Wednesday, February 24, 2021

As stretch drive beckons, Siena’s growth and upward momentum have come at best possible time

Siena’s resurgence has come at opportune time as Manny Camper and Saints close in on MAAC regular season title. (Photo by Bob Dea/Daly Dose Of Hoops)

Siena’s high expectations this season have come with being held to an even higher standard as the Saints traverse the pandemic-altered landscape that began with a unanimous prediction of a Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference championship.

Even with nine wins in the first 12 games of a campaign that did not get underway until January 3, head coach Carmen Maciariello has stressed the need to execute even the smallest of minutiae to feed into the belief that was fostered through Siena’s 16-game win streak that bridged last year and this past January, the idea that something special could indeed be brewing in the Capital Region.

As the Saints prepare for a four-game homestand to close out the regular season, beginning Friday against Manhattan, they do so on the heels of a galvanizing win last Sunday at Niagara, a team that appeared to pull off a second straight come-from-behind victory before Manny Camper’s pass to Jackson Stormo for a point-blank layup to salvage a split in western New York, that reinforced just what the common goal has been inside the green and gold walls.

“We’ve been talking about opening up leads, getting it from five to seven, seven to 11,” Jalen Pickett declared as Siena has managed to fend off adversity and close situations with a grit forged by veteran leaders and instinctive fundamental basketball plays. “That’s just another learning experience for us right there, it was a sign of a championship team. When things don’t go your way, can you reset and battle back?”

“It just shows how resilient our team is,” Camper echoed. “We knew how hard the Buffalo trip was going to be after game one. I’m just proud of the growth of our team. We didn’t make excuses about how we were off the three weeks, we didn’t make excuses about the Niagara trip. We just watched film and we responded well.”

Camper, in particular, has been the biggest piece of the puzzle as he builds off a first team all-MAAC junior season. Once again the conference’s rebounding leader with an average of over 10 boards per game, the senior has expanded his repertoire to lead the MAAC in assists as well, while currently ranking fifth in scoring, solidifying himself among the favorites for a Player of the Year honor that would be a fitting coda in the development of a program bedrock that was a seldom-used role player under Jimmy Patsos his freshman year before blossoming under Maciariello’s tutelage.

“We all see how hard he works, and I’ve seen him grow since I got here,” Pickett, last season’s Player of the Year, assessed. “Seeing how great his game has elevated, people have to respect him. He’s a great basketball player and he leads us. I think at this point, for the young guys to keep watching him and watch how much time he puts in with the film and the work off the court, it’s a good sign.”

“In the preseason, I thought I had two guys who could be up for Player of the Year,” Maciariello added. “The type of season Manny’s having and the way he’s stepped up, especially in these games, coming off the pause, I’m happy with the rhythm he’s in.”

Siena as a whole has taken on a similar rhythm, and in a timely fashion as it embarks upon the culmination of what it has worked for. Regardless. Maciariello continues to instill the need to be meticulous in every facet on the way to Atