Saturday, December 15, 2018

Seton Hall's pride, motivation for vengeance, proves rivalry still runs deep

Seton Hall will take Boardwalk Trophy back to South Orange after reclaiming it with Garden State Hardwood Classic win over Rutgers Saturday. (Photo by Bob Dea/Daly Dose Of Hoops)

NEWARK, NJ -- Myles Powell's opening statement to the throng of media gathered before him Saturday afternoon told the whole story.

"It feels good," the junior guard said after his 28 points led Seton Hall to victory against bitter in-state rival Rutgers on the Pirates' home Prudential Center floor, a 72-66 win vanquishing the emotional anguish and crosses he and his teammates were forced to bear for the past 364 days as the Scarlet Knights wrested the Boardwalk Trophy away from South Orange for the first time since the longtime adversaries were separated by conference realignment, Seton Hall remaining in the Big East after its restructuring while Rutgers spent a year in American Athletic Conference purgatory before its football program and proximity to the New York media market made it the object of affections for Jim Delany and the Big Ten Conference for which he serves as commissioner.

"They left a bad taste in my mouth for a whole year now," Powell continued, giving a crash course in the roots and significance of the blood feud between New Jersey's two biggest basketball titans, once a home-and-home series before becoming a once-a-year, non-conference showdown. "Jersey basketball is only but so big, so all the top players know each other. Knowing Rutgers beat us, and everyone walking around saying Rutgers is better than Seton Hall, I took it personal."

Powell is far from the only one to feel such a way. Last year, Ismael Sanogo famously proclaimed his hatred for the inhabitants of Piscataway, saying he and his Seton Hall teammates had no love lost for their in-state brethren, not even desiring so much as friendship from the other sideMike Williams -- the four-year Rutgers warrior and high school teammate of former Seton Hall point guard Khadeen Carrington -- spoke of the jubilation found in exorcising the demons of three consecutive losses to the Pirates, calling last year's come-from-behind win in front of a raucous RAC crowd "the best feeling in the world." And so it goes for the two programs that, although not as heated as their animosity may have been a decade or two ago, still evoke clearly defined emotions that are plain to see regardless of whether one bleeds red or blue.

"We came out motivated," Sandro Mamukelashvili reaffirmed. "We wanted to get our trophy back."

And motivated, the Pirates were. Even as Rutgers slowly chipped away at a 15-point second-half deficit and drew as close as three points of Seton Hall, the hosts and hunters were unfazed by what lied ahead, Powell's dagger three in the left corner to turn a one-possession game into a more comfortable six-point affair with just over two minutes remaining serving as living proof that not only was last week's thrilling takedown of Kentucky not a fluke, but also that the labor undertaken in restoring a proud basketball tradition carries intrinsic value that goes far beyond the boundaries on the hardwood.

"What I told the guys was we've been the best -- besides Villanova, we've been the best -- college basketball program in the Northeast for the last five years, bar none," head coach Kevin Willard said. "It hasn't even been that close, and what we've done in this area to be a consistent winner, we take a lot of pride in that in this program. And so from that vantage point, I think these guys understood. They take a lot of pride in where we've gotten this program."

And for the moment, and the next twelve months that follow, it sits on the throne among New Jersey basketball power brokers, with a wooden testimonial to keep it company.

"It's where it's supposed to be right now," Powell said of the Boardwalk Trophy, which returns to Seton Hall after a one-year absence. "We get to wear the crown for a whole year. Seton Hall owns the state."

JP's 5 Thoughts: Seton Hall makes Garden Statement, beats Rutgers

Myles Powell's 28 points drove Seton Hall past Rutgers Saturday, avenging last year's loss in Garden State Hardwood Classic. (Photo by Bob Dea/Daly Dose Of Hoops)

By Jason Guerette (@JPGuerette)

NEWARK, NJ -- For the uninitiated, Rutgers-Seton Hall is almost never boring, is always as intense a rivalry as there is, and is usually decided by close games. 

Check off all those boxes today at Prudential Center, as Seton Hall avenged last year's loss in Piscataway by taking down the rival Scarlet Knights, 72-66, in front of a raucous sellout crowd.

Here are the 5 Thoughts as the Pirates improve to 7-3 with a big week looming to close non-conference play:

1. Hangin' With Mr. Hooper

Stop us if you've heard this before: Myles Powell was the best player on the floor today, leading the Pirates to victory with 28 points on 8-for-17 shooting, including six made threes, taking the Joe Calabrese Award as the annual rivalry game's MVP.

He did this despite Rutgers throwing everything AND the kitchen sink at him defensively. Nothing worked, as aside from a dry spell in the second half which the Scarlet Knights used to slice the Pirates' lead to three points, Powell again ate the other team's lunch. 

"Our game plan was Myles Powell," Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell said. "We spent four days on it and watched everyone guard him."

For Powell, though, that's just business as usual.

"I've pretty much seen it all this year," Powell quipped afterwards. "They tried a box-and-one... they put the 6'10" guy on me (Issa Thiam). It just seemed they were switching guys. I know pretty much coming into every game now that I'm going to get everybody's best defender. I just have to stay ready."

Seton Hall head coach Kevin Willard used a different tack when talking about his star guard.

"Myles Powell is a hooper," he said. "A flat-out hooper. It doesn't matter if it's practice, a pickup game, a big game. He just wants to hoop."

The praise has been constant all year, and Powell has deserved every ounce of it. There are a lot of reasons to point to why teams win games, and for Seton Hall, one of those reasons in pretty much all of its wins is that the Pirates have Myles Powell, and the other team doesn't. And that's a wonderful feeling for Pirate fans.

2. Quick-Trigger Mamu

Powell was Batman today for the Pirates, with all the tools in the belt, but every Batman needs a Robin, and today that was Sandro Mamukelashvili. The sophomore forward poured in 15 points and finished one rebound shy of a double-double. He only took five shots in the game, but four of them were threes and he hit a trio of them, including two huge ones in the second half when Rutgers was trying to claw its way back into it.

Having come in just 3-for-16 from the arc this year, that likely surprised Rutgers. At the very least, it wasn't on their scouting report to deny Mamu the outside jumper. Give credit to the big guy, and to an adjustment from the coaching staff.

"He gets in a bad habit of getting a long trigger," Willard said, referring to him bringing the ball down, then rising back up for the shot. "When you're 6'11" and have a long trigger, your timing's gonna be off. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday,  we probably shot 500 shots each day to get him to shorten his trigger. He has a good release point, and I think that helped him simplify his shot."

Score one for the Georgian, and the staff, too. Without the pair of threes he made down the stretch, we may be talking about a much-different end result.

3. Standing Tall

Speaking of heroes of the game, Romaro Gill deserves a big hand. The 7'2" center came in and had his best game by far, tying his season-best with 12 minutes of court time for good reason. He also registered five blocked shots, aiding the Pirates and whipping up the crowd.

"I think Ro came in and changed the game for us a little bit," Willard said. "I thought he gave us a really good spark. This was a big game for him. (Shaquille) Doorson's seven feet tall, the other kid's seven feet. I thought he gave us a great energy, a great presence."

It was great to see Gill step up and play that way on a day where Taurean Thompson, one of the heroes in the win over Kentucky last Saturday, was saddled with early foul trouble and wasn't a big factor.

4. Defending The Rock

The Pirates defended well in this game, and the stats back it up. Rutgers shot 31 percent from the floor, along with just 6-for-29 from three-point range. In the first half, the Scarlet Knights only made 25 percent of their 40 field goal attempts, and two of their 16 threes.

A large part of that, especially in the first half, was Quincy McKnight. Other than blocks and steals, defense doesn't exactly have a stat that leaps out on the box score, but despite a pedestrian final line of two points, two boards and four assists, McKnight was one of the most-important factors in the contest, locking down Rutgers' sophomore playmaker, Geo Baker. 

"(He) might be the biggest difference defensively between this year and last year," Willard said. "Quincy can lock in on a guy and understands what he's doing. I thought our pick-and-roll defense on (Baker) was really good. He had a couple turnovers that frustrated him a little bit."

Baker was scoreless in the first half on 0-for-4 shooting with two fouls and three turnovers. McKnight can score when he needs to, and was a point machine at Sacred Heart before transferring, but that role is not his main one with the Pirates, and this was the latest example of the lead guard from Connecticut doing his job.

The only negative to the Pirates' defense was the rebounding margin, as they were minus-14 overall, minus-17 on the offensive glass, and gave up 20 second-chance points. Rutgers played to their strength in this regard (they were top-50 in the nation in grabbing their own misses), but in the end, the Hall just forced too many misses for the Scarlet Knights to get over the hump.

5. Looking Forward

Having won six of its last seven games since Thanksgiving, Seton Hall has a big week ahead. They first have Sacred Heart at home on Wednesday night at 6:30, a game that they must not overlook with another big Saturday test against Maryland next weekend. The Pioneers are nowhere near the level of the Terrapins, so the goal will be to keep the momentum going. It worked for them before -- and recently -- after the tough loss on December 1 to Louisville. With Kentucky looming the following Saturday, Seton Hall thrashed New Hampshire by 20 points mid-week. So there is a precedent that the Pirates won't overlook their Northeast Conference foe.

We'll have coverage for you as usual on Daly Dose of Hoops for that one, as well as the game in College Park next Saturday. As for now, the state of New Jersey -- in politics and in basketball -- is deep blue once more.

"The trophy's where it's supposed to be now," Powell said. "Seton Hall runs this state."

Kevin Willard quote book: Rutgers

On what Saturday's win said about Seton Hall and its toughness:
"I think the biggest thing is we're desperately trying to become more consistent game in and game out, and I think the big thing is coming off a really emotional, big win last Saturday and then getting back up for another big test, and coming out and playing really well defensively for really the first 30 minutes. I think they showed a little maturity in a young team. I was really worried that we were going to come out real flat."

On Myles Powell and his 28-point game:
"I think everyone's seeing the player he is. I think he's starting to figure out that -- although early on in games he's not getting it, if he's not making shots -- he has to stay aggressive, where I thought early in the year he would be a little passive if his first couple of shots didn't go down. Now he's staying aggressive, he's continuing to stay aggressive. I thought he made some really nice passes to some guys. We didn't make the shots, but I just think his overall game's at a pretty good level right now."

On Romaro Gill:
"I thought Ro came in and changed the game for us a little bit. I thought he gave us a really good spark. This was a great game for him, because obviously (Shaq) Doorson's seven-foot, the other kid (Myles Johnson) is seven-foot, and he didn't have to worry about little guys shooting threes or anything like that. I thought he came in and gave us good energy, good defensive presence. He was really good tonight."

On whether defending Angel Delgado in practice enhanced Gill's abilities:
"I think anytime you go up against a really good player like Angel, it definitely helps out, yes."

On Quincy McKnight and his defense on Geo Baker:
"That might be the biggest difference from us defensively this year and last year. Q can lock in on a guy and understand what he's doing, and I thought our pick-and-roll defense on him early was really good. We had a couple turnovers that frustrated him a little bit, and I give the kid credit. He got in a little foul trouble, but he kept coming. He's gotten really good."

"Really, our whole game plan was to take care of their drag pick-and-rolls in transition -- and we did a good job for the most part -- and not let anybody else make threes. I really feel like if you don't let (Issa) Thiam and you don't let Peter Kiss make threes, they're going to struggle to score a little bit."

On next week's games against Sacred Heart and Maryland, and their opportunities:
"It's a big week. We've played the least home games of anybody in the league, so to get home games, more than anything, I think it's really good to be home and get some practice, and get guys in a rhythm. The one negative of the schedule is we just haven't been home at all, and now that we're home -- we have Sacred Heart on Wednesday -- and then at Maryland, every Saturday in this month has been a brutal test. But I like the way we're moving forward."

On maturity of his upperclassman leaders and how they were able to refocus after defeating Kentucky:
"I think I did a great job. Thanks, Jerry. Mike Nzei was really good with that. Mike Nzei took a good role in that in practice. We really practiced bad Monday and Tuesday, we just didn't have a whole lot of energy, but Mike kind of got everybody together Wednesday and Thursday and really got after them, and I thought Michael was really, really good in practice, and that helped everybody."

On how close Seton Hall is to where Willard feels it should be:
"I like where we're at defensively. We're really defending at a pretty good level, and I think we had three shot clock violations. We've had more shot clock violations this year already than we probably did in two years past, so defensively, I like where we are. We just have to get a little more consistent on the offensive end. Sandro took a big step today being a little bit more confident in shooting the basketball. We've just gotta get other guys ready to be able to shoot the basketball, step in and shoot the basketball."

