Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Saint Joseph's 66, Fordham 62: Quotes, Takeaways & Nuggets

Carl Jones was difference for Saint Joseph's tonight, making seven free throws in final 62 seconds to lift Hawks past Fordham 66-62 in pivotal Atlantic 10 matchup from Rose Hill.  (Photo courtesy of Philadelphia Inquirer)

Fordham head coach Tom Pecora's opening statement, directed toward Branden Frazier (24 points, 5 assists) and his performance:
"I'm going to sit next to Branden, because I still love him. (Frazier missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 26 seconds left that would have given Fordham the lead had he hit both shots, and stepped on the baseline with 7.7 seconds left and Fordham trailing 64-62) I told him downstairs that he's won us a lot of games, and he's going to win us a lot more."

On tonight's game:
"A lesson learned, an opportunity missed.  The foul line hurt us again, we missed six free throws. (14-of-20) This (Saint Joseph's) was a team picked No. 1 in the conference and we competed with them to the wire.  We're moving in the right direction."

On Frazier's missed foul shot:
"I think everyone was so shocked that he missed it that we didn't try to foul right away.  He usually makes those."

On the potential missed opportunity:
"The term I've been using is 'oh, wow' moments, because when we win one like this, people say 'oh, wow, Fordham's really good, they beat this team.'  We've missed two of those already, UMass here (two weeks ago) and tonight, and I despise losing at home."

On the crowd of 1,982:
"We got St. Joe's coming in and we got less than 2,000 people, so I'm not too thrilled about that."

Saint Joseph's head coach Phil Martelli's opening statement:
"I was delighted with the way we started the game, because we've been battling some illnesses, with Ron Roberts and Langston Galloway, but that's been everyone this year.  I thought the pace was dictated by Fordham.  I had a good sense that it was going through (Branden) Frazier."

On this being a potential trap game following a win against Xavier on Saturday:
"There are a lot of individual plays we need to improve on.  We're 11-7, so we don't have the right to have 'letdown games.'  That's (Fordham) a young team that played with a lot of energy and a lot of fervor, and for the most part, we answered that."

On the prospect of a potential Xavier hangover:
"I don't think there was a hangover.  This was our first weeknight win in the Atlantic 10 this year.  Everywhere else we've played, if we played on a Wednesday or a Thursday, we lost...we were 0-3.  We never thought about Xavier on Monday or Tuesday, we only thought about Fordham."

On having a four-point lead late in the game and his defensive strategy:
"Had we been up three, we were going to foul.  We don't practice it, but I wasn't taking a chance at it."

On Branden Frazier's progression:
"He's what this league is becoming, longer guards.  He has a confidence about him, and I don't know the kid, but he's everything that's good about college basketball: He keeps improving and improving and improving.  (We're) only six games in and he's already in contention for an all-league berth with a kid (Chris Gaston) out that's also an all-league player."

On Carl Jones making seven of eight free throws in the final 1:02:
"If you look back throughout his career, there are a lot of big ones he hasn't made, and he knows that."

On the importance of tonight's game, especially since Chris Gaston was not in the lineup:
"I like to think that the game is an entity.  You go out for that game and try to win.  We won."

On his team's style of play:
"We're not a team that's going to put on a show, that's not who we are."

Nuggets of Note
- Carl Jones, who entered the game a 64 percent free throw shooter, got to the foul line eight times and made seven of the eight, all of which came in the final 62 seconds.  As a result, Jones scored the final seven points of the game for the Hawks, who got his first free throw trailing 60-59 following a layup from Ryan Canty, who had another superb effort under the boards with 14 rebounds.  Jones' 19 points led St. Joe's, who had three other players in double figures: Chris Wilson and Ronald Roberts, both of whom had 10 points each; Roberts having a double-double by also grabbing 10 rebounds, and Halil Kanacevic, who scored 12 against Pecora, who coached him as a freshman at Hofstra before taking the job at Fordham.

- Branden Frazier's 24 points were just two shy of his career-high 26 that he racked up against UConn on December 21st.  Frazier took his share of bad shots throughout the night, but the junior guard played his most aggressive and one of his most fluid offensive games for the most part.  Branden also appeared to have been pushed out of bounds on what turned out to be the game-winning possession for St. Joe's, but it was later confirmed that he did indeed step out of bounds on his own.

- For the second straight game, Mandell Thomas scored 17 points, tying the career-high he set Saturday against Rhode Island.  Thomas also provided his usual excitement, particularly with a one-handed slam late in the second half that proved just how vital he will be to this team in the years to come.

- Another telling statistic was that the Rams, who have been one of the better rebounding teams in the Atlantic 10 this year, were outrebounded 35-34; and only managed one more offensive carom than the Hawks, only securing eight boards on the offensive glass.  Ryan Rhoomes (three offensive rebounds) was the only Fordham player to pull down more than two boards on that end.

- Finally, Fordham's Atlantic 10 tournament aspirations were dealt a potentially fatal blow tonight against a Saint Joseph's team they needed a victory against.  Now 2-4 in conference play, the Rams could just as easily be 5-1; and with their next five games being (in order) at VCU, home vs. Saint Louis, at La Salle, at Xavier and home for Butler, Fordham needs to come away with at least two of those five to keep pace with the middle of the pack, no easy feat considering that the Rams have never won an Atlantic 10 road game under Tom Pecora.

Last Minute News & Nuggets

With Fordham and Saint Joseph's about to tip off in front of us in another 15 minutes, here's a quick rundown of what has happened in the local college hoops landscape today:

Fordham forward Chris Gaston was drafted by the Ponce Lions of the Puerto Rican professional league today, but will remain with the Rams for the rest of the season.  SNY's Adam Zagoria has more on Gaston being drafted here:

St. John's and Syracuse have agreed to play a home-and-home series next year despite the Orange leaving the Big East for the ACC.  Our friend Norman Rose at Rumble In The Garden recaps the announcement here:

Here's the Syracuse perspective from Sean Keeley of Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician:

North Carolina 82, Boston College 70: A Fan's Take

The reason for our trek to Boston last night?  North Carolina was there.  (Photo courtesy of the author's personal collection)

This recap will be somewhat different from some others you may see on here, as it is written after watching a game as a fan for a change.  As friends of the website Gary Moore and Jerry Beach so often do, I last night was in the stands to watch a game that I would ultimately offer my opinions and analysis of, and last night's ACC affair between North Carolina; the team I have been a die-hard fan of when I saw them win the 1993 national championship in the first college basketball game a then six-(soon to be seven-) year-old me ever watched start to finish, and Boston College, squared off in Chestnut Hill.

