Sunday, January 20, 2019

Kevin Willard quote book: DePaul

By Jason Guerette (@JPGuerette)

On allowing 97 points to DePaul:
"Obviously in the second half, their inside game really dominated, but I thought we had some breakdowns in the first half that really hurt us. I thought we were doing a good job on (Max) Strus, and we let him get loose early a little bit late in the first half, and that really kind of gave them momentum. We just couldn't get a stop or a rebound in the second half."

On lack of rebounding aside from Sandro Mamukelashvili:
"That happened to us in the first game (at DePaul), and that kind of happened again tonight. They just -- we let them get in the lane a little bit too much, whether it was dribble penetration or coming off screens -- if you have to step up and help, it kind of gets you out of rebounding position. Sandro, I thought he did a good job fighting all night, but we just were letting guys get in the lane a little bit too much, and it's putting pressure on our guys."

On defending DePaul's forwards with Romaro Gill out and Michael Nzei in foul trouble:
"Yeah, the foul trouble really hurt, especially not having Mike late in the second half, but we're looking forward to getting Ro back here -- I think next Sunday -- so these guys, their effort's great, their activity's great. We've just got to execute better. Our execution over the last three or four games has been a little less than stellar."

On starting Darnell Brodie:
"To be honest with you, I knew going in that Femi (Olujobi) has been killing everybody. He's been putting a hurting on everybody, and we're trying to save Sandro for as many minutes as possible of being down there and banging him, and I think it started off okay, but it didn't end up all that great."

On fouling DePaul prematurely:
"Yeah, that's something we'll go back and watch. But these guys, they fought the whole way. They got down, they never give up. We had our chances, and again, that's something that -- as we get older and get a little more mature -- I think they'll make the right plays."

On his message after giving up 97 points:
"We'd been playing pretty good defense, to be honest with you. Our numbers are pretty good. We've just got to use this week to kind of get back to being solid. We've got into some bad habits without practice -- we're gambling too much, we're reaching too much, and we've just got to get back to getting solid. I think this week will be good for us to kind of get back into a good rhythm defensively. But they've been working, they're out there working hard. We've just got to be a little bit more solid."

On growing pains and execution issues contributing to Seton Hall's slump:
"I think it's definitely a little bit of growing pains, but I think it's also not having one of your main centers for 22 minutes a game. Ro is a big loss, and it's kind of weird how the schedule can sometimes get you where you play a team like this where you need Ro, so it's one of those things that's kind of a little bit of youth, it's a little bit of execution, but I've got a lot of confidence in these guys. I've got a lot of confidence going forward that, with some time off to get these guys rested a little bit, get them mentally back refreshed, I think it'll do them good."

On whether Saturday's result could be expected with a young team:
"Hopefully the older guys -- Mike and Myles Powell -- they've been through this before a little bit, and we're only seven games into conference play, so it's not like we're 17. We've still got a lot of time. I think we definitely need to recharge emotionally to kind of get back to playing emotionally at a little bit higher level, but again, I think this week will really give us a chance to do that."

On Quincy McKnight and Myles Cale's productivity helping Seton Hall moving forward:
"I thought -- even in the Providence game -- I thought Q was really picking the right spots. He just missed some shots in the Providence game, but I just think he's being aggressive at the right times. He also had nine assists and two turnovers, so for Q's game, I think he's starting to really find his groove offensively. And Myles Cale, I think he got on the break tonight, he got some easy stuff. He's been working hard on his shooting, and it's good to see that that's paying off. I like where Q is, and I know Myles Cale is going to continue playing well."

JP's 5 Thoughts: Seton Hall gets worked over on boards, swept by DePaul

Quincy McKnight led Seton Hall with 25 points and nine assists, but Pirates were outrebounded and outmatched Saturday night, falling to DePaul for second time in as many weeks. (Photo by Bob Dea/Daly Dose Of Hoops)

By Jason Guerette (@JPGuerette)

NEWARK, NJ -- Coming into conference play with wins over Kentucky, Miami and Maryland, Seton Hall was riding high. They then beat St. John's and Xavier to start Big East play, including a road win in Cincinnati. Things were going smoothly.

