Saturday, December 31, 2016

Iona's second half run vaults Gaels past Marist

By Matt Lisella (@Matty_Ice42)
Special To Daly Dose Of Hoops

NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- Iona used a 16-0 run in the second half to send Marist back to Poughkeepsie with a 93-80 loss. 

The Red Foxes (4-10, 1-2 MAAC) came out of the gates hot, going on a 21-10 run in the first eight minutes of play behind sophomore Ryan Funk’s nine points on three three-pointers. 

“He’s been terrific all year for us,” Marist head coach Mike Maker said of Funk. “In my 29 years of coaching, I’ve never seen a player make the year-to-year progression he has.” 

Jordan Washington played a major role in cutting the Gaels’ deficit in the first half, scoring ten points with three rebounds in just 11 minutes. He came off the bench for the first time this season, but was just as productive in only 21 minutes. He carried the load offensively and bullied the Marist big men in the paint, finishing with 26 points and grabbing eight rebounds. 

“Coach told me to bring the energy off the bench and be a good bench player, and that’s what I did today,” he said. “It don’t really matter the position I’m in, if I start or don’t start, because if I don’t start, I’m still going to bring the same type of energy if I do start.”

The Gaels (9-5, 2-1 MAAC) shared the ball all afternoon, assisting on 21 of their 34 made field goals. Sam Cassell Jr. and Rickey McGill were catalysts on offense, combining for 17 of those 21 assists, ten of them coming from McGill. The sophomore finished with 18 points on 5-of-10 shooting, giving him his first career double-double in the win.

EJ Crawford also scored 15 points for the Gaels and Jon Severe had ten, all in the second half. This was Severe’s third straight game with no first half points. Cassell Jr. hasn’t played well since returning from the Great Alaska Shootout, but today took more than ten shots for the first time since November. He put up 19 points with seven assists, and did not turn the ball over once. As a team, Iona only turned it over four times and used a 30-4 run in the second half to seal the victory. 

Marist played well collectively, shooting 60 percent from deep, (15-for-25) but in the end, ran out of steam.

“We played really well for 28-30 minutes,” said Maker. “I’m proud of that, but also disappointed. We lack mental toughness.” 

Marist outrebounded Iona 32-29, but were also outscored 50-12 in the paint and outworked 18-4 on the fast break. With Iona running after makes, it led to countless layups at the other end. The Gaels also found success at the free throw line, hitting 18 of their 22 attempts while only allowing Marist to take 14 of their own.

Marist will host Manhattan on Monday while Iona will play back-to-back difficult road games at Fairfield and Monmouth before returning home to host Canisius.

Seton Hall 64, St. John's 59: Tempo-Free Recap

Seton Hall and St. John's contest opening tip of Big East season. (Photo by Karen Floriani/Daly Dose Of Hoops)

By Ray Floriani (@rfloriani)

SOUTH ORANGE, NJ - The Big East opener between two metropolitan area teams that know each other all too well.

There have been some notable battles in the past between the two. Tonight, another installment in this series. In typical Big East fashion, it came down to crunch time. Seton Hall had enough and made the plays the final minute, earning a 64-59 victory over St. John's at Walsh Gymnasium. Both teams are now 8-4.

First five possessions:
St. John’s: Field goal, field goal, transition, free throw, turnover
Seton Hall: Missed FG, missed FG, field goal, free throws, field goal

Seton Hall led 6-5 at the 7:43 mark. Given the time elapsed after five possessions for both teams, the pace was decidedly uptempo.

First half observations:
You obviously want to limit turnovers. In Seton Hall’s case, this was an absolute necessity. St. John’s transforms those turnovers off steals into transition runouts. Not only are you allowing two points, but the situation can be demoralizing.

Seton Hall was able to get opportunities close in with their bigs. Several of those chances went for naught. Against a team like St. John’s, you want to capitalize and not squander those opportunities.
Seton Hall is looking to run. St. John’s is aware of this, and doing a good job converting from offense
to transition defense.

Seton Hall fans cringe whenever Jade Walker makes a play. The Red Storm senior hails from Maplewood, New Jersey, about a mile from the Seton Hall campus.