I wasn't making the trek to the Conte Forum outside Boston alone, as joining me on the trip were St. Francis College women's basketball sports information director Brian Morales, Iona College women's basketball play-by-play announcer (and former producer of mine at St. Francis) Nick Guerriero, and their friend Rufat "Squig" Zarbailov.  After a long and entertaining pregame that included a tour of Boston and a couple of local watering holes, not to mention the requisite (for me at least, since I'm a huge fan of the show) visit to the Bull & Finch, where "Cheers" was filmed, we made it into the arena moments before the opening tip.

Following an 8-2 Boston College run to open the game, North Carolina quickly took control and built up a 48-33 halftime lead en route to an 82-70 win against an Eagles team that is still trying to find their way in the ACC under third-year head coach Steve Donahue.  For all the immediate success Donahue found in Chestnut Hill upon taking the job on the heels of a Sweet 16 appearance at Cornell in 2010, he has yet to replicate the magic that resulted in an NIT trip with former Al Skinner recruits Reggie Jackson and Corey (Green Bay Packers defensive tackle B.J.'s brother) Raji, not to mention one-time Vermont transfer and underrated player in general Joe Trapani.  Here are the nuggets that stood out to me while taking it all in:

- Since meeting Gary Moore in December 2011 and following his tweets at @gmoore21566, I have taken a greater interest in the pep bands of schools, and Boston College's band stood out right away.  The Eagle band plays more modern selections than most other bands, as evidenced by Ke$ha's "Die Young," Neon Trees' "Everybody Talks," and the One Direction hit "What Makes You Beautiful" being included in their repertoire.  The BC band also threw in classics such as Kansas' "Carry On Wayward Son," Coldplay's "Viva La Vida," (appropriate since the New York Rangers won last night as well, and "Viva La Vida" had been played following Ranger victories for several years at the Garden before the Rangers switched to Flo Rida's "Good Feeling" for reasons I can't explain) and the Dropkick Murphy's anthem "I'm Shipping Up To Boston," but lost all their credibility with the 4-minute media timeout rendition of "Gangnam Style" late in the game.  Must we really suffer through that?

- Back to the game if I may: P.J. Hairston left the game early in the second half with a concussion after being inadvertently elbowed by teammate Dexter Strickland under the rim, and was carted off on a stretcher.  Hairston had stood up after the blow, but immediately fell again, prompting me to suspect the concussion that was later confirmed on the North Carolina Twitter feed.  In almost 27 years, it was the scariest injury I have ever seen live, as Hairston was down on the court for several minutes, and also the first time I'd ever seen someone leave on a stretcher. (You can see the collision between Strickland and Hairston at the 27 and 33-second marks of this highlight video:)

- The fact that North Carolina managed 82 points despite just getting eight from sharpshooter Reggie Bullock was a pleasant surprise, but the young Tar Heels will be very frustrating to watch as they close games out down the stretch.  I particularly enjoyed watching them play through their inexperience, as head coach Roy Williams did not call a timeout in the second half.  This is what this team needs to do to further mature and improve, as North Carolina has historically been slow to develop in a season following a deep run into the NCAA Tournament, with the 2005 and 2009 national championships as well as last year's Elite Eight appearance being prime evidence of this trend.  Carolina ended 2006 and 2010 with a Round of 32 exit from the NCAA Tournament at the hands of George Mason and NIT runner-up finish to Dayton in those respective seasons; and at 14-6 with only one quality win to their credit, the Tar Heels are squarely on the bubble at the moment.

- James Michael McAdoo (17 points and 10 rebounds last night) was North Carolina's leading scorer and is for the season as well, but in his sophomore season, the de facto star of the team has still yet to prove himself as a bona fide team leader.  It has seemed like the Tar Heels have received greater contributions from Reggie Bullock this year, especially in crunch time and clutch situations, therefore he should be Carolina's primary option.

- Finally, J.P. Tokoto didn't play much, (just three points in only 13 minutes) but has provided North Carolina with indispensable energy and efficient shot selection in every game this season.  If Williams uses his skills more often and gives him the chance to fully develop sooner rather than later, the 6-5 swingman from Wisconsin with mounds of potential is going to be really good and something special for this team, perhaps in the mold of the similarly built Danny Green, an integral piece to the 2009 championship puzzle.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Fordham/St. Joe's Preview

After big home win over Rhode Island, Fordham gets stiff test Wednesday night when C.J. Aiken and Saint Joseph's come to Rose Hill.  (Photo courtesy of Josh Verlin via City Of Basketball Love)

Fresh off their 66-63 win over Rhode Island that kept them in the middle of the Atlantic 10 standings, Fordham welcomes Saint Joseph's into the Rose Hill Gym Wednesday in a pivotal game for both sides, perhaps more so for the 6-14 Rams, whose next three games feature a home game against Saint Louis sandwiched between difficult road contests against top-tier A-10 programs in VCU and La Salle.

Life hasn't been easy for St. Joe's either.  After being picked to win the Atlantic 10 at the start of the season, the Hawks' 2-3 conference record is identical to Fordham's ledger through their first five league games even though Saint Joseph's has gotten off to an 11-7 start.  Head coach Phil Martelli has a group of six players that average more than 30 minutes per game, including four double-figure scorers, and only loses guard Carl Jones from this team going into next season.  To shed further light on the Hawks, we have enlisted the help of Garrett Miley, who does an excellent job covering St. Joe's for both The Hawk newspaper and City Of Basketball Love, which has quickly become of the best sources for Philadelphia basketball coverage despite being less than a year old.  Garrett was kind enough to answer our questions about the one-time No. 1 team in the country (even if that was nine years ago) as they make their way into New York for the front end of a home-and-home matchup with the Rams, who invade Hagan Arena on March 2nd.  Without any further ado...

Jaden Daly: St. Joe's was picked to win the A-10. What is the biggest reason for their 11-7 (2-3 in the A-10) start?