But oh, have times changed. A close loss at DePaul was followed by a close win at home over Butler, but a close defeat at Marquette and a sloppy loss at Providence proved a prelude to Saturday night in Newark, a damaging 97-93 loss at home to the Blue Demons that marked the second-ever time the Pirates had been swept by them and the first time DePaul had swept anyone in the Big East since 2015. It was also the most points the Pirates had ever allowed at home under head coach Kevin Willard, and the most they've allowed in a home game under any coach dating back to 2006.

Here are the thoughts from a rough night at the Rock:

1. Windexed

This game came down to one enormous statistic: rebounding.

DePaul absolutely destroyed the Pirates on the boards, finishing with a 42-19 edge that felt like it was 82-19. Sandro Mamukelashvili, who finished with a double-double of 12 points and 10 boards, grabbed more than half of the Hall's caroms for the game. This led to a whopping 25-8 edge in second-chance points, and doomed the Pirates, whose offense operated at an excellent efficiency for most of the night.

Willard wasn't pleased.

"That happened to us in the first game (against DePaul), and it happened again tonight," Willard said. "We let them get in the lane a little bit too much, whether it was dribble penetration or coming off screens. If you step up to help, it kind of gets you out of rebounding position. Sandro did a great job fighting all night, but we're letting guys get in the lane too much and it's putting pressure on our (other) guys."

The Pirates are not a great rebounding team this year -- losing a walking double-double in Angel Delgado was never going to be without its growing pains -- but Seton Hall's absolutely better than what they showed tonight. All of the players who were made available said that it was the first thing Willard mentioned in the locker room after the game. Next to Mamu's 10, only Myles Powell had more than two rebounds. 

What Willard said about denying the ball going into the paint better definitely holds water, but at the same time, other players just need to get in there and scrap because 54-percent shooting, 93-point nights just won't happen that often to keep them in games like it did tonight.

2. A Seven-Foot-Two Answer?

So, how to fix the rebounding woes?

Tonight, shot-blocker Romaro Gill missed his fifth game with an ankle injury, although he did dress tonight and warm up for the Pirates. He should be back after the upcoming bye week against Villanova, and according to a couple different sources, that could help cure what ails the Hall.

"Honestly, we haven't been rebounding the ball in practice, either, without 'Big Ro,'" Quincy McKnight said after the game. "He started to play so well, blocking shots and rebounding the ball for us, he changed our defense so much. When he went down, we had a little slip on defense."

Willard echoed that the Pirates are looking forward to getting his presence back on the floor as well. While a shot-blocking presence is usually a big thing to have, and Gill definitely has had a pretty big impact at times this year, the aforementioned points made above are more of a pressing issue. If the Pirates don't allow the ball to get into the lane, then a shot-blocker won't see a ton of chances to block shots. But a shot-blocker can cover up for some mistakes in that regard, and with the other bigs in foul trouble tonight, this loss is a game where Gill was missed.

3. The Good With The Bad

The final result tonight was discouraging for obvious reasons, but one of those is because the first half of this game was easily the Pirates' best first half on offense in Big East play, building off a similar start to the game at Providence that preceded it. They shot 57 percent from the field, and made six of eleven from three-point range, led by a 4-for-5 showing from Myles Cale. They also committed only five turnovers, which is their best showing in a Big East first half, and the biggest culprit in their slow starts to conference games this year overall.

Unfortunately, the defense left a lot to be desired, and that was a trend that continued the rest of the way. DePaul ended up with 32 free throw attempts thanks to all that offensive rebounding and working the ball inside, and made 29 of those, numbers that are hard to come by as they took advantage of the opportunities given to them.

4. Second Fiddle(s)

DePaul keyed on Myles Powell like everyone does, but after being frustrated in Providence, he had help tonight. Cale finished with 19 points on 7-for-11 shooting and 5-of-7 from deep, putting up big numbers in the first half by taking advantage of open looks when DePaul focused on Powell.

McKnight, meanwhile, led the charge in the second half, scoring 16 of his game-high 25 after halftime. He made nine of eleven attempts from the field, and also dished out nine assists against two turnovers, one of his best games as a Pirate on the offensive end.

Powell is an amazing scorer who can go off for 25 or more points at any time -- heck, he had 24 tonight, plus six assists, on 16 shots from the floor -- but all great players have to have help, and if McKnight and Cale in particular can do what they did tonight more going forward, it will help the Pirates take some pressure off Powell to do it all.