The first four minutes of the second half are always big, even more so here. Seton Hall had a six-point lead late in the half and could not increase it. St. John’s finished strong, and at the intermission, the score was tied at 31. Neither team won those first four minutes, at least not from a point standpoint. At the six-minute mark of the third quarter, the score was tied at 39. For Seton Hall, JaQuan Jackson had all three of the Pirate field goals during those opening minutes.

While the first four of both halves are important,on this night, the last four decided the winner. Seton Hall led 55-52 with four minutes to go. The Pirates start to come unglued against the St. John’s pressure. The lead is lost, then quickly regained. Making plays is often referred to on the offensive end, and the Hall made a big one defensively. After a missed free throw by Kaela Hilaire, the Red Storm trailed by three with eight seconds left. Thoughts centered on fouling or defending the three. The Hall’s LaTecia Smith settled it with a huge interception of a Red Storm pass near midcourt. Smith was fouled, and canned both free throws to seal the verdict.

Possessions: St. John’s 77,  Seton Hall 75
Offensive efficiency: St. John’s 77, Seton Hall 85

Four Factors:
eFG%: St. John’s 37, Seton Hall 47
Free Throw Rate: St. John’s 45, Seton Hall 29
Offensive Rebound%: St. John’s 29, Seton Hall 46
Turnover Rate: St. John’s 30, Seton Hall 35

Leading scorers and EF:
St. John’s- Jade Walker 21 points, EF 18
Seton Hall- JaQuan Jackson 18 points, EF 18

What St. John’s did well: Get to the line. Red Storm shot 20-of-24 in the free throw department. The ability to draw fouls and convert from the charity stripe helped offset a cold night of shooting from the floor.

What Seton Hall did well: Rebound and dictate tempo. The Pirates owned the offensive rebounding percentage and led 17-10 in offensive boards. Seton Hall imposed their will to force a faster tempo, decidedly to their liking.

Walker, beside leading all scorers with 21 points, also had the dubious distinction of leading in turnovers with seven. Smith paced Seton Hall with six. Both teams had three players in double figures. Seton Hall owned a 15-3 edge in bench points, and also led with points in the paint, 34-18.

Seton Hall coach Tony Bozzella was especially pleased with holding St. John’s to 1-of-15 shooting from three. Hall shot 6-of-15. The competitiveness of this meeting was reflected in 11 lead changes and 11 ties in a game neither team led by more than seven points.

Final thoughts:
“The game favored Seton Hall from a tempo standpoint. They did a good job controlling tempo, that was conducive to winning. We did a bad job on the glass and we both turned it over to cancel each other out. We did not execute down the stretch. We struggled shooting and I was disappointed the way we played, but Seton Hall had a lot to do with that. We got hesitant and did not attack the gaps of their zone. At times we found Jade, other times we did not look for her. Seton Hall mixed it up well with man-to-man, 2-3 and 1-3-1 looks. We were not able to press very early because we had trouble scoring to set up the press. I think this league is so much better than people give it credit for. It is not like before with five teams in the top 20, but top to bottom, it is a very tough league and there really are no nights off. You have to be ready to play. We will learn from this, then move on.” - St. John’s coach Joe Tartamella

“It was an intense game. We knew St. John’s would have the intensity, but so did we. It was a great atmosphere out there with our fans. In the end, this came down to who had more heart.” -Seton Hall sophomore guard LaTecia Smith

“Proud of our girls. We had adversity, but showed a lot of poise. We need to work on the press. We showed poise when JaQuan fouled out late. We didn’t get down or hang our heads. We came back. We played with energy. A lot of our kids never experienced the Big East, so I was worried if the energy would be there, and it was. St. John’s has a lot of kids with Big East experience. Give our kids credit. A few times, we threw the ball away, but kept our poise. Turnovers, we need to work on. The past few years, we had pro guards. We didn’t get pressed. That is not to criticize our guards, but we will see pressure. I have to do a better job of putting them in positions to succeed against pressure. Jade Walker is from the area and always comes back to haunt us. She came in averaging 23 minutes, but tonight played 37. Welcome to the Big East.” - Seton Hall coach Tony Bozzella

Native New Yorker Jim Ferry enjoys successful homecoming as Duquesne defeats Fordham

By Josh Adams (@Joshthescribe)
Special To Daly Dose Of Hoops

BRONX, NY -- It doesn't seem right that Jim Ferry should be the coach leaving New York City on a bus with his team. 