On Sandro Mamukelashvili and his confidence as a shooter:
"He gets in a bad habit of getting a long trigger -- a trigger is when you bring the ball down and bring it all the way up -- and when you're 6-foot-11 and you have a long trigger, your timing's going to be off. Again, the nice thing about having a week -- on Tuesday, I just saw that his trigger had gotten real long -- so Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, we probably shot 500 shots each day just getting him to shorten his trigger a little bit. He has a good release point, and I think that really kind of just helped him simplify his shot. He gets it set really good, but when you're 6-foot-10 and you're not in rhythm, you're not going to make any shots."

On concerns with turnovers:
"Not at all. We're one of the best in the league without turning the ball over. We really only had ten turnovers -- the last one was Myles Cale -- so we're one of the best at not turning the ball over. That's something that we've actually done a much better job than we have in the past."

On changing his rotations to mitigate inconsistency:
"That's just part of having a young team. You've got two sophomores, a freshman, and two other freshmen out there at times. They're going to struggle at times. I think everyone's seen it all across the country: To play at this level and play these types of games back-to-back-to-back, freshmen aren't used to playing hard all the time. They're just not, and it's something they have to learn, something you have to teach them, and you have to be patient with them. The reason why Quincy's probably playing as good as he is, is because he's a junior. He's been through it, he understands. Same thing with Myles Powell and Mike Nzei. These guys have been through the battles, they understand this level of games, how you have to play hard all the time."

On offensive rebounding:
"We were beat like a drum, and that's something that we knew we were going to be a little bit outmatched just because of Doorson and -- I don't want to kill this kid's name, because I love him as a player -- (Eugene) Omoruyi. That's pretty close. But their big guys just manhandled us, and we're not built the same way. Last year, we didn't really have to worry about a seven-footer. We had the toughest guy in the country, and he would handle it. Myles Cale did a much better job in the second half of rebounding. We just need it to be much more of a group effort. It is concerning, but we don't play too many teams with this size. I don't think there's a team in the league that has this size."

On what it means to defeat Rutgers and reclaim the Boardwalk Trophy:
"I think it's important. I love what Steve's doing. As a taxpayer and someone that funds his program, I love the fact that Steve is at Rutgers, because I know he's going to get it done. He's a first-class person, runs a first-class program, he can flat-out coach. So as someone that -- I know this sounds weird -- roots for Rutgers to be good, I think we have the right guy there. And what I told the guys was, we've been the best -- besides Villanova, we've been the best college basketball program in the Northeast for the last five years, bar none. It hasn't even been that close. And what we've done in this area to be a consistent winner, we take a lot of pride in that in this program. What I told the guys was, I said it was going to be a one or two-possession game, but we deserve the right for the fact of how hard we've worked in this program to get it to where it is, that you've got to win this game. And so from that vantage point, I think these guys understood, and they take a lot of pride in where we've gotten this program."

On Powell living for big moments:
"Myles Powell's a hooper, a flat-out hooper. It doesn't matter if it's practice, doesn't matter if it's a pickup game, a big game or a bad game: He just wants to hoop, and that's what everyone sees. I've said this a thousand times: We see this every day in practice, so it's not like when he hits those shots -- the one against Kentucky that should have won the game -- I think everybody was a little shocked at that one, but for the most part, when he comes off and hits it with a guy in his face, that's what he does. He's just a hooper, and he's playing at a high level."

Stony Brook vs. LIU Brooklyn Photo Gallery

Photos from Stony Brook's 83-79 win over LIU Brooklyn on December 12, 2018:

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

Thursday, December 13, 2018

FDU surges into pair of Garden State showdowns off resilient win over Army

Jahlil Jenkins directs FDU's attack in win over Army. (Photo by Ray Floriani/Daly Dose Of Hoops)

TEANECK, NJ -- There was a mention Wednesday night that the latter stages of Fairleigh Dickinson's first half seemed eerily similar to that of its contest against Lafayette, wherein the Knights built a double-digit lead only to see Lafayette come back and win.

Greg Herenda, when alerted to such a coincidence, agreed, admitting he, too, was thinking the same.

The difference Wednesday, however, was FDU's ability to respond and not surrender its lead, scoring a hard-fought 93-84 victory over Army to improve to 4-4 on the young season.

"Let me say it is a privilege to play Army," Herenda began as the Knights overcame a 21-point night from Matt Wilson behind a transition defense that turned 17 Black Knight turnovers into 30 points. "Jimmy Allen does a great job. His teams are naturally prepared and play hard, but he's also an excellent offensive coach. They can cause defenses multiple problems."

In addition to the defense, FDU also received notable contributions from Darnell Edge (24 points), Elyjah Williams (22 points) and Mike Holloway, the latter of whom fought his way to ten points and eight rebounds before fouling out. In particular, Edge led the way for the Knights, connecting on six of the team's 13 three-point field goals, proving once again that senior experience is truly invaluable regardless of what time of year it comes.

"This is his time," Herenda said of Edge. "We look for him to shoot. We need his production and leadership if we are to be a championship team."

For FDU, still recovering from an 18-point setback to Holy Cross, two in-state challenges await, as NJIT visits Rothman Center seeking its eleventh win of the season before Saint Peter's and first-year head coach Shaheen Holloway come to town.

"I think the world of Brian Kennedy," Herenda said of NJIT's head coach, who has the Highlander program trending upward in much the same vein his predecessor, Jim Engles, did when guiding it to an improbable semifinal run in the Postseason Tournament several years ago. Of Holloway and Saint Peter's, Herenda said the following:

"I recruited Sha at Seton Hall. Forget their record. They've had a tough schedule, and this is another in-state game. This will be a war."

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Hofstra dominates Manhattan en route to fifth straight win

Tareq Coburn led Hofstra with 22 points and 10 rebounds as Pride routed Manhattan for fifth straight win. (Photo by Newsday)

NEW YORK -- During its four-game win streak, Hofstra has begun to show signs that may not have been present in years past, when the Pride was just as highly regarded as it is this season.

And while Monday night's contest against Manhattan -- a team Hofstra had not beaten since 2010 and was winless against in five tries during Steve Masiello's tenure at the helm -- may be a small box on the checklist in Hempstead, it nonetheless served as one that was emphatically filled with a vigor not normally seen against the one-time Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference power.

