Saturday, November 18, 2017

Friars throttle Saint Louis to take 2K Classic championship

Providence, who won Big East championship at Madison Square Garden in 2014, leaves Big Apple with 2K Classic trophy after thrashing Saint Louis for crown. (Photo by Ray Floriani/Daly Dose Of Hoops)

By Ray Floriani (@rfloriani)

NEW YORK -- Providence, off a solid semifinal victory over Washington, faced a Saint Louis team thriving on a second upset opportunity following their defeat of Virginia Tech 24 hours prior. The Billikens were under the bright lights, but in the end, it was Providence getting rave reviews, by virtue of their decisive 90-63 victory.

Saint Louis’ length was a factor in employment of the 1-3-1 zone very early, as the Billikens battled on even terms. Providence (3-1) stepped up, taking an 18-13 lead, forcing Saint Louis coach Travis Ford to go man-to-man. Shortly after getting that lead, Ed Cooley made his own defensive adjustment, going from man to zone. Besides the sideline chess match, what transpired on the floor altered the course of the game.

“They just got physical,” Ford bluntly stated of the Friars. “We are a physical team and like to play that way, but our guys just didn’t respond. We did not play like who we are.”

Providence got inside, hit from the perimeter and made defensive stops while taking a 41-21 lead into the locker room at halftime. The Friars came out following the break with no hint that the championship already had their name engraved, opening the first four minutes of the final stanza with an 11-3 run, extending their lead to 28 points.

“We came out determined to execute our offense and continue to play good defense,” said point guard Kyron Cartwright, who was named the tournament’s most valuable player.  

In the final analysis this was not about glitz, glamour or showtime. With workmanlike effort, Providence put together a solid effort, outworking Saint Louis (3-1) on both ends of the floor.

“They were physical.” Ford said. “We just did not respond.”

Cooley, by his own admission, is not a numbers or analytics coach. “The only numbers important to me,” he once said, “are those numbers on the scoreboard when the clock reads 0:00.” He has since lightened a bit, urging his staff to chart plus-minus and even admitting to studying the results, deciding to go with veterans in the second half against Washington based on those numbers.

“Sometimes you come out and shoot 1-for-10,” he said. “Tonight, it seemed almost everything we put up went in.” Providence shot 62 percent from the field, including a blistering 9-for-10 in three-point field goals.

“Give them credit,” Ford said of the Friars. “They shot it so well and played at an amazingly high level.”

Providence had four in double figures and was led by Rodney Bullock with 15 points. That alone is significant, as Cooley is utilizing a number of players early. It appears to be working, as the Friars owned a 46-19 edge in bench points.

“Our bench took it up another level,” he said. “That is significant, as it builds chemistry and trust. We have a group where every player is confident when they step on the floor.”

The Big East Tournament, which will be Providence’s next visit to the Garden, is less than four months down the road. Regardless, Cooley spoke of how winning the tournament is a good prep for March Madness. Beyond, that he was pleased with the adjustment of his team and how they responded.

“We had a quick turnaround after yesterday,” he said. “Today, we had film, scouting reports and a walkthrough, roughly four hours of preparation with a game to play tonight. I couldn’t be more proud of our group, especially since we beat a Saint Louis team that will only get better and is hard to guard.”

Friday, November 17, 2017

After OT win, Jaspers seek 2-0 start against Harvard

Rich Williams scored 21 points in first game since March 2016, and will be searching for encore as Manhattan hosts Harvard Saturday with 2-0 start at stake. (Photo by Vincent Dusovic/Manhattan College Athletics)

RIVERDALE, NY -- Prior to Wednesday night's overtime victory, the last time Manhattan had won a season opener came four years prior, when they christened the 2013-14 campaign with a double-overtime triumph on the road against La Salle, the precursor to what would be a Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference championship and near-upset of Louisville in the NCAA Tournament.

While history has repeated itself in the early stages of this young year, a Cinderella run through March is not immediately on deck for the Jaspers, whose path to a third conference championship in five years continues Saturday afternoon when Harvard visits Draddy Gymnasium for a 1 p.m. matinee.

"I remember in 2013-14, we opened up at La Salle in double overtime and then at Columbia (a game the Jaspers won on a miraculous display by George Beamon in the final seconds), and we really should have lost both games," head coach Steve Masiello recollected of Manhattan's last 2-0 start to a season. "I'm just really proud of these guys finding a way to win, and I think that's something to be said for them. When you find a way to kind of grind out games and get one, I'm really, really happy about that."

The Jaspers needed almost every second to survive a pesky St. Francis Brooklyn team that opened up a 10-point lead behind a scorching first half before being worn down as the game went on by Manhattan's experience and a 21-point game from Rich Williams, playing his first official game in over 20 months after missing all of last season due to a torn meniscus.

"It was a really gutty performance by him," Masiello declared. "I thought he came out full of a lot of fire and did a lot of things."

"You see it," he elaborated, referencing Williams' impact and once again being able to utilize it as a weapon in his reformed arsenal. "You see he's just a different guy on the basketball court. He's physically strong and makes shots, he has a mentality that fits our style, he calms us at times."

Long described as the heart and soul of Manhattan's trademark defensive intensity, Williams' presence on the floor instantly makes the Jaspers a stronger unit, but he cannot do it all. With that said, the rest of his teammates will be equally as vital to leading the way in pressuring a Harvard team that suffered its first loss of the year Thursday, falling on the road to a Holy Cross team that turned the Crimson over 23 times. The number of takeaways is one that Manhattan will no doubt be looking to equal, beginning by limiting the chances for sophomores Bryce Aiken and Seth Towns to explode at the expense of the suffocating pressure that has become a calling card in the northwest corner of the Bronx. But it will take a team effort to truly neutralize Tommy Amaker's roster, one that many feel will represent the Ivy League on Selection Sunday.

"We've got to make sure that we understand, and that's one of things when you have Rich and you have Z (Zavier Turner) and you have Aaron (Walker) -- you have all these guys, you can't forget about people," Masiello reassured. "As a coach and as players, you've got to make sure we're putting them in the right situations to be successful. I've got to do a better job of that."

"I think our press will get better. We'll get better. We had nine steals (against St. Francis Brooklyn), we didn't have as many deflections as we would like. We only had 27, we want that at 35. But the blueprint is there. I like a lot of things we're doing, I like our pieces. We'll get better as time goes."

*Special thanks to John Templon of NYC Buckets, whose quotes contributed to this story.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Numbers tell ugly truth for Virginia Tech in loss to Saint Louis

By Ray Floriani (@rfloriani)

NEW YORK -- Buzz Williams is truly a coach immersed and steeped in analytics.

His press conferences often include mentions of deflections, passes before three-point attempts, rebounding percentages, ball screens, paint touches, and the like. Following Virginia Tech’s 77-71 setback against Saint Louis at Madison Square Garden, the Hokies’ head coach had just one number reference.

“We have had 24 practices to date,” Williams said. “And I am disappointed with our competitiveness.”
If you want a number, look no further than rebounding. The Hokies were outrebounded 43-33 by Saint Louis, who had a 26-17 percent edge in offensive rebounding rate. Rebounding equals toughness and competitiveness.
“They were tougher than us on both ends on the floor,” Williams lamented. “They showed a toughness we like to have. They played physical and just out-toughed us.”
Postgame was short on numbers, if any. Williams told his team it wasn’t so much a disappointment in losing, rather than “the manner in which we played.” For the basketball savant on the bench in Blacksburg, a one-day turnaround with a consolation game in this 2K Classic on tap may be a blessing. It affords the chance to get back out and compete, and hopefully to erase the memory of what transpired.
“They managed the game very well,” Williams said of Saint Louis. “They did a good job executing plays. But when we did stop the play, we did not stop the player. That is a big difference and very significant.”

The loss was Virginia Tech’s first following victories over Detroit and The Citadel. The Hokies put three in double figures, led by Ahmed Hill with 26 points. Regardless, it was ultimately of little consolation.

“We just did not do enough,” a morose Williams reiterated. “We did not deserve to win this game.”
Buzz Williams is never at a loss for words. On this evening, the Virginia Tech mentor was at a complete loss for numbers. For Virginia Tech, it was simply that type of game.

Saint Louis thrives on MSG stage, beats Virginia Tech to reach 2K final

Travis Ford addresses media after Saint Louis' upset of Virginia Tech to reach championship game of 2K Classic. (Photo by Ray Floriani/Daly Dose Of Hoops)

By Ray Floriani (@rfloriani)

NEW YORK -- The clock leading to tipoff was running down. After a final meeting with his staff, Travis Ford made his way to the locker room to address his Saint Louis team, stopping to exchange pleasantries with a well-wisher.


The short meeting revealed Ford’s concern. While the two-day 2K Classic would provide outstanding competition for his improved club, the task at hand, Virginia Tech, was one weighing on Ford.

“Virginia Tech is so good,” Ford praised. “Maybe in one way, it is good we play them now, because at the end of the year, they will be a team nobody will want to face.”

In the end, the same may be said of Ford’s Billikens, as Saint Louis defeated Virginia Tech by the final of 77-71, advancing to the 2K Classic championship game Friday evening.
Just 44 seconds into the game, Ford called his first timeout. His team committed turnovers on their first two possessions and with the game less than a minute old, Virginia Tech had a three-point lead, far from insurmountable by any means but still indicative of a possible blowout in its formative stages.

Defensively, the Billikens had to locate Ahmed Hill. The Hokies’ redshirt junior guard, given the daylight, knocked down three three-pointers, ending the first half with a team-leading 11 points. In the latter part of the half, Saint Louis did a better job locating Hill and limiting his opportunities.

On the other bench, Virginia Tech had defensive problems of their own. They trailed by three, but coach Buzz Williams could sense Saint Louis had the hot hand. Williams changed defenses, going to a 2-3 zone for a few possessions. The Hokies soon reverted to their regular man-to-man. The main problem, no matter the defense Williams chose, was limiting dribble penetration. The Billiken guards and wings did a good job getting in the interior of the defense and capitalizing. Outside of the first few possessions, Virginia Tech was on its heels.     

“Virginia Tech is a difficult team to prepare for,” Ford said. “I am proud of our team. We sustained the full 40 minutes, we competed. I was really worried about sustaining the full game against them, but we did. We have some new guys and some guys trying to figure it out, but tonight we were able to compete.”

Javon Bess scored 22 points to pace the Billiken scoring. All the redshirt junior swingman wanted to talk about was defense.


“We wanted to slow them down and make them make four or five passes,” he revealed. “Our transition defense was a priority, but every day, we pride ourselves on defense. Our practices are really physical.”

Ford reiterated the idea of stopping Virginia Tech’s transition game.

“I watched their games about three times on tape, and each time I was so impressed on how many layups they were able to get,” he stated. “We wanted to run our offense, and in that way, prevent them from getting in transition.”

For Saint Louis, the championship game is next.

“I told the guys leading up to the tournament this is a big stage, Madison Square Garden, a tournament and now playing for a championship,” Ford recounted, as another big stage awaits in less than 24 hours. “We will be playing for not only our program, but the Atlantic 10 as well.”

St. John's decimates Nebraska, improves to 3-0

Shamorie Ponds exhorts crowd during St. John's runaway win over Nebraska. The sophomore guard led Red Storm and all scorers with 22 points in Thursday's 79-56 victory. (Photo by Vincent Dusovic/St. John's University Athletics)

JAMAICA, NY -- I finally see the dawn arriving
I see beyond the road I'm driving
- Boston, "Don't Look Back"

In each of the first two games St. John's has played this season, Chris Mullin has stressed that a complete game was not an item that his Red Storm team checked off their list of objectives. Yes, New Orleans and Central Connecticut provided expected moments of success, but after 40 minutes Friday and another 40 on Tuesday, the all-time leading scorer on the corner of Union and Utopia once again made it a point to emphasize progress with Nebraska; national champions in football multiple times over and despite a lack of championships in comparison to their gridiron brethren, still a formidable threat given their physical style and standing in the Big Ten Conference.

What followed was a demolition that gave St. John's fans a reason to truly believe their team was talented enough to at least make things interesting in March, where fans of the Cornhuskers may have taken a moment or two in Thursday's 79-56 obliteration to pine for Tom Osborne to try his luck on the hardwood.

"This was our biggest test to date in this early season," Mullin conceded on a night where Shamorie Ponds paced the scoring leaders again with his 22 points as the Red Storm (3-0) simply overpowered their visitors from Lincoln on both ends of the floor. "I think the most important thing is that tonight was really the first time that I saw our defensive alertness, quickness and athleticism really showed."

The vaunted transition game was not as much of a factor as it was Tuesday night against Central Connecticut, but against Nebraska, it truly did not have to be. St. John's was able to pound their way to a commanding 44-16 margin in the paint against the Huskers (2-1) while simultaneously rendering a once-dynamic offense into an anemic 28 percent effort from the floor in a game where head coach Tim Miles had no answer for the 50 rebounds and 10 blocked shots that complemented the authoritative takedown.

"I think you'll see more high-level stuff offensively because we share the ball so well," Mullin advised. "We have such a nice blend of talent. Each guy has strengths that can cover up another player's weakness."

To expound on that last quote, if we may: Ponds' production was bolstered by seven rebounds and five assists, making up for Marcus LoVett missing each of his first five shots before recovering to finish 6-of-14 from the floor with 14 points overall. Justin Simon's second consecutive double-double (13 points, 12 rebounds, one marker more in each category than in Tuesday's win) masked just seven points and five boards from Marvin Clark II. Even Bashir Ahmed (15 points in arguably his most efficient game of the young season) and Tariq Owens, the latter of whom posted six points, nine rebounds and six blocked shots, covered up for Clark committing four of the nine total turnovers recorded by a crisp Red Storm team.

"I thought our activity on defense was what made the difference," Mullin proudly stated before praising Owens' impact off the bench.

"He's the anchor of our defense," he said of the former Tennessee transfer. "His blocks, they're great blocks, but they're because he's just in the right place. He's not drifting away, he's always in the help position and communicating. He does it all. To me, he makes everything go. He's so freakishly athletic, he can do anything."

A respite, at least on paper, appears in the form of Rockville Centre-based Molloy College, a Division II foe who makes the short jaunt up the Cross Island and across the Grand Central for a 6:30 tipoff Monday night. The contest with the Lions may be a break from the step up in class from Thursday, but it represents an added chance to build on the mystique of Carnesecca Arena that has helped contribute to the fast start by New York's team.

"We have to appreciate our fans," said LoVett. "They gave so much energy out there. We wanted to come out with a lot of energy, and I feel like we started and finished the game like that. To see the whole atmosphere, it felt beautiful to be in that environment, and we plan on having more games like that."

LIU vs CNR Photo Gallery

Photos from LIU Brooklyn's 104-68 victory over the College of New Rochelle on November 15, 2017:

 (All photos by Bob Dea/Daly Dose Of Hoops)

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Pirate seniors beginning season with determination to prove their value

Angel Delgado was his usual dominant self with 19 points and 11 rebounds against Indiana Wednesday night as All-American senior big man insists Seton Hall's upperclassmen are playing with something to prove. (Photo by Wendell Cruz/SHUHoops.com)

NEWARK, NJ -- When a senior class can already count a Big East championship and a pair of NCAA Tournament appearances among its accomplishments, the need for improvement may not be a prerequisite for going about its business.

Try telling Seton Hall's quartet of fourth-year players that.

Three of the soon-to-be graduating Pirates; Angel Delgado, Khadeen Carrington and Desi Rodriguez, took matters into their own hands Wednesday night for the third time in as many games, combining for 59 of the 84 points amassed by the No. 22 team in the nation, jointly driving Seton Hall to a 3-0 start with a convincing 84-68 victory against Indiana at the Prudential Center.

"This is one of the best ones," said Delgado of just scoring a win over Indiana, a longtime member of college basketball's upper crust. "I always see Indiana on TV doing good, and everybody wants to play against Indiana. It's a big team and I'm really going to enjoy this win, because it's one of the schools you always want to beat and be better than them."

One game does not necessarily make or break a season, and in the case of Seton Hall Wednesday, their effort against the Hoosiers and head coach Archie Miller only furthered the need to provide the defining stamp on a rich legacy, the fuel that has been driving Kevin Willard's seniors since the offseason, a topic discussed at length on the October media day circuit.

"It's our last year," a matter-of-fact Carrington stated. "There is no next year for us, so we just want to leave a legacy right now."

Never a group to rest on its laurels, Seton Hall's big three; coupled with forward Ismael Sanogo, has always been a unit to take even the most superficial flaw in its collective and individual skill sets and hone each to perfection. Take Delgado's floor game as an example. Arguably the last person to be mistaken for the next John Stockton during his first two years in South Orange, the 6-foot-10 Dominican has become more adept at finding the open man, a trait he forced himself to learn after becoming the product of constant double-teams.

"When you get double-teamed so much, you've gotta become a great passer," Delgado said, with a tone of pride noticeable in his education over the years and subsequent mastery of being proficient in the art of assists. "That's what I've been working on all these years and what Coach is always telling me. If you're the type of guy who's always passing the ball, it's going to be hard to double. When they try to take me one-on-one or double-team me, I still pass the ball. I just want to get the best shot we can get."

"I think the biggest difference in his game is he's become, I feel, an elite passer," Willard echoed. "He knows most nights he's going to get a lot of touches, so he's become unselfish, where I think early in his career where he didn't get it as much, every time he got it, he tried to make a play. Now he kind of understands he's got some really good players around him, and he's gotta make sure he gets them involved."

Carrington has made strides in his own development as well, even as an all-Big East guard heading into his final season with a chance to move into rarified air on the Pirates' all-time scoring list, alongside the company of such luminaries as Terry Dehere and Jeremy Hazell. The point guard on this year's team following the graduation of Madison Jones, Carrington has continued to demonstrate the need to bring everybody into the picture, racking up 15 assists against only five turnovers and eschewing some of the take-charge plays that he may have made in previous seasons playing off the ball. Because of this, the confidence his coach has in him has not waned; rather, it has been enriched.

"I wasn't worried about Khadeen at all," said Willard when prompted to express any potential concern he may have had over Carrington not being as much of a focal point on the scoreboard. "The more minutes he plays, his legs will get fresher. I never once was worried about 'is he in a shooting slump?' We worked out in the morning the other day and I think he was 82-for-110. When a guy's making shots in practice, eventually he's always going to make shots in games."

Finally, Rodriguez had his most efficient game of the young season Wednesday, leading all scorers with 23 points on just 8-of-12 shooting in a performance that prompted Willard to anoint the Bronx product as one of the best players in all of college basketball.

"If I'm aggressive at the start and I keep that going throughout the game, we're going to be a tough team to beat," he said when asked for the deciding factor in each game being one where his star shines brightest. "I've just gotta keep my composure and just be efficient throughout the game. The leadership is on me to bring that energy to the team, and that's what I'm doing. I feel like I'm doing a good job."

"As long as we get better every game, I know we're gonna be a tough team to beat later in the season. I'm just proud of how everyone is playing and how everyone is efficient coming off the bench. The younger guys have been very effective. Knowing that Coach can go deeper into the bench like he's doing this year, giving guys breaks and giving guys a lot of energy, it's great for us."

"I'm older now," Delgado admitted. "I've got a lot more to put on my chest and I just want to get to work, make my senior year with these guys great. I want to win. That's all I want to do."

JP's 5 Thoughts: Seton Hall takes down Indiana in Gavitt Games

By Jason Guerette (@JPGuerette)

NEWARK, NJ -- Well, that was fun.

With an atmosphere that rivaled a big conference game at Prudential Center Wednesday night, Seton Hall roared out of the gates in the second half after a turnover-prone first half en route to an 84-68 win over the Indiana Hoosiers as part of the Gavitt Games, honoring the legacy of the Father of the Big East, Dave Gavitt.

Here are 5 takeaways from the game:

1. Feed The Beast

At the halftime break, Angel Delgado, the Pirates' all-american center, had just four points and four rebounds. With what coach Kevin Willard called a "friendly reminder" in the locker room, Seton Hall fed Delgado the ball on pretty much every possession to start the second half. The big man responded by scoring 15 points after halftime and grabbing seven rebounds, including the Pirates' first seven points out of the break. Seton Hall themselves exploded from there, with threes by Myles Powell and Khadeen Carrington ballooning the lead out to 53-39 at the 13:55 mark, and the game was elementary the rest of the way.

Delgado, by the way, had yet another double-double, finishing with 19 points and 11 rebounds along with four assists, two blocks and two steals. When he wasn't scoring inside (Indiana shockingly didn't double-team him hardly at all), he was drawing fouls (7-of-11 from the stripe). When he wasn't doing that, he was passing the ball, something he's become really, really good at. 

Basically, Delgado showed tonight why he's one of the best players in the country. And all it took was a friendly reminder.

2. Seniors Lead Again

Boy, in today's landscape of college basketball, being old is rare. But the last two nights for the Pirates, being old likely won them the game. This time, the opponent was from a major conference, and the performance that Delgado, Khadeen Carrington and Desi Rodriguez put forth was masterful. Carrington broke out of an early-season slump by scoring 17 points on 5-of-7 shooting, including 3-for-4 from downtown. He also added five assists, and just like the rest of the experienced players on the court, did not panic, even when the Hoosiers made a couple of first-half runs.

As for Desi, well, he turned in another great game, scoring 23 points on 8-of-12 shooting, including 2-for-3 from downtown and 5-of-6 from the line. Overall, the triumvirate combined for 59 points on a ridiculous 19-of-28 shooting, 5-of-7 from three, 16-for-22 on free throws, 17 rebounds and nine assists.

When seniors play like seniors, that tends to be what happens sometimes, and in a big spot with a big-time atmosphere (more on this in a second), it spelled doom for a young Indiana team that showed flashes, but could not sustain any momentum.

3. Desi 

One of the things that has stuck out to me in the early part of the season (including the exhibitions) is the efficiency of Rodriguez. Including tonight, the senior matchup nightmare on the wing is averaging 16 points per game and is now shooting 17-for-32 (53 percent) from the field and 6-for-13 from downtown. I've watched Rodriguez for four years now, and there were times earlier in his Pirates career that he was off mentally, or appeared to lack confidence in himself. There were times where Willard had to coach him up, for lack of a better term.

But all that seems to be behind him. He seems to know exactly who he is and where he should be on the floor, not to mention what he should be doing. 

"Just working on my craft, that's what I've been doing," Desi said when asked what has unlocked the efficiency in his game. "That's what I've been taking seriously. I know that it's very important to up my game every season... Coach tells me to do the little things to get the crowd going, and that's what I did."

Little things, big things -- Rodriguez has done both for Seton Hall so far this season. It's been impressive to watch, that's for sure.

4. On The Other Hand...

This wasn't by any means a picture-perfect win for the Pirates. There were also things present that Seton Hall could work on for the future. One of the reasons the ball wasn't in Delgado's hands a lot in the first half was that it was being turned over before it could get there, and Indiana feasted off those giveaways, turning 11 of them into 17 points. Granted the Pirates did much better after the break, and they have moved the ball well this year. Much is made of Carrington running the point, but with all the experience the Hall has, the orange has rarely stagnated in one place. For now, chalk it up to a momentary lapse in focus for a strong team.

Lost in the second half domination as well was the fact that Indiana did shoot 49 percent for the game, and 54 percent in the second half. Indiana was pretty good in the game offensively, but like the Pirates in the first half, turnovers (eight, leading to 16 points off for the Pirates) and foul trouble (leading to a 29-12 edge in free throw attempts) killed the Hoosiers' chances. 

One possible reason for the shooting percentage allowed? A higher defensive learning curve.

"We have a pretty complicated package in right now for this time of year," Willard said. "We're doing a lot of different things... we just don't have them all down yet. But I did something different this year with defense -- I put everything in at once. If you have one guy on the floor that doesn't know what he's doing on (defense), it kills you. Right now, you can see some of the freshmen and even Myles Powell at times, they're grinding their brains instead of reacting."

"But that's okay with me," Willard added. "As long as they're getting it, they're working hard at it. It's not an effort thing. These guys are giving great effort. It's just a matter of me putting everything in really quick."

5. Big Blue Army

That's the name of the Seton Hall student section, but it could be extended to the whole crowd on Wednesday. While because of the slightly earlier start time, as well as some reported slowness at the doors with security, the full force of the crowd wasn't in their seats until the middle of the first half, but boy, oh boy, were they loud.

It was a big game against a storied opponent, and the fans made the Rock a heck of a home court. They were on their feet at appropriate times, and when the Pirates made their second-half run, the place sounded like Villanova was in the house in late January. There were several hundred fans in the house wearing Cream and Crimson, but they were drowned out by the sea of Blue and White.

As for the students, they've been tremendous the last couple years, but this year, they are fully engaged and rocking with everything the Hall does well. It says a lot when the students know exactly how far Delgado is from a double-double that they acknowledge it with a chant the instant it happens. Combine the fans with the seniors in the second half, and this was a game that the Pirates could really be proud of what the viewing audience saw.

Seton Hall takes on NJIT Saturday in their next home contest, with tipoff scheduled for 4 p.m.

Kevin Willard quote book: Indiana

On his seniors and their response in the second half:
"They responded the way they've done for the last couple years, to be honest with you. We got in at halftime and we just talked about getting the ball back inside, working back inside out and making sure the big guy touched it. They know when you play a Big Ten team and you've got good players, you're not going to blow everybody out. You're going to have to battle, and I thought they did a really good job in the second half of just kind of getting the big fella the ball and working inside out."

On reinforcing the need to feed Angel Delgado inside:
"Sometimes you just need a friendly reminder that you've got him down there, and to be honest with you, it's not -- because I think Desi (Rodriguez) throws him the basketball every time he's on the wing and Khadeen (Carrington) is not on the wing as much -- it's kind of reminding the new guys that 'Hey, when you come in the game and you're in there with him, he's really your security blanket. Just chuck it into him.' And it worked often. I did think they did a really good job in the first half of getting up the line, fronting him, pushed him off the paint a little bit. The great thing about Angel is he's got such a good motor that he'll wear you down. He's not going to tire out, so a great job by the guys of understanding to get the ball inside."

On Delgado's evolution as a senior:
"I think the biggest difference in his game is he's become, I feel, an elite passer out of the post, and he likes to pass the basketball. He doesn't have to score. He knows most nights, he's going to get a lot of touches, so he's become unselfish where I think early in his career where he didn't get it as much, every time he got it, he tried to make a play. Now he kind of understands he's got some really good players around him and he's got to make sure he gets them involved."

On Indiana being a signature win and whether Seton Hall is as good as their hype:
"We're getting there. I think we have a lot of things -- you can't give up 49 percent field goal shooting consistently. We really have to get better at the defensive end at certain aspects. I think we're getting there, and I think as these young guys get better and these young guys get more minutes -- I think Archie (Miller) is going to do real well with those guys as the year goes on. It's, your first three games, first four games when you take over a program, it's hard. The kids are running different plays that they remember from things. That's going to be a good basketball team as the year goes on."

On significance of Gavitt Tipoff Games:
"I think the fact that we honor Dave is tremendous, because he was the Big East. His son, Danny, is a good friend of mine. I think when people have laid the groundwork before you, it's very important to remember the people that have really put the hard work in, and I think just doing this -- the Big Ten's great for doing it and obviously the Big East -- it's special and the kids understand it, and you talk to the kids about it and they understand there was a guy who really laid it all on the line so that they're in this great conference."

On Prudential Center atmosphere:
"Our students, man, they're awesome. I can't say enough. That's three games in a row where we sold it (the student section) out. Our kids -- we talked about it at the under-12 timeout in the second half -- our timeouts should be comedy TV, but instead of talking about the game, the guys were all talking about 'Let's continue to get the student section pumped up, let's get the students in it.' They understand the sacrifices the students make to get down to this building. They do it to play, and the fact that our students are doing it at a record pace right now, the kids really, really appreciate it."

On Desi Rodriguez and his start to the season:
"I think Desi's an elite player, by far. I don't think it's -- I think he's one of the best players in college basketball. I'll just leave it at that."

On Jordan Walker, who missed Wednesday's game with a sprained thumb:
"He'll be back. Hopefully we'll have him back for Saturday. It's still pretty swollen, so it's more kind of a day-by-day -- maybe Saturday, but he'll definitely be back for Thursday."

On Khadeen Carrington getting opportunities:
"I wasn't worried about Khadeen at all. The more minutes he plays, his legs will get fresher. I never once was worried about 'is he in a shooting slump?' We worked out in the morning the other day, and I think he was 82-for-110. When a guy's making shots in practice, eventually he's always going to make shots in games."

On Seton Hall's defense:
"We have a pretty complicated package right now for this time of the year. We're doing a lot of different things with the pick-and-roll, we just don't have them all down yet. But I did something different this year with defense, I put everything in at once. And again -- you have four guys on the floor that know what they're doing. If there's one guy that doesn't know what he's doing on a pick-and-roll defense, it kills you. And right now, you can see some of the freshmen, even Myles Powell at times -- they're grinding their brains instead of reacting, and that's okay with me right now as long as they're getting it, working hard at it. It's not an effort thing -- these guys are giving great effort, so it's just a matter of me putting a whole lot in really quick."