5. Circle The Wagons

Seton Hall enters its bye week this week by dropping four of five, and it's something I don't think anyone expected, especially due to being swept by DePaul. A game at Villanova looms out of the seven-day break as well, and we need not say more about the historic struggles Seton Hall has gone through on the Main Line.

This is an opportunity for the team to do something they had to do pretty much every season for the last few years: Come together as a unit. The bulk of that falls on veterans Powell and Michael Nzei, the two returners who played major minutes the last two seasons.

"We have to find it in ourselves to pull it together and get back on our feet," Powell said afterwards. "We've faced adversity before -- my freshman year, we were 3-7 (in the Big East), and then last year, we lost four in a row and found ourselves with our backs against the wall -- in the past, we never let our heads drag. We came together as brothers, as teammates, and we took it upon ourselves to win."

There comes a point in every team's season where there is a fork in the road. The last three years, the Pirates chose the right path, and they rebounded from their struggles to make it to the NCAA Tournament. The question is, can this team do the same? Realistically, Seton Hall now has to sweep one of the three remaining opponents it has not seen yet (Villanova, Creighton or Georgetown), and then perhaps pick off either Marquette or Villanova at home in late February/early March, not to mention defend its home court fiercely.

Going into conference play, we said a 10-8 Big East record should get the job done for a fourth-straight NCAA berth. To reach that mark requires a 7-4 slate the rest of the way, something that is doable, but only if the Pirates choose the proverbial correct direction at the fork in their season, which feels like it has arrived.

Hofstra extends win streak to 14 with convincing victory over defending CAA champ Charleston

Eli Pemberton drives inside for two of game-high 26 points as Hofstra won 14th-straight Saturday against Charleston. (Photo by Vincent Simone/Daly Dose Of Hoops)

HEMPSTEAD, NY -- No less than a half-hour after Thursday's victory over UNCW was in the books, Joe Mihalich wasted little time preparing his Hofstra team to brace itself for the oncoming visit from College of Charleston, the defending Colonial Athletic Association champion that had just lost to Northeastern moments before the Pride walked off its home floor winners, stating that his players had "better be ready" for what he termed an angry team.

Two days -- and a handful of tense moments -- later, the coach's warning was heeded, and quite possibly, well enough to result in perhaps the most emphatic salvo in a season already loaded with one impressive statement after another.

Behind 26 points from Eli Pemberton, one of four Hofstra players in double figures, the Pride shook off a determined challenge from Charleston in the first half and did so again when its lead was trimmed to one point midway through the second stanza, ultimately pulling away from the Cougars to score an 86-72 triumph that maintained the hosts' status as the CAA's lone unbeaten program.

"I think the key to the game was our poise and composure," Mihalich remarked as Hofstra (17-3, 7-0 CAA) extended its winning streak to 14 consecutive games, a mark that would later become the longest active string in the nation after Michigan and Virginia -- the last two undefeated teams in Division I -- both lost hours apart from one another, with the Pride's win sandwiched in between the defeats suffered by the Wolverines and Cavaliers. "I've talked about it so many teams this year: When the going gets tough and we go through some tough times, a lot of players will think about losing. Our guys don't do that. They think about what they have to win, and I think that's what the good players do."

Even as Charleston (14-6, 3-4 CAA) began the game on a 7-0 run, the Pride remained focused on the task at hand, not rushing matters and letting the game play out in the opening minutes. In particular, a four-minute sequence in which Hofstra forced six Cougar turnovers led to a 13-0 run that gave the Pride the lead for good, turning a 12-6 deficit into a 19-12 advantage that would soon reach double digits before Grant Riller -- whose 24 points led the visitors in a losing effort -- nailed a three-pointer at the buzzer to bring the margin on the scoreboard to a respectable eight points at the intermission.

Leading 42-34 entering the final 20 minutes of regulation, Hofstra withstood the expected challenge from last year's titleholders, bending but not breaking as Charleston drew within one point on three separate occasions, doing so for the final time with 10:38 on the clock when a Riller layup trimmed the cushion to 57-56. The Pride would respond with six straight points to extend its edge back to three possessions, and after a Cougar triple cut the lead to four, Hofstra effectively slammed the door with a 12-3 run to ensure its margin would shrink no lower than nine points for the remainder of a contest in which it shot 62 percent from the floor to remain two games up on second-place Northeastern in the conference standings.