Garrett Miley: The simplest way to sum up the Hawks’ 11-7 start is offensive inconsistency.  They rely heavily on three-pointers to keep them in games and when they have a difficult night shooting the basketball, (See the St. Bonaventure game) things can look ugly offensively for the Hawks. Coach Phil Martelli has stressed the importance of offensive balance for his team, and also has stated that his team’s offense runs “sideline to sideline” too much and doesn’t penetrate the teeth of the defense enough. The recent return of forward Halil Kanacevic after missing three games due to the loss of his maternal uncle has helped the Hawks establish a better post presence, as well as open up passing lanes for the other forwards like C.J. Aiken and Ronald Roberts Jr.

JD: With six players seeing 30 or more minutes per game, will fatigue be an issue against a deeper Fordham bench?

GM: I’m not sure that fatigue will be the biggest factor in the game against Fordham, as the Hawks have been doing this most of the way this season, but the Hawks' lack of depth forces them to rely heavily on their top six players to carry the scoring load. The play of guys like Daryus Quarles, Papa Ndao, and Isaiah Miles has been sporadic this season. When Saint Joseph’s fails to get any offensive production or positive minutes from any of those guys, the pressure mounts on the top six guys and it shows. Often, non-shooters like Chris Wilson and Halil Kanacevic are forced to take contested jump shots deep into the shot clock because of the lack of offensive options on the court when guys like Ndao are on the court.

JD: St. Joe's enjoys a frontcourt advantage on paper with or without Chris Gaston in
the lineup.  Which Hawk(s) should we watch out for most?

GM: Ronald Roberts Jr. is by far the most powerful and explosive player the Hawks have, and is the best rebounder on the team averaging 8.6 rpg. He can get in foul trouble, as was the case against Xavier, but is capable of recording a double-double every night. He is a powerful player that still needs to develop touch around the rim, but has the ability to dunk on almost anyone in the country.

JD: Just how good is C.J. Aiken? It seems like he's the guy who makes the motor run just by looking at the stat sheet.

GM: People often question whether C.J. Aiken likes basketball. He rarely shows emotion on the court, but I agree with Phil Martelli when he says that C.J. Aiken does, in fact, like basketball. He does a little bit of everything on the court. No, he isn’t a back to the basket player. But, at 6-foot-9, his ability to knock down a perimeter jump shot, rebound the basketball, and rise above the rim is a rare combination that makes him a tough matchup for almost anyone. His shot blocking makes any player think twice before attempting a shot in the paint. For as many shots as he blocks, he alters just as many more and is consistently in the heads of opposing players.

JD: Finally, what are the keys to victory for Fordham against this St. Joe's team, and what should we expect from both sides?

GM: Defensively, Fordham needs to force Saint Joseph’s to continue to work the ball around the perimeter. Aside from Langston Galloway and Carl Jones, few other Hawks feel comfortable shooting outside jump shots. Offensively, Branden Frazier is going to have to try to take advantage of Carl Jones’ poor defensive abilities.  Talented and explosive guards have had success against the Hawks this season.  The performance of Fairfield senior guard Derek Needham comes to mind when he scored 24 points and added five assists when the Stags defeated the Hawks 60-57.  With or without Chris Gaston, establishing a post presence will be tough against the big bodies Saint Joseph’s has. While the Hawks are a good defensive team, they are susceptible to giving up open three point field goal attempts. Fordham will need to put together a similar effort and game plan that St. Bonaventure came into Hagan Arena with last Wednesday evening when the Bonnies beat the Hawks 73-64. If Fordham can prevent the Hawks from having a balanced offensive attack, as well as shoot a high percentage offensively, the Rams will find themselves with a chance to beat the Hawks.

Fordham/Rhode Island: A Photo Gallery

As he has done in recent weeks for us to supplement our recaps of Seton Hall's loss to Louisville and victory over USF, college basketball Renaissance man Ray Floriani was kind enough to send us some of the shots from his camera this past Saturday as Fordham took on Rhode Island from Rose Hill. (you can see the recap of that by clicking here)

“Tonight I’m going to party like it’s 1999.…”: The words from Prince (or the "artist formerly known as Prince") hit the airwaves in 1983. Back in those days, things were rosy (pardon the pun) at Rose Hill. Postseason tournaments, conference contention and the house rocking were the norm.
          Since then, times have been tough to say the least. Tom Pecora has been entrusted as the latest ’savior’ to right the fortunes at the Jesuit school.
          On Saturday, we received a little reminder of the days of old and how special they were. Rhode Island, led by Danny Hurley, currently doing some rebuilding as well, was the opposition. The Rose Hill Gym was packed. Granted visiting Rhode Island travels well but the home crowd was out in force. The intensity was high and noted personalities of the past as former mentor Tom Penders, took it all in.
          The Rams, of Fordham, emerged victorious. Packed locales do not get stops or execute ball screens. They CAN however, be an important step on the way to rebuilding. By coming out in support, there is proof the fans care.
          There is no guarantee things will turn around at the Atlantic Ten school. But for one day, Fordham faithful got a reminder of the past and a glimpse plus some hope for a promising future.

The much-criticized Rose Hill Gym, always a fine photographic subject:
The heightened intensity of guard play stood out here as Rhode Island's Xavier Munford was matched up with Fordham's Jermaine Myers:
Fordham's cheerleaders were also out in full force:
The Hurleys (Rhode Island head coach Dan on the left with his back to the camera, and his older brother Bobby, Rhode Island's associate head coach on the right) question an official during one of many instances on the day:
Saturday's game drew an impressive crowd of 3,014, the largest attendance figure at Rose Hill this season:
Finally, Rhode Island swingman Nikola Malesevic concentrates at the free throw line:

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Fordham 66, Rhode Island 63: Quotes, Takeaways & Nuggets

Playing entire 40 minutes, Mandell Thomas had career-high 17 points as Fordham survives Dan Hurley and Rhode Island in hard-fought 66-63 win at Rose Hill Gym.  (Photo courtesy of John Templon via Big Apple Buckets)

Fordham head coach Tom Pecora's opening statement:
"I don't believe in the term 'ugly win.'  I've never had an ugly win, every win is beautiful because they're hard to come by, especially the last few years.  These young guys keep getting better and better, and these two (Mandell Thomas and Branden Frazier) really stepped up."