On how Wednesday's environment and atmosphere helps recruiting:
"It's great, it really does help a lot. It's the curse of being local and having so many great high school programs and so many high school players. The kids love coming to the games, we love having the kids. Sometimes there's not a good environment, sometimes it's a bad game, and sometimes the kids remember those more than they remember these where it's a great environment, where this is how it is for Big East games; but when we play FDU on a Thursday night at 6:30 -- but that's college basketball. And the problem is all our local kids come to all our games, so they don't see that on a 6:30 in Iowa that there's only 4,000 people there too."

On Myles Powell's demeanor:
"Myles, he's gonna have a night where he has 47. I'm just telling you right now. What he does in practice and how he's playing in practice -- I think the same thing with him. He's getting used to starting, I think last year, he came off the bench, now all of a sudden three minutes into a game, he's a little gassed. He's gotta learn his second wind a little bit, and when he does it -- he's taking good shots. I was really happy he had four assists. That's what he's been doing in practice. I think the biggest difference in us last year to this year is the fact that he's always two shots away from breaking the game open. You just can't leave him. If you leave him, our guys look for him, our guys know where he is, and he has the ultimate green light."

More on Indiana being a signature win:
"South Carolina last year was a good one, so was Cal, so was Wichita State. We've had some good wins here, and it's going to be a very good Indiana team as the year goes on. I think the Wichita State game, that was a really good win. I thought Cal was a good win last year when we were in Hawaii. I think Indiana's a very good win, but when you talk about signatures that we've had, it is because it's an unbelievable program with an unbelievable fan base. I think Archie is as good a coach as there is in the country, and I know what he's going to do as the year goes on."

On not being able to put Indiana away early in the second half:
"Our bench has to learn how to play with a lead, and that's only going to happen by playing with it. We came down, we turned it over off a pick-and-roll. They have to learn how, when you're up eight or nine against good basketball teams, that's not the time to go one-on-one or take a bad shot. The only way you do it is by playing them and having confidence in them, and they'll get it."

LIU WBB vs. Saint Peter's Photo Gallery

Photos from LIU Brooklyn's 57-46 victory over Saint Peter's on November 14, 2017:

(All photos by Bob Dea/Daly Dose Of Hoops)

Simon posts double-double, Ponds goes for 21 in Red Storm rout of CCSU

Justin Simon's hot start led to 12-point, 11-rebound double-double as St. John's thrashed Central Connecticut to improve to 2-0 on season. (Photo by Vincent Dusovic/St. John's University Athletics)

JAMAICA, NY -- Moments after a season-opening win that showcased the massive potential that has his players thinking about an NCAA Tournament appearance, Chris Mullin brought everyone back to reality when he said his St. John's team still needed improvement in key areas, namely rebounding, in order to meet the lofty standard that has been expected in year three at the helm of his alma mater.

The battle of the boards was won four days later, while the existing pieces that have made the program that bills itself as New York's team so formidable were firing on all cylinders in a display that continues to highlight just how much the bar has been raised. However, the room for improvement remained prevalent after the final buzzer.

Justin Simon was the catalyst early and often Tuesday night, finishing the first half with 10 points and eight rebounds en route to a double-double, and Shamorie Ponds led all scorers with 21 points as the Red Storm feasted on Central Connecticut, dropping the Blue Devils by the final of 80-55 at Carnesecca Arena.

Marcus LoVett chipped in with 15 points, all in the second half, while Bashir Ahmed contributed 13 points of his own on a night where four Johnnies placed in double figures on the scoreboard. Deion Bute led Central Connecticut with 19 points and nine rebounds in the losing effort for the visitors as Mustafa Jones supported his interior partner as best he could with 13 markers.

"We have to do it as a group," Mullin decreed of the rebounding war, in which St. John's (2-0) prevailed Tuesday by a 38-29 count, with Simon's 11 caroms leading the way while Ponds fell one board shy of his own double-double. "Who gets them is not important, but we have to go get them."

Rebounds and offense were the biggest takeaways from the Johnnies' second contest of the year, the latter coming in rapid spurts throughout the night. After beginning the game by scoring seven of the first nine points, St. John's spotted Central Connecticut (0-3) a brief two-point lead with just under five minutes gone by in the first half, but a stretch of ten unanswered points that began and ended with Simon snuffed out any hope of an upset and gave the Red Storm the lead for good. When the Blue Devils drew within four points, they would get no closer, as a 20-2 run by the home team effectively put the game out of reach. A 16-0 outburst midway through the second half merely put the icing on a cake that had already been baked with the familiar flavor of St. John's transition defense, which turned 21 turnovers into 31 points by simply heeding the advice of a coach who placed ball pressure at a premium.

"Coach preaches to us to pressure the ball," Ponds revealed. "We just try to stay on them 94 feet, from both the front and the back end and to just put as much pressure on them as we can."

"It's something we've worked hard on in the offseason," Mullin elaborated with regard to the defensive exploits. "We ask our guys to get up and pressure the ball. We don't want to gamble, but we want to get up and wear them down all night. It's something we've worked on and I think we're good at it now, but we're going to get better at it."

The victory, much like Friday's opener against New Orleans, is indicative of just how strong the upside surrounding the Red Storm can be when on its best effort. But for Mullin, a Hall of Famer who is seemingly never satisfied with just being good enough, there was yet again a glaring need to do better despite the undefeated start.

"I see a lot of good play both individually and collectively," he said of the impressive beginning before taking a glass-half-full approach. "But there is a lot of room for improvement. I do see that we can be much better in a lot of areas, but we are doing some good things. We just have to understand that and keep on working. I think we've identified our weaknesses as a group, and we continue to work on them in practice so we can execute them in a game."

And with Nebraska coming into Queens on Thursday for a Gavitt Tipoff Games contest that represents the first true test for St. John's, both coach and players understand what is at stake not just in the next game, but down the line as well.

"It's going to be a physical matchup," said Mullin of the clash with the Cornhuskers, the first Big Ten opponent the Red Storm will have faced since losing to both Michigan State and Minnesota one year ago. "This is going to be the biggest and strongest team we've played so far. We have to meet that with force and then get back and play our game. We just have to go out and do what we do."

If St. John's is able to do exactly that, their star guard insists the best is truly yet to come.