Behind Tareq Coburn's second double-double in 13 days, the Pride collected its first win against a Masiello-coached team, thrashing the Jaspers in an 80-50 decision at Draddy Gymnasium that became increasingly decisive as the second half played out, seizing control with a 21-4 run to begin the final stanza on the way to its fifth consecutive victory.

"I didn't think this would happen," head coach Joe Mihalich candidly stated with regard to the nature in which Hofstra (8-3) dominated Manhattan, a foe he had been intimately acquainted with both during and before his tenure on Long Island, the latter from his 15-year stint at Niagara before replacing Mo Cassara in 2013. "No one gets a team to play harder than Steve Masiello, so I'm surprised it happened. I'm not surprised we won -- I felt like we could win the game, I thought we were a good team -- but I'm surprised it happened the way it did."

"I feel like I'm getting more comfortable with playing with the starters," said Coburn, who eclipsed a career-high point total for the second time in as many games with 22 points, a figure the former Cardozo standout supplemented with 10 rebounds. "I just feel like being part of Hofstra has changed me. This is like my first year actually playing college basketball, so I'm ready to do some things."

Adding to the unexpected was the continued emergence of Coburn -- and to a lesser extent, Desure Buie, who added 18 points and six assists -- on a night where Justin Wright-Foreman, the third-leading scorer in the nation, was limited to just 14 points as Hofstra answered the textbook test of Masiello daring his opponent's ancillary options to beat his team, one the Pride passed with flying colors while allowing a season-low point total in the process.

"There's proof to that tonight," Mihalich said when asked if Hofstra could win without Wright-Foreman carrying the offense. "People talk about Justin, but it's hard to guard the rest of us. He only had 14 points tonight, and yet we still scored a lot of points against a good defensive team."

"Desure and Elijah broke the press," he added, citing the impact of Buie and Eli Pemberton, who were Hofstra's primary ball handlers, accounting for 11 of the Pride's 15 assists. "They inbounded the ball, they got open, they made the right pass at the right time. They were ball-strong, they handled the physical contact. Elijah and Desure handled the press, they really did. They got the ball up the floor to people to make plays, like Tareq and Justin."

Hofstra led for all but 29 seconds Monday, taking the first initiative on Wright-Foreman's split of two free throws before Pauly Paulicap put Manhattan (2-7) in front in the opening minute. However, two foul shots from Coburn gave the Pride the lead for good, and the advantage would soon reach double digits, reaching as high as 39 points late in the second half in an affair that left Masiello at a rare impasse when trying to assess what went wrong.

"I didn't recognize us tonight," he said of the Jaspers' effort. "We just didn't seem to have our normal energy or our intensity that we normally have. I can't quite put my finger on why that happened, and I was very surprised by our lack thereof in those areas. I was more surprised with our lack of intensity and urgency that we showed tonight, but it's part of college basketball and it's something I haven't seen a lot from this team, but we'll definitely fix it."

"I don't think we did a good job on anyone tonight. I don't think we took anything away. That was a team that looked like they never beat Manhattan, and they were coming in and they understood what they needed to do to beat Manhattan, and I don't think we understood that. I don't think we understood what they were playing for tonight."

Jalen Ray added 13 points off the bench for Hofstra, who carries its surge into Suffolk County when it visits local rival Stony Brook one week from Wednesday, and perhaps the biggest reason for the hot streak is that of its newest star, who brings an energy and balance to this year's team that may have been lacking previously.

"He's making everybody better," Mihalich said of Coburn. "He brings energy. Some people work hard and some people play hard, and some people do both. And we've got a team full of guys that do both. These guys work hard and they play hard, and that's a great combination right there."

Monday, December 10, 2018

LIU Brooklyn vs. Saint Peter's Photo Gallery

Photos from LIU Brooklyn's 74-58 win over Saint Peter's on December 8, 2018:

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

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Iona comeback falls short as Columbia holds off Gaels at MSG

E.J. Crawford's 17 points led Iona, but Gaels fell three points short Sunday against Columbia. (Photo by The Ionian)

By Vincent Simone (@VTSimone)

NEW YORK -- Iona erased a 13-point first-half deficit, but could not get over the hump against Columbia, falling to the Lions 74-71 Sunday afternoon in the Holiday Festival at Madison Square Garden.

Columbia (3-6) kicked off the game on a 9-0 run and pushed its advantage to 13 on a Quinton Adlesh triple midway through the period. It took the Gaels 4:33 to put points on the board when Rickey McGill connected on a short jumper, but Iona seemed stuck in neutral for much of the first half.
“I thought the beginning of the game we came out extremely lethargic,” head coach Tim Cluess said of his Iona team. “I think some of our guys came out – I’m not going to say not ready to play – but not with the intensity they needed to start the game with. We dug ourselves a hole right away. I was proud of our guys for fighting back and giving ourselves a chance, but we’ve got to make better plays.”

Iona (2-6) began to wake up in the final five minutes of the opening stanza when its defense kicked in and held Columbia scoreless for a stretch of 4:25. During that time, the Gaels rattled off an 11-0 run to knot things at 30 before Patrick Tape put Columbia back on top with a layup just before the final horn. With momentum seemingly in their favor despite not holding a lead at any point in the first half, the Gaels failed to capitalize after the break. Asante Gist kicked off the period with a three-point play, but Columbia punched back with a 13-5 run during which junior forward Jake Killingsworth connected on a trifecta of three-pointers, pushing the Lions’ lead back to seven.
“I’ve been shooting the ball well lately,” Killingsworth said. “I’ve got a lot of confidence in my shot. The ball got a little stagnant in the first half and we came out in the second half with an emphasis on moving it around. I wasn’t trying to hunt them or anything, they were just coming to me.”

Iona was able to respond with a number of miniature runs, including a five-point swing from junior E.J. Crawford which gave the Gaels a one-point lead with 3:43 remaining, but turnovers down the stretch held Iona back and Columbia was able to head back uptown with the victory.

