Sunday, January 31, 2016

Pink Whistle: Doubleheader


Freshman girls: North Bergen 39, Garfield 22

North Bergen, NJ ­- Eventually UConn would enter the Pink Whistle conversation. My partner for this game was Iris Garcia. I enjoy officiating with Iris, who works hard and has a good ‘feel’ for the game. That latter point should be of no surprise, as Iris was an all-state player for Ferris (Jersey City) during their powerhouse days two decades ago.

Iris was so talented, that at 5-­6, she could get in the lane, handle and bury the three with equal expertise, that UConn was on her trail. It got to the point that assistant Chris Dailey drove to Jersey City to watch Ferris in a two-and-a-half-hour practice. In the days that followed, then-Ferris coach Bill Millevoi called, left messages, and wrote letters to Geno Auriemma. Remember, when technology was still in its infancy, people really wrote letters. A week or so later, Millevoi was contacted by Auriemma by mail. It seemed the UConn staff was very impressed with Iris, but found a player who could do the same and was 6­-2. Iris still wound up in the Nutmeg State, playing at Western Connecticut with no regrets.

On this afternoon, we had Garfield, with a small squad of six, against a deep North Bergen group. The home-standing Bruins like to press. Given that and their numbers, it is no surprise that they come out in a man-to-man full court defense. Garfield presses as well, but is having difficulty containing North Bergen.

Early on, the Garfield coach is complaining. We try to have a dialogue. In camp, Brian O’Connell always told us you can have a dialogue with a coach. The minute he or she ‘crosses the line,’ it is over. The Garfield coach does that and gets a warning. About a minute later Iris, in front of his bench, gets another verbal disagreement and administers a technical. From that point, the coach does not bother with us. In effect there was enough to worry about on his end, as North Bergen jumped out to a 28­-3 lead. At the half, it is 30­-9 North Bergen.

At the half, Iris and I discuss game management. If a call is close, give it to the weaker team. It turns out we were doing that much of the initial half, this was just a reminder.

In the second half, North Bergen pulled the press off. In a halfcourt game against the Bruin 2­-3, Garfield played much better. The point guard, number 3, was respectable. She did have an attitude giving us looks on every call. It’s interesting, as Garfield plays in a different county and this was an independent matchup. When teams take to the road in these games, they feel the officials are out to get them. After the game, I checked the scorebook. The foul total was North Bergen 14, Garfield 13. So much for the visitors’ claims of not getting a fair shake.

Afterward, when talking a few minutes with the North Bergen coach, I commended her number 41, a wing with some higher level potential. Coach Ashley (first name) reiterates what she said before the game, “see the difference in halves. One half they can play well and then the next play like I never taught them a thing.” Welcome to freshman basketball.

On the way out, some of the North Bergen girls say ‘good game,’ and ask my name. I told them I officiated their coach in high school. No surprise to their reaction of surprise. Ashley played for North Bergen only seven years ago. To these girls, it seems likes a decade or more.

Friday: Trinity Academy 17 Fairfield 15

Fairfield, NJ -- Assignor Rich Mattesky said, “I have a real easy one.” This was Friday afternoon, for a game to tip off a few hours later. It is 5­-6 recreation, with no press and a running clock for three quarters.

From the outset, the majority of fouls were illegal screens and hand checking. The screens got better, but guard to guard defense did not. At halftime, it is 8­-6 Fairfield.

Officiating clinicians always tell you, blow early, blow often. If the kids know you are calling hand checking, they will adjust. Unfortunately, that holds mainly with better and experienced players. On this level they still commit the same infractions, not versed in another method of defending.

Trinity makes a run, setting a screen at halfcourt and freeing a ballhandler for penetration. Fairfield goes in a scoring drought during Trinity’s fourth quarter run. The home five have several attempts to equalize, but nothing falls as Trinity emerges victorious. A few observations of note:

1. The college game is very fast. But this is not college. The kids are too often getting the ball, putting their heads down and running. Transition with no rhyme or reason. The kids must be taught to play at a pace that is under control.

2. Practice time is at a premium. Can’t blame the coaches entirely, as they often face a situation where they get a gym once a week for an hour to 90 minutes. Not a great situation.

3. Forget intricate offenses. Teach kids basics, as ‘white ball’ by the officials means the team in white gets it. Another would be how to line up for a free throw. Getting both teams organized on foul shots proved to be an adventure.

4. This ‘easy one’ might have been my toughest assignment thus far this season.

Villanova rebounds on glass and after Providence loss to defeat St. John's

Kris Jenkins' 14 points and 11 rebounds in absence of Daniel Ochefu aided Villanova in 68-53 win at St. John's. (Photo courtesy of CSN Philly)

NEW YORK -- Coming off an overtime loss against Providence, coupled with the absence of Daniel Ochefu, Villanova knew rebounding would be essential to their effort on Sunday as they faced a scrappy St. John's team in search of their first conference win.

What they received on the boards this afternoon ended up going a long way.

Without Ochefu, who suffered a concussion in practice leading up to the game, the sixth-ranked Wildcats (18-3, 8-1 Big East) picked up double-doubles from Kris Jenkins and Josh Hart en route to a 48-35 drubbing of St. John's (7-15, 0-9) on the glass that helped secure a 68-53 victory at Madison Square Garden.

"Going into every game, I try to focus on rebounding," said Jenkins, who scored 14 points and tied Hart for a game-high 11 caroms. "Today, I was able to get to a lot more because Danny usually grabs most of the rebounds, so with him being out, (it was) next guy up. Today, I was able to make my way to a couple more rebounds."

Villanova had chances to assert themselves early and often on the boards, which they did throughout the day, particularly in a stretch where St. John's came away empty-handed on one possession after another early in the second half, missing seven straight shots at one point.

"We had empty possessions for like eight minutes," said Ron Mvouika, who posted 11 points and 10 rebounds in what becomes the 12th-straight loss for the Red Storm since their December 13 upset over Syracuse. "We were giving balls away, and against a team like that, they're going to make us pay. That's what they did, they made us pay. I thought we played great defense, but we had that little lapse that cost us the game."