On the complexion of today's game:
"It was a rock fight, I thought the game was very intense.  There were a couple of moments where it looked like it would go over the top, and I'm glad we kept our poise.  I kept telling them, (our players) 'just compete, just compete.'  Our game plan was to pound the ball inside and we did a good job with that.  We were also told to stay within the coaching box, but neither one of us (Pecora nor Rhode Island coach Dan Hurley) did that."

On the state of the team heading into Wednesday's game against Saint Joseph's:
"Part of a team maturing is what I like to call 'championship possessions.'  We're not at the point yet.  What we're doing is trying to speed up the maturation process.  Wednesday (losing 96-51 at Dayton) was embarrassing, and I told them that.  They paid the price...we got off the plane and we practiced at 5 a.m."

On Luka Zivkovic and Chris Gaston:
"With that side ball screen, Luka's money.  He's going to have a breakout game for us, and we need it with Chris out.  We're at the point where when we get Chris back, it'll be a pleasant surprise."

Rhode Island coach Dan Hurley's opening statement:
"I thought the two teams played real desperate today, with a lot of intensity.  The difference in today's game, and it usually is when we lose, was our inability to rebound, and their ability to kick our butts on the offensive glass."

On his homecoming to the New York area:
"It was cool for me being back.  It was special driving to the game.  I just wish we would have had a different outcome."

On the state of his team:
"The one thing our guys are is pretty resilient.  We always find a way to stay in games.  I'm excited about what a guy like T.J. Buchanan is going to bring to this program for the next couple of years."  

On Rhode Island's play in today's game:
"I didn't think we matched their physicality.  We were chippy after they physically dominated us on the backboard, we were soft."

On Fordham's defense, particularly on Nikola Malesevic:
"They started out in a zone, probably because they felt they probably couldn't match up with him.  We can't win when he goes 1-for-7."

On Branden Frazier (20 points, 4 assists, 3 rebounds) and his performance:
"We were trying to make sure he didn't beat us, and where he got us was his ability to get to the free throw line."

On Xavier Munford (10 points, 4 rebounds) and his performance:
"I'm not sure he was prepared for how desperately this game was going to be played.  I don't think some of these guys were as locked in as they should be."

Hurley on his own sideline demeanor:
"This is who I am.  I would say this year, I'm more animated because that's what this team needs.  We don't have a player like that, and we need somebody to spur them on."

Nuggets of Note:
- Fordham scored 66 points in a home win over Rhode Island for the second straight year, as they defeated the Rams 66-64 at Rose Hill last January 18th on a three-pointer from Alberto Estwick in the final minute.  The game was close throughout, with neither side leading by more than six points at any time.

- The officiating and physicality was the story of the game first and foremost.  There were multiple occasions in which Rhode Island got calls that lesser teams probably would not have received, including a flagrant foul against Fordham's Bryan Smith on what appeared to be a routine tie-up with Xavier Munford on the baseline early in the second half, not to mention several other debatable foul calls throughout the day.

- Fordham stole the game at the free throw line with 26 of their 33 attempts at the stripe coming in the second half.  Of those 26, 12 came from Branden Frazier, who hit eleven of them to contribute to a 20-point outing, the seventh time in which the junior from Brooklyn has reached that plateau this season.

- Fordham also received career-high point totals from Mandell Thomas (17 to go with seven rebounds and five assists) and Travion Leonard, who poured in 13 points to complement eight rebounds in the "Battle of the Rams."

- Finally, Dan Hurley did not disappoint those who came to see the first-year Rhode Island head coach put on a show in his return to New York after spending the previous two seasons restoring the program at Wagner College in Staten Island.  The colorful Hurley can be controversial and sometimes even out of control, and he wore his emotions on his chest as the game went on.  On multiple occasions in the second half after media timeouts or blown whistles, Hurley sprinted from his bench toward the Fordham sideline, attempting to provoke Fordham coach Tom Pecora.  By his own admission, Hurley said he was more animated this year than last at Wagner, but quite honestly, Hurley's antics this afternoon made his previous episodes look as tame as notoriously placid Butler coach Brad Stevens.  No one can deny Hurley the success he has accumulated through his decade in the coaching industry at Rhode Island, Wagner and St. Benedict's Prep; nor can they deny his rich lineage as the brother of Duke legend Bobby and son of Hall of Fame coach Bob Hurley, but wins and losses only go so far in a world that judges a person for his character just as much as it does his talent.

Bobby Gonzalez Shares His Thoughts On St. John's/Seton Hall Matchup At Garden

Sunday's showdown between St. John's and Seton Hall is pivotal for both sides, but more so for Steve Lavin and surging Red Storm; who have not beaten Pirates since 2009, as Bobby Gonzalez informs us.  (Photo courtesy of SNY)

Sunday afternoon, Seton Hall University finally gets what one of their former coaches had hoped for during his tenure; a meeting with local rival St. John's inside Madison Square Garden for the first time in nearly seven years, and one that is a big game for both the Pirates and Red Storm as each program attempts to remain in the NCAA Tournament conversation through the middle of the Big East season.

"I always wanted the game (between Seton Hall and St. John's) in the Garden," former Seton Hall coach Bobby Gonzalez told A Daly Dose Of Hoops in regard to a rivalry that he had tried to enhance during his four-year tenure in South Orange.  "It's two local rivals.  From what I knew, the game was always in the Garden."

Although Steve Lavin and the Red Storm are 12-7 on the year and 4-3 within Big East play, their perennial dominance against the two other Big East programs in the metropolitan area has tailed off; as they have dropped two of their last three against Rutgers, and are searching for their first win against Seton Hall since February 22nd, 2009, when Norm Roberts led St. John's to victory against Seton Hall and Gonzalez, the object of affections from the St. John's student section that evening, as evidenced by the picture of the coach with a pacifier in his mouth and signs that read "Welcome to the 'World's Most Famous Arena'" and "Mommy, I don't want to play in Carnesecca."