“We’re having turnovers that I’ve never been a part of,” Cluess said after his team committed another 18 giveaways after suffering a season-high 23 last Saturday against VCU. “I think guys are probably trying to do a little more than they need to. I think they just need to let the game come to them a little bit.”
The Gaels have committed double-digit turnovers in each game this season, with its season low of 13 coming in the season opener against Albany. Sunday’s game marked the seventh in a nine-game stretch away from New Rochelle for the Gaels. They have not played a true home game since that Albany contest to start the year, and will not return to the Hynes Athletics Center until a December 30 contest against Holy Cross to wrap up non-conference play.

“Imagine being in a room with the same people for like 30 days. I don’t care how much you love them, it’s not an easy thing,” Cluess joked about the long stretch away from home. “I think it will eventually help these guys want to play for each other more and get to know each other better. It’s been a rough road, but that’s no excuse. We had a chance here tonight and we were home for a week and should have played a little better.”

Crawford led the way for Iona with 17 points along with seven rebounds. Tajuan Agee picked up his first career double-double with 16 points on 6-of-7 shooting with 11 boards. Robert Morris transfer Isaiah Still pitched in with 14 points. Killingsworth paced Columbia with a season-best 14 points and career-high seven rebounds. Tape and freshman Maka Ellis followed with 13 apiece.

Columbia vs. Bryant Photo Gallery

Photos from Columbia's 90-68 win over Bryant on December 7, 2018:

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

Bryant still a work in progress despite 2-6 start

Bryant's 2-6 record has masked potential for Bulldogs, but Jared Grasso insists his team is improving and will be better off later in season. (Photo by Bob Dea/Daly Dose Of Hoops)

NEW YORK -- With just two wins in its first eight games, the upside for Bryant University may still be downplayed by most, and understandably so as the Bulldogs continue to chart a course going into Northeast Conference play. Still, the relative lack of attention is a disservice for a program that -- even in the face of losses that appear decisive in the final statistics -- continues to improve, even if the progress is more incremental than sudden.

"We've got a long way to go obviously, but we're a work in progress," head coach Jared Grasso reiterated after a 90-68 loss to Columbia Friday night, one in which Bryant fought back from a 13-point first-half deficit and briefly surged ahead following the intermission before a lack of consistent shooting and Columbia's defense ultimately turned the game on its head. "We're playing without a point guard right now, so we're kind of point guard by committee, and we're still trying to figure ourselves out."

"Part of the process for this group is learning how to win. They only won three games last year, and sometimes they get hit and don't respond the right way. It's my job to figure that out, and we'll get back to work and try to get it right."

As the Bulldogs prepare for the impending NEC battles, they do so without Ikenna Ndugba, who will be out until January following shoulder surgery that has left Bryant relying on Adam Grant and Byron Hawkins to carry the load while younger players the likes of freshman Joe Kasperzyk see integral minutes while the culture their first-year coach has instilled continues to permeate the inner walls of the program.

"It's a daily fight to try to make our guys understand how hard it is to win," said Grasso. "We're a much better home team than we are a road team right now, and again, we're going to try to keep getting better. We know it's a process, we know we have a lot of work to do. We're going to play our style. I'm implementing a style and system, and there's times that there's going to be bumps in the road because of it, but I know how I want to play. Moving forward, we're going to continue to recruit guys who fit that system."

Sometimes, a slow start can deter expectations and cause a feeling of apathy among players, coaches, and fans, yet Grasso remains the eternal optimist he has spent his whole career being, as he was quick to point out that the Iona teams on which he served as Tim Cluess' lead assistant did not always get out of the gate to a torrid pace, but succeeded when it mattered most.

"We have to improve on a lot of things, but they want to win and they care," Grasso said. "And because of that, I know we're going to improve. We're going to keep getting better, and for us, our season starts January 2. This is us just trying to get better and find ourselves for the next three weeks until you get to NEC play, because the reality is at this level, it's about those two months. And even if it's not the first two weeks in January, we need to be playing our best basketball going into the end of the season."

"I've been around teams who struggled early, I've been around teams that started 1-5, 2-6, tough non-league schedule, struggled on the road, and we found ourselves in January and February, and we were cutting down nets in March. This challenge doesn't scare me at all, and I've told our guys that. This isn't something that I'm afraid of, this isn't something we're going to back down from. We're going to embrace it, we're going to figure it out, we're going to get better and we're going to play our best basketball when we need to."

Coburn sparks Hofstra in first career start

By Vincent Simone (@VTSimone)

HEMPSTEAD, NY -- Hofstra pushed its winning streak to four with a convincing 89-73 victory over Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference favorite Rider Saturday afternoon.

Redshirt sophomore Tareq Coburn earned his first career start for the Pride, and his coach’s decision was handsomely rewarded. Coburn poured in a career-high 19 points on 6-of-10 shooting from the field while adding eight rebounds to his ledger.

“He’s been playing so well, we figured maybe he can give us a boost starting the game as opposed to coming off the bench,” Hofstra coach Joe Mihalich said of Coburn. “He made us all look smart playing the way he did today.”

“It meant a lot to me, but I was nervous at first,” Coburn said of his first start since high school. “I just had to come out strong, show everybody what I could do, and just keep being consistent.”

A native of Rosedale, Queens – less than half an hour’s drive from Hofstra’s campus in Hempstead – Coburn began his collegiate career upstate at St. Bonaventure in 2016 after a successful high school career at Cardozo. However, Coburn found himself buried on the Bonnies’ bench in a backcourt headlined by prolific scorers Jaylen Adams and Matt Mobley. Not only were Adams and Mobley the established stars of the backcourt, but they each also ranked among the top 100 nationally in percentage of minutes played that season, meaning there was very little opportunity for Coburn to see the floor. In fact, Mobley led the nation in the category, setting foot on the court for 95 percent of St. Bonaventure’s total minutes that season. Struggling with limited opportunity to make an impact on the court, Coburn accrued a mere four total points over 12 games played all season. With Adams and Mobley both eligible to return in 2017-18, Coburn instead chose to move back downstate and take his talents to Hofstra.