Ferry is a native son of New York. His father was a transit cop who patrolled the mean streets of the Big Apple. The former coach of two New York college programs, Ferry has roots here as deep as the Lincoln Tunnel. 

He coached at Adelphi for three years and had an 82-11 record. He moved over to Long Island University and rebuilt them into two-time Northeast Conference champions, leaving the core in place for a three-peat the following season. In 2012, Ferry decided to move up in the coaching ranks by taking a job in the Atlantic 10 Conference. It was another rebuilding situation, but this time, not in New York. He moved to Pittsburgh and became head coach at Duquesne. 

It hasn't been easy for Ferry in the Steel City. His Dukes have had losing seasons in three out of the past four years, and finished at exactly .500 last season, going 17-17. What is happening is almost a carbon copy of Ferry's success at LIU. The Blackbirds had five consecutive losing seasons before the program turned the corner with a .500 season of their own in 2007-08. LIU had a winning conference record in the next four seasons that culminated with consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances in 2011 and 2012.

This year's Duquesne team is young. They start two freshmen and two sophomores, yet the signs are there that progress continues for the Dukes. A win over crosstown big brother Pitt in the annual City Game is the highlight of their non-conference slate. 

Ferry made sure to give his players the New York experience before their conference opener Friday night against Fordham. He decided to take his team for an early vacation to his hometown. They went to Carmine's for an Italian family dinner, saw the lights of Times Square and saw the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center. "We gave them a little New York feel," said Ferry. "Some of these kids have never been here before. It's special." 

After Friday's win in front of friends and family at Fordham, Ferry waxed poetic about his hometown. "I'm a born and bred New York guy. My father was a borough commander here in The Bronx," said Ferry. 

He trailed off for a second, then said: "For me, tonight felt like coming back home."

Friday, December 30, 2016

Fordham Holiday Classic: Ray Floriani's Photo Essay

BRONX, NY - The normal operating procedure for a holiday tournament is as follows: Invite two weaker teams as first round fodder. Invite a third which could be a challenge. Put the last team in the opposite bracket to insure not seeing them until the championship. At the tenth annual Fordham Holiday Classic, the host did it a lot different.
The women’s basketball get-together at Rose Hill Gym featured three teams with combined records of 24-4. Fordham checked in at an impressive 9-4. The Rams drew undefeated Buffalo in the first semifinal. To no surprise, the game went down to the second-to-last possession with the Bulls staying undefeated, 58-54.
In the second semifinal, Harvard withstood a challenge from UNC Asheville before asserting themselves on the way to a 79-62 triumph and date with Buffalo in the finals. So the championship features an undefeated Buffalo (10-0) and Harvard at 10-1, with the lone setback in the season opener at Minnesota. Quite a championship game on tap. Third place has quite entertaining possibilities as well, featuring Fordham and UNC Asheville, both talented and on the north side of .500.

For host Fordham, this tournament was no walk in the park. Three quality teams entered, teams oft-overlooked in national conversations, yet teams you must prepare for and be ready to play. Fordham coach Stephanie Gaitley hopes it all pays dividends down the road. Guaranteed after today’s semifinals, the host school will not enter the winner’s circle. The objective here was to invite quality competition, two guaranteed dates of preparing for and facing a worthy opponent. Chalk this up as a competitive investment, with those dividends set to be paid in early March - Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament time.

Fordham in a pregame huddle before taking the floor:
Stephanie Reid of Buffalo sets up the Bulls' offense:
Fordham coach Stephanie Gaitley assesses the situation:
Fordham point guard Lauren Holden on the move:
Buffalo huddles in a victory formation:
Danielle Burns of Fordham meets the media:
Game action, with Harvard taking on UNC Asheville:
Harvard freshman Katie Benzan gets a break during a free throw:
The postgame handshake line following Harvard's win over UNC Asheville:

Harvard/UNC Asheville: Tempo-Free Recap

By Ray Floriani (@rfloriani)

BRONX, NY - Game two of the Fordham Holiday Classic saw Harvard battle UNC Asheville. The encouraging beginning for the Big South representatives was one that wouldn’t last. Harvard built a 10-point lead by intermission. The Crimson came out and opened that lead to a convincing 18 points after three quarters en route to a 79-62 victory.  Harvard, at 10-1, faces Buffalo in the championship of the tournament. UNC Asheville (6-4) will meet host Fordham in the consolation.