St. John's turned the ball over 21 times against Villanova, but the Wildcats were prone to miscues as well, committing 20 of their own and leaving Jay Wright flummoxed as to how a team that is usually adept at ball handling could struggle in that area.

"It's really surprising," Wright would say in regard to the turnover woes. "I honestly don't have an answer for it. We're usually really good with the ball. It's not even on pressing that much, it's sloppy play. We've got to tighten that up. That will kill us in the end, and it really killed us in the Providence game, (January 24) it really did."

Amid the confounding issues with ball control, the Wildcats did get several bright spots, particularly up front as Ochefu sat out. While Wright said his all-Big East forward would be reevaluated, he took the time to praise Darryl Reynolds, who collected nine rebounds in 29 minutes as Ochefu's replacement in the starting lineup.

"This was a valuable game for us," the coach assessed, "because it got Darryl Reynolds meaningful minutes. There's nothing more meaningful than knowing you're starting, you're the only big guy, you can't get into foul trouble. He picked up a foul early, and he was able to play and only pick up one more foul and still be effective."

In the opposing locker room, the focus centered on playing a complete game, but the optimism that has brightened a long season in Queens has still not wavered.

"We're going to break through," a confident Mvouika assuredly stated. "I think when we're locked in and we play great together, we can play with anybody. We just have to find a way to finish games and close out games, not play for 30 minutes, 25 minutes, 35. We've got to play 40, because those eight minutes today killed us."

"I want to win every single game," Red Storm head coach Chris Mullin admitted. "I also know that if you want to win, you've got to pay the price. It's not a short-term fix, and it's not supposed to be easy. When this team turns around, it's going to be much more sweeter when it does happen, and it will. I know it will."

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Michigan defeats Penn State in Super Saturday matchup at MSG

Zak Irvin's 20 points lifted Michigan past Penn State in Big Ten's "Super Saturday" at Madison Square Garden. (Photo courtesy of the Detroit Free Press)

NEW YORK -- Billed as "Super Saturday," a doubleheader between two strong Big Ten programs with vast alumni bases in the area brought Michigan and Penn State to Madison Square Garden Saturday afternoon. The front end of the card, the basketball half, saw the Wolverines (17-5, 7-2 Big Ten) hold off a pesky Penn State (11-11, 2-7 Big Ten) squad by the final of 79-72. The two schools will meet again on the ice for a 7 p.m. hockey matchup.

"I think as the season's gone on, we've been able to adjust to how our shot is falling," said Zak Irvin, whose 20 points led the victors on an afternoon where the Wolverines had to gut out a victory that saw them make just six three-pointers, a stark contrast from their 14-of-25 showing from distance in the first meeting between the two programs, a 79-56 Michigan victory on January 2 in Ann Arbor. "We just noticed the shots weren't falling today, and we were able to get in the paint. That was a big part of the game."

Playing once again without leading scorer Caris LeVert, who continues to nurse a leg injury, Michigan scored the first seven points of the game en route to opening on a 10-3 run. Penn State would soon counter with the exact same spurt of their own to tie the game, but a 14-4 Michigan stretch gave the Wolverines a double-digit lead with 7:07 to play before halftime, making the score 27-17. Irvin's three-pointer from the left corner as the buzzer sounded to signal the intermission made the margin 38-26 entering the locker room.

In the second half, the Michigan lead would swell to as large as 17 points, before a 16-4 Penn State run brought the Nittany Lions within five points, trailing 64-59 with 4:48 to go in regulation. However, an 8-2 run that showcased the versatility of point guard Derrick Walton Jr., who registered four points, two rebounds and an assist in a span of three minutes, swayed the momentum back to the side of the maize and blue, who were able to hold their opposition at bay the rest of the way.

"I've coached all those years without ever sending guards to the backboard," head coach John Beilein said of Walton, who ended the day with 13 points, 10 rebounds, and seven assists. "If I still was doing that, I wouldn't know what a great rebounder Derrick Walton is. I'm just thinking, maybe there's 6-10 guys he can't get, but anybody below 6-8, if it's a jump ball between them and Derrick, Derrick goes and gets it. His timing is impeccable."

With the win, Michigan's fourth straight and fifth in their last six, the Wolverines return home for two marquee showdowns against a pair of Top 25 teams, welcoming Indiana and Michigan State to Ann Arbor as the jockeying for position near the top of the Big Ten standings continues on.

"I think the last four games have been single digits with four minutes to go," said Beilein when asked if today's effort showed him anything leading up to the next two contests. "You've got to make big baskets during that time to win, and two of them were away from home. I felt very good down the stretch. I think that we're getting a rhythm right now of how to play at that time."

Michigan Tempo-Free Stats
Possessions: 66
Points Per Possession: 1.20 (79 points in 66 possessions)
eFG Percentage: .509
Free Throw Rate: 56.4
Offensive Rebound Percentage: 32.4
Turnover Rate: 10.6
Derrick Walton's Efficiency: 66.7
Walton's Effectiveness Factor: 33 (per minute: .846)

Friday, January 29, 2016

Iona 70, Manhattan 56: 5 Observations

Tim Cluess' focus on defense paid off as Iona posted 70-56 home win over Manhattan. (Photo courtesy of Vincent Simone via Big Apple Buckets)

A handful of observations from Iona's 70-56 victory over Manhattan, the Gaels' largest winning margin against the Jaspers since February 16, 2011, when Tim Cluess; then in his first year at the helm in New Rochelle, defeated the Barry Rohrssen-led Jaspers by the final of 102-65:

  • Defense.
    Around Iona, that is the part of the game that gets discredited more often than not because of the uptempo, run-and-gun attack that Cluess has used to turn Iona's offense into one of the more prolific units in the nation on an annual basis. On this night, however, it was what the Gaels did on the other side of the ball that effectively won them the game, holding Manhattan to just six field goals in a 26 percent shooting display in the first half. "The past couple of games, Coach has been stressing about defense," said A.J. English after the game. "Playing for Coach Cluess, people think he's just 'shoot, shoot, shoot' and 'score, score, score,' but he really tries to perfect the defensive end too, and tonight he showed it."