Coburn has already notched three games with double-digit points this season and established himself as a vital piece of an offensive powerhouse that ranks 40th in the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency according to KenPom. Not only are the Pride finding great success from the field, but Hofstra also currently ranks second in the country in free throw percentage, at 80.4 percent.
It was Coburn who kicked off Saturday’s scoring with a layup 28 seconds into the game, and Coburn again who sparked the 11-0 Hofstra run to close the game which turned a close contest into a blowout in the blink of an eye. The best news of all for Mihalich’s club is at any given time, Coburn is at best Hofstra’s third biggest threat on the floor.
The star of the show remains senior guard Justin Wright-Foreman, who led all scorers with 24 points Saturday. Another Queens native, Wright-Foreman extended his streak of 20-plus point efforts to 12 games going back to last season, and has already hit the 30-point mark three times this year. Not only is Wright-Foreman one of the five most dangerous scorers in the country, but he has now honed his craft to become an effective distributor. With six assists on Saturday, Wright-Foreman leads the Pride with 4.4 assists per game this season.

Junior Eli Pemberton continues to excel in his Robin role. Pemberton packed the box score Saturday with 12 points, seven rebounds, and five assists, but his most memorable play of the day didn’t even result in points. Midway through the second half, Pemberton chased down an errant pass headed for the end of the baseline and saved it for a teammate while himself navigating a sea of cheerleaders and ending up a good 20 feet from the court itself. In fact, Pemberton’s only shortcoming may be that he did not also grow up in Queens, though it’s not a long trip to his Middletown, Connecticut home.
Hofstra returns to action Monday night, continuing its miniature tour of MAAC opponents with a trip to the Bronx to take on Manhattan, where the Pride looks for its first-ever win against Jaspers head coach Steve Masiello. Tipoff for the contest at Draddy Gymnasium is slated for 7 p.m.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

JP's 5 Thoughts: Seton Hall scores massive upset over Kentucky in OT

Myles Powell's 28 points, including go-ahead three late in regulation before Kentucky forced overtime, led Seton Hall to epic victory over ninth-ranked Wildcats at Madison Square Garden. (Photo by Wendell Cruz/Finish First Photos)

By Jason Guerette (@JPGuerette)

NEW YORK -- Wow.

In one of the best games (and finishes) you'll ever see, Seton Hall came into Madison Square Garden on Saturday and made even more magic at The World's Most Famous Arena, knocking off Kentucky 84-83 on a clutch three-pointer by sophomore Myles Cale in overtime.

Just the last ten minutes of the game had more twists and turns than the rides at Six Flags, and fittingly, just like the two teams delivered bonus basketball, we've got a bonus sixth thought for you here at Daly Dose Of Hoops:

1. This. Is. The Garden.

Something about playing at MSG brings out the best in Seton Hall. Including the Big East Tournament, the Pirates are now 9-3 here since the 2015-16 season began. And this game felt like one that will go up on the pregame intro video before too long.

After a rock fight in a first half that can be described as ugly if we're being polite, Seton Hall was down six. But in the second half, the script flipped, whereas both teams couldn't find the bottom of the net in the first stanza (at one point, going nearly ten minutes without a field goal being scored), the second time around was breathtaking. 

Here was Kentucky, with a Hall of Fame coach on the sidelines and boatloads of size and talent on the floor, showing off what they could do, particularly with sophomore big man PJ Washington (more on him later). 

Here was Seton Hall, matching them shot for shot down the stretch, and using a whale of a performance from Myles Powell to will their way back in the game when all seemed on the verge of slipping out of reach. 

And then came the endgame. After going mano-a-mano with the ninth-ranked Wildcats, Powell, who had already hit some ridiculous shots, made a step-back, double-clutch, heavily-contested three-pointer with 1.4 seconds left to break a 67-67 tie, and made the Pirates believe they had won.

Not so fast, said Keldon Johnson, as the Kentucky guard hit a halfcourt shot at the horn to send the game to overtime. It was something out of the fantasies of every kid in the driveway playing hoops growing up. You just don't see that every day, and it felt like a privilege to witness it in person.

2. Toughness And Togetherness

Here's the biggest reason the Pirates prevailed. They went into overtime with the Wildcats and their crowd (which filled up about 75 percent of the lower bowl) having all the momentum. They were already down both of their starting big men in Sandro Mamukelashvili and Michael Nzei, who fouled out in the second half. Then, in the extra session, Johnson hit another big three, which put Kentucky up by a point with 42 seconds left.

Seton Hall overcame all of it by keeping their wits about them to stay cohesive as a unit despite being shorthanded. In all my years of watching and covering Seton Hall hoops, this was one of the grittiest performances by the team that I can remember.

"What I like about this group more than anything is that they stay, they continue to work," head coach Kevin Willard said. "I was very proud of how they fought and played." 

"It took a lot of effort, but as coach said, we were ready," Powell said. "We fought, we never gave up, we stayed together, and we got the job done."

The cherry on top was the final possession, which showed just how together the team was. Anthony Nelson saw an opening and drove inside, then kicked out to Quincy McKnight in the corner, who shot-faked, drove, and kicked up top to Taurean Thompson. HE then shot-faked and dished right to Cale, who made yet another fake to get free for the open shot that won the game. It was a coach's dream possession: Finding the open man, passing up good shots for a great shot, and playing hard, but not too hurried.

3. Going The Extra Myles

Where would the Pirates be without Powell? He showed yet again today that he's one of the very best players in the Big East. It wasn't easy for him, either, as he only attempted four shots in the first half and struggled to get going, most notably missing four of his first six foul shots. But like with all great scorers, it's only a matter of time, and when Powell canned his first triple, there was no slowing him down. He ended up with a team-high 28 points, making six of eleven from beyond the arc.

"I just had to find it within the offense," Powell said of finding his rhythm. "Coach told me to stay patient, things will open up. Just stay focused on the defensive end, get out in transition."

He's a downright special player, one who turned a lot of heads today among Wildcats fans and everyone else watching on national TV. And with the volume and magnitude of the shot he made, one could make the argument that the reason Seton Hall won the game is that they had Myles Powell, and Kentucky didn't.

Speaking of staying focused, Cale was just 3-for-17 before making the aforementioned game-winner from the right side in front of the Pirates' bench. He played 44 minutes in the game, more than anyone else on the team, including Powell, and showed what they call a shooter's mentality in nailing the biggest shot of the game — the indomitable belief that no matter if the first 99 shots miss, that the 100th will be made.

"My coach tells me to always be ready, because you never know when the ball is coming your way," Cale said after the game.

"I have confidence in Myles Cale," Willard added. "There's a reason he's out there for 44 minutes is that he's going to be a special player one day. It was a great ball fake, and he knocked (the shot) down."