First five possessions:
Harvard: Field goal, missed FG, field goal, field goal, jump ball
UNC Asheville: Field goal, field goal, missed FG, three-point FG, jump ball

UNC Asheville led 7-6 at the 6:11 mark, a good start and one that would not be sustained. The Bulldogs trailed by one at the end of the opening quarter. After that, it was all Harvard.
Harvard coach Kathy Delaney-Smith was concerned with UNC Asheville’s penetration. The lane, however, was Crimson property to the tune of a 38-22 edge on points in the paint. Jeannie Boehm, Harvard’s 6-foot-3 center, scored 14 points with a team-high 10 rebounds. No turnovers and two blocks gave her a gaudy effectiveness factor of 26, a 1.08 per minute EF for a 24-minute outing.
KJ Weaver of UNC Asheville had 11 points and a game-high 13 rebounds. Weaver, a 6-foot-1 senior, cleaned the offensive glass with eight rebounds. Harvard did allow 22 offensive boards. On their own behalf, they grabbed 19.
Block party: Harvard rejected six shots, UNC Asheville zero.
The score was tied four times, and there were five lead changes. Those occurrences were in the first and early second quarter. Midway through quarter number two, Harvard had established themselves and were on their way to the win.  
Positive assist/turnover ratio for Harvard: 19 assists, 15 turnovers. UNC Asheville checked in with eight assists and a dozen turnovers.
Raw rebounding numbers saw Harvard win the battle 44-37. Still, those 22 offensive boards by the Bulldogs did not resonate well with Crimson mentor Kathy Delaney-Smith.

Possessions: UNC Asheville 66, Harvard 64
Offensive efficiency: UNC Asheville 94, Harvard 123

Four Factors:
eFG%: UNC Asheville 35, Harvard 57
Free Throw Rate: UNC Asheville 37, Harvard 18
Offensive Rebound%: UNC Asheville 44, Harvard 56
Turnover Rate: UNC Asheville 18, Harvard 23

Leading scorers and EF:
UNC Asheville: Tianna Knuckles 16 points EF, 22.
Harvard: Katie Benzan 16 points, EF 26.

What UNC Asheville did well: Care for the ball. A low 12 percent turnover rate was a bright spot for coach Brenda Mock-Kirkpatrick’s club, who; in the final analysis, were outshot and out-defended.

What Harvard did well: Sometimes we can over analyze and almost forget the object is to put the ball in the basket. Harvard did that, and did it well. The Crimson eFG percentage was highlighted by an 8-of-19 effort from three-point range.

Final thoughts:
“We were a little inconsistent at the start. I thought UNC was athletic and forced us to make adjustments. After the first quarter, some of those adjustments helped especially in the area of rebounding. They were a tough rebounding team. We did better as the game went on, but we still gave up 22 offensive rebounds. That is too much. I got a chance to see Buffalo with my assistants. They are an excellent defensive team. I have known Felicia (Buffalo coach Felisha Legette-Jack) as well as Stephanie (Gaitley of Fordham) for quite some time. Both are excellent coaches and their game was a battle. Beside their defense, I feel Buffalo is another team that is very athletic. Boehm (Jeannie) has had injuries in her career. She is a blue-collar kid, works hard inside, and is effective around the basket for us.” - Harvard coach Kathy Delaney-Smith

St. John's knocks off No. 13 Butler behind sellout Carnesecca crowd

Shamorie Ponds defied even his own lofty standards yet again, scoring career-best 26 points as St. John's posted upset over Butler in Big East opener. (Photo by Vincent Dusovic/St. John's University Athletics)

JAMAICA, NY -- I'm falling even more in love with you
Letting go of all I've held on to
I'm standing here until you make me move
I'm hanging by a moment here with you
- Lifehouse, "Hanging By a Moment"

It's somewhat fitting that I use the chorus of a 2000 alt-rock song to open this column tonight, a column that might get a little personal along the way.

And after the latest uptick in a roller-coaster season, St. John's fans might want to savor this one just a little longer and enjoy the ride for a couple of days before the calendar flips to 2017 and the Red Storm finds themselves on the floor against DePaul Sunday afternoon.

