Thursday, February 28, 2019

Updated MAAC tiebreaker scenarios: February 28, 2019

Updated after Niagara's 86-84 victory over Canisius Wednesday night, here are the latest Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tiebreaker scenarios leading up to next week's MAAC Tournament in Albany:

Iona (11-6): Has clinched a first-round bye. Gaels can finish as either No. 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 seed.

Quinnipiac (10-6): Can finish as either No. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6 seed. Can clinch first-round bye with win Friday at Saint Peter's OR Sunday vs. Manhattan.

Rider (10-6): Can finish as either No. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6 seed. Can clinch first-round bye with win Friday vs. Iona OR Sunday at Marist.

Siena (10-6): Can finish as either No. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6 seed. Can clinch first-round bye with win Friday at Canisius OR Sunday at Niagara.

Canisius (10-7): Can finish as either No. 2, 3, 4, or 5 seed. Has clinched a first-round bye.

Quinnipiac, Rider, and Siena can also clinch first-round byes with a Monmouth loss Friday at Manhattan.

If Iona, Quinnipiac, Rider, Siena and Canisius all finish 11-7:
Iona would be the No. 1 seed and earn the automatic bid to the National Invitation Tournament. Both Iona and Canisius would be 5-3 in the mini-conference tiebreaker, but Iona's head-to-head sweep of Canisius would make the Gaels the No. 1 seed, and the Golden Griffins the No. 2 seed.

Rider would be the No. 3 seed by virtue of its regular-season win over Canisius, who swept Quinnipiac. Rider and Quinnipiac would both be 3-4 in the mini-conference tiebreaker, and both the Broncs and Bobcats split with Iona in the head-to-head series, which would make Canisius the next tiebreaker. Rider's win makes the Broncs the No. 3 seed, and the Bobcats the No. 4 seed.

Siena would be the No. 5 seed by virtue of its 2-4 record in the mini-conference tiebreaker.

If Rider, Siena and Canisius all finish 11-7:
Canisius would be the No. 3 seed by virtue of its 3-1 record in the mini-conference tiebreaker. Siena would be the No. 4 seed and Rider would be the No. 5 seed, as Siena's win over Rider in the lone regular season meeting between the two would break the 1-2 tie in the mini-conference.

Monmouth (9-8): Can finish as either No. 4, 5, 6, or 7 seed.

Marist (7-9): Is assured of competing in an opening-round game Thursday, March 7. Can finish as either No. 6, 7, 8, or 9 seed.

Manhattan (7-9): Is assured of competing in an opening-round game Thursday, March 7. Can finish as either No. 6, 7, 8 or 9 seed.

Niagara (6-11): Is assured of competing in an opening-round game Thursday, March 7. Can finish as either No. 9, 10, or 11 seed.

Fairfield (5-11): Is assured of competing in an opening-round game Thursday, March 7. Can finish as either No. 7, 8, 9, 10, or 11 seed.

Saint Peter's (5-11): Is assured of competing in an opening-round game Thursday, March 7. Can finish as either No. 7, 8, 9, 10, or 11 seed.

These tiebreaker scenarios will be updated frequently, both on this site and on Twitter (@DalyDoseOfHoops) in the days leading up to the opening-round games on Thursday, March 7.

Monday, February 25, 2019

MAAC Monday: Seeding scenarios, stat leaders, power rankings

By Jaden Daly (@jadendaly) and Vincent Simone (@VTSimone)

Today's penultimate edition of MAAC Monday for the 2018-19 season will feature, as the next-to-last profiles have in seasons past, updated looks at all seeding scenarios for next month's Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Men's Basketball Championship, held at Albany's Times Union Center from March 7-11, 2019. No seeds have presently been clinched, and Iona is the only team to have clinched a first-round bye at the present time. Following this opening segment, we will have up-to-date stat leaders and a new set of power rankings. For the seeding scenarios, teams will be listed in order of MAAC record, from top to bottom:

Iona (11-6): Has clinched a first-round bye. Gaels can finish as either No. 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 seed.

Canisius (10-6): Can finish as either No. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6 seed. Can clinch first-round bye with win Wednesday vs. Niagara OR Friday vs. Siena.

Quinnipiac (10-6): Can finish as either No. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6 seed. Can clinch first-round bye with win Friday at Saint Peter's OR Sunday vs. Manhattan.

Rider (10-6): Can finish as either No. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6seed. Can clinch first-round bye with win Friday vs. Iona OR Sunday at Marist.

Siena (10-6): Can finish as either No. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6 seed. Can clinch first-round bye with win Friday at Canisius OR Sunday at Niagara.

Monmouth (9-8): Can finish as either No. 4, 5, 6, or 7 seed.

Marist (7-9): Is assured of competing in an opening-round game Thursday, March 7. Can finish as either No. 6, 7, 8, or 9 seed.

Manhattan (7-9): Is assured of competing in an opening-round game Thursday, March 7. Can finish as either No. 6, 7, 8 or 9 seed.

Fairfield (5-11): Is assured of competing in an opening-round game Thursday, March 7. Can finish as either No. 7, 8, 9, 10, or 11 seed.

Saint Peter's (5-11): Is assured of competing in an opening-round game Thursday, March 7. Can finish as either No. 7, 8, 9, 10, or 11 seed.

Niagara (5-11): Is assured of competing in an opening-round game Thursday, March 7. Can finish as either No. 9, 10, or 11 seed.

These tiebreaker scenarios will be updated frequently, both on this site and on Twitter (@DalyDoseOfHoops) in the days leading up to the opening-round games on Thursday, March 7.

Scoring Leaders
1) Cameron Young, Quinnipiac (23.1 PPG)
2) E.J. Crawford, Iona (17.7)
3) Davauhnte Turner, Saint Peter's (16.9)
4) Takal Molson, Canisius (16.6)
5) Marvin Prochet, Niagara (15.9)
6) Jalen Pickett, Siena (15.7)
7) Rickey McGill, Iona (15.6)
8) Evan Fisher, Siena (15.4)
9) Brian Parker, Marist (14.5)
10) Rich Kelly, Quinnipiac (13.5)

Rebounding Leaders
1) Tajuan Agee, Iona (8.1 RPG)
2) Jonathan Kasibabu, Fairfield (7.4)
3) Kevin Marfo, Quinnipiac (7.4)
4) Marvin Prochet, Niagara (7.2)
5) Tyere Marshall, Rider (6.7)
6) Kevin Degnan, Siena (5.9)
7) Diago Quinn, Monmouth (5.8)
8) Evan Fisher, Siena (5.8)
9) Frederick Scott, Rider (5.7)
10) Manny Camper, Siena (5.6)

Assist Leaders
1) Jalen Pickett, Siena (6.6 APG)
2) Rickey McGill, Iona (5.2)

3) Malik Johnson, Canisius (4.5)
4) Rich Kelly, Quinnipiac (4.3)
5) Stevie Jordan, Rider (4.3)
6) James Towns, Niagara (3.6)
7) Brian Parker, Marist (3.6)
8) Neftali Alvarez, Fairfield (3.3)
9) Dallas Watson, Saint Peter's (2.8)
10) Kimar Williams, Rider (2.7)

Field Goal Percentage Leaders
1) Warren Williams, Manhattan (.566)
2) Jonathan Kasibabu, Fairfield (.565)
3) Dominic Robb, Niagara (.534)
4) Samuel Idowu, Saint Peter's (.526)
5) E.J. Crawford, Iona (.509)
6) Scott Hitchon, Canisius (.508)
7) Mustapha Traore, Monmouth (.503)
8) Evan Fisher, Siena (.492)
9) Tyere Marshall, Rider (.490)
10) Stevie Jordan, Rider (.486)

Free Throw Percentage Leaders
1) Rich Kelly, Quinnipiac (.855)
2) E.J. Crawford, Iona (.842)
3) James Towns, Niagara (.808)
4) Davauhnte Turner, Saint Peter's (.788)
5) Anthony Durham, Rider (.765)
6) Rickey McGill, Iona (.760)
7) Cameron Young, Quinnipiac (.757)
8) Takal Molson, Canisius (.755)
9) Ray Salnave, Monmouth (.754)
10) Asante Gist, Iona (.744)

Three-Point Field Goal Percentage Leaders
1) Marcus Hammond, Niagara (.538)
2) Rich Kelly, Quinnipiac (.471)
3) Marvin Prochet, Niagara (.438)
4) Samir Stewart, Manhattan (.429)
5) Cameron Young, Quinnipiac (.427)
6) Landon Taliaferro, Fairfield (.418)
7) Tyler Reynolds, Manhattan (.408)
8) Ben Perez, Iona (.407)
9) Kevin Degnan, Siena (.407)
10) Isaiah Lamb, Marist (.402)

Steal Leaders
1) Rickey McGill, Iona (2.3 SPG)
2) Jalen Pickett, Siena (2.1)

3) Dimencio Vaughn, Rider (2.0)
4) Malik Johnson, Canisius (1.9)

5) Stevie Jordan, Rider (1.8)

Blocked Shot Leaders
1) Dominic Robb, Niagara (2.2 BPG)
2) Samuel Idowu, Saint Peter's (1.9)

3) KC Ndefo, Saint Peter's (1.5)
4) Jalanni White, Canisius (0.9)
5) Niksa Nikolic, Iona (0.9)

Power Rankings
1) Iona (13-15, 11-6 MAAC)
Last Week:

Last Game: Sunday 2/24 vs. Canisius (W 87-80)
Next Game: Friday 3/1 at Rider, 7 p.m.

2) Quinnipiac (15-12, 10-6 MAAC)
Last Week:

Last Game: Sunday 2/24 at Monmouth (W 68-56)
Next Game: Friday 3/1 at Saint Peter's, 7 p.m.

3) Canisius (13-15, 10-6 MAAC)
Last Week:

Last Game: Sunday 2/24 at Iona (L 87-80)
Next Game: Wednesday 2/27 vs. Niagara, 7:30 p.m.

4) Siena (15-14, 10-6 MAAC)
Last Week:

Last Game: Sunday 2/24 vs. Marist (W 67-55)
Next Game: Friday 3/1 at Canisius, 9 p.m.

5) Rider (15-13, 10-6 MAAC)
Last Week:

Last Game: Friday 2/22 vs. Niagara (W 97-81)
Next Game: Friday 3/1 vs. Iona, 7 p.m.

6) Monmouth (10-20, 9-8 MAAC)
Last Week:

Last Game: Sunday 2/24 vs. Quinnipiac (L 68-56)
Next Game: Friday 3/1 at Manhattan, 7 p.m.

7) Marist (12-16, 7-9 MAAC)
Last Week:

Last Game: Sunday 2/24 at Siena (L 67-55)
Next Game: Friday 3/1 at Fairfield, 7 p.m.

8) Manhattan (9-19, 7-9 MAAC)
Last Week:

Last Game: Sunday 2/24 at Fairfield (L 72-59)
Next Game: Friday 3/1 vs. Monmouth, 7 p.m.

9) Saint Peter's (8-20, 5-11 MAAC)
Last Week:

Last Game: Sunday 2/24 vs. Niagara (W 78-60)
Next Game: Friday 3/1 vs. Quinnipiac, 7 p.m.

10) Fairfield (8-20, 5-11 MAAC)
Last Week:

Last Game: Sunday 2/24 vs. Manhattan (W 72-59)
Next Game: Friday 3/1 vs. Marist, 7 p.m.

11) Niagara (12-17, 5-11 MAAC)
Last Week:

Last Game: Sunday 2/24 at Saint Peter's (L 78-60)
Next Game: Wednesday 2/27 at Canisius, 7:30 p.m.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

St. John's gets revenge on Seton Hall, moves closer to NCAA berth

Shamorie Ponds led St. John's with 27 points as Red Storm led by as many as 23 against Seton Hall, gaining retribution for Pirates' controversial win in December. (Photo by Bob Dea/Daly Dose Of Hoops)

NEW YORK -- And I'm here, to remind you
Of the mess you left when you went away
It's not fair, to deny me
Of the cross I bear that you gave to me
- Alanis Morissette, "You Oughta Know"

No, we didn't watch someone get back at a former significant other, but we did get a rematch of a longstanding local rivalry Saturday night, the most recent installment of which ended in controversy when Michael Stephens' inadvertent whistle gave Seton Hall a mulligan that the Pirates later converted into a buzzer-beating win over St. John's to open Big East Conference play.