    The Iona defense was its most suffocating on Manhattan guard Tyler Wilson, a role reversal of sorts after Wilson's playmaking abilities were central in the Jaspers defeating the Gaels for their second straight MAAC championship last March, something Steve Masiello would later praise. "I think they said 'beat us,' and he didn't. I think they said 'Tyler, make plays,' and he didn't. Terrific scouting by Iona, give them all the credit.

  • Iona won without a major contribution from A.J. English.
    English, who Manhattan has always defended historically well, only scored four points, registering his lone field goal with 7:09 remaining in the second half. But what the MAAC's Preseason Player of the Year lacked on offense, he made up for with six rebounds and just as many assists. "It's not about me," he humbly stated. "It's about the team, and at the end of the day, every team we play, I know they're going to go to defensive schemes against me. I've been playing Manhattan for four years, and in the past three years, they always send double-teams. I just told them, (my teammates) 'just be ready to shoot.' It doesn't matter if I score zero points or whatever, I'm happy if we win every single time."

    "Give A.J. credit," Masiello added, complimenting his adversary's leader for finding a way to exploit Manhattan without scoring. "Six assists and one turnover, how about that? You talk about a young man who has grown as a basketball player? That's a student of the game right there. He knew that was going to happen, and he said 'okay, I'm going to beat you in other ways.' Phenomenal job by A.J. What a great kid."

  • Jordan Washington proved to be a mismatch.
    The difference here was Manhattan's lack of a big man who could hold his own against Washington the way Ashton Pankey did against David Laury last year, especially in the MAAC championship. With all due respect to Calvin Crawford and Zane Waterman, the Jasper forwards are playing out of position defending someone of Washington's stature and physique, no fault of their own as the lack of depth on the Manhattan roster has forced them into that predicament. "Get him in foul trouble right away. Go right at him," was how Masiello described his strategy of defending Washington, who posted a quiet but noticeable 13 points on the night. "He gets you in foul trouble. It's chicken or egg, because if you leave him in a game, he's going to foul your team out."

  • Ibn Muhammad is starting to gradually step up in the Iona backcourt.
    The absence of Schadrac Casimir has played a role in Muhammad's ascension on the Gaels' depth chart, and the career-high 15 points from the senior guard proved just how much he has worked to improve his game, which is now showcased more often this season. "I think Ibn has put in so much time working on his game and especially his shot that we've told him, 'if you're open, shoot. Don't even think about it,' said Cluess. "He's got the green light and he's looking around and knows that he's one of the better shooters on the team now, and believes in himself. Tonight, they left him open, and he made some big shots."

  • Was there really a whole lot to take away from this game?
    Yes and no. For starters, Iona's defense was arguably the best it had been in a long time, rattling Manhattan enough to where Masiello said his Jaspers were "out of sync a little bit" on the offensive end. Manhattan's resilient style was also on display, albeit briefly, in the second half, where they fought to within seven points before a 13-1 Iona run broke the game open. When asked if tonight's result put things in perspective for his team, who hosts the Gaels at Draddy Gymnasium on February 26, Masiello had this to say:

    "As long as you learn from your losses, that's the most important thing. I really believe in this: If we didn't twice to Iona last year, there's no way we beat them in the championship. Does that mean this year, Iona couldn't beat us twice, and we play them in the tournament and they beat us a third time? Of course they could. They're a great team. The thing is, could we go back tonight, watch the film, and now take away 11 points from Iona and find a way to get ourselves 10 more points? Then we play them a second time. Could I take away another eight points, seven points from Iona and then get us another six? That's how you've got to look at it. It's about now, 'Okay, we both played. Now, it's the chess match.' Let me make adjustments, let me see what adjustments Tim and Iona make. Let's see how we play the second time."

Iona leads wire-to-wire for largest margin of victory over Manhattan since 2011

Ibn Muhammad set career high with 15 points in Iona's 70-56 victory over Manhattan. (Photo courtesy of Brian Beyrer via Iona College Athletics)

NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- Even with both teams perceived to not be as strong as they were in recent years, the rivalry that has come to the forefront of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference as of late lived up to its hype. And for the second renewal in a row, it produced a result that few would have expected before the ball was tipped.

Opening the game on a 12-2 run and playing perhaps their strongest defensive game of the season, Iona (11-9, 8-3 MAAC) jumped on the accelerator and never looked back, leading wire-to-wire in a 70-56 win over Manhattan (8-11, 5-5 MAAC) for the Gaels' largest margin of victory over the two-time reigning MAAC champion Jaspers since February 16, 2011.

"I thought, overall, I just loved our effort from start to finish tonight," Tim Cluess said as Iona rebounded from a somewhat shocking road loss to Fairfield last Sunday. "That's what we needed. We needed to come out and show that we could play 40 minutes hard, especially after our last game, and I'm really proud of our guys for making a commitment to play much harder today than they did the last game."

In a game that the final box score may deem atypical of the emotionally charged wars of the past between the Gaels and Jaspers, Isaiah Williams and Ibn Muhammad tied for the team lead with 15 points, the former hitting four three-pointers while the latter had his second big game against Manhattan in less than a year.

"I just feel like with Manhattan, you've just got to move the ball around real quick," said Muhammad, who set a career-high point total tonight after a personal best nine assists against the Jaspers at Draddy Gymnasium last February. "You'll get a lot of shots and a lot of attacks to get your team shots."

Trailing by double digits for most of the night, Manhattan finally clawed within single digits after eight unanswered points trimmed the Jaspers' deficit to seven markers with 8:36 to play, trailing 52-45. But a 13-1 Iona run immediately thereafter, highlighted by back-to-back-to-back threes from A.J. English, Muhammad, and Williams, put the game out of reach, as Manhattan would draw no closer than 13 points the rest of the way.