"I think we're different this year," Mihalich said when assessing his team's response to Charleston's championship pedigree and muscle memory. "I think we're a different team. There's a different makeup, there's a different chemistry, there's a different vibe, and last year, we had a big lead, they came back and we let it slip away. This year, I don't think anybody felt like we were going to. We felt like we could still win the game."

With the first half of CAA play wrapping up next week, the Pride -- which swept its first trip of the league season away from home last week with a triple-overtime win at William & Mary before a gritty, come-from-behind victory at Elon two days later -- take to the road once again, playing each of its next three in enemy territory, starting Thursday at James Madison. Now the country's hottest team, Hofstra's coach is aware of what is at stake as the season rolls on, and in the wake of defeating a team he felt still dictated the path to a championship, he was proud of his own group for validating itself in the process.

"We talk about respect," Mihalich reflected, "and we know this: You have to earn your respect. And there was no reason for them to respect us until now. Hopefully, we've gotten to the point where people respect us."

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Hofstra vs. Charleston Photo Gallery

Photos from Hofstra's 86-72 win over College of Charleston on January 19, 2019:

(All photos by Vincent Simone/Daly Dose Of Hoops)

Friday, January 18, 2019

Return to Iona basketball sparks Gaels in win over Marist

Rickey McGill's 16 points and seven assists led Iona past Marist on a night where six Gaels scored 10 or more points. (Photo by The Journal News)

NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- A disastrous non-conference season in which Iona lost nine of its first eleven games served merely as motivational fuel for what lied ahead.

Now five skirmishes into the portion of the year that matters most, the Gaels' program seems to not only be finding itself again, but performing better than ever when hardly anyone imagined such an effort would be possible, especially after conceding ten three-point field goals before halftime in its most recent showing.

Such was the case Friday night, when after allowing Marist to hang with its three-time defending Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference championship-winning outfit, Iona did what it does best, sharing the basketball and spreading the love equally among its more-than-capable hands, downing the Red Foxes by the final score of 90-77 at the Hynes Athletics Center.

"We came out a little sluggish," Rickey McGill admitted as the Gaels (6-10, 4-1 MAAC) watched six of their own post double-figure scoring totals -- led by 21 points off the bench from Asante Gist -- in the same game for the first time since January 27, 2018, when Iona defeated Manhattan to conclude last year's Nassau Coliseum tripleheader. "Then we had to just pick it up in the second half. We started sharing the ball more, and we started finding the open players to get them open shots."

For the majority of the first half Friday, it was as though Marist (6-11, 1-4 MAAC) was beating Iona at its own game, relying on timely shooting created by open looks to drain seven of its first nine shots from behind the line and giving the illusion that a normally methodical Red Foxes offense was running with the Gaels. However, as head coach John Dunne put it, the outburst -- fueled largely by Ryan Funk's team-best 21 points, all from long distance -- was simply the product of being in the right place at the right time.

"Our whole thing has always been, honestly, when we have good looks, we want to let the ball fly," he said of Marist's torrid beginning. "When Funk gets going like that, you've got to ride that hot hand, but I don't think we were running, I think we were just shooting a little quicker than maybe some of my teams in the past."

Marist could not sustain its marksmanship after the intermission, missing 11 of its 15 second-half attempts from deep and falling victim to Iona's transition game, which gradually fed off the Red Foxes' cold spell to outhustle and eventually outscore the visitors, something Dunne lamented when offering an explanation for what went wrong.

"Listen, at the end of the day, we're not trying to beat Iona 94-90," he said, placing an emphasis on limiting the Gaels' proficient offense. "We have to do a better job on the defensive end."

Speaking of Iona's firepower, the Gaels are now averaging 93 points per game in MAAC play, the program's best start over the first five league games in any season under head coach Tim Cluess' tenure. With major uncertainty surrounding the program following the latest retooling of the roster in the offseason, coupled with the dismissal of Roland Griffin in late October, hardly anyone could have expected such a potent attack from Iona, and the travails of spending all of December on the road have given way to a strong team chemistry that has fused itself in a similar vein to some of this incarnation's trophy-earning predecessors.

"It's night and day compared to where we were," Cluess reflected on his team's start to the season and what it may have ultimately forged. "I think that long trip, as horrific as it was record-wise, was great for bringing these guys together. They went through their battles at times with each other, and I think they came out of that saying, 'if we don't come together, this is going to be a really, really, really, miserable, long year. I see their camaraderie on the court, I see it in the locker room, I see it in practice every day. So I've really seen them grow together, and just watching the flow of the game -- if you've watched it at all -- we're playing more like a team that's been together a little bit now than what we were earlier."