Nearly two months later, the Red Storm -- already playing with a chip on its shoulder in the wake of a demoralizing loss at Providence three days earlier and adding that fuel to its collective fire that had been started in the final seconds at the Prudential Center back on December 29 -- got the chance to fire back, in front of a near-capacity crowd at Madison Square Garden. And without Mustapha Heron -- who missed Saturday's game due to tendinitis in his knee, a recurring issue that sidelined him against Providence two weeks ago and has left him day-to-day, per head coach Chris Mullin -- St. John's stormed out of the gate -- no pun intended -- on a 28-5 run over the first nine minutes and never looked back, defeating Seton Hall by a 78-70 final score that was much closer than, and in no way indicative of, how the game actually let on.

"It was definitely payback," the junior point guard said in the wake of a 27-point performance as St. John's (20-8, 8-7 Big East) erased the loss that its fan base still places an asterisk next to with a wire-to-wire Quadrant 1 win that gives an already secure NCAA Tournament berth even greater stability. "We always kept in the back of our mind what they did at the end of the game to us, so we just wanted to put our foot on their neck early."

"Coach is going to say the effort was there because he always has our back, but as a captain and a leader, I don't think it was there," Myles Powell admitted, calling out Seton Hall's sluggish start after head coach Kevin Willard began his postgame press conference by defending his team's effort and intensity. "We found ourselves down 20 points, and it's kind of hard to always play from behind."

Seton Hall (16-11, 7-8 Big East) would battle back and attempt to make the game interesting on multiple occasions, first in the first half before St. John's responded with eight unanswered points to take an 18-point advantage into the intermission, and then with a 10-4 run in the final minutes after the Pirates drew as close as five points, but could not fully scale the mountain as the Red Storm once again followed a head-scratching loss with a convincing victory.

"I just think we were mainly just locked in and focused, not forgetting what the last game was like," Marvin Clark -- who scored 18 points in his final regular season game at the Garden -- said of the team's mindset coming into games on the heels of a previous loss. "We've been trying our hardest not to drop two in a row, and I think we've done a good job of that. But where we've got to grow still is being able to win and go into that next game with the same mindset. That's just the biggest focus for us right now, finishing the season strong and giving us momentum into the Big East tournament and the Big Dance."

And as St. John's heads into a final three-game stretch of favorable matchups -- two against Xavier, sandwiched by a trip to Chicago to take on a DePaul team that upset the Red Storm at Carnesecca Arena last month -- the mood on the other side of the Hudson River is a stark contrast, as Seton Hall now looks to start fresh going into a troika of make-or-break matchups against the likes of Georgetown, Marquette and Villanova.

"This group, we've been in a lot of close, tight games," Willard assessed. "I think the biggest thing I'm learning about them is they don't understand -- this time of year, I think -- what it takes to really kind of win on a nightly basis. And as good as these guys have been, they need a little reset button to kind of just get their batteries charged."

For the victors, who return to Carnesecca Arena for Thursday's regular season home finale against Xavier, the improvement is there, and peaking toward yet another crescendo as the corner of Union and Utopia prepares to embrace a third appearance in the field of 68 this decade.

"It's all about progress," Mullin reiterated. "No one ever pitches a perfect game. We've made steady progress, and it's been -- for me -- exciting, and the players made that happen. These guys are locked into playing for each other and playing to win, and I've always preached to them about the history and tradition at St. John's, and they take that very seriously. It's nice to see as we've progressed, the crowds have progressed. I think that's a tribute to the players."

Saturday, February 23, 2019

JP's 5 Thoughts: Seton Hall blitzed early in loss to St. John's

Kevin Willard admitted following Seton Hall's loss to St. John's that he may need to change lineup to spark Pirates, who now face must-win scenario next week. (Photo by Bob Dea/Daly Dose Of Hoops)

By Jason Guerette (@JPGuerette)

NEW YORK -- The Garden was nearly sold out. Both Seton Hall and St. John's came in off midweek losses that left bad tastes in both fanbases' mouths. The first meeting between the two rivals ended in controversy. Even without Mustapha Heron, one of St. John's best players, the game was shaping up to be a potential classic at The World's Most Famous Arena.

St. John's then proceeded to punch the Pirates not just in the mouth, but the arm, both legs, and the back as well, sprinting out to a 23-point lead before warding off a big, late Seton Hall charge in a 78-70 wire-to-wire victory that dropped the Hall out of a third-place tie in the Big East standings and made the Pirates' NCAA Tournament path a little harder.

Here are the 5 Thoughts:

1. Seeing Red

St. John's fans had to watch their team lose thanks in part to a controversial call at the end of the December 29 game in Newark before Shavar Reynolds hit his game-winning triple at the buzzer. The Red Storm players had to do the same, and the way Saturday's rematch started, it looked like they thought about nothing but that previous finish for two months.

St. John's started off by making every shot they took for the first few minutes, and that elevated their defense on the other end. The result was that Shamorie Ponds and Marvin Clark II led a complete and total beatdown of Seton Hall for the better part of the first half. It was 28-5 after the first nine minutes before the Pirates finally responded.

"It was definitely payback," Ponds said after leading all scorers with 27 for the Red Storm. "We always kept it in the back of our minds, what they did to us (last time), so we wanted to put our foot on their neck early."

It was also the second-straight game that the Pirates came out of the gates and didn't look ready for the task at hand. With Xavier, it was the Musketeers' physicality. Tonight, it was St. John's overwhelming will to get revenge. While head coach Kevin Willard stopped short of calling out the players' effort, however, Myles Powell did no such thing.

"Coach can say that the effort was there because he always has our back," Powell said. "But as a captain and a leader, I don't think it was there. We found ourselves down 20 points and it's hard to always play from behind."

2. Turnovers, Turnovers, Turnovers

The Pirates have had major issues with turnovers in Big East play: It's the singular stat alone that is most responsible for the vast majority of their losses. In a year of first halves that have been rough on the eyes in terms of ball security, tonight's was worse than any of their previous games, with a whopping 15 giveaways in the first 20 minutes. St. John's of course, excels at turning turnovers into points, and the Red Storm had 18 of those in the first half.