"I just thought we were out of sync a little bit offensively, because of Iona," said Steve Masiello, surmising his team's effort in defeat. "I thought they did some things to bother us. We were a little tentative, but Iona deserves the credit. They were very well-prepared in what they wanted to do. They wanted to take away Shane, (Richards) they wanted to take away some inside attacks, they wanted to make other people beat them. We didn't do that."

"We needed a swing in momentum at that time," Cluess said of Iona's game-changing run, "because they were on a little bit of a run themselves. I just thought the way the ball moved around, that was like Iona basketball. I don't think we've seen that all the time this year, but tonight it was 19 assists, 10 turnovers, and those are numbers we try to achieve. I think we were able to achieve it tonight because the players were very unselfish."

Thursday, January 28, 2016

FDU 86, Saint Francis U 82: Ray Floriani's Tempo-Free Analysis

Teaneck, NJ -­ The respective teams entered this Northeast Conference matchup with different circumstances. Saint Francis University came off consecutive road wins over Bryant and Central Connecticut. FDU was attempting to bounce back from Sunday’s home loss at the hands of Mount St. Mary’s.

They say some shots ‘have eyes.’ That means the second the ball leaves the shooter’s hand, the ball appears headed for the bottom of the net. From the beginning of the contest, this one had eyes, and two teams trading short runs, crucial shots and well-executed sets. This one was even and headed into overtime. To no surprise, an extra session was necessitated.

After 45 minutes of high-octane action, FDU earned a hard-fought 86­-82 victory. FDU improved to 6-­3 in conference while Saint Francis is 5-­4.

FDU led 37-­36 at the half. What follows is a breakdown of the first five possessions by both teams in the second half. We often talk about the ‘first four,’ meaning four minutes. The first five possessions, as it turned out, used almost four minutes of clock.

Saint Francis: 
FG (15-footer)
FG (screen-and-roll)
Missed FG
FG (transition)

FG (penetration)
3-point FG
Missed FG
FG (penetration)

As can be seen by the made field goals, each team used a little inside work and perimeter to vary their attack. As the game turned out, using those early second half possessions wisely proved to be vital for the Knights. They kept their scoring touch, while preventing Saint Francis from getting an early run in gear. Both offenses came out productive, with FDU holding the slight 7-6 edge.

Possessions: Saint Francis 76, FDU 74
Offensive efficiency: Saint Francis 108, FDU 116

Four Factors:
eFG percentage: SFU 58, FDU 60
Free throw rate: SFU 32, FDU 22
Offensive rebound percentage: SFU 29, FDU 22
Turnover rate: SFU 22, FDU 15

Leading Scorers and Effectiveness Factors:
Saint Francis: Malik Harmon (20 points, EF 23)
FDU: Darnell Edge (20 points, EF 24)

What Saint Francis did well: Shoot. A 58 percent eFG mark was accentuated by an 8-of-19 (42 percent) showing from three-point range. Marksmanship played no small part in the Red Flash ringing up a 108 efficiency.

What FDU did well: Respond. Coach Greg Herenda did not think his team played well. They did answer the challenges, and there were many in a game with 14 ties and 16 lead changes.

Saint Francis had a slight 38­-32 advantage in points in the paint. FDU put six players in double figures, displaying good balance and the ability to force defenses to not overplay one or two players. “We have a lot of very good players,” said FDU coach Greg Herenda in response to the Knights sharing the point production wealth.

Final Thoughts
“We were disappointed in losing Sunday to Mount St. Mary’s. We had a few good days of practice and came out hard. This league is so competitive. In this league you can go from first to sixth in a week.” - FDU’s Darnell Edge

“We did not play particularly well. We turned it over at crucial spots, did not guard them, but found a way to hang in and eventually find the way to win. This team just plays through every possession of every game. (Marques) Townes made a great defensive play at the end of overtime. This was important as any of our six (NEC) wins, and it was in front of a good, enthusiastic crowd.” - FDU coach Greg Herenda

FDU 75, LIU Brooklyn 58: Ray Floriani's Tempo-Free Analysis

Erika Livermore discusses her performance on FDU's postgame show following Knights' victory over LIU Brooklyn. (Photo courtesy of Ray Floriani)

Teaneck, NJ ­- A quirk in Northeast Conference scheduling sees LIU and FDU meet twice in four days. On Wednesday evening, the Knights entertained LIU, with the return match on Saturday in Brooklyn. FDU came off a nice win over Mount St. Mary’s on Sunday. In the ‘Battle of Brooklyn,’ LIU lost to St. Francis Brooklyn on Saturday. Yes, with the school a mile apart, they played during the blizzard. Jonas be damned! On this night, ‘round one’ went to FDU by a 75-58 count.

First quarter: The first five minutes saw the visiting Blackbirds get out to a 15-­6 lead. A good start on the road is of utmost importance, and LIU accomplished it. The Knights were utilizing a 3-­2 zone, and LIU countered well with dribble penetration (which a zone should not allow) and a high/low post set, allowing looks inside and on the perimeter as well. FDU did not have great difficulty putting points on the board against the LIU 2­-3. The problem, however, was on defense.

End of first quarter: LIU 24, FDU 19

Second quarter: Two Kelsey Cruz field goals got FDU within one a minute into the quarter, not a bad position given the Knights’ rough opening quarter.

A quick timeout by coach Stephanie Oliver of LIU settled the Blackbirds down. FDU seemed content to take the three against the zone. The problem, though, was that it was not falling. LIU will shoot the three, but is concerned more with breaking down the defense and getting in the lane. Interestingly, by going man, FDU did a better job against the penetration picking up a few charges.

Halftime: 36-36

Possessions: 36
Offensive efficiency: LIU 88, FDU 88

865:­ The number of consecutive games called by legendary FDU public address announcer Burt Shoobs.