"I feel like this team is really special," Ponds proposed. "Off the court, we're all together as a whole, and I think that carries over onto the court. We're confident enough in ourselves and our ability. I feel like this team is ready for the big games, the big teams, and I feel we're gonna go out there and get it done."

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Rich Williams ready to make the most out of long-awaited Manhattan return

Rich Williams returns to Manhattan lineup for first time since March 2016 Wednesday night, when Jaspers open season against St. Francis Brooklyn. (Photo by Vincent Simone/NYC Buckets)

RIVERDALE, NY -- When Rich Williams' name is announced Wednesday night to the Draddy Gymnasium crowd by public address announcer Martin Collins, it will be the culmination of 619 days of rehabilitation, hunger, and waiting that would be enough to drive the most placid of souls over the edge.

Not counting the two exhibition games he and his Manhattan team have played to open the season, the fifth-year senior will take the floor against St. Francis Brooklyn for the first time since March 5, 2016, when the Jaspers were eliminated from the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament by Siena, ending their bid for a third consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament.

A torn meniscus cost Williams his senior season just days before it was to begin, and the decision was made to seek a medical redshirt to bring him back at full strength in 2017-18 rather than risk a premature return and aggravation to an already tender injury. Now just hours away from the culmination of a road made longer by patience, he is simply eager just to don the uniform one more time, commenting in the offseason on how truly blessed he is to merely have the chance to compete again. And with the comeback comes a new set of responsibilities, namely that of being the vocal and spiritual leader of a program looking for a revitalization of the winning culture made second nature when the Brooklyn native was only a freshman.

"I'm looking for consistency from him every day," head coach Steve Masiello remarked when prompted to discuss exactly what he was hoping Williams would bring to the table. "I think that comes with being an upperclassman. That's really the biggest difference. As a freshman or sophomore, you can be good for three days, bad for two, and it's probably not going to kill your team. As an upperclassman, if you do that, you're probably going to kill your team."

"Consistency from the top, that starts with him being the elder of the program, being a guy who's been to two NCAAs, won MAAC titles and all those things. That's something that I'm looking for from him as a player, just making himself better and more efficient."

When last the world saw Williams, he was forced into playing a power forward and center role more often than not, a product of depth issues and foul trouble that forced Manhattan to play a smaller lineup in a season where more than eight scholarship players were seldom available. Since then, though, the trademark depth has returned to the program along with experience in droves, as four seniors and a glut of talented role players will allow for a more anchored role at the small forward spot at which he has been most adept.

"I want to get him playing his natural position," said Masiello of his plans for Williams' last hurrah. "He really hasn't played it in quite some time, even that year, that campaign where averaged 14.3 (points per game) and 7 (rebounds per game), he was playing more of the four. I want to get him more at that three spot, where he can do some things."

Over the years, Masiello and Williams have been through their share of highs and lows, from his lack of early playing time as a freshman and being thrown out of practice to developing into the heart and soul of the Jaspers' defensive intensity. A perfectionist player in much the same vein as his coach, the two have grown together, and it has only strengthened a bond that may be closer than that of some brothers.

"Really, he and I have the relationship that I've had with guys like Emmy (Andujar), Rhamel (Brown), Mike (Alvarado), George (Beamon), AP (Ashton Pankey)," Masiello proclaimed. "Rich and I have had one of the strongest relationships of any kid I've coached, up there with RaShawn (Stores), and I think that's going to be key for our success because I need to know what he's thinking, he needs to know what I'm thinking. We have to kind of feed off each other for this."

Fordham vs. LIU Photo Gallery

Photos from Fordham's 81-68 victory over LIU Brooklyn on November 13, 2017:

(All photos by Bob Dea/Daly Dose Of Hoops)

Monday, November 13, 2017

Raut's 21, Slanina's double-double guide Fordham to first win of season

Ivan Raut broke out for 21 points on seven three-pointers as the freshman from Montenegro led Fordham past LIU Brooklyn for Rams' first win of season. (Photo by Bob Dea/Daly Dose of Hoops)

BRONX, NY -- After a one-point loss to Miami University in a season opener where only 54 points were scored, Jeff Neubauer stressed the need to turn the page with a relatively short turnaround coming three days later.

Fortunately for the veteran head coach entering his third season in charge at Fordham, one of his newest rotation pieces helped accomplish the main objective Monday night.

Behind 21 points from freshman Ivan Raut in just the Montenegrin forward's second collegiate game, and Prokop Slanina's 19-point, 11-rebound double-double, the Rams did more than just get back on the horse, they remained on the accelerator all night en route to an 81-68 victory over visiting LIU Brooklyn in the back end of a brief two-game homestand at Rose Hill Gymnasium.

"One of the big concepts in college basketball that's consistent around the country is you've got to be a bounce-back team," Neubauer assessed after Fordham (1-1) led wire-to-wire and connected on 11 of their 24 three-point field goal attempts to erase the aftertaste of Friday's defeat. "It's how you respond, how you learn. We competed on Friday night, but we didn't come out with that win we were hoping for, and for our guys to say 'we're gonna do better on Monday,' we certainly did that."

Following the first points of the game on a three-pointer by Slanina, Raut struck for the first time just 98 seconds into the contest and did not look back, making each of his first seven shots; all from beyond the arc, before finishing 7-of-10 from the floor in an eye-opening outing for both his coach and the opposing bench.

"He's a great shooter, but he also passes the ball," said Neubauer of his promising newcomer, who also added four rebounds and three assists to his final line. "The fact that we can put him out there and he can get rebounds and he can pass, it's really going to help us. I did tell Ivan and the rest of the team that I literally expect him to become one of the best shooters in Fordham basketball history, and tonight, he certainly made believers out of a lot of us."

"I hadn't heard about it too much or seen it in their first game," LIU Brooklyn head coach Derek Kellogg remarked of Raut's prowess from long distance. "Kudos to him going 7-for-10 from the floor, I thought that was the difference in the game. He had some huge plays."