Quincy McKnight in particular had a rough night, turning the ball over five times in the half and seven times for the game. A bunch of the turnovers in the opening stanza came when Pirate ball handlers just had nowhere to go, and got caught in bad positions on drives. Most of McKnight's miscues were as a result of plays like this, which showed off St. John's general athleticism at the guard spots. 

How did the Pirates make their run? They shut off the turnover valve, of course, giving it away just four times in the second half until a couple of crucial late ones allowed St. John's to breathe a little easier. 

It's unfortunate because when they don't turn it over, the Pirates usually control the game, which was evident tonight in the Hall's comeback. Willard said afterwards that he may have a plan to try and fix what ails his team in this regard, as he did say postgame that he will be making changes to the Pirates' starting lineup, and specifically referenced the six assists against 13 turnovers by the backcourt. Stay tuned.

3. Rays Of Light

The Pirates were down 28-5 and going nowhere, and would have continued to do so had it not been for the spark that Romaro Gill and Shavar Reynolds gave them off the bench. The 7'2" Gill played true to his frame, and finished the first half with two points, three rebounds and three blocked shots. 

As for Reynolds, he may have shot just 1-for-6, but he scored four points and grabbed five boards in the first 20 minutes, and gave the Pirates the energy they lacked. He was the lone player to come out and match St. John's considerable energy off the jump. 

It was a good thing he and Gill did what they did because Seton Hall didn't end up getting completely run out of the gym like it looked as though the Pirates would. They made several runs in the game, cutting the Red Storm lead down to 10 in the first half at one point, then nine points in the early second half before a late 12-3 push sliced it to five points. But they could not get closer than that.

4. Same Old, Same Old

Lost in the momentum swings of this game was the fact that this exact same scenario played out between these two teams in Newark in December: St. John's is hot to start the game, forces turnovers, and scores off them to take a big early lead. In the second stanza, the Pirates stop giving the ball away and come back, with a close game brewing at the end.

In fact, Seton Hall has been a second half team all throughout Big East play as well, and Willard was asked about why the first half keeps on giving the Pirates so much trouble.

"I think these guys have followed Myles' lead most of the year," he said. "But I think some of the other guys need to help him out just a little bit more early in games instead of just sitting there watching Myles, and I think I need to make some changes to facilitate that a little bit."

This quote came on the heels of Willard commenting that Powell has at times been a bit too passive early in games, and obviously, both things can't be true at the same time. The grand answer may be trying to find the balance, the fine line between getting Powell going and the other players elevating the team at the beginning of games. Of course, the fact that there are just three regular season games remaining makes focusing on that specific part more difficult.

5. Playoff Time

As for Seton Hall's tournament hopes, yes, they are in jeopardy, but no, they are not dead. The Pirates' goal coming in was to win two of their final four games to get to 9-9 in the Big East. With the non-conference resume they put together and a soft NCAA bubble, that is likely enough for a fourth straight bid to the Big Dance.

It seems like this is a Thought every game, but this is the time of year where every game matters. Tonight's defeat makes going down to Georgetown and sweeping the Hoyas a must with the strength of the two home opponents Seton Hall has remaining, the top two teams in the Big East in Marquette and Villanova. The Pirates looked at their sharpest at home against the young Georgetown team, and they will need this next week off to re-calibrate and bring the same type of game to the floor in DC.

Seton Hall quote book: St. John's

Kevin Willard on a potential lack of intensity during St. John's game-opening 28-5 run:
"I've never questioned this team's effort or their intensity. I give Marvin Clark a lot of credit. He came out -- I thought he really set the tone with his defense -- and offensively, I just thought he came out and really, really got us on our heels. But these guys, it's not from a lack of effort, it's just that you've got to give St. John's credit. They came out and they knew how important this game was, and they came out hungry, like a pack of dogs, and put us on our heels a little bit."

On Seton Hall's focus at beginnings of games:
"This group -- we've been in a lot of close, tight games -- I don't think this group has gone through it. I think the biggest thing I'm learning about them is they don't understand this time of year, I think, what it takes to really kind of win on a nightly basis, and so I think it's learning lessons. Sandro, Quincy, Myles Cale, for the most part -- and the rest of these guys -- have never been in this situation, and you have really just two guys that have been, and they've never been in the roles that they are, so I think they don't know. I am going to make some changes to the starting lineup moving forward, just because you can't have your starting backcourt 6-for-13 on assists and turnovers, so I am going to make some changes to maybe help that out."

Myles Powell on Seton Hall's effort:
"Coach is going to say the effort was there because he always has our back, but as a captain and a leader, I don't think it was there. We found ourselves down 20 points, and it's kind of hard to always play from behind, so like Coach said, we're going to go back and make some changes, and we're going to figure it out."

Willard on Marvin Clark:
"I loved -- I think defensively, he came out and he dove on the floor two times -- I just thought you could see he had a different type of energy than he had. I know he got a lot of rest at Providence being back in the locker room, so that might have helped him, but he really looked like he knew he wanted this game. He looked like a fifth-year senior that was going to do whatever it had to take, and I just saw it in his intensity and his overall play. It wasn't just the offense. I think the play where he dove on the floor to get an offensive rebound and they scored, and he also dove on the floor right in front of their bench, and I just thought their whole team fed off him really well."

Powell on better second-half performances, and Willard following up:
Powell: "I just think the teams come out so locked in on me closer to their bench, and they can hear their coaches calling out the plays, and when you always have a coach in your ear saying, 'Lock in or follow and trail,' it's kind of easier than when you're down on the other end by yourself. I guess that's what it is, I'm not really sure."
Willard: "I think, again, these guys have followed Myles' lead most of the year, and I'm really balancing how much -- I think we need to press and we need to be aggressive defensively, but I'm really worried about how much I've put on Myles. He plays with so much heart and he plays so hard, and he does so many good things. The only negative I'll say about him is he's such a good kid, but I just think he's being a little bit too passive. He's not playing with that selfishness early in games, and I think he realizes as the game goes on. And that's not a knock on him, that's probably a compliment, but I think some of these other guys need to help him out just a little bit more early in games instead of just sitting there watching Myles, and I need to make some changes to facilitate that a little bit."