Third quarter: FDU scored on four of their first five possessions to open an eight-point lead. The Knights were in a combination with a double-team on any post touches. Offensively, FDU is showed greater patience, and the result was a much improved shot selection. With the lead, FDU went back to the 3­-2. They played it considerably better than when they opened the contest in it. The third quarter, a Knights Achilles' heel earlier in the season, proved to be a very effective 10 minutes on this night.

End of third quarter: FDU 57, LIU 49

Fourth quarter: Kelsey Cruz scored FDU’s first three field goals. The Knights led by 13 at the seven-minute mark. FDU was rebounding well on the defensive end, as the Blackbirds were continuously limited to one shot. FDU’s lead ballooned to 15 at the media timeout in an outstanding half by the Knights, while LIU has been just the opposite. In the last two minutes, FDU’s Erika Livermore, a threat much closer to the basket, drained a three. When it rains, it pours, as FDU closed out a nice win.

Final: FDU 75, LIU 58

Possessions: 71

Offensive efficiency: LIU 82, FDU 106

Four Factors:
eFG percentage: LIU 43, FDU 49
Free throw rate: LIU 32, FDU 21
Offensive rebound percentage: LIU 32, FDU 50
Turnover rate: LIU 31, FDU 23

Leading Scorers and Effectiveness Factors:
LIU: Brianna Farris (16 points, EF 17)
FDU: Erika Livermore (23 points, EF 31)

What LIU did well: Get to the line. Dribble penetration early on allowed the Blackbirds to get to the charity stripe. They attempted 17 free throws, hitting 12 (70.4 percent).

What FDU did well: Besides playing a strong second half on offense (111 offensive efficiency), the Knights forced LIU into 22 turnovers and an alarmingly high 31 percent turnover rate. Kelsey Cruz added 20 points for the Knights. Livermore and Cruz registered very high EF per minute metrics.

Livermore: EF 31, EF/Min 1.03

Cruz: EF 23, EF/Min 1.00

FDU had a resounding 48­-26 edge on points in the paint. The Knight bench outscored LIU by a whopping 36-­0 margin. FDU SID Phil Paquette pointed out Cruz did not start, and did provide 20 of the bench points. Regardless, it was an impressive display of depth by coach Pete Cinella’s club. The starting five of LIU logged 34 or more minutes. The Blackbirds went six-deep, with reserve Lily Abreu putting in 15 minutes. Credit it in part to the (lack of) depth situation, LIU’s Shanice Vaughan (6) and DeAngelique Waithe (5) combined for 11 of the Blackbird turnovers. Jackie Jackson of FDU turned in another solid effort, with eight points and a game-high nine rebounds.

LIU is 3­-5 in conference, FDU has won two straight NEC games, and improved to 4-­4 in league play.

Final Thoughts
LIU coach Stephanie Oliver: “They had three, four, sometimes five kids come off the bench. We couldn’t match their depth or transition. We started off well, then started to settle for the first shot. Turnovers were another problem. Too many turnovers, another thing that really hurt us offensively.”

FDU coach Pete Cinella: “We went with the bench the last four minutes of the first half. They gave us a lift, they made plays and took charges, so we started them the second half, they continued to play well. We built a lead and that was the difference. Our zone improved the second half. We stopped penetration. Number 22 (Farris) hurt us early, but we defended her really well, especially the second half. We did not get a third double-figure scorer, but we had a few with five or more points, which was a good sign of balance.”

Tempo Thursday: January 28, 2016

Despite 2-6 Atlantic 10 record, Fordham has reason to cheer for positive efficiency margin. (Photo courtesy of Ray Floriani)


Nearing the midpoint of the Atlantic 10 season and February’s arrival, the race is taking shape. VCU stays ahead for now, with Dayton a step behind. Saint Joseph’s and George Washington also have the Rams in sight. On the other end, two teams beginning the campaign on a down note are playing well of late. Duquesne and Saint Louis have entered the win column of late, and could use that momentum in the final month of the regular season. Richmond and Davidson are still trying to find their way. There is time, but the clock is ticking. Below are the ‘standings’ by efficiency margin. All numbers are courtesy of Basketball State:

1) VCU (7-0, +14 efficiency margin)
2) George Washington (4-2, +13)
3) Dayton (7-1, +10)
4) Rhode Island (4-3, +10)
5) Saint Joseph's (6-1, +10)
6) Fordham (2-6, +9)
7) St. Bonaventure (4-3, +8)
8) Duquesne (4-4, +6)
9) Richmond (2-4, +6)
10) Davidson (3-3, +2)
11) UMass (1-6, -3)
12) Saint Louis (3-5, -6)
13) George Mason (1-6, -7)
14) La Salle (1-5, -16)

Fordham still has the highest turnover rate in the conference. The good news is the Rams are getting coach Jeff Neubauer’s message. They are finally under the 20 percent cutoff, at an improved (over past weeks) 19.4 percent.

Turnover rate leaders:
1) Davidson (12.7 percent)
2) Saint Joseph's (14.2)
3) Rhode Island (15.1)
4) VCU (16.1)
5) St. Bonaventure (16.2)
6) UMass (16.2)

A footnote: Every A-10 team is under the 20 percent cutoff.

Fastest paced:
1) UMass (74.9 possessions per game)
2) Duquesne (74.6)
3) Davidson (74.5)
4) VCU (72.6)
5) St. Bonaventure (71.8)

Facing VCU and Duquesne the past week, St. Bonaventure faced a few high-octane tempo teams. Mark Schmidt’s club came up short both times while engaging in the ‘NASCAR’ pace.

Most deliberate:
1) Rhode Island (66.3 possessions per game)
2) George Mason (68.4)
3) La Salle (68.8)
4) George Washington (69.1)
5) Dayton (69.9)

Lack of depth has forced La Salle into a slower pace. Rhode Island, Dayton, and George Washington are all thriving in this tempo.

Offensive efficiency leaders:
1) Richmond (111)
2) George Washington (109)
3) Davidson (109)
4) St. Bonaventure (108)
5) VCU (107)

Richmond has the best efficiency, yet the Spiders are still trying to get something going.