Thursday wasn't just any token December game, it was the Big East opener for a team entering off the highest of highs, a 33-point obliteration of former conference rival Syracuse at the Carrier Dome eight days prior. Invading the corner of Union and Utopia on this night were the Butler Bulldogs, one-time mid-major darlings under the great Brad Stevens before moving up the ladder; across three conferences in as many years at one point before finally landing in the Big East, and coming into this matchup ranked thirteenth in the country with victories against the likes of Arizona, Cincinnati, and Indiana inscribed onto their ledger.

Okay, highly regarded opponent? Check. Sellout Carnesecca Arena crowd?

Wait, what?!?!?!

No, you heard that right, a capacity crowd on campus for a late December game squarely in the middle of the winter break. The attendance and atmosphere will not, and cannot, be overstated enough, for it was the single biggest factor in St. John's (7-7, 1-0 Big East) getting back to .500 and scoring a rather sizable upset over Butler in a 76-73 affair that sent all 5,602 in the stands home with something to talk about; good, bad, or indifferent.

A first half in which the Red Storm pushed their opponent was to be expected, after all, Carnesecca is not for everybody. Let us not forget the rock fights against Seton Hall in the Bobby Gonzalez era, where the offensively gifted Pirates always had a hard time stringing baskets together for some reason. The bandbox effect contributed to the 38-all score after 20 minutes, yet it seemed as though Butler (11-2, 0-1 Big East) found their way through the abyss when a 61-51 lead was held by the Indianapolis faithful with 10:34 to play in regulation.

Two runs by St. John's, feeding off their home court advantage more than usual, keyed the comeback. An 11-4 stretch initiated by a pair of Shamorie Ponds free throws (we'll get to him again later, because once again, his presence was impossible to ignore) culminated in four straight points from Marcus LoVett to cut the deficit to three points five minutes later. Then, after Butler got back up by five on the next trip down the floor following the LoVett jumper, a 10-4 spurt saw the Johnnies regain the lead on the first of two free throws by Malik Ellison before Ponds iced it with four foul shots of his own, each one bringing those in the stands to a louder crescendo. But in typical Red Storm fashion, it wasn't over until the final buzzer, and as a Kelan Martin three-quarter court three for the tie did its best Gordon Hayward impression, (cue Jim Nantz screaming "IT ALMOST WENT IN!") it was only then that those wearing red and white could truly exhale.

With DePaul and a trip to the Allstate Arena (I'm still trying to break myself from calling it the Rosemont Horizon, because I'm old and things like that happen) on deck, we'll bring down the curtain on 2016 with some observations from an absolutely magical night in Queens. Believe me, and those of you who know me well can attest to this, I rarely ever use this kind of hyperbole when dealing with the alma mater, so you know it had to be special for me to go there. Here we go:

1) The crowd.
This is where it gets personal for a bit, as I prefaced in the open. I have been affiliated with St. John's basketball for ten seasons now, and in that decade, I had NEVER seen Carnesecca Arena get up for a game the way it did Thursday night. Before this game, maybe Providence in February 2008 (anyone remember the immortal Weyinmi Efejuku missing two free throws with :00.1 left on the clock to give St. John's a 64-62 win to keep their Big East Tournament hopes alive, you know, back when four teams actually did not qualify to go to the Garden?) held the title of "most juice at Carnesecca," but it was easily eclipsed before the opening tip. Credit goes to athletic marketing for getting the word out, but most of all, credit the student sections for being packed during the Christmas break. When I would call games solo on WSJU and Reginald Bazile would produce in the studio, anything over 2,000 counted as a good turnout. The old barn was loud from the get-go, it only got louder as the game went on, and there was no sign of it dying out at any point.

LoVett even went as far as to leave the huddle at the under-4 timeout in the second half to go out to half court and raise his arms to exhort the faithful in what had been a 67-64 game with 3:45 to go at that juncture. The extra effort, from everyone, paid off.

"First of all, I want to credit the crowd," Ponds remarked in the postgame press conference. "They were amazing. If it wasn't for them, we wouldn't have won this game. They just helped us a lot."

Wednesday night's meeting with undefeated Creighton, a Top 10 team heading into a pivotal clash with reigning national champion Villanova, may have the same intensity in the stands. The Bluejays will be better equipped to handle it thanks to their 18,000-strong turnouts at CenturyLink Center in Omaha, but even they will have their hands full with an environment Chris Mullin deemed "nice to see."