Powell on significance of Saturday's game at Georgetown and recharging the batteries:
"We knew we had to win two of the last four games today, and that's our goal. Whatever it takes for us to get back to the (NCAA) Tournament, I'm sure Coach is going to know and he's going to make sure we know. Like I said, we've been fighting for it all year, and we're not going to stop fighting for what we want."

"That's what good teams do, they go back and watch film, see what you did wrong and you correct it. That's where we're at right now, and that's what we're going to do."

Willard on St. John's defensive effort:
"I've always thought Shamorie could probably be one of the best defenders in the league when he locks in, and again, it's hard for him to do that continually for the amount of minutes he has to play and what he does for them offensively. But when that team's locked in the way they are, and the way they were tonight -- I mean, Justin Simon's long, Marvin Clark can switch pick-and-rolls, LJ Figueroa, I think, is someone that doesn't get talked about a lot defensively -- I think their switching and their length bothered us."

On how valuable Seton Hall's upcoming bye week can be:
"I think, as the guys that cover us a lot will tell you, they'll tell you I haven't been a huge fan of the schedule -- I think that would probably be an understatement -- I know Myles Powell needs a couple days, and I think more than anything, he needs it mentally. The rest of these guys, I like the rest of these guys that haven't played a lot of games in this situation to continue with the rhythm, but I'm looking forward to the week off. Like I said, I love these guys, I love this team. We've been in a lot of close games, man, all year long -- it started in November and it takes a toll on you, physically and mentally -- and as good as these guys have been, they need a little reset button to kind of just get their batteries charged, especially the guy sitting next to me (Powell). He's done it all year, and I've got great confidence that he's going to be able to bounce back and do it again."

Hofstra falls to James Madison in senior day stunner

Justin Wright-Foreman led Hofstra with 33 points Saturday, but Pride was unable to hold off James Madison on senior day in Hempstead. (Photo by Vincent Simone/Daly Dose Of Hoops)

By Vincent Simone (@VTSimone)

HEMPSTEAD, NY -- Put away the ticker tape. Hold the parade.

James Madison outscored Hofstra 15-10 in overtime to upset the Pride, 104-99, on senior day at the Mack Sports Complex, denying the Pride a chance to clinch a share of its second Colonial Athletic Association regular season title and the number-one seed in the upcoming conference tournament.

The Dukes’ Matt Lewis poured in a career-high 40 points, including a buzzer-beating three-pointer at the end of regulation to send the game into overtime. It was the first 40-point game by a JMU player since Denzel Bowles matched the mark on February 15, 2011 at Towson, and the most points scored by a Dukes player in current head coach Louis Rowe’s three-year tenure. As a team, James Madison shot 52.2 percent from the field and 10-for-20 from behind the arc while making 22 of 24 attempts from the charity stripe. Lewis himself finished a perfect 12-for-12 from the line.

After allowing just one conference opponent to shoot better than 47 percent in its first eleven league games, Hofstra (23-6, 13-3 CAA) has allowed opponents to collectively shoot 51 percent from the field over its last five outings, going 3-2 in those games after beginning the conference slate 12-1.

“We didn’t bring it today,” head coach Joe Mihalich lamented. “We didn’t guard at all. You have to take it personal defensively, and we didn’t. The last three games we didn’t guard. We were really good guarding [earlier in the year], and we’ve got to find it.”

Despite all the pomp and circumstance surrounding Hofstra star Justin Wright-Foreman’s final regular season home game -- including a giveaway of white Hofstra shirts emblazoned with the number 3 -- the Dukes controlled the first half, holding Hofstra to just 1-of-8 from behind the arc and taking a 40-32 lead into the break. The Pride kicked into gear after intermission, turning an eight-point deficit into an eight-point advantage little more than four minutes into the second stanza. Tareq Coburn kicked off the frame with a pair of triples, followed by a pair from Wright-Foreman. The duo alone outscored the Dukes 20-4 to turn the tide. Hofstra led by as many as nine in the second half before James Madison rattled off a 9-0 run to grab an 80-79 lead with 2:46 remaining.

Coburn put the Pride up three with a corner triple with 40 seconds left to play and Desure Buie held serve from the free throw line until the final four seconds, when the Dukes went the length of the court for Lewis’ tying triple.

“We didn’t execute,” Mihalich said of the final possession of regulation and the choice not to foul while up three. “You can always second guess it, but we didn’t execute it the right way.”
The Pride put home the first five points of overtime, but were dealt two haymakers halfway through the frame. Trailing by five, the Dukes pulled even in one possession when Stuckey Mosley buried a triple while Hofstra’s Eli Pemberton was whistled for a foul away from the ball, giving the Dukes two additional free throws. On James Madison’s ensuing possession, Lewis buried another of his six triples while selling the foul to give the Dukes a four-point lead, their largest since the opening minute of the second half. Trailing by three inside the final ten seconds, Wright-Foreman did not get the benefit of the call on a three-point attempt, and the Dukes recovered his miss to seal the victory.
Five Dukes finished in double figures, with Mosley (20), Dwight Wilson (14), Darius Banks (12), and Deshon Parker (10) joining Lewis. Wright-Foreman led the Pride with 33 points, his tenth 30-point game of the season and fourth in his last five outings. Pemberton (15), Coburn (14), and Jacquil Taylor (10) joined Wright-Foreman in double figures while Buie dished out a career-best 12 assists.
Hofstra finishes the regular season with a road swing at Drexel and Delaware next weekend. The Pride currently lead rival Northeastern by one game in the conference standings.

Iona vs. Manhattan Photo Gallery

Photos from Iona's 66-52 win over Manhattan on February 22, 2019:

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

Iona extends surge with fifth straight win, and eighth straight against Manhattan

Rickey McGill was catalyst behind game-changing 16-2 Iona run in second half as Gaels defeated Manhattan Friday night. (Photo by Bob Dea/Daly Dose Of Hoops)

NEW YORK -- Like death and taxes, Iona's annual ascent toward the top of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference standings is once again bordering on absolute certainty.

Two weeks removed from a fourth consecutive loss that had cast aspersions on whether or not the Gaels were formidable enough to win an unprecedented fourth consecutive MAAC tournament crown, the reigning champion is making its latest push at the most opportune of times, saving one of its more resounding statements for the expense of a longtime adversary once again.