"Now I feel like we're playing Iona basketball," McGill added, proclaiming a return to the Gaels' familiar roots. "I feel like we're sharing the ball, getting open looks, so as of now, we're playing good team basketball."

Hofstra vs. UNCW Photo Gallery

Photos from Hofstra's 87-72 win over UNCW on January 17, 2019:

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

Supporting cast, hustle keys for Hofstra as Pride wins 13th straight

With Justin Wright-Foreman largely hampered, Eli Pemberton led Hofstra with 24 points as Pride won 13th-straight game in double-digit victory over UNCW. (Photo by Bob Dea/Daly Dose Of Hoops)

HEMPSTEAD, NY -- One by one, the signs continue to reveal themselves for Hofstra.

The latest involved finding a way to win with its transcendent scorer being rendered ineffective for most of the night, coupled with a gritty and resilient style that was not seen on the previous incarnations of the Pride roster under head coach Joe Mihalich.

What could go down as a special campaign in the annals of Hofstra basketball was furthered Thursday night, as the supporting cast of Justin Wright-Foreman found a way to pick up the slack for its superstar leader -- who had missed nine of his first eleven shots before willing his way to a rather pedestrian, by his standards, 19 points -- en route to a convincing 87-72 victory over UNCW, the Pride's 13th-straight triumph since a November 24 overtime loss to VCU dropped Long Island's premier college basketball program to 3-3 on the season.

"For a team that can score points like I think we can, it's really our defense that makes us a good team," Mihalich assessed after Hofstra (16-3, 6-0 CAA) earned its best-ever start in Colonial Athletic Association play behind 24 points from junior guard Eli Pemberton, normally the Robin to Wright-Foreman's Batman. "In the first half, they enjoyed playing against us. In the second half, I thought we did a much better job and made it harder for them to score. I'm proud of the defensive effort in the second half, I thought it was the reason why we won the game."

Hofstra, which allowed just 46 points in its CAA-opening rout of Delaware, and has held several others under 60 markers at various stretches of the season, clamped down over the final 20 minutes Thursday, turning a 42-41 halftime deficit against UNCW (7-12, 3-3 CAA) into a one-sided affair over the final stanza, conceding just 30 points the rest of the way. All told, after the visiting Seahawks took a seven-point lead with 2:58 remaining before halftime, the Pride immediately seized control with a 10-2 run and went on to outscore its opposition by a commanding 57-35 margin for the remainder of the contest against a team whose two CAA Tournament victories at Hofstra's expense in the past three seasons added a motivation for vengeance.

"This is definitely personal," Wright-Foreman said of the budding rivalry between the Pride and UNCW, which won its first of two consecutive CAA championships in 2016 over a Hofstra unit that had won the league's regular season crown. "This is another rivalry that we have going on, so it was just our job to come out and play with that intensity. We didn't come out to play in the first half, but we knew what we had to do in the second half. We went into the locker room, talked to each other, and we always say it's 0-0 going into the locker room. That just gives us more energy to come out and just play hard."

"We already knew the enemy in the first half," Pemberton added, citing the Pride's defensive inefficiency. "So, we adjusted."

Not only did Hofstra tighten the screws with the basketball not in its hands and as Wright-Foreman appeared out of sorts before finishing with 11 of the hosts' final 23 points over the last 7:15 of regulation, it also fought for the game in ways that will not reflect in the final score. The Pride turned a dozen UNCW turnovers into 21 points while controlling the ball well enough to register just seven miscues of its own, and supplemented that disciplined showing with twelve rebounds from Jacquil Taylor, while point guard Desure Buie padded his 11 points with seven assists and four steals in a remarkable two-way effort that underscored a handful of game-saving possessions.

"We talk a lot about the 50-50 plays, the plays that could go either way," Mihalich said. "I thought we got them in the second half. I thought Jacquil was terrific tonight. He outrebounded the kid (Devontae Cacok, UNCW's senior forward and the CAA's leading rebounder), he had twelve rebounds and his defense was good. He came up with some loose balls, he blocked some shots -- he had three blocked shots -- he and Danny (Dwyer) combined for 11 points and 15 rebounds."