Defensive efficiency leaders:
1) VCU (93)
2) Saint Joseph's (94)
3) Fordham (94)
4) Rhode Island (95)
5) Dayton (95)

Fordham is still among the leaders. A­-10 play, though, is starting to show, as the efficiency on the defensive side has increased as of late.

Defensive turnover rate leaders:
1) VCU (23.6 percent)
2) Fordham (22.7)
3) St. Bonaventure (19.9)
4) Rhode Island (18.5)
5) Dayton (18.2)

Not too big a surprise. While Shaka Smart is in the Lone Star State, nothing has changed in the way of ‘Havoc’ at VCU. The Rams still turn you over, disrupting rival offenses and creating opportunities for their own.

Usage leaders:
1) Jack Gibbs, Davidson (34.02 percent)
2) Jordan Price, La Salle (32.53)
3) Trey Davis, UMass (29.43)
4) Terry Allen, Richmond (28.46)
5) T.J. Cline, Richmond (28.23)

No major changes here. Jordan Price still uses a high percentage of possessions for a depleted La Salle team. Speaking of the Explorers, there have been some tough times for La Salle. In Sunday’s 69-­48 loss at home to Saint Joseph’s, Dr. John Gianinni’s group was held to a 77 offensive efficiency while giving up a 104. A 28.7 percent turnover rate did not aid the Explorer offensive cause. The road was none too inviting.

Player of the Week: Charles Cooke, Dayton­. Cooke scored a combined 47 points in wins over St. Bonaventure and Fordham. The junior guard shot 16-of-22 from the field, and 8-for-11 from downtown.

Effectiveness factor per minute: .959

Rookie of the Week: Jermaine Bishop, Saint Louis.­ Bishop scored 37 points combined in the two Billiken victories. A 13-of-21 shooting performance was highlighted by just one turnover for the two outings by the freshman guard.

EF per minute: .881

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Seton Hall rolls over St. John's, 79-60

Angel Delgado and Isaiah Whitehead combined for 34 points and 24 rebounds in Seton Hall's win over St. John's. (Photo courtesy of the New York Post)

NEWARK, NJ -- Coming off two losses by a grand total of nine points to two Top 10 teams, Seton Hall had already acquitted themselves well going into Wednesday's meeting with St. John's, despite their sub-.500 Big East record. For the Pirates to keep their NCAA Tournament hopes alive, though, they needed to take care of business against their metropolitan area rivals.

Behind a double-double from Angel Delgado (15 points, 17 rebounds) and a game-high 19 points from Isaiah Whitehead, Seton Hall (14-6, 4-4 Big East) powered past a young St. John's team with a 39-11 run spanning the final ten minutes of the first half and first four of the second period, cruising to a 79-60 victory over a Red Storm team (7-14, 0-8 Big East) that has now lost eleven games in a row since their upset of Syracuse on December 13.

"I thought once we kind of settled in and locked in a little bit defensively, I thought we made them take some tough shots," head coach Kevin Willard assessed after the Pirates needed a few minutes to adjust early in the game. "We've had three really brutal games, and sometimes it's tough to get guys to realize you can't look at the record."

As a late-arriving crowd fought off a massive traffic snarl on the streets of Newark, Seton Hall's efforts were delayed in the opening stanza as St. John's got out to an 18-10 lead midway through the first half, taking advantage of the Pirates missing 12 of their first 17 shots. But a 17-4 run that saw the home team amass ten rebounds in just over six minutes swayed any and all momentum firmly to the side of the Pirates, who never relinquished their lead after a Desi Rodriguez lay-in put them ahead 24-22 with 4:25 to play before the intermission.

"We're naturally a good rebounding team," Willard said of his team's effort on the boards, where Seton Hall outmuscled St. John's by a 56-40 count. "We're not great on the rebounding side defensively, but we're one of the best offensive rebounding teams. We do that very well, and I think having Ish (Sanogo) and Desi gives us a chance to get some offensive rebounds, get some second chance points."

The edge in physicality and attack on the glass also contributed to the Pirates doubling up the Red Storm on the paint, outscoring them 44-22 on a night where only Christian Jones reached double figures for a St. John's team that could manage just a 29 percent shooting effort from the floor.

"The start of the second half cost us the game," a morose Chris Mullin lamented. "I thought they were just kind of doing whatever they wanted to do. It was disappointing."

As St. John's prepares for a Villanova team who swept Seton Hall earlier this month and enters Sunday's Madison Square Garden matinee ranked sixth in the nation, Seton Hall has an equally daunting task ahead of them, taking to the road Saturday to face a Creighton team who handily defeated them three weeks ago at the Prudential Center.

"We just weren't mentally prepared," Delgado said of Seton Hall's January 9 loss to the Bluejays. "They didn't get our best shot here. We're going into their house and play as hard as we can to get the win."

Monday, January 25, 2016

MAAC Monday: Midseason awards, stat leaders, power rankings

In two-man race for Player of the Year honors, Justin Robinson has elevated himself just slightly above preseason favorite A.J. English. (Photo courtesy of Vincent Simone via Big Apple Buckets)

By the end of the week, each Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference team will have reached the halfway point of their conference season, which makes this week's opening segment of "MAAC Monday" a no-brainer. Midseason awards will be doled out in the introduction today, followed by the usual stat leaders and power rankings. Cutting to the chase, if we may, here are our picks for the hardware midway through the MAAC slate:

Player of the Year: Justin Robinson, Monmouth (20.6 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 3.5 APG, 2.1 SPG, 47% FG, 88% FT, 43% 3-pt FG)
The injury to Iona's A.J. English earlier in the season, coupled with Monmouth's captivating start to a season where an NCAA Tournament at-large bid is a strong possibility, has vaulted Robinson to the forefront of the MAAC. The junior point guard has shown his sophomore season was no fluke, and has improved even more from his second to third year than he did last season coming off his freshman campaign. Fresh off a 28-point showing against Marist where he shot 6-for-10 from three-point range, Robinson will seek to keep his career year trending in an upward direction on Thursday when Monmouth travels to Quinnipiac, looking for a season sweep of the Bobcats in a venue they have never won at since leaving the Northeast Conference.