Trailing Manhattan at halftime, Iona needed less than seven minutes to take the lead, and then retake an advantage it would hold for the remainder of the evening Friday, using a 16-2 run to pull away from the Jaspers en route to a 66-52 victory at Draddy Gymnasium in the lone regular season encounter between the two programs, earning a fifth straight win in the process to erase any doubt that may have lingered from the recent four-game slide earlier this month.

"We just had to come out and play our game," said Rickey McGill, who scored 13 points and was the chief contributor in the game-defining stretch that saw the Gaels (12-15, 10-6 MAAC) score an eighth triumph in a row against Manhattan since the Jaspers defeated Iona in 2015 to repeat as MAAC champions. "We knew they were going to come out and play their hardest against us because it's a rivalry game, so we just had to slow down a little bit and try to play our game."

For McGill, who verbally committed to Manhattan out of high school before changing his mind and signing with Iona, the prospect of potentially closing his collegiate career undefeated against the Gaels' chief rival was a proposition he appeared to enjoy being informed of before serving up a more diplomatic answer seconds later.

"Hmmm," he proclaimed in the wake of having extended the longest streak of success at the hands of the Jaspers since Iona authored a 13-game string of victories between 1983 and 1989. "It's my last season, so to go out like that -- 8-0 against a rival -- that's a pretty good accomplishment."

In the first few minutes, however, it seemed as though any positive outcome on the part of the visitors would have to be earned against Manhattan (9-18, 7-8 MAAC) and its deceptive matchup zone defense, which made it difficult for the Gaels to penetrate the lane. As a result, only one Iona field goal in the first half -- a transition dunk by McGill off a steal and run-out that capped a 9-0 run and put the Jaspers in a 20-15 hole -- was made inside the three-point arc. Manhattan, who entered Friday's contest having won five of six with its lone loss in that span coming in a narrow two-point setback to Siena, responded with a 13-3 run to regain control as the opening stanza drew to a close, but Asante Gist -- once again thrust into a starting role due to Iona's seven-man rotation -- answered a Tykei Greene three-pointer with one of his own from the left wing, beating the buzzer and turning a five-point game into a more manageable two-point affair, swinging precious momentum in the process as both teams headed into the locker room.

"That was a big one," McGill said of Gist's off-balance shot. "We needed that one because we were missing towards the end a little bit. It happened to go in, so that was a big one for us."

The Gaels scored nine straight points to begin the second half after spotting Manhattan the first bucket after the intermission, but the Jaspers fired back with five unanswered points to tie the score at 35-all. It would be as close as the hosts would get, though, as back-to-back threes from Ben Perez and McGill kick-started the aforementioned 16-2 run that tipped the scales of what had been an evenly-matched contest, and left Steve Masiello effusively praising Iona's effort while also highlighting the growth of his own roster.

"We know what our guys are capable of," Manhattan's head coach assessed. "Sometimes young guys get one-dimensional, but that's part of growth, that's part of maturity. You can't let a couple of missed shots affect you, good or bad, and I thought we did that a little bit tonight. They're trying to do the right things, but we just didn't do them as well as Iona did tonight."

With its latest victory, Iona is now among a tie with Rider for second place in the MAAC standings, a half-game behind first-place Canisius, who visits New Rochelle Sunday afternoon. By virtue of having defeated Rider on January 25, the Gaels would currently be the No. 2 seed in the MAAC tournament if the season ended today. However, the focus is not on Albany, but rather the Golden Griffins, who now arrive for what has become an increasingly pivotal late-season matchup with a myriad of postseason implications that may have appeared impossible just one fortnight ago.

"I'm satisfied for today's win, and I'll let you know about the next one," Tim Cluess candidly opined with regard to his Iona team's positioning in the MAAC race. "I don't really get carried away with where we are. I get more carried away with how hard we work every day, and just trying to grind it out every day. Obviously, I'm proud of our guys for fighting back for sure, but I don't want them to get any satisfaction right now. This is a time where they really have to be hungry."

Friday, February 22, 2019

Hofstra shows championship-caliber heart in double-OT win over Towson

Justin Wright-Foreman may have led Hofstra in scoring Thursday, but Jacquil Taylor (above) was arguably most valuable to Pride in its victory over Towson. (Photo by Bob Dea/Daly Dose Of Hoops)

HEMPSTEAD, NY -- In its first game after its first Colonial Athletic Association loss -- suffered at Northeastern on February 2, Hofstra proved it remained the class of the conference by thrashing Elon and exploding for 102 points, revealing at the same time that the Pride could not only respond from a first dose of adversity, but do so strongly.

A similar question was asked Thursday night, when Hofstra -- in its first game removed from a surprising road upset at the hands of UNCW last Saturday -- returned to the Mack Sports Complex to take on a Towson team looking to position itself forwardly and avoid a play-in game in the upcoming CAA tournament.

Unlike the Elon game, the road traveled was far more circuitous, yet it led to the all-too-familiar destination, one that fans on Long Island have seen no other variation of this season.

Trailing by as many as 10 points in the second half, the Pride seemed resigned to fall into its first two-game losing streak of the year, until its resilient senior trio picked up the slack to force overtime -- and a second extra session wherein the defense that has gained recognition as the weeks and months have passed -- and ultimately prevail, defeating Towson in a gritty, and at times, not aesthetically pleasing, 91-82 double-overtime battle in the penultimate home game of the regular season.

"There were a lot of reasons why we could have lost, or should have lost, but we didn't," head coach Joe Mihalich remarked as Hofstra (23-5, 13-2 CAA) remained undefeated on its home floor and enabled the possibility of clinching no worse than a share of the CAA's regular season championship Saturday afternoon against James Madison. "At the end of the day, it's about walking off the floor and getting that W."

"We started off slow and we dug ourselves a hole," said Justin Wright-Foreman, Hofstra's leading scorer with 28 points, and one of five Pride players who tallied 11 markers or more. "But this team is full of fighters and we just want to win at all costs, and the dog just came out of all of us, whether it was me, Jacquil (Taylor), Desure (Buie), or Elijah (Pemberton)."