"It was good that our guys came through and gave them something to cheer about," said Mullin of a game and subsequent emotional investment that turned the clock back to the 1980s heyday that is now described as halcyon days for the program. "I keep saying that it's waiting to blow up. We hung in there and played through some tough times, so I'm happy for them. We've got to keep that going and sell this place out every night."

2) Shamorie Ponds happened, again.
The Brooklyn guard's stat lines just keep outdoing themselves as the year goes on, and Thursday was certainly no different after the dust settled on a career-high 26 points on 9-of-15 shooting, a production complemented by seven rebounds and plays so gutsy and beyond his tender age that when you look at the final numbers and see that St. John's won while recording only five assists, it only stands out even further.

"He's a really phenomenal player," Mullin gushed. "He doesn't show a lot of emotion, but he's a fierce competitor. Sometimes he's so good and so calm that you forget he's just a freshman. I really thought that he played well."

Butler head coach Chris Holtmann was equally as effusive in his praise of the rookie wunderkind.

"I think they're both terrific," he said, also including LoVett. "They get their own shot, they're dynamic with the ball, they're outstanding players, both of them. They're a load, they're a handful, and I think they're going to be that way for a number of years."

3) A different game plan.
Earlier in the season, the Red Storm were content to take a bevy of three-point shots, and seemed to settle for some in the first half against Butler. To their credit, though, Mullin got his players to take smarter shots throughout the night and draw the Bulldogs into ill-advised attempts, and even ESPN's Jeff Goodman; a frequent critic of the Red Storm over the past two seasons, took notice.

"We haven't really backed up our good games consistently," Mullin admitted as St. John's followed up their emphatic rout of Syracuse. "That's a direct correlation to our experience. Someone asked me last week why I'm optimistic, and it's because I know they're working towards that."

"That definitely gave us confidence," said Bashir Ahmed of the Syracuse effort, which he built on with 19 points. "We just wanted to go out there and fight hard, and I felt like we did that today."

4) You can't hit the snooze button anymore.
In the wake of what was St. John's most significant on-campus victory since defeating; oddly enough, Syracuse, (in 1983, back when Mullin was a sophomore; as passed along by friend of the site and my former WSJU broadcast partner/co-host, David Berov, and later confirmed by St. John's athletic communications) Ahmed offered a candid introspective assessment of where his team stands entering the conference season:

"This is what we've been waiting for," he said. "I feel like a lot of people are sleeping on us, you feel me? It's time to wake them up."

Although Ahmed's comments were not a targeted shot at their newly vanquished opponent, there was a brutally honest sense of not having done enough to combat the Red Storm from the Butler end.

"I just thought we had kind of an immature approach to the game," Holtmann lamented. "We did not provide nearly enough resistance for them, and they made some plays. When that happens, this is what happens."

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Buffalo 58, Fordham 54: Tempo-Free Recap

By Ray Floriani (@rfloriani)

BRONX, NY - The first round of the Fordham Holiday Classic at Rose Hill Gym saw the host Rams with an arduous task, a 9-0 Buffalo team that presented a number of challenges. In a hotly contested game with the emphasis on defense, Buffalo kept their unblemished record with a 58-54 victory over the Rams in the tournament semifinal. Buffalo is now 10-0, while Fordham fell to 9-5.

First five possessions:
Buffalo: Missed FG, turnover, three-point FG, field goal, turnover
Fordham: Missed FG, field goal, missed FG, missed FG, three-point FG

The score was tied at 5 with 6:34 remaining in the quarter. Buffalo came out man-to-man as the Rams challenged 6-foot-3 center Cassie Oursler early by going inside looking for G’mrice Davis. That proved to be a tough assignment for Davis, but it did send Oursler a message - Fordham would not be intimidated by Buffalo’s size.

First half thoughts:
Buffalo entered a plus-13 on the glass. Naturally, the offensive boards are essential. Fordham has to limit second opportunities by the Bulls.

Really love the play of Buffalo point guard Stephanie Reid. As the cliche says, she does everything but sell hot dogs. Love her all out hustle.

Fordham coach Stephanie Gaitley went deep into her rotation, employing a number of different combinations. While Davis struggled (0-for-8 from the field), Hannah Missry, Lauren Holden and Danielle Burns excelled on the perimeter, putting up 20 of the Rams’ 23 points.
Closing out is a priority for Buffalo. Every time the Bulls threatened to build on a lead, Fordham answered from downtown. The Rams finished the half shooting 6-of-11 from three. By contrast, they were 2-of-15 inside the arc.