Rookie of the Year: Brian Parker, Marist (16.9 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 3.4 APG, 52% FG, 75% FT)
In a class of talented freshmen, Parker's statistics should not be all that surprising on paper. However, what does astound critics and fans alike is not just how well the Cleveland native is playing, but how efficient he is just a half-season into his career. A 6-2 guard whose build allows Mike Maker to play him as a face-up forward in a smaller lineup, Parker is truly doing a little bit of everything for the Red Foxes to the point where he is no longer just the Robin to Khallid Hart's Batman, but a force to be reckoned with in his own right as he hopes to become Marist's second Rookie of the Year in three seasons.

Defensive Player of the Year: Javion Ogunyemi, Siena (14.1 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 2.6 BPG, 52% FG, 65% FT)
If the MAAC had a Most Improved Player award like the Big East does, Ogunyemi would be the choice in that category as well. What the junior has done for Siena this season has been nothing short of extraordinary, especially when you consider that his eligibility was not decided until just before the season started. Since rejoining the Saints after his change of heart transfer to and from Boston University, Ogunyemi has made the biggest difference on Jimmy Patsos' front line, helping the Saints return to the top half of the conference after an injury-riddled 11-20 campaign last season.

Sixth Man of the Year: Rich Williams, Manhattan (15.7 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 1.4 APG, 1.2 SPG, 44% FG, 79% FT, 36% 3-pt FG)
Jordan Washington can and will get consideration for this award if he ends the season having started less than ten games, as will Trevis Wyche, but Williams has exceeded expectations for the Jaspers as they attempt to become just the third team in MAAC history to win three consecutive conference championships. Praised by Steve Masiello as a player who has a "first team impact," Williams' sense for sizing up a game in the opening minutes before making his first appearance on the floor belies his youth, and his athleticism has made him a feared weapon on both sides of the basketball.

Coach of the Year: King Rice, Monmouth
At the present moment, you can make a case for five different coaches. You can argue in favor of Jimmy Patsos and John Dunne for their turnarounds from last season, and the same can be said for Sydney Johnson at Fairfield. In addition, the job that Steve Masiello has done with a Manhattan team that has emerged from injuries early in the season to reclaim their status among the MAAC's elite deserves way more attention and credit than it has received to this point. However, the pick in this category usually rewards winning, (see Joe Mihalich and Tim Cluess in recent years after having won the regular season in 2012-13 and 2013-14, and Kevin Baggett after finishing second last year) and Rice has been nothing short of brilliant while navigating a dream season for Monmouth. With the Hawks' slew of impressive non-conference wins, and the dramatic takedown of Iona ten days ago, not to mention the remarkable effort of his players, Rice is a deserving choice for this honor.

All-MAAC First Team (listed in alphabetical order)
Brett Bisping, Siena
A.J. English, Iona
Marcus Gilbert, Fairfield
Khallid Hart, Marist
Shane Richards, Manhattan
Justin Robinson, Monmouth

All-MAAC Second Team (listed in alphabetical order)
Malcolm McMillan, Canisius
Javion Ogunyemi, Siena
Phil Valenti, Canisius
Jordan Washington, Iona
Isaiah Williams, Iona
Rich Williams, Manhattan

All-MAAC Third Team (listed in alphabetical order)
Deon Jones, Monmouth
Tyler Nelson, Fairfield
Brian Parker, Marist
Matt Scott, Niagara
Quadir Welton, Saint Peter's
*Marquis Wright, Siena
Trevis Wyche, Saint Peter's

MAAC All-Rookie Team (listed in alphabetical order)
Abdulai Bundu, Quinnipiac
Nico Clareth, Siena
Brian Parker, Marist
Antwon Portley, Saint Peter's
Micah Seaborn, Monmouth

Scoring Leaders
*A.J. English, Iona (23.7 PPG)
1) Khallid Hart, Marist (22.5 PPG)
2) Justin Robinson, Monmouth (20.6)
3) Marcus Gilbert, Fairfield (19.1)
4) Shane Richards, Manhattan (17.7)
*Marquis Wright, Siena (17.3)
5) Brian Parker, Marist (16.9)
6) Jordan Washington, Iona (16.8)
7) Malcolm McMillan, Canisius (15.8)
8) Tyler Nelson, Fairfield (15.7)
9) Rich Williams, Manhattan (15.7)
10) Antwon Portley, Saint Peter's (15.1)

Rebounding Leaders
1) Brett Bisping, Siena (8.7 RPG)
2) Quadir Welton, Saint Peter's (7.8)
3) Kahlil Thomas, Rider (7.7)
4) Isaiah Williams, Iona (7.2)
5) Deon Jones, Monmouth (7.1)
6) Matt Scott, Niagara (6.8)
7) Rich Williams, Manhattan (6.8)
8) Abdulai Bundu, Quinnipiac (6.6)
9) Javion Ogunyemi, Siena (6.5)
10) Jordan Washington, Iona (6.5)

Assist Leaders
*A.J. English, Iona (6.0 APG)
1) Tyler Wilson, Manhattan (5.8 APG)
2) Jerome Segura, Fairfield (5.6)
3) Trevis Wyche, Saint Peter's (4.8)
*Marquis Wright, Siena (4.6)
4) Malcolm McMillan, Canisius (4.5)
5) Teddy Okereafor, Rider (4.4)
T-6) Lavon Long, Siena (3.5)
T-6) Justin Robinson, Monmouth (3.5)
8) Brian Parker, Marist (3.4)
9) Tyler Nelson, Fairfield (3.4)
10) Giovanni McLean, Quinnipiac (3.2)