"He's one of the guys that's done it, and Desure had four steals. I think he's in the Top 25 in the country in steals now. We're active, we're getting loose balls, and we're coming up with those 50-50 plays."

"When we get going and playing hard," Pemberton said, "I don't think anybody can stop us."

Owners of a full head of steam and a three-game advantage over reigning CAA champion Charleston, which visits Long Island Saturday afternoon in an increasingly pivotal battle for both sides, Hofstra is approaching its impending clash with the Cougars -- who lost on the road Thursday to a Northeastern team it defeated in last year's title game -- as a war in which the invaders will be playing with an added edge amid the two-headed monster of Grant Riller and Jarrell Brantley.

"We're going to see an angry team on Saturday," Mihalich cautioned. "We better be ready for that. They're the defending champs, the championship goes through them, the league goes through them. We're going to have to play really well on Saturday just to have a chance to win."

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

LIU Brooklyn WBB vs. Robert Morris Photo Gallery

Photos from LIU Brooklyn's 89-37 loss to Robert Morris on January 14, 2019: (All photos by Bob Dea/Daly Dose Of Hoops)

Monday, January 14, 2019

Determined win over Providence shows Pirates' toughness

Tony Bozzella exhorts his Seton Hall team during Sunday's win over Providence. (Photo by Ray Floriani/Daly Dose Of Hoops)

By Ray Floriani (@rfloriani)

SOUTH ORANGE, NJ -- Recruiting talented players is a given. Having a system capable of putting them into the best places to succeed, on both ends of the floor, is a must. Often forgotten, but vital, is the simple tenet of teaching them how to win.
On Sunday afternoon, Seton Hall coach Tony Bozzella drove that point home with emphasis, as his Pirates defeated, Providence 79-73, in a tough Big East battle at Walsh Gymnasium to finish off an unblemished weekend of conference play that started with a win over Creighton on Friday.
“Give the credit to the girls,” Bozzella said following the victory, which improved Seton Hall to 11-5 on the season, and 3-2 in Big East play. “They showed a lot of toughness and Nicole (Jimenez) did a tremendous job on the defensive end.”  

The game was tied at 60 with just under six minutes to play in regulation. Over the duration of those final minutes, the Pirates showed excellent poise and execution.

“They made plays we didn’t,” said Providence coach Jim Crowley. “I thought a few times, we let (Desiree) Elmore use her left hand and get some big buckets. They did what veteran teams do when the game is on the line.”

Elmore not only hit a few key shots, but was also able to get to the charity stripe as well during that game-clinching sequence.  
“With five minutes to go we knew we had to find a way to win,” Bozzella said. In the waning moments of close games, that is what teams do.”

To Seton Hall it carried added significance. A week ago in contests at Butler and Xavier, there was the opportunity to emerge victorious and leave with a road wins. In both cases the Pirates came up short. The two near-misses weighed on Bozzella and his group, making the manner in which the Pirates got the win over Providence all the more satisfying.

“Today we executed,” Bozzella said. “We made good plays, got stops and most importantly, we found a way to win.”
Bozzella pointed out, with satisfaction, several areas of the game where Seton Hall had an advantage -- forcing the Friars into 20 turnovers -- and the ability to draw fouls was evident, as Seton Hall shot 26 free throws to the 14 that Providence attempted. The Pirates only converting 16 of 26 at the line was a concern, but one that can be corrected, per Bozzella.

“Free throws are something we can work on and address in practice,”  he said.

Getting back to practice, there are many things you can work on. Beside free throws and assorted drills, you can game plan and teach a team how to handle the final minutes of a close game. That inherent toughness of which Bozzella speaks may not always be something that can be taught, but it is definitely something ingrained and part of an individual player’s basketball DNA, which makes Sunday’s win all the more pleasing because it gave Bozzella some proof that his team has that quality in it.

MAAC Monday: Inside Dunne's first year at Marist, stat leaders, power rankings

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

MAAC Monday returns today for its third installment of the 2018-19 season, with two weeks of Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference play now complete and the proverbial quarter pole having been passed in the league schedule as Monmouth and Siena tip off later tonight in Albany. Before we refresh the stat leaders around the MAAC in our second segment and unveil our latest power rankings, however, we welcome a new team into our opening spotlight, that being Marist, which played its first league road game yesterday at Saint Peter's in a contest that marked head coach John Dunne's return to Jersey City after spending the last twelve seasons overseeing the Peacocks through a MAAC championship and Postseason Tournament crown.