The first four minutes of the second half did not start well for the visitors, as Missry buried an open corner trey. That was the lone Ram field goal, as Buffalo won the first four 8-5 to extend the lead to seven points.

As the half progressed, Fordham would not allow the visitors to build the lead beyond three possessions. The Rams maintained poise and cut their deficit to four points on several occasions. Davis played better offensively and Holden continuously came up big when the Rams needed it. With four minutes remaining, the Bulls owned a seven-point lead and were in the position to close it out. Fordham stayed around, but could never draw even. With seconds remaining, Burns drove to the basket and appeared to hit the tying score. An offensive foul was called on Burns with barely a tick left and the Rams were finished.

Possessions: 67
Offensive efficiency: Buffalo 87,  Fordham 81

Four Factors:
eFG%: Buffalo 43,  Fordham 45
Free Throw Rate: Buffalo 28, Fordham 23
Offensive Rebound%: Buffalo  33, Fordham 28
Turnover Rate: Buffalo 27, Fordham 27

Leading scorers and EF:
Buffalo- Stephanie Reid 21 points, EF 28
Fordham- G’mrice Davis 13 points, EF 33; Danielle Burns 13 points, EF 12

Burns committed five turnovers. Turnover rates were identical, with Buffalo having a slight 17-15 edge in points off turnovers. Buffalo managed just one more offensive board than Fordham. The damage was done in second half points, as the Bulls held an 11-3 advantage.

Final thoughts:
“They didn’t call a foul and you can’t depend on the refs. We had no timeouts left on that last play, but we practice special situations a lot and knew what to do. They are a very good defensive team and clogged the lane. We figured them out more the second half, but this hurts. We can look at film later and get ready for tomorrow.” - Danielle Burns of Fordham

“We practice those special situations as Danielle said. I was proud of our kids keeping their composure. I was super frustrated at the half. I thought at times she tried too hard the first half, and second half, let the game come to her. We played with focus and urgency the last six minutes. We need to do that the entire game. We have a game tomorrow, and in the Atlantic 10 Tournament, you have games three straight days. We will be ready. Midnight comes and the hurt should be over with a new day. They are such a good defensive team. I thought Lauren Holden did a really nice job for us. She was a scoring point guard in high school. She is maturing, playing a different style of point guard for us.” - Fordham coach Stephanie Gaitley

“She did a great job. She controlled the tempo and put her team on her back. She was the key to the team.” - Gaitley on Stephanie Reid of Buffalo  

“A forty-minute game. We knew Fordham is tough to beat at home. We knew they could shoot the threes. We didn’t do the best defensive job on their shooters, but thankfully enough to win. We stayed zone the second half. They were able to shoot from the outside, but we felt the zone could cut off their inside penetration. Stephanie Reid is just amazing to coach. You do not have to sugar coat things with her. She has taken the team leadership, and what she brings to the table for herself, she does as well for the team. We are 10-0, and no one wins championships in December, January or February. We look to get better every day out. We wanted to hold them to 59. We felt if we could, we would have a chance to win. Holding them to 54 was great. Turnovers hurt. I tell the team to treat the ball like a diamond ring. You get one, don’t look to give it away. We have a one day turnaround but it’s the same in conference play.” - Buffalo coach Felisha Legette-Jack

Atlantic 10 Tempo Thursday: December 29, 2016

Marquise Moore's sensational start has placed George Mason among Atlantic 10 leaders in advanced stat metrics heading into conference opener Friday against VCU. (Photo by Alan Kelly/

By Ray Floriani (@rfloriani)

As non-conference play is reaching the final buzzer and the A-10 wars are set to tip off, it’s time to look at the conference from a tempo-free perspective. First order is the efficiency margin (EM). That is derived by subtracting the defensive from offensive efficiency. Naturally, a figure in the positive numbers, is the object of teams in terms of EM:

1) Dayton (efficiency margin +15, 9-3)
2) Rhode Island (+14, 8-4)
3) VCU (+12, 10-3)
4) St. Bonaventure (+11, 8-4)
5) George Mason (+10, 10-3)
6) UMass (+10, 9-3)
7) Davidson (+4, 6-4)
8) Richmond (+3, 6-6)
9) George Washington (+2, 8-5)
10) La Salle (+1, 6-4)
11) Fordham (+1, 6-7)
12) Saint Joseph’s (+1, 6-5)
13) Duquesne (+1, 7-6)
14) Saint Louis (-1, 4-8)

The resurgence of George Mason has been largely predicated on defense. The Patriots sport an impressive 106 efficiency on the offensive end. But it is the defense, allowing an efficiency of 96, that is the proverbial difference-maker. It isn’t so much forcing turnovers (the turnover rate on defense is 19 percent), but rather a case of solid half court defense, as opponents are shooting an effective field goal percentage of 47 percent.

The defensive efficiency leaders:
UMass : 88
VCU: 91
Dayton: 93
Duquesne: 94
Rhode Island: 95

Saint Louis is struggling. The Billikens are the lone A-10 team to date in negative EM numbers. Even Fordham, the only other conference team under .500, has an EM in the black. The defense is allowing a 100 efficiency, yet the overall problem has been on the offensive end. Coach Travis Ford’s club is showing a conference-low 86 offensive efficiency.

The NASCAR leaders, or fastest-tempo teams to date in conference:
UMass: 76 possessions per game
St. Bonaventure: 75
Duquesne: 74
Davidson: 72
Saint Joseph’s: 72
Mark Schmidt has the Bonnies getting out and shooting threes. Under Jim Ferry, Duquesne has been a faster tempo team during his tenure, so no surprise there. Bob McKillop runs some of the best half court sets around. Do not be deceived. The Davidson mentor knows a few things about pushing the ball up the floor.

Most deliberate:
We talked about the teams getting out and running. Here are the most deliberate. Again, the numbers point out even the slowest-paced teams are not exactly walking the ball up the floor. Fordham and George Mason, at 67 possessions each, are three removed from the 70-possession NASCAR threshold:

Fordham: 67 possessions per game
George Mason: 67
Rhode Island: 68
Dayton: 69
George Washington: 69

Offensive efficiency leaders:
St. Bonaventure: 113
La Salle: 112
Rhode Island: 109
Dayton: 108
George Mason: 106

The Bonnies have a slight lead thanks to the outstanding backcourt play. Jaylen Adams (23 points per game, tied with Davidson’s Jack Gibbs for the A-10 scoring lead) and Matt Mobley (20.2) combine for 51 percent of the Bonaventure scoring. La Salle’s offense is courtesy of a 55.6 percent eFG percentage and excellent care of the ball. Shooting-wise, the Explorers share the lead in that category with, surprisingly, Fordham.

Turnover rate:
La Salle: 13.3 percent
Rhode Island: 13.3
Saint Joseph’s: 13.6
Dayton: 14.6
George Mason: 14.8
Under 20 percent is the objective, and the conference leaders are well below that figure. In fact, every team is below 20 percent, with Saint Louis at the bottom with an 18.9 percent rate that a lot of teams down the road would trade for.
On the defensive end, the Rams are the most disruptive in forcing opposition errors. The Rams we are talking about are not VCU, but the ones residing at Rose Hill, Fordham. Jeff Neubauer’s group forces opponents into a 26 percent turnover rate. Right behind, though, are the VCU Rams at 20 percent. Interestingly, they are the only two forcing offenses into a 20 or higher turnover percentage rate.

Things to watch as conference play unfolds:
Expect possessions to decrease.
The closer games in league play often dictates a more deliberate play in the stretch. Another factor is the defenses. Conference teams know one another. They know the opposition tendencies, what they like to run, and whom they go to in the clutch. That awareness allows defenses to significantly affect the game pace.

Turnover percentages will increase.
As we noted before, the defenses know the opposition from year to year. Familiarity breeds contempt, and has a way of imposing a will on offenses as the campaign progresses.

Offensive efficiency will decrease.
Conference play is a test night in and night out. As the weeks go by, maintaining an offensive efficiency of 110 or higher is an extremely difficult task.

George Mason may not sneak up on anyone, and they will be closely watched.
Off to a 10-3 record, including nine straight wins featuring road victories over Penn State and Northern Iowa to name a few, Dave Paulsen’s team has got the other conference members’ attention. The next test could tell us a lot more-Friday at home in the Patriots’ conference opener against archrival VCU.