The coach admitted to not having seen much of his former Seton Hall squad this season, but is particularly proud of the growth of junior swingman Fuquan Edwin, his last recruit to South Orange that he ultimately never got to coach.  "We worked real hard, my staff and I, to get Fuquan where he is," Gonzalez stated.  "I'm happy to see how far he has progressed."

Gonzalez, who has appeared on the NBC Sports Network and assisted Knicks coach Mike Woodson in the NBA's Summer League while trying to get an NBA job, feels that St. John's, in addition to coming out with a mindset focused on protecting their home court, will also have retribution on their mind from last season's 94-64 drubbing at the hands of Seton Hall last February at the Prudential Center.

"They're going to want to take care of business at home," Gonzalez said of the Red Storm.  "Those kids might remember last year and could have a chip on their shoulder with the whole revenge factor.  They're not going to forget." 

This matchup is not necessarily a must-win for either side now that the Pirates ended their four-game losing streak with a 55-47 win over South Florida Wednesday night, but is still pivotal nonetheless according to their former leader.

"I think it's important for Seton Hall to step up and try to prove themselves," Gonzalez said, "because it's a chance for them to get a quality win against one of the better teams in the Big East."  Bobby also intimated that although Seton Hall may need the win more on paper by virtue of their 2-4 Big East record, Sunday's matinee is more important for the home team to hold serve on their court.

"The game is bigger to St. John's because it's a home game and they only play Seton Hall once," said Gonzalez.  "They're trying to get something going, they have quality wins against, in my opinion, two of the four best teams in the league. (Cincinnati and Notre Dame) I think they have great upside, and they'll get better and better as the year goes on."

Despite his unsuccessful attempts to lure the once-fierce rivalry between the Pirates and Johnnies to the "World's Most Famous Arena," Gonzalez made the best of his annual Hudson River battle more often than not, winning three of his five meetings against St. John's while also taking six of eight against in-state rival Rutgers.  Gonzalez also owned an exceptional record against the Red Storm when his Manhattan College teams played the Red Storm at the Garden, and even though he had no major gripe about playing at Carnesecca Arena on the St. John's campus, believes that the flame of a series that once burned eternal in the days of P.J. Carlesimo and Lou Carnesecca can be rekindled under the bright lights of the "Mecca" of college basketball.

"I think it's a chance to be on stage locally and say 'Hey, we were at Madison Square Garden and we won,'" Gonzalez said. "It's a great game to have recruits at. It's a little different now because the rosters are different, Seton Hall and St. John's don't have as many local kids as they used to, but you still have the local rivalry."

The local rivalry gets renewed for the 89th time this Sunday, perhaps starting a new chapter to refuel the long and storied memories between New York and New Jersey, between St. John's and Seton Hall.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Iona Routs Saint Peter's, Improves To 8-0 At Home

Tavon Sledge's double-double (13 points, 10 assists) was one of five double-figure point totals for Iona as Gaels extend their home winning streak to 14 in 90-71 victory over Saint Peter's.  (Photo courtesy of Philadelphia Inquirer)

Tim Cluess had been searching for a third scoring option all season to provide offense behind his one-two punch of Momo Jones and Sean Armand.

He got it tonight, and then some.

Just five days removed from a mild upset loss on the road to Rider, five Iona players scored in double figures as the Gaels returned to their winning ways tonight with a convincing 90-71 victory over Saint Peter's, the eighth home win of the year for the reigning regular season MAAC champions.

"There's nothing better than playing at home," Cluess said after the Gaels (13-7, 7-2 MAAC) closed out Saint Peter's, (6-13, 1-8) avenging a 64-62 December loss to the Peacocks in the process.  "The crowd was phenomenal."

Iona fed off the 1,925 in attendance at the Hynes Center early and often, shooting a season-best 58 percent from the field and making twelve three-pointers in the wire-to-wire win, the tenth time this season in which the Gaels have connected on ten or more threes in a game.  With the victory, Iona's fifteenth consecutive in New Rochelle, the Gaels are now tied with Belmont for the tenth-longest home winning streak in the nation.

"It was huge," Cluess said of his five double-figure scorers, led by Jones (24 points) and Armand, who was one of three Gaels with thirteen.  "Tonight, the ball didn't die, and we ended up spreading the defense a lot.  On nights when we shoot well, we're good; nights when we don't we're not."

Besides his dynamic duo of Jones and Armand, Cluess also got double-doubles from Tavon Sledge (13 points, 10 assists) and David Laury, (14 points, 10 rebounds) while Tre Bowman added 13 points of his own as the replacement in the starting lineup for freshman A.J. English, who broke his wrist earlier in the week and will be out until at least March's MAAC Tournament after undergoing surgery.

Iona did not have the 31-0 run the Gaels went on the last time Saint Peter's came to New Rochelle last February, but the home team enjoyed a 17-6 spurt late in the second half that turned a tenuous eight-point lead into a comfortable 19-point cushion in the Gaels' final tuneup before a pivotal Sunday matinee on the road against conference favorite Loyola, who defeated Manhattan earlier tonight in a gritty 51-41 battle at Draddy Gym.

"We're not worried about the name," said Momo Jones of Iona's upcoming clash with the Greyhounds, who used an early advantage last year to survive a late Iona comeback the last time the Gaels came to Baltimore.  "We're worried about us.  If we play our game, we'll be fine."

It seems like that has been the case all season for Iona, no matter who steps up to support Jones and Armand on a team that has still yet to hit its best stride.

LIU's Garner Once Again A Silent Assassin

C.J. Garner has big game against St. Francis once again, scoring 17 of his 22 points in second half as LIU Brooklyn uses 57-point final stanza to defeat Terriers 78-68.  (Photo courtesy of Nelson Castillo via Blackbirds Hoops Journal)

Sometimes, it is just inevitable for certain players to dominate a particular team.  For example, Chipper Jones and Pat Burrell earned reputations early and often in their stellar careers for repeated success against the New York Mets, while Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz did the same for the Boston Red Sox against the New York Yankees.

Add LIU Brooklyn's C.J. Garner to that list, especially when the senior plays archrival St. Francis in the two-part "Battle of Brooklyn" between the two schools every season.