At 6-10 on the season following Sunday's 72-63 setback at the hands of Saint Peter's, the Red Foxes started out strong, opening the game on an 8-0 run and leading by as many as eleven points before cold shooting and an inability to stop the Peacocks on the boards -- Marist was outrebounded by a final margin of 40-20 -- proved to be the downfall for Dunne's pupils as they attempted to pick up what would have been an emotional victory for their leader. Regardless of the slow start -- each of Marist's three conference losses has come by nine points or less -- Dunne sees encouragement in what his players have produced, and is banking on the wide-open nature of this year's MAAC to potentially signify a surge could be in the works as the calendar heats up.

"I feel like the league is wide open, and you've got to try to hold serve at home and try to win as many road games as you can," he said as Marist continues its three-game trek away from McCann Arena this weekend, traveling to Iona Friday and Manhattan one week from tonight. "I kind of feel like, up to this point, it's where I thought it would be at. You've got a lot of close games, Iona and Rider, those were two of the top picks in the league. The better teams win the close games throughout the season, so I think you can expect a war most nights in every MAAC game, and the more consistent teams will win those close games."

Particularly for the Red Foxes, the defensive commitment Dunne has been renowned for instilling in his teams has made its presence known throughout the year. For the season, Marist is yielding just over 69 points per game on average, a far cry from the near-80-point clip the Red Foxes surrendered in MAAC play last year under Mike Maker. The team offense has slightly improved, save for the free throw shooting and lack of consistent scoring options behind Brian Parker -- Marist is 0-7 when unable to post more than two double-digit scorers in single game -- but the overall barometer projects a positive image heading into late January.

"There's still room for us to grow," Dunne proposed. "I don't think we've shot the ball as well as we're capable of, and I still think there's some room for improvement on the defensive end. We've been a little inconsistent with taking care of the ball, so I think there's still room for improvement for the group, and with the exception of two games -- Buffalo and Brown -- we've been in every contest. We've got good spirit going on, and we're anxious to get through our next few games here."

"We're confident that we could be in the mix in the top half of the MAAC, but at the end of the day, you have to perform on the court to make it happen. Our whole thing, regardless of record, is we'd love to be in the top five. We'd love to get a bye, and I think the guys are confident that there's no reason why we can't be in the top half of the league."

Scoring Leaders
1) Cameron Young, Quinnipiac (19.6 PPG)
2) Davauhnte Turner, Saint Peter's (17.8)
3) E.J. Crawford, Iona (17.5)
4) Evan Fisher, Siena (17.1)
5) Takal Molson, Canisius (17.0)
6) Marvin Prochet, Niagara (16.9)
7) Rickey McGill, Iona (15.5)
8) Brian Parker, Marist (15.1)
9) Jalen Pickett, Siena (14.7)
10) Landon Taliaferro, Fairfield (13.2)

Rebounding Leaders
1) Marvin Prochet, Niagara (8.2 RPG)
2) Jonathan Kasibabu, Fairfield (7.9)

3) Tajuan Agee, Iona (7.1)
4) Evan Fisher, Siena (7.0)
5) Tyere Marshall, Rider (6.2)
6) Dominic Robb, Niagara (6.1)
7) Isaiah Reese, Canisius (6.0)
8) Frederick Scott, Rider (5.9)
T-9) Kevin Degnan, Siena (5.5)
T-9) Quinn Taylor, Saint Peter's (5.5)

Assist Leaders
1) Jalen Pickett, Siena (7.4 APG)
2) Rickey McGill, Iona (5.2)
3) James Towns, Niagara (4.5)
4) Stevie Jordan, Rider (4.4)
5) Isaiah Reese, Canisius (4.0)
6) Brian Parker, Marist (3.8)
7) Neftali Alvarez, Fairfield (3.4)
T-8) Malik Johnson, Canisius (3.1)
T-8) Davauhnte Turner, Saint Peter's (3.1)
T-10) Dallas Watson, Saint Peter's (2.9)
T-10) Kimar Williams, Rider (2.9)

Field Goal Percentage Leaders
1) Jonathan Kasibabu, Fairfield (.565)
2) Evan Fisher, Siena (.557)
3) Dominic Robb, Niagara (.534)
4) Stevie Jordan, Rider (.525)
5) Samuel Idowu, Saint Peter's (.519)
6) Warren Williams, Manhattan (.516)
7) Frederick Scott, Rider (.508)
8) Rickey McGill, Iona (.503)
9) E.J. Crawford, Iona (.503)
10) Jesus Cruz, Fairfield (.489)