As the season has evolved, so too has Hofstra's ability to win in different ways. The Pride has shown it can be a dominant force on many occasions, as evidenced in the CAA-opening demolition of Delaware and the aforementioned Elon game on February 7. It has also come back to win convincingly with strong second-half showings against the likes of Drexel, UNCW and Charleston, as well as having proven it can outgun high-octane offenses such as William & Mary -- and the second Charleston game on the road last week -- to get the job done. Then, there is the specter of Wright-Foreman and his virtuoso scoring ability, which carried Hofstra to the finish line against William & Mary to the tune of a school-record 48 points, not to mention his unforgettable buzzer-beater to defeat Northeastern last month. But Hofstra has also won without Wright-Foreman's best game, and on Thursday, despite his team-high point total, it was the supporting cast which turned out to be most critical.

Desure Buie, Wright-Foreman's backcourt partner who celebrated his 22nd birthday with a 16-point, nine-assist effort, spearheaded the comeback with a steal that led to a Wright-Foreman three-pointer, then scored the final four points of regulation to force the first of two overtimes, a sequence that did not go unnoticed by his running mate.

"There's not much more you could say about that," Wright-Foreman said of Buie and his two-way play in the second half and both overtime periods. "His steal, his leadership -- everything -- it just was incredible."

Jalen Ray came off the bench to drain five threes en route to 17 points, second only to Wright-Foreman in a showing that underscored his X-factor qualities that first arrived on the scene last year, when the then-freshman sank an improbable game-winning shot at Monmouth.

"He made shots when we needed him," Mihalich said. "He was our best perimeter defender, he had five rebounds, he had five assists, no turnovers, and he made five threes. We haven't really studied this, but there are a lot of good sixth men in the league, and he's as good of a sixth man as there is in the league."

Finally, on a night where Wright-Foreman and Eli Pemberton demonstrated their warrior tendencies by playing full 50-minute games, there was Jacquil Taylor, the rim protector the Pride had been missing the past two years, with all due respect to Rokas Gustys and his rebounding prowess. With 14 points, 17 rebounds, and seven blocked shots, the graduate transfer from Purdue continued to indicate his value, and it was his charge and subsequent basket to start the second overtime that gave Hofstra a lead it would never relinquish.

"It just shows a true testament to all our characters," Taylor said of the team impact of Thursday's win. "We just want to win at the end of the day. We just found a way to win. It wasn't pretty, like we all said, but a win's a win."

Seton Hall vs. Xavier Photo Gallery

Photos from Seton Hall's 70-69 loss to Xavier on February 20, 2019:

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

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

JP's 4 Thoughts: Seton Hall stumbles at home to Xavier

Tyrique Jones (0) and Naji Marshall (13) combined for 46 of Xavier's 70 points as Musketeers upset Seton Hall Wednesday. (Photos by Bob Dea/Daly Dose Of Hoops)

By Jason Guerette (@JPGuerette)

NEWARK, NJ -- Riding a three-game conference win streak that included a big road victory at Creighton on Sunday, the Pirates came home and nearly came all the way back from a 16-point deficit with under seven minutes remaining, but suffered a 70-69 loss to a Xavier team that came in at .500 on the season, dropping to 7-7 in the Big East in the process.

Here are the 4 Thoughts from the Rock:

1. Let's Get Physical

From the get-go, Xavier out-toughed the Pirates inside, pounding the ball to Tyrique Jones and Zach Hankins. That generated points in the paint galore, with the Musketeers scoring their first 20 points of the game inside, as well as a 12-4 rebounding margin in the first eight minutes.

Head coach Kevin Willard knew that Xavier would be physical, and took the blame for the Hall's slow start in that area.

"Watching Xavier play against Providence on Saturday, I knew we were in for a physical game," Willard said. "I was surprised how we came out not understanding how physical they were playing, and that goes all on me."

Myles Powell also shouldered some of the blame for the effort on the physicality side of things as one of the unquestioned leaders of the team.

"I think we came in prepared for them to roll over for us, and in this league that's not what happens," the junior guard said. "Mike (Nzei) and I have to do a better job preparing (the) team. Coach (Willard) knew what was at stake, we knew what was at stake, and we've just got to do better."

So, the leaders of the Pirates both acknowledged the need to just flat-out be better, which is a good sign. Seton Hall was much better in the second half, particularly on Jones (who didn't have a single point in the second half), and also when they made their big late push to try and pull out the win, but it was too little, too late.

2. Off-Target

One of the reasons the Pirates were in the position they were in to have to make such a run as the 17-2 spurt to end it was poor outside shooting, which may get lost in the rest of the game story. We don't normally bring this up with the Pirates, but tonight, they began the second half 1-for-10 from deep, as they are usually solid in this area (helped, of course, by Powell's regular sniping) and even after a couple late makes to help the run, they finished 6-for-26 from the great beyond as opposed to 21-for-39 (54 percent) inside the arc.

They also clanked five free throws in 14 attempts, including a rare couple of misses by Powell, who Pirate fans know is one of the best free throw shooters around. Sometimes, things just don't fall. It wasn't that the looks weren't good. This includes the end of the game, when after Powell nearly lost the ball around the foul line, he kicked out to Shavar Reynolds, who happened to be standing at the exact same spot where he drilled the three-pointer which beat St. John's to kick off conference play. This time, he was just a tad off. 

3. Crunch Time

The Pirates had the ball with 15 seconds left, down by just one point. The plan was to isolate Powell at the top of the arc, which they did. Powell's Plan A was to drive the ball, as he told the media afterwards, but after getting the ball back from Quincy McKnight, he drove and spun towards the middle, by which point he nearly fumbled the ball when Reynolds' man went to help out.

Powell kicked it out to Reynolds, and you know the rest. He would make the pass again if he could, too.

"We believe in each other," Powell said. "I passed him the ball believing in him to make the shot, and if he's open again, I'll pass him the ball again."

I saw some fans criticizing the play on Twitter afterwards based on the result (which they have a right to do). But Xavier did read it pretty well, and Willard afterwards did credit Naji Marshall for defending it as well as he did. 

Again, them's the breaks. A much stronger argument could be made for the fact that at home, you shouldn't need to be in that position in the first place.

4. Red Storm Rematch

As if the Pirates' next contest at St. John's required any more urgency, it now has some. At 7-7 in the Big East, but with a relatively weak bubble for the NCAA Tournament according to most, a lot of folks have said that a .500 mark in the Big East with what the Hall did in its non-conference slate would put them in a great position.