Two years ago, Garner's first season with the Blackbirds after transferring from South Alabama saw him rise to the occasion with a 17-point performance in his first game against the Terriers, only to follow that up three days later with his dramatic mid-range jumper with a half-second left to lift LIU past St. Francis once again after the officials missed a timeout call by St. Francis coach Glenn Braica on the ensuing possession.  Garner's flair for the dramatic may have since subsided, but his penchant for career nights against the team located a mere ten-minute walk from LIU's Wellness Center has continued on, growing larger with each collision between LIU and St. Francis.

Following a first half in which the Blackbirds trailed 33-21 after being limited to a 7-of-28 effort from the field by the St. Francis defense in the opening stanza, Garner took matters into his own hands; tallying 17 of his game-high 22 points after the intermission and making all but one of the seven field goals he attempted in the second half as LIU outscored the Terriers 57-35 en route to a 78-68 victory, the fifth consecutive victory for the two-time reigning Northeast Conference champions over their bitter adversary.

The night, and big stage for that matter, belonged to Garner; who picked up his second Lai-Lynch Battle of Brooklyn Most Valuable Player award in three seasons, but the man largely responsible for the Blackbirds' comeback credited his backcourt partner for starting the resurgence.

"In the second half, (Jason) Brickman really got going, and that's what helped us," Garner said of LIU's junior floor general, whose 11 assists tied a season-high.  "He's such a great passer, the best I've ever played with and one of the best I've ever seen."  Brickman also had nine points and four steals for the Blackbirds, while Jamal Olasewere added a double-double with 20 points and 11 rebounds.  Jalen Cannon led St. Francis with 21 points and 10 rebounds in the losing effort, while Brent Jones chipped in with 14 points and eight assists for a Terrier team that held a 14-point lead with 16:05 remaining, only to be done in by a 36-10 Blackbird run over the next twelve minutes.

LIU improved to 9-10 with the win, their fourth consecutive after an 0-3 start in NEC play; and Garner's 22 points give him an average of 17 in five career contests against St. Francis, with his worst outing against the Terriers being a mere 12-point afternoon whose relative anonymity was upstaged by his aforementioned game-winning shot.  With another intraborough collision awaiting him on February 10th at the Barclays Center, odds are that the one-time transfer has one more big game in him.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Seton Hall/USF: A Photo Gallery

In the wake of Seton Hall's 55-47 win over USF last night, we received yet another photo gallery from college basketball Renaissance man Ray Floriani.  Just as he did for Seton Hall's contest against Louisville two weeks ago, Ray volunteered to send us some shots from last night's duel at the Rock, so without any further ado...

On a night the mercury flirted with double digits, Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard was concerned with double digits as well. And not the temperature. The Pirate coach received 16 points from Fuquan Edwin, 14 from Brandon Mobley and an encouraging dozen minutes out of Brian Oliver (9 points). The addition summed to a much needed 55-47 victory over South Florida. A win that snapped a four game Pirate losing streak and warmed up Pirate faithful just a bit on what was an ungodly cold evening.

-Ray Floriani

A view from Ray's spot on press row...

Seton Hall head coach Kevin Willard surveys the action...

Seton Hall's flag man in action at the under-12 minute TV timeout in the second half...

Seton Hall forward Fuquan Edwin is all concentration on the free throw line...

Finally, the dance team, cheerleaders and team line up after the game for the Seton Hall alma mater.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Seton Hall 55, USF 47: Quotes, Takeaways & Nuggets

Fuquan Edwin's double-double (16 points, 10 rebounds) was just enough to propel Seton Hall past USF in 55-47 game that may not have been pretty, but still good enough for Pirates' second Big East win.  (Photo courtesy of Seton Hall University)

Seton Hall head coach Kevin Willard on having almost a full roster available:
"We practiced with more than seven guys for the first time in a month.  Brandon (Mobley) and Brian (Oliver) were limited until yesterday.  I was worried about Brian being out there too long and hurting the injured ankle again."

On Seton Hall's defensive game plan:
"We didn't want (Toarlyn) Fitzpatrick to hit any threes.  We were going to give up some layups and some easy dunks, but we were going to be fine with that.  We actually played a 3-2 defense tonight...we don't play the same defense every night."

On Fuquan Edwin (16 points, 10 rebounds) and playing faster:
"He needs to practice (getting) up and down, which is something we haven't done.  Until we practice playing fast, we can't play fast."

On defending the three-point shot:
"I thought the three they hit at halftime was a little bit of a momentum killer.  We had to grind it out a little bit.  It's (defending the three) been our Achilles' heel...has been for a while.  The week off really helped us.  If you give me a week to prepare for you, we should be able to play some defense, and I thought we did tonight."

On Haralds Karlis and his evolution this season:
"He's starting to play at a good speed.  When he slows down, he's very effective."

USF head coach Stan Heath:
"We were always in the game, we kept cutting the lead down to two and three.  We didn't make shots, and that's a part of rhythm.  We were 3-for-19 from three and we've been a 35 percent shooting team, so we were way off that number."

On USF's defense against Seton Hall:
"I thought it was okay...we gave up some things and forced some turnovers, but we gave up a few too many open looks for them."

On his message to the team at halftime:
"I told them that we played poorly and were down by seven.  I said that in the game before, (against Georgetown) we were down by eight at halftime and we won, so we've been in that position before."

Heath's thoughts on the second half:
"When we came out of the locker room, I thought we came out of the gate hard.  If we would have had a few more layups here and there, we would have cut into it more.  We just needed somebody to help us a little more.  We were making progress, then taking a step back.  At the end of the day, our shooting just wasn't there, and we had some really good looks."

Nuggets of Note:
- Seton Hall led wire-to-wire tonight, but by no means was the game over until the final minute.  The Pirates' three-point defense, called the team's "Achilles' heel" by Kevin Willard, stepped up in a big way, limiting USF to a 3-for-19 performance from beyond the arc, negating their impressive transition game that forced 17 Seton Hall turnovers and eleven steals, not to mention 10 assists from sophomore point guard Anthony Collins.

- In their first games back from a dislocated shoulder and sprained ankle, respectively, Brandon Mobley and Brian Oliver combined to score 23 points on 11-of-12 shooting.  Mobley's 14 came on a 7-of-8 effort, while Oliver scored all nine of his points on a perfect 3-for-3 night from three-point range.  Credit New Jersey Newsroom's Jerry Carino for tweeting this nugget shortly after the game.