4. Extras

You also never know when players will take advantage of opportunities and lift their team with their performance, and today, Sandro Mamukelashvili, Taurean Thompson, and Quincy McKnight all stepped up in their own way.

For Mamukelashvili, he began the game like a house on fire. He scored, he handled the ball, he passed, he defended, he rebounded, and played with a brimming confidence to help the Pirates get started. Until Powell started cooking with gas in the second half, and until he personally got into foul trouble, Sandro was the Pirates' best player.

For Thompson, he stepped up huge. With Mamu (and later Nzei) in foul trouble, it was the smooth big guy who picked up a ton of the slack, scoring 13 points off the bench on 5-of-8 shooting with six rebounds, his most impactful game at the Hall. 

As for McKnight, while he did commit six turnovers, four of those came in the first half, and he dished out five assists as well as his usual trademark defense on the perimeter. But he also scored 15 big points in this game, including two big hoops in overtime. His role on this team isn't to be a big-time scorer, but he has that ability to get a bucket if needed, and it was needed today.

Speaking of lifting the team with their performance, a big compliment needs to be paid to Kentucky's PJ Washington. 29 points, 13 rebounds, four assists and four blocked shots later, I came away thoroughly impressed with his size, skill, and athleticism. 

As Kevin Willard said after the game, "he's gonna make a lot of money." Without his production, Seton Hall wins this game pretty easily.

5. Wrap-Up

This is an undoubted feather in the cap for the Pirates as far as the NCAA Tournament is concerned. With such a strong schedule outside the Big East, the Pirates had yet to record that signature win, and after coming up just a hair short against both Saint Louis and Louisville, they got it today. It's a performance that can really lift the team up both on and off the floor, and looking forward, having this experience will help the Hall come March.

"That's how I set the schedule up, to get these guys battle-tested," Willard commented. "So I love this game. The fact that it was Kentucky was huge, but to get them in the Garden, to get them Garden experience, to get them ready for the Big East Tournament, it's a big win."

Next up, of course, is Rutgers in the Garden State Hardwood Classic, who will be coming off a defeat at the hands of Fordham in the Bronx. For a lot of Pirates fans, that's a bigger game than this one, and after Seton Hall was turned away in Piscataway last season, you can bet they'll have revenge on their minds against Steve Pikiell's up-and-coming Scarlet Knights.

BONUS THOUGHT: Advice From A Legend

Before the second half started, according to the good sources around the Seton Hall media contingent, Powell had a short talk with Seton Hall's all-time leading scorer and former Big East Player of the Year Terry Dehere (who also happened to be a prolific three-point shooter and a 6'2" guard to boot). We were not privy to what was said in the conversation, but you know what happened in the second half. I think Mr. Dehere was quite pleased with what he saw, don't you?

Kevin Willard quote book: Kentucky

On Seton Hall's effort and what it says about his team:
"I think playing Saint Louis, playing Louisville, losing those games were tough, but this group has -- what I like about this group more than anything is they stay -- they continue to work, and that's kind of how I set this schedule up. I needed to get these guys battle-tested, so I loved this game. The fact that it was Kentucky was huge, but to get them in the Garden and get them Garden experience, get them ready for the Big East tournament, there's just something special about this place and the first time you play in it when you're freshmen or even sophomores, it can be nerve-wracking. It's a big win. I'm really proud of the way they fought and the way they played."

On Myles Cale's go-ahead three-pointer in overtime and the offensive sequence prior:
"I didn't want to call timeout. Each time I call timeout, you're giving a Hall of Fame coach a chance to set up his defense -- and they're really good defensively and long -- and with the guys we had left, it was going to be tough to run something with screening action, misdirecting action. Every guy on the floor really made a big play at the end of the game. They made some really good passes, Q had a shot, ball-fake, drove middle, snapped it, and I have confidence in Myles Cale. The reason why he's out there for 44 minutes is he's going to be a special player one day. It was a great ball fake, and he knocked it down."

On how well Cale's shot was contested:
"It wasn't contested because the guy flew by him, so the second guy came a little late, but it was an open look. It was one of those things that you gotta take, and it was a big-time shot."

On Seton Hall's postgame celebration and Willard wearing a T-shirt in the press conference:
"I started it. It was me. They got me at Miami, I got them here, so I started it. I can't blame them for throwing the water, I threw the water first."

On significance of this win in his career:
"I think it's an important win for this year. Every win's big, it really is. I actually -- and you guys are going to think I'm nuts -- I think the New Hampshire game for us was big, because it gave us some confidence again. Playing this game is great, because again, it shows how far we've come as a program. I had a hard time getting games early on. I think I played this game because I lost four seniors, too. That could have been it, too. I kind of do that every once in a while."

"It's great. It feels great, it's important for this season, it's important for this group. It shows them they've -- no matter what, they've continued to work hard. I love this group, it's one of my favorite groups I've ever been around because they're good kids, they play hard, but they continue to work even though we've had some hiccups early, they've continued to show up to the gym with a great attitude, and that's all I ask. I knew eventually they were going to get it and they're going to get better, and they're starting to get there. We're not there yet, we're still a long way away."

On Kentucky forward PJ Washington:
"I'll tell you what, that kid, he's gonna make a lot of money. Watching them on film, I thought I was really impressed, but then when you see him in person and you see his size and athleticism in person -- I think these guys will agree -- he's the real deal. He really is. And I love the way he plays, too. He plays hard, he doesn't just float to the outside, he gets inside and posts up. He's the real deal."

On what he learned from his team:
"Jared Rhoden played some huge minutes and did some really good things for us. We got in -- this is really the first time we've been in bad foul trouble with Mike and Sandro both being out, and they're my security blankets on defense because they know what to do and they help everybody out. And then not having them both out there, I thought Taurean played some great minutes, Jared was out there with him, and when you have -- technically -- a freshman and a sophomore trying to battle those guys, I thought it showed me a lot."

On Madison Square Garden and Seton Hall's success there:
"It's amazing -- there was a little kid when I was doing the radio -- a little kid running around the court, and his mom and dad were taking pictures. I told him -- I think he was six or seven -- and I said he would remember that for the rest of his life, because I still remember being -- I was running around this building when I was in third grade. I still remember running around this building when I was in third and fourth grade, and I can remember every second of it. it is a magical place. It's one of those places that I think the kids understand the history. It's not a brand-new building, it's not something that was just built and has all the bells and whistles, it has such history and nostalgia and so many great players, concerts. I say it all the time: When you walk in this building, there's a different energy, and I think both teams played unbelievably hard. These kids left it all out there, and it was just -- either team could have won -- it's just a magical place. I think it always happens here."