Free Throw Percentage Leaders
1) Nehemiah Mack, Manhattan (.914)
2) James Towns, Niagara (.835)
3) E.J. Crawford, Iona (.797)
4) Cameron Young, Quinnipiac (.780)
5) Rickey McGill, Iona (.769)
6) Asante Gist, Iona (.762)
7) Diago Quinn, Monmouth (.759)
8) Davauhnte Turner, Saint Peter's (.758)
9) Takal Molson, Canisius (.752)
10) Dominic Robb, Niagara (.750)

Three-Point Field Goal Percentage Leaders
1) Andrija Ristanovic, Iona (.500)
2) Landon Taliaferro, Fairfield (.467)
3) Marvin Prochet, Niagara (.435)
4) E.J. Crawford, Iona (.431)
5) Kevin Degnan, Siena (.422)
6) David Knudsen, Marist (.403)
T-7) Tyler Reynolds, Manhattan (.400)
T-7) Cameron Young, Quinnipiac (.400)
9) Ben Perez, Iona (.397)
10) Felix Lemetti, Fairfield (.392)

Steal Leaders
1) Dimencio Vaughn, Rider (2.5 SPG)
2) Rickey McGill, Iona (2.5)
T-3) Jalen Pickett, Siena (1.9)
T-3) Isaiah Reese, Canisius (1.9)
5) Stevie Jordan, Rider (1.7)

Blocked Shot Leaders
1) Dominic Robb, Niagara (2.8 BPG)
2) Samuel Idowu, Saint Peter's (1.6)

3) KC Ndefo, Saint Peter's (1.4)
4) Kevin Degnan, Siena (0.8)
5) Marvin Prochet, Niagara (0.7)

Power Rankings
1) Rider (9-7, 4-0 MAAC)
Last Week:

Last Game: Sunday 1/13 at Niagara (W 104-84)
Next Game: Saturday 1/19 vs. Manhattan, 7 p.m.

2) Iona (5-10, 3-1 MAAC)
Last Week:

Last Game: Sunday 1/13 at Canisius (W 88-70)
Next Game: Friday 1/18 vs. Marist, 7 p.m.

3) Quinnipiac (8-7, 3-1 MAAC)
Last Week:

Last Game: Sunday 1/13 vs. Fairfield (W 80-78)
Next Game: Thursday 1/17 vs. Canisius, 7 p.m.

4) Fairfield (5-12, 2-3 MAAC)
Last Week:

Last Game: Sunday 1/13 at Quinnipiac (L 80-78)
Next Game: Thursday 1/17 at Monmouth, 7 p.m.

5) Canisius (5-11, 2-2 MAAC)
Last Week:

Last Game: Sunday 1/13 vs. Iona (L 88-70)
Next Game: Thursday 1/17 at Quinnipiac, 7 p.m.

T-6) Monmouth (3-14, 2-2 MAAC)
Last Week:

Last Game: Saturday 1/12 vs. Manhattan (W 65-49)
Next Game: Monday 1/14 at Siena, 7 p.m.

T-6) Saint Peter's (5-11, 2-2 MAAC)
Last Week:

Last Game: Sunday 1/13 vs. Marist (W 72-63)
Next Game: Thursday 1/17 vs. Manhattan, 7 p.m.

8) Niagara (8-9, 1-3 MAAC)
Last Week:

Last Game: Sunday 1/13 vs. Rider (L 104-84)
Next Game: Thursday 1/17 at Siena, 7 p.m.

9) Siena (6-10, 1-2 MAAC)
Last Week:

Last Game: Friday 1/11 at Marist (W 71-66)
Next Game: Monday 1/14 vs. Monmouth, 7 p.m.

10) Marist (6-10, 1-3 MAAC)
Last Week:

Last Game: Sunday 1/13 at Saint Peter's (L 72-63)
Next Game: Friday 1/18 at Iona, 7 p.m.

11) Manhattan (3-13, 1-3 MAAC)
Last Week:

Last Game: Saturday 1/12 at Monmouth (L 65-49)
Next Game: Thursday 1/17 at Saint Peter's, 7 p.m.