- USF's rebounding woes continued tonight, as Seton Hall crushed the Bulls to the tune of a 35-22 margin on the glass despite USF managing one more offensive rebound (10-9) than they did.  In an impressive display of defensive balance and hustle, every Pirate to see the court tonight grabbed at least two boards, led by Fuquan Edwin's ten.

- Defensively, this was one of the best efforts Seton Hall has had all season.  The 47 points allowed was the lowest total the Pirates have yielded since giving up just 36 to UMKC in the season opener, and was the second-lowest point total surrendered all season on a night where Seton Hall limited USF to just 34 percent (19-for-56) shooting from the field.

- Now at 2-4 in the Big East and 13-6 overall, Seton Hall heads to Madison Square Garden to take on St. John's Sunday afternoon in a very winnable game for the Pirates.  St. John's picked up a huge road win tonight against Rutgers, but the Red Storm have been a Jekyll and Hyde team more often than not for Steve Lavin this season, placing the onus on D'Angelo Harrison to lead the St. John's offense that has not fared well from the three-point line this season.  

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Devon McMillan To LIU Post

Former Fordham guard Devon McMillan has a new home, as one-time Ram announced he will transfer to LIU Post.  (Photo courtesy of Fordham University)

Following a December announcement that he would transfer, Devon McMillan has finally found a place to resume his career.

McMillan, who was granted his release from Fordham last month in the wake of a comeback attempt following two shoulder surgeries in the offseason, has apparently transferred to LIU Post University on Long Island, as reported earlier this morning by SNY's Adam Zagoria, who was informed by the point guard's brother.

The 5-10 sophomore, dubbed "Fatty" while a prospect at Lincoln High School prior to signing with Tom Pecora and the Rams, scored eight points in three games this season after a freshman campaign that saw him average over seven points per contest one year ago.  McMillan will be able to compete next season for LIU Post, as the school is a Division II program and players who transfer down from Division I do not need to sit out a year.

The Pioneers, now coached by former St. John's assistant Chris Casey after he replaced Tim Cluess in the wake of Cluess taking the job at Iona, are 11-4 on the current season, and just had an eleven-game winning streak snapped by NYIT after starting 0-3.

A Daly Dose Of Hoops will have additional updates on McMillan when they become available.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Iona 84, Fairfield 73: Quotes, Takeaways & Nuggets

Fairfield head coach Sydney Johnson's opening statement:
"Our guys showed a lot of heart, but they (Iona) were very good offensively."

On the difference between last year's Iona team and the Gaels this year:
"They kind of go as a unit more so than any one guy goes."

Iona guard Sean Armand (23 points, 5 rebounds, 2 steals) on Momo Jones:
"The first half, he showed he was a true point guard.  The second half, he showed he could score."

Armand on how far Iona is from reaching their potential:
"Nowhere even close."

On Iona's upcoming five games, four of which are on the road:
"We haven't had that many road games, so now we're going to see what we're made of."

Iona guard Lamont (Momo) Jones (27 points) on Iona's team state at the moment:
"At this particular point in time, we're coming together and we're winning games.  That's all that matters."

Iona head coach Tim Cluess' opening statement:
"I thought they (Fairfield) took Momo out of the game early.  They're a very good team in general."

On Dashawn Gomez, who had a career-high 9 points:
"This was his first game against this kind of physicality, and I thought he did well."

On David Laury (9 points, 14 rebounds, 5 blocks) and his performance:
"I thought he was forcing it (early) because they were leaving him wide open."

On his team's offensive balance:
"When I saw the 84 points on the scoreboard, it felt like 50.  We have to develop better consistency as a team if we're going to win.  We have a lot of guys still learning to compete and figure that part of it out.  They have their own identity."

Nuggets of Note:
- Iona struggled at the free throw line in the opening minutes, missing five of their first six foul shots after Fairfield committed five fouls in the first four minutes, but the Gaels righted the ship by making 20 of their final 25 attempts at the charity stripe.

- The Gaels' defense still needs a lot of work, and Sean Armand was emphatic in pointing that out in his postgame press conference.  Iona was outrebounded 41-38, allowing 12 points and nine rebounds to Marcus Gilbert, as well as 11 boards from freshman Amadou Sidibe, whose style of play and relentless attack on the boards is strikingly reminiscent to Rakim Sanders, who donned Sidibe's No. 21 for the Stags last season.  Maurice Barrow also chipped in with a dozen points and six rebounds off the bench.

- Derek Needham, whose junior season ended against Iona the last time these two teams met at the Hynes Center before tonight, exacted his own measure of revenge, carrying the Stags with 26 points on 9-of-17 shooting and six three-pointers.  Needham was a one-man band for most of the night, as Fairfield's duo of Colin Nickerson and Keith Matthews were unable to replicate their career games against the Gaels in last year's MAAC Tournament semifinal.

- Despite the 11-point victory, this game was much closer than the score let on, and also closer than Fairfield's 42-28 edge in the paint may suggest.  After trailing by 11 at halftime, the Stags opened the second half on a 9-1 run and kept the game within single digits for the majority of the second half before Jones and Armand proved to be too much for Fairfield to overcome.

- Finally, tonight was somewhat of a homecoming for two former Gaels legends, as Mike Glover and Scott Machado made their returns to New Rochelle to rousing ovations from a crowd of 2,435 at the Hynes Center.  We caught up with Machado, who was recently waived by the Houston Rockets, at halftime, and the guard is still hoping to resurface in the NBA sooner rather than later.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Iona vs. Fairfield: A Quick Preview

Averaging fifteen points and nearly nine rebounds per game, Iona's David Laury faces what could be his stiffest test yet as Gaels host Fairfield in MAAC battle tonight.  (Photo courtesy of New York Daily News)

At 5-1 in the MAAC, Iona College is seemingly on a roll, having won five straight and eight of their last ten following a 3-4 start to the Gaels' nonconference schedule.  Of course, Tim Cluess' team has changed its overall appearance between now and then with the addition of forward David Laury, who figures to be an integral part of tonight's MAAC showdown with Fairfield at the Hynes Center, where the Gaels are a perfect 6-0 on the season.