On coaching against John Calipari:
"Most handshakes after games are pretty short, but before the game, we got to talk, though. I have such respect for Coach Calipari. I find it amazing that every year, he has to reinstall a system, he has to re-teach everything he does, and the buy-in that he gets from his freshmen and his young kids, I think is absolutely amazing what he does, and I've just got the utmost respect for Coach Cal."

On Kentucky's half-court shot to tie the game at the end of regulation:
"I was so mad. It was my fault. I've never, ever put a guy on the ball. We practice with a free safety. It makes no sense having a guy on the ball, and I've never had a seven-footer, so I thought I'd be smart. And I didn't even have Ro going in, I had Shavar going in to play defense and be the free safety, and then it took so long for them to review it that I had too much time to think, and I said, 'let me outthink myself.' And I put Ro in, and it was just stupid. The one thing you try to cover is the middle of the floor in that situation because if a guy's shooting at a sideways angle, the odds of him banking it in are almost zero. But if a guy shoots it straight on, the odds of him banking it in go up a lot, and it was just a good shot."

On adding an extra four-tenths of a second after Myles Powell's go-ahead shot:
"I thought the refs did a phenomenal job."

On Taurean Thompson:
"I think T's spurts were really good for him. He's a guy that when he goes in for four or five minutes, he can really affect the game. I thought that was his best job, by far, defensively. I thought he was locked in defensively. He had a couple of breakdowns a little bit, but he's so talented offensively. We're trying to get him to be a little more aggressive just going to the rim. He's just 6-foot-9 and he's got a big Euro step, he's crafty around the rim, and when he's locked in and being aggressive, he's as good as anybody."

On guarding the inbounds pass at the end of regulation:
"Where'd Christian Laettner make the shot from? Right in the middle of the foul line. So if you have a free safety and you can force him to the sideline, the shot becomes so much harder. I'd rather have two guys try to play the guy in the middle than one. I've never had -- South Carolina two years ago almost hit a full-court shot on us, but it was from the side and we had a free safety -- it's just I'd rather have two guys be able to guard the middle and force them to the sidelines, where the shot just becomes so much harder."

"It wasn't smart, I'll tell you that much. I had too much time, and I was sitting there looking at Ro, and at the time, there was only 1.1 seconds on the clock and I'm thinking like, 'they can't take a dribble with 1.1 really, you gotta turn and catch, let's try to make it as hard as possible.' It's not a smart move, it was stupidity. They bailed me out."

On comparing Kentucky with Louisville:
"I think Kentucky's much more physical, they have a much more physical presence inside. I think Louisville shoots the basketball much better, I don't think it's close."

On what Saturday's win means for the program:
"Again, I think it's big for these guys more than anything, because it just shows the fact that if you continue to work hard, good things happen."

For Holloway, first month at Saint Peter's has been trial by fire

Shaheen Holloway's career at Saint Peter's has already seen thrills and growing pains as Peacocks prepare for MAAC play. (Photo by Gabe Rhodes/Saint Peter's University Athletics)

By Ray Floriani (@rfloriani)

JERSEY CITY, NJ -- Shaheen Holloway frequently describes his first season at Saint Peter's as a learning experience.

In essence, that sums up the rookie head coach's situation.

As he often does, Holloway took in a Saint Peter's women's basketball game Friday night, less than 24 hours before his own Peacocks program hosts defending Northeast Conference champion LIU Brooklyn. Regardless of the short window for which to prepare for the visiting Blackbirds, there was still time for the former Seton Hall assistant to reflect on the first month at the helm and the experience of moving over one chair on the bench.

"I think it's been a learning experience, for me as a coach and the team itself," Holloway said. "We've had a tough schedule. It hasn't been easy, but I can say I'm really looking forward to the second half of the season."

At 2-6 entering Saturday's contest, Saint Peter's has scored victories against Lafayette -- a team against whom the Peacocks erased a 13-point deficit to score a dramatic overtime win in Holloway's debut -- and Maine. Along the way, Holloway has been unafraid to test his team, taking it into high-major venues to face nationally ranked outfits the likes of NC State and Auburn. Another high-major opponent -- Clemson this past Tuesday -- saw Saint Peter's nearly post a massive upset, as the Peacocks took the Tigers to the limit before narrowly falling five points short.

"Playing in hostile environments, like an Auburn or a Clemson, will only serve us down the road," Holloway said, citing the long-term payoff for a young team still finding its way. "We'll be better equipped to handle pressure situations on the road. Auburn and Clemson, those are big-time environments."

Looking at Saint Peter's from an individual perspective, Holloway admitted he knew what he inherited in incumbent upperclassmen Davauhnte Turner and Sam Idowu, both of whom saw significant minutes for John Dunne in recent years, but the Peacocks have also been the beneficiary of the immediate contributions of freshmen such as KC Ndefo -- who posted a double-double in his debut against Lafayette -- and 6-foot-4 Dallas Watson of St. Raymond's, who continues to show how strong Holloway's ties are to the New York high school circuit.

The mix of new blood and veteran players will only continue to help Saint Peter's grow as it navigates the remnants of non-conference play, with St. Francis Brooklyn, Fairleigh Dickinson and Hampton all left on the schedule before Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference play begins at home on January 3 against Siena, a school that has not won in Jersey City since 2010. Before that day comes, though, the Peacocks' leader has day-to-day concerns on what is needed to be done in order to make the team a better unit.

"We have to defend the three-point shot better," said Holloway, recognizing his team's inefficiency in guarding the line, as opponents have shot better than 40 percent from long distance against the Peacocks, ranking as the 14th-highest margin in the nation according to Ken Pomeroy. "We also have to share the ball better," he added, citing a 46 percent assist rate that also places within the bottom quarter of the 353 Division I teams. Regardless, it is a marathon, not a sprint, and incremental progress -- though underappreciated by casual fans -- is something Holloway is quite content to achieve at this stage of the game.

"We're all learning on the job," he reiterated. "It's just a case of getting out there and getting better every day."