Field Goal Percentage Leaders
1) Chris Brady, Monmouth (.563)
2) Kahlil Thomas, Rider (.547)
3) Jordan Washington, Iona (.537)
4) Trevis Wyche, Saint Peter's (.533)
5) Brian Parker, Marist (.522)
6) Javion Ogunyemi, Siena (.520)
7) Lavon Long, Siena (.486)
8) Deyshonee Much, Iona (.485)
9) Xavier Lundy, Rider (.479)
10) Zane Waterman, Manhattan (.478)

Free Throw Percentage Leaders
1) Je'lon Hornbeak, Monmouth (.898)
2) Justin Robinson, Monmouth (.879)
3) Tyler Nelson, Fairfield (.868)
4) Shane Richards, Manhattan (.835)
5) Khallid Hart, Marist (.824)
6) Micah Seaborn, Monmouth (.813)
7) Malcolm McMillan, Canisius (.801)
8) Marcus Gilbert, Fairfield (.798)
9) Giovanni McLean, Quinnipiac (.794)
10) Rich Williams, Manhattan (.791)

Three-Point Field Goal Percentage Leaders
*Marquis Wright, Siena (.548)
1) Deyshonee Much, Iona (.489)
2) RaShawn Stores, Manhattan (.431)
3) Justin Robinson, Monmouth (.429)
4) Isaiah Lamb, Marist (.422)
5) Marcus Gilbert, Fairfield (.419)
6) Jerry Johnson, Fairfield (.417)
7) Khallid Hart, Marist (.414)
T-8) Thomas Capuano, Manhattan (.400)
T-8) Micah Seaborn, Monmouth (.400)
10) Kassius Robertson, Canisius (.397)

Power Rankings
1) Monmouth (15-5, 7-2 MAAC)
Last Week:
Last Game: Sunday 1/24 vs. Marist (W 83-72)
Next Game: Thursday 1/28 at Quinnipiac, 7:30 p.m.

2) Siena (13-7, 6-3 MAAC)
Last Week:
Last Game: Sunday 1/24 at Canisius (W 99-78)
Next Game: Tuesday 1/26 at Niagara, 7 p.m.

3) Iona (10-9, 7-3 MAAC)
Last Week: 2
Last Game: Sunday 1/24 at Fairfield (L 98-91)
Next Game: Friday 1/29 vs. Manhattan, 7 p.m.

4) Saint Peter's (8-9, 6-2 MAAC)
Last Week:
Last Game: Friday 1/22 at Iona (L 64-58)
Next Game: Monday 1/25 vs. Manhattan, 7 p.m.

5) Manhattan (8-10, 5-4 MAAC)
Last Week: 5
Last Game: Thursday 1/21 vs. Monmouth (W 78-71)
Next Game: Monday 1/25 at Saint Peter's, 7 p.m.

6) Fairfield (11-9, 5-5 MAAC)
Last Week:
Last Game: Sunday 1/24 vs. Iona (W 98-91)
Next Game: Friday 1/29 vs. Canisius, 7 p.m.

7) Canisius (10-11, 5-5 MAAC)
Last Week:
Last Game: Sunday 1/24 vs. Siena (L 99-78)
Next Game: Friday 1/29 at Fairfield, 7 p.m.

8) Rider (7-13, 3-6 MAAC)
Last Week:
Last Game: Sunday 1/24 vs. Quinnipiac (W 75-52)
Next Game: Thursday 1/28 at Saint Peter's, 8 p.m.

9) Niagara (5-15, 3-6 MAAC)
Last Week:
Last Game: Friday 1/22 vs. Canisius (L 70-61)
Next Game: Tuesday 1/26 vs. Siena, 7 p.m.

10) Quinnipiac (5-12, 2-6 MAAC)
Last Week:
Last Game: Sunday 1/24 at Rider (L 75-52)
Next Game: Thursday 1/28 vs. Monmouth, 7:30 p.m.

11) Marist (4-14, 1-8 MAAC)
Last Week:
Last Game: Sunday 1/24 at Monmouth (L 83-72)
Next Game: Thursday 1/28 vs. Niagara, 7:30 p.m.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Dayton 64, Fordham 50: Quotes From Jeff Neubauer

Fordham head coach Jeff Neubauer's opening statement:
"Dayton scored 22 points on us in the first half in transition, and in my opinion, that was the difference in the game. I loved our halfcourt defense in both halves. Both defenses, both man-to-man and zone were terrific, and I told our team that in the locker room after the game. We certainly understood that we couldn't give up transition points to Dayton, and to give up 22 in the first half is a major problem. Also, a lot of it came off our turnovers. Dayton had nine steals, and we've got to take better value of the ball."

On his message to the team following Dayton's 15-2 run to start the game:
"There are three things when I got here to Fordham I said I would improve: Number one was we would have a defensive mentality, and tonight, we certainly did. Our halfcourt defense was amazing. Secondly, I said we were going to shoot the ball better, and we're working on that, and thirdly, we were going to have value for the ball. Our value for the ball, from this year's team, is like no other I've ever coached. For us to have 14 turnovers against Dayton, it gives us no chance. I know in that first four-minute stretch, I know Joseph Chartouny had two live ball turnovers, Jesse (Bunting) had a live ball turnover. I don't remember every other possession, but we literally, to beat Dayton, this is the team picked to win the league. We can't have any live ball turnovers for the game, and we had at least three live ball turnovers in the first three minutes, so I've got to coach value better."

On Ryan Rhoomes and Ryan Canty, and possibly substituting based on offense/defense matchups:
"Ryan Canty's energy was awesome, and I talk about how our halfcourt defense was so good, well, a big part of that was how Ryan Canty came in and gave us some basket protection. He gave us some energy, he rebounded the ball. Ryan Canty really provided a lot tonight."

On Christian Sengfelder and potentially still adjusting to the new system:
"It's a fair question. I think Chris is probably a similar player this year to what he was last year, and what I mean by that is, he's a workhorse and he's just going to go pick up the scraps and find what he can. He has shot the ball very well for us from three, he came into this game shooting over 40 percent from three. He was 0-for-6 behind the line tonight, so Dayton gets some credit for that, but we definitely need Chris to stretch the defense."