The Iona offense, which ranks fifth in the nation by virtue of its 83 points per game, should have numerous opportunities to approach that number tonight as they take on a 10-8 Stags team that defeated Iona in the MAAC Championship semifinals in Springfield last March, seemingly ending the Gaels' NCAA Tournament aspirations until Iona was selected as an at-large entrant into the field of 68 the following week.

For Fairfield, which comes in off a 67-64 loss to Niagara that served as the Stags' third straight defeat since scoring an upset 21-point win at resurgent Canisius, guard play will be paramount for Sydney Johnson tonight.  Senior point guard Derek Needham, the team's leading scorer and passer, will need to have a big game to keep Fairfield in contention against a Gaels team that prematurely ended his junior season last year when he injured his foot at the Hynes Center on February 24th.  Swingmen Colin Nickerson and Keith Matthews, both of whom were significant contributors for the Stags in their conference tournament win over Iona, will also need to revisit those performances from the first weekend in March.

A Daly Dose Of Hoops will be live tweeting tonight's affair from New Rochelle, so follow us at @DalyDoseOfHoops for updates throughout the evening.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

St. John's 67, Notre Dame 63: Quotes, Takeaways & Nuggets

Despite season-high 21 points and six steals from Eric Atkins, Notre Dame couldn't shake St. John's as Red Storm defeat the 20th-ranked Irish 67-63 at Madison Square Garden.  (Photo courtesy of Chicago Tribune)

Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey's opening statement:
"I loved how we fought back and gave ourselves a chance to win.  They made big buckets and big free throws.  Their ball pressure really bothered us."

On playing Tom Knight over Jack Cooley in the second half:
"He gave us great energy.  That's a real bright spot for us to build on."

On St. John's in general:
"They guarded the heck out of us with their speed.  Over the course of time, it wore on us.  We really have to make shots to escape on the road against them."

Junior guard Eric Atkins (21 points, 6 steals, 4 assists) on St. John's:
"We really couldn't get any offensive rhythm in those last two minutes just because of their ball pressure."

St. John's guard D'Angelo Harrison (8 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 blocks) on tonight's game:
"We just basically pressured the ball.  I know they had easy shots, but when it was time to lock up, we did.  We knew they were going to come back.  (Jerian) Grant threw the ball away, so we did a good job in coverage."

On his block in the final seconds that turned out to be the game-winner:
"He (Tom Knight) didn't see me, so I reached up and grabbed the ball out."

Forward Amir Garrett (11 points, 3 rebounds, 3 blocks, 2 steals) on St. John's mindset:
"We came out very intense today.  Coming off a loss to Georgetown, that wasn't the way we played."

St. John's head coach Steve Lavin's opening statement:
"Expect the unexpected, buckle up, and enjoy the wild roller coaster ride."

On St. John's 2-3 start in Big East play:
"We're a whisker from being 4-1. (in league play)  You're never as good or as bad as you feel.  We're somewhere in between."

On the state of his team despite its relative inexperience:
"It's tough when there's no one with postseason experience.  It's a really unprecedented, unusual situation.  Out of the ashes of the UNC Asheville and Villanova games, I could tell we were going to be competitive.  I never get too down after a loss, I never get too high after a win."

On Notre Dame:
"They play very similar to those international teams: Lithuania, Argentina, Spain.  We just had to stay attached on the weak side.  From possession to possession, we made a lot of adjustments.  There were so many aspects of the game that I'm going to enjoy watching.  Georgetown wasn't so enjoyable."

On Notre Dame's strength:
"Where they kill you is if you give them air space.  If they're able to 'window shop' over the top, either as transporters or shooters, you're done."

On Christian Jones, who has not played major minutes recently:
"We don't win the game without his contributions. Everyone played a part tonight.  It was what I like to call a 'collective win.'"

On D'Angelo Harrison:
"I thought this was the most mature game of his career."

On his team's performance tonight:
"Tonight, they really grew up, but it doesn't mean anything.  We have to do it at DePaul now."

Nuggets of Note:
- Tonight's win extended a nine-year winning streak for St. John's over Notre Dame at Madison Square Garden.  The last time the Fighting Irish walked out of the "World's Most Famous Arena" with a victory over the Red Storm was on March 5th, 2004, when this writer was a senior in high school and five months away from turning 18.

- The win was also the ninth for head coach Steve Lavin against a Top 25 opponent since replacing Norm Roberts as head coach, and the third consecutive against Notre Dame when the Irish entered the game as a ranked team.

- St. John's closed the game on an 8-2 run after an Eric Atkins layup gave Notre Dame a 61-59 lead.  For the second year in a row, Mike Brey's late-game coaching left something to be desired.  Last season, he left a timeout in his pocket on the final possession as Alex Dragicevich missed a three-pointer in the final seconds that would have sent the game to overtime; while this season, he again kept a timeout going into the last ten seconds, this time using it with seven seconds remaining after D'Angelo Harrison's block on Tom Knight that subsequently led to St. John's shooting free throws on the other end.

- Notre Dame, who entered tonight's contest shooting 42 percent from three-point range as a team, only made one of the nine trifectas they attempted.  It seemed like Mike Brey was trying to defeat the Red Storm from inside, (as evidenced by Jack Cooley's easy looks under the rim and Notre Dame outscoring St. John's 44-24 in the paint) as Pat Connaughton's triple with just over nine minutes remaining in regulation was the only shot the Irish made from beyond the arc.

- Plagued by foul trouble in the first half, Jack Cooley only played 18 minutes tonight, and Brey kept him on the bench through most of the second half in favor of 6-10 fifth-year senior Tom Knight, whom the coach mentioned "gave us great energy" that Notre Dame (now 14-3 after tonight's loss) can build on in the future.

- Finally, with all the various combinations Steve Lavin has created with his lineup, the third-year Red Storm coach might want to consider using D'Angelo Harrison at the point guard position.  With all due respect to Jamal Branch and Phil Greene, it just seems like the patented half-court offense employed by St. John's is just more fluid with Harrison at the controls.  Tonight, the sophomore Texan was not at his best shooting the lights out of the arena as he normally does, but rather facilitating plays and setting his teammates up for smarter and more efficient looks at the basket.  It's just something to consider, but Harrison revealed a new facet of his game tonight that should get more time to shine as the season continues on.