A combination of hot outside shooting and foul trouble on the part of the Blackbirds (0-2) allowed Fordham to open up a 15-point lead with just over eight minutes remaining before halftime. But LIU would respond, going on a 9-1 run through the next two minutes, capitalizing on a technical foul assessed to Neubauer to get within seven points before a Slanina three put the Rams back up by double digits. The visitors soon drew within two possession in the final minutes before the intermission, but Raut's fourth trifecta of the evening made the lead a nine-point cushion that Fordham stretched into a 42-31 advantage they carried into the locker room.

The Rams began the final stanza just as they started the first, unleashing a barrage of treys in a 12-5 run to balloon their lead to 18 points with 15:30 to play in regulation. From there, the Blackbirds would rely on being in the double bonus to creep closer at the free throw line, but Fordham's marksmanship and commitment to defense were ultimately too much to overcome for last year's Northeast Conference regular season runner-up.

"I thought we showed some fight at different junctures and gave ourselves some opportunities," Kellogg, who coached against Fordham for nine years while in the Atlantic 10 Conference at the University of Massachusetts, lamented. "We just didn't take advantage. I thought we missed some open shots, missed a ton of layups. At the start of the second half, we had a layup, missed it, gave up a three and turned it over, which was tough after we had drawn up something that was pretty good."

While LIU attempts to pick up the pieces still in search of their first win under Kellogg, who replaced Jack Perri in the offseason, Fordham heads into their next game against Florida State Friday buoyed by the ability to right the ship in what could have been a wakeup call of sorts after their season-opening setback.

"I think what really happens is good teams learn," Neubauer opined. "If you want to call it a wakeup call, that's fine. Maybe it was for certain guys, I don't know. But I certainly learned a lot about our team, about our personnel. I learned about how we need to practice, and a lot of that came from the experience we had. Our team needs to play. We have to protect our bodies as well, but we have to play."

5 questions for Manhattan

With four seniors and one of MAAC's more experienced rosters returning, Steve Masiello has many reasons to be enthused as he begins his seventh season at Manhattan. (Photo by Vincent Simone/NYC Buckets)

We begin the first Monday of the college basketball season, appropriately enough, with Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference-related content. The first official MAAC Monday will be upon us in the weeks to come, but for the moment, here is the last of our five-question preview pieces surrounding the four teams that make up the foundation of this site's coverage. St. John's and Seton Hall began the series, followed by Iona, and we bring down the curtain by taking a closer look at the Gaels' adversaries nine miles to the south as Manhattan opens their season Wednesday against St. Francis Brooklyn:

1) How much will the Jaspers get from Rich Williams?
The return of Williams, a fifth-year senior guard, from a torn meniscus that shelved his entire season last year, is comparable to signing a Top 100 recruit at a high-major program. Manhattan was lost without the two-way hustle and veteran leadership from the Brooklyn native, something that revealed itself far too often as the Jaspers struggled to a 10-22 record, their worst under Steve Masiello since he was hired in 2011. With an experienced supporting cast around him, and the depth that has long been a Jasper calling card now back in full force to allow Williams to play at his natural position, do not be surprised if he posts numbers that merit him a spot on the MAAC's first all-conference team.

2) Can the big men stay out of foul trouble?
Easier said than done in Manhattan's system, which stresses physical play on both ends of the floor at a breakneck pace, seeking to get opposing teams rattled and forcefully evict them from their comfort zone. With the smash-mouth, in-your-face defense for which the Jaspers have come to be known comes an increased amount of whistles, but a cadre of incoming forwards will ease the burden for incumbents such as Zane Waterman and Calvin Crawford. Junior college arrival Pauly Paulicap, who has already drawn comparisons to Rhamel Brown for his rim protection and interior defense, should be among the starting five early in the year, and will go a long way toward shoring up what had been a weakness for Manhattan last season. Incoming freshmen Warren Williams and Ebube Ebube will see their share of minutes as well, with the former being more of a banger down low.

3) Is this the year that Aaron Walker becomes an all-conference player?
Maybe not yet given the upperclassmen in front of him across the MAAC, but the former Cardozo standout will certainly take a huge step forward as a sophomore, because he is; quite frankly, too talented not to. As a freshman, Walker's campaign was filled with several peaks and valleys before a late surge to finish the year, one that suggested greater heights on the horizon. His defense, a cause for concern in certain spots a year ago, has also improved. This may actually be one of the biggest impacts that having a healthy Rich Williams can have on the Jasper roster, as his relentless style should rub off on his younger teammates, Walker being a prime example.

4) Who is a potential X-factor for the Jaspers?
This may be an unlikely candidate to some, but we'll go with Tom Capuano. Now entering his junior season, the Westchester product has nearly seen it all in just two short seasons in Riverdale. From playing an unusually high amount of minutes for a freshman in the Jasper system to a jack-of-all-trades sophomore year that prompted Masiello to dub him the team's middle linebacker, Capuano has been prepared for almost every possible situation that occurs on the floor. Furthermore, his effort in Manhattan's exhibition game against Sacred Heart; without giving away too many details, was by far the best of any player wearing the Jasper uniform. He will likely be a sixth man in terms of perceived talent level, but do not be surprised to see Capuano in the starting lineup more often than not, filling the warrior role that RaShawn Stores occupied on the 2013-14 and 2014-15 MAAC championship teams.

5) Exactly how much of a jump will Manhattan make in the MAAC?
The addition of front line depth places the Jaspers ahead of many of their conference brethren in that department, and that does not take into account a returning preseason first team all-MAAC forward in Waterman. Williams' return will augment the backcourt, and based solely on the returning players in a league that has gotten younger on the whole, it is easy to see Manhattan reclaiming their spot among the conference's top teams after two years of fighting off injuries and seeing their bottom line sacrificed as a result. This year, mostly everyone is in good order at the present moment, and with some of the MAAC's heavyweights having their own issues, the opportunity for the Jaspers to rejoin the fray is greater than at any other point since their last championship run. Moreover, the wise MAAC expert knows not to bet against Masiello and his ability to get the best out of his team as the season ensues, particularly in February and March. Manhattan will be in the mix throughout.

Prediction: 19-11, 12-6 MAAC