That still holds true, but the Pirates are now taking the hard road. Their remaining games are at St. John's, at Georgetown (who just beat Villanova), then home against Marquette and the Wildcats to end the year, closing with the two best teams in the Big East.

Realistically, you can't expect the Pirates to win both of those final two home games against such tough competition. If you follow me, that means in order to be .500 or better in this year's topsy-turvy Big East, Seton Hall must win one of its two remaining road contests (and maybe both if it doesn't grab one of those last two home contests), which are never easy. I am a proponent of getting one's work done early, and so coming off a home loss that didn't sit well with anyone -- players, coaches, or fans -- Saturday's game in prime time at Madison Square Garden becomes a pretty huge contest.

And one can also assume that because of the way the first Seton Hall-St. John's meeting ended, that St. John's will be ready to play, especially if they eventually lose at Providence and are looking to get back in the win column, too (and they are down 21 at the under-12 media timeout in the second half as I type).

Bottom line is, you know St. John's will come out with all the reason in the world to throw their best punch at the Pirates. Seton Hall needs to be ready for that. They know an intense game is coming, as the players said after the game tonight, but as we also just saw, knowing it and responding to it are sometimes two different things.

We'll have full coverage for you at MSG for what should be at least a near-sellout and a rocking World's Most Famous Arena. See you there.

Kevin Willard quote book: Xavier

On Seton Hall's performance being a letdown:
"I don't think there was a letdown. Watching Xavier play on Saturday against Providence, I just knew we were going to be in for a really physical game, and I was a little surprised with how we came out not understanding how physical they were playing, and that goes all on me."

On Seton Hall's final possession and his intentions for Myles Powell:
"They had ten team fouls, so I tried to get them to rip through or go with a step-back, maybe a ball fake, something like that. Naji (Marshall) did a great job on him all night, you gotta give him credit."

On defending Xavier's Tyrique Jones:
"I think the biggest difference was Tyrique didn't really score on the low post. I think he scored on two post moves, but for the most part, he scored most of -- he had two offensive rebounds for dunks and he had two dribble penetrations for dunks. I think Sandro (Mamukelashvili) did a really good job early in the second half of battling, getting him off the paint, but I thought we did a little bit better job of trying to keep guys in front of us in the second half."

On Saturday's matchup vs. St. John's, and its challenges:
"Our last four, every one's a challenge. There's no easy nights in this conference, and we've got a tough road ahead of us and we've got to bounce back."

On Shavar Reynolds shooting on Seton Hall's final possession instead of Powell:
"I'd rather have Myles shoot it."

On Seton Hall's interior play:
"I thought Sandro and Mike (Nzei) really battled. i thought the second half was much better, I thought the first half was not very good."

On Seton Hall's sluggish first half, and any explanation:
"Offensively, we were doing pretty good. I think they had 20 points, we had 18, but we can't give up 47 percent on field goal defense. That's just not who we are."

On Nzei and his health:
"He's fine."

On whether or not Seton Hall can learn from Wednesday's loss:
"We're in late February. We've got to move on and get ready for St. John's."

Iona rallies at Quinnipiac to extend win streak to four

By Vincent Simone (@VTSimone)
HAMDENConn. — Rumors of Iona’s demise may have been greatly exaggerated.
The Gaels rallied on the road to take down Quinnipiac, 81-77, Tuesday night, thus pulling into a five-way tie for second place in the MAAC along with the Bobcats, Rider, Siena, and Monmouth at 9-6 in league play. Canisius maintains a hold on first place, a half-game ahead of the pack at 9-5.
The victory extends the Gaels’ current winning streak to four games, directly after dropping four league games in a row for just the second time in head coach Tim Cluess’ nine-year tenure.
Junior forward Tajuan Agee led the way for Iona Tuesday with a career-high 27 points. The Chicago native also nabbed 12 rebounds to record his fifth game of 20+ points and 10+ rebounds in his last 13 outings.
“[Tajuan] played his heart out,” Cluess said of the junior. “He’s just getting better and better. Our guys weren’t shooting the ball well, so we had to find another way to score. Tajuan knocked down shots, got into the lane, and did a little of everything for us.”
Senior guard Rickey McGill sparked Iona in the first half after junior Asante Gist picked up a pair of early fouls. McGill capped the night with 21 points with a 4-7 mark from downtown.
“He’s kind of struggled at times lately, and he needed for himself a game where he just got comfortable out there again,” Cluess said of McGill. “I thought he played comfortably and with a tremendous amount of energy and really helped us win the game.”
With just a handful of games left in McGill’s playing career, Cluess is hopeful the senior will continue to shine bright down the stretch as he seeks the rare accomplishment of winning four MAAC tournament titles.
Although McGill has already proven his stellar ability on the court averaging 15.2 points per game along with 5.3 assists per game and likely to court first team All-MAAC consideration, he can perhaps take inspiration from recent Gael graduate Zach Lewis. Lewis averaged just 8.1 points per game last season before exploding to average 18.3 points per game over Iona’s three victories en route to being named tournament MVP.
“I’m hoping to get [that spark] now,” Cluess said. “I saw it in him tonight. Rickey wants to be the guy who’s usually cool most of the time, but he doesn’t want to lose.”
Junior wing E.J. Crawford piled on 20 points of his own, along with a career-high 10 rebounds. It is the second time this season Crawford, McGill, and Agee have each recorded 20 or more points in a single game, previously doing so during a 95-90 loss at Niagara on January 11.
Graduate guard and MAAC leading scorer Cameron Young led Quinnipiac with 30 points while sophomore Rich Kelly added 18. Tuesday’s loss comes two days after Young dropped 55 in a triple-overtime win over Siena Sunday afternoon. Iona was the lone MAAC team not in action on Sunday.
Although the Bobcats held an eight-point lead early in the second half, their offense froze solid over the course of the period. Quinnipiac converted just three field goals in over ten minutes of action in the second half as Iona put on a 26-7 run to seize control.
“Early on, I thought we were functioning pretty well,” Quinnipiac coach Baker Dunleavy said. “Maybe it wore down down the stretch, but it’s unacceptable. We’ve got to dig in, and that’s where this group has to improve.”

Iona continues its stretch run Friday night against local rival Manhattan, while Quinnipiac returns to action Sunday at Monmouth.