 victory over a hard-luck Saint Peter's (0-3) team once again playing without the injured Desi Washington at the Yanitelli Center.

Yet Davis' triple, which gave Niagara the lead with 1:12 to play, was only the beginning. After Jamel Fields turned the ball over with 52 seconds remaining, Davis' attempt another three that would have effectively iced the game bounced off the rim and into the hands of Marvin Dominique. A mid-range jumper from Chazz Patterson fell off the mark, but Dominique again scooped up the rebound, only to run out of time before getting a shot off in an attempt to beat the buzzer.

"They ran some good stuff out of bounds, they got it to the right guy, (and) we were trying to keep it away from him," Niagara head coach Chris Casey recounted when describing the game's final possession. "We just were lucky there wasn't another half-second on the clock. It's always a war playing them. They're very well-coached, they're tough, they're physical, and we did a great job of being tough back."

Rayvon Harris' 19 points led the Purple Eagles and all scorers, while his teammate Ramone Snowden poured in a 12-point, 11-rebound double-double to aid Niagara, who shot 59 percent from the field in the second half, in the victory. Dominique led Saint Peter's with 18 points and 13 rebounds in the losing effort, his second consecutive double-double.

"For us, on the offensive end, the first 30 minutes really, we were not making layups," Peacocks head coach John Dunne stated, "and then the last 9-10 minutes, some guys started to feel good because the ball went in the basket. For us, it's really all about getting better on the offensive end."

Offensive struggles plagued the Peacocks for most of the game, making just seven field goals in the first half, including a 7:18 drought without a made shot that carried over into the beginning of the second period before Tyler Gaskins; who scored 14 of his 16 points after the intermission, ended the dry spell for Saint Peter's, whose stifling defense kept the game close at halftime, as Niagara only led 24-20.

A 10-3 Purple Eagles run shortly thereafter gave Niagara a 41-29 lead with 13:31 to play, maintaining their double-digit margin for the next several minutes when an Anders Skou Hansen layup made the score 53-41 in favor of the visitors with 6:52 left in regulation. Yet the Peacocks gradually chipped away, turning the tide with an 18-5 run punctuated by back-to-back three-pointers from Gaskins, the latter of which put Saint Peter's ahead 59-58 with 1:23 remaining. On the ensuing possession, Davis picked up the inbounds pass and calmly stepped into a deep three from just off the right baseline, draining it for the deciding outcome.

After gutting out the road victory, Niagara returns to the Gallagher Center to welcome Hartford this Saturday before a neutral site date with St. Bonaventure one week later inside the First Niagara Center, while Saint Peter's takes to the road still in search of their first win, with preliminary round games in the Barclays Center Classic on deck against La Salle on Saturday and Rutgers on Tuesday.

"At this point with our team, we're so young," Casey reiterated. "We have eight guys that just played their second Division I game, we basically recruited an entire team in 14 months. We've got four freshmen, seven sophomores and one junior. What we keep stressing with our team is 'let's just keep getting better and work will show through."

St. John's outlasts LIU on career night from Pointer

Sir'Dominic Pointer was catalyst for St. John's, with 18 points, 8 rebounds and 6 blocks in Red Storm's 66-53 defeat of LIU Brooklyn. (Photo courtesy of St. John's University)

Sir'Dominic Pointer has seen his first three seasons at St. John's marked by flashes of brilliance, but mostly, through no fault of his own, maddening inconsistency. Throughout his tenure in a Red Storm uniform, however, his teammates and coaches have remained steadfast in their support and belief in a breakthrough.

Therefore, when the Detroit native motored his way to a near-triple-double in St. John's 66-53 victory over LIU Brooklyn Wednesday night, it came as no surprise to those closest to him.

"When Dom's playing like this," his teammate and fellow senior classmate D'Angelo Harrison said of Pointer's 18-point, 8-rebound, 6-blocked shot effort that allowed the Red Storm to improve to 3-0 on the young season, "we're going to be an unbelievable team. His numbers showed that tonight."

Pointer, whose near-perfect 8-for-10 shooting from the field only enhanced his spectacular stat line, made all the right plays at all the right times before a crowd of 3,733 at Carnesecca Arena against an LIU Brooklyn team that was the last of the 351 teams in Division I to contest their season opener, a fact the Blackbirds proved irrelevant in the opening minutes when they jumped out to a 17-12 lead with 11:30 remaining in the first half.

Yet, there was Pointer, starting the rally with a mid-range jumper to cut the deficit to three 38 seconds later, then captivating the crowd with his first of three dunks in the opening stanza to pull the Red Storm even with LIU at 21 apiece with 6:12 to play before the intermission. The two teams traded baskets for the next several minutes before the Motor City's native son fed walk-on Myles Stewart for an uncontested three in the left corner to put St. John's ahead 26-23. On the ensuing possession, Pointer stripped freshman point guard Elvar Fridriksson and tomahawked the ball through the net, extending the lead to five. Pointer would repeat this two minutes later when he forced a steal on Martin Hermannsson in the open court before his third dunk gave St. John's a 30-25 lead with 1:35 to go in the opening half.

Trailing 32-26 going into the locker room, the Blackbirds would fight back with seven unanswered points to retake a one-point lead, but once again, Pointer responded, this time scooping up an offensive rebound from a Felix Balamou miss and stuffing it home with 17:40 left in regulation to put the Red Storm ahead 34-33, whipping the former Alumni Hall into a frenzy.

St. John's would never relinquish that lead, but putting the game away proved to be difficult, as LIU remained within six points after Landon Atterberry, who posted 12 points and 11 rebounds in the losing effort, made it a two-possession game with 4:02 to play. The Red Storm went back to their hot hand on the next turn down the court, and Pointer calmly buried a jumper to extend St. John's lead to 58-50 before the home team effectively sealed the outcome when the Blackbirds missed all but one of their last twelve shots over the final 3:41. 

Harrison supported the winning cause with 14 points and seven rebounds, while Rysheed Jordan added 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting, but fittingly, it was Pointer who provided the exclamation point in the last minute of play, with his fifth dunk of the night securing the final margin of victory.

"He strikes like a cobra," head coach Steve Lavin gushed of Pointer. "He's so gifted in those respects. I call him 'extraterrestrial.' He's just such a unique player, like a unicorn or a mermaid. Dom's one of my favorite players I've ever been associated with in 27 years, for a number of reasons."

For all the praise showered upon him, though, the star of the night admitted there was one flaw in his virtuoso performance.

"I feel like I have to rebound more," Pointer matter-of-factly stated. "At the end of the day, I'm the second-biggest guy on the floor."

He may have been the second-biggest in stature, but Pointer left by far the biggest impression as St. John's limited LIU Brooklyn to 30 percent shooting in their final tuneup before their Madison Square Garden debut next Wednesday against Richard Pitino and reigning NIT champion Minnesota.

"We had a couple of bright spots," Lavin cautioned, "but there's a long laundry list of problems we have to improve on. It took us four years to get to this place, and it feels good to just have a nucleus. I think we'll improve with each week."

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Saint Peter's returns home for MAAC opener against Niagara

Without Desi Washington, Saint Peter's will need help from its supporting cast to win home and MAAC opener against Niagara Thursday night. (Photo courtesy of Saint Peter's University)

At 0-2 after dropping their weekend contests against Brown and Hartford, John Dunne was obviously disappointed in the outcome for his Saint Peter's team, but is still able to take positives out of the Peacocks' two season-opening contests, the latter of which was played without Desi Washington, his senior shooting guard and all-MAAC honoree.

"I thought we responded well and played hard at Hartford," Dunne intimated, "but when you shoot 3-for-19 from three and 13-for-21 at the foul line, it's going to be hard to win games like that."

Throw in the loss of Washington, whose injury to his right (shooting) hand and wrist will shelve the Peacocks' second-leading scorer from last season, and the task becomes a little taller.

"If I had to guess," Dunne updated us as to Washington's availability, "after all the swelling goes down, we're looking at probably a couple of weeks. Without Desi, another guy, or maybe two or three guys, have to step up."

Thankfully, Saint Peter's, picked fourth in the MAAC preseason coaches' poll due to their experience and four returning starters, has the resources needed to overcome the absence of Washington. Through the first two games, Marvin Dominique has returned to the dominant form that the Peacocks have enjoyed since landing the Floridian from Fordham, from where he transferred after his sophomore season, averaging 15 points and 11 rebounds per game, including a 19-point, 14-rebound effort in Saint Peter's 51-50 loss on Sunday.

Thursday night marks an unusual contest of sorts, as the Peacocks open MAAC play earlier than any season in the past, hosting Niagara at the Yanitelli Center. The contest came about due to Niagara having to move a date on their schedule during the offseason, and Saint Peter's looking for an additional home game.

"It's twofold," Dunne said of his having to play an early conference game. "Normally, you want to get the kinks out and try to build up toward league play, but for me, I think the fact that we could get the home game superseded everything else."

Awaiting the Peacocks will be a Niagara team that has only competed in one game thus far, a 78-45 loss to Pittsburgh last Friday at the Petersen Center. Despite losing Antoine Mason, the MAAC's leading scorer last season, Purple Eagles head coach Chris Casey has a young roster with a promising future, headlined by a trio of deceptively strong guards in Emile Blackman, Wesley Myers and Ramone Snowden.

"They're really long and athletic," Dunne said of Niagara. "He (Casey) seems to be recruiting a particular type of player there. They played hard against Pitt, and we need our guys to play hard and focus more, especially over the last 4-7 minutes. I think it's going to be a war, to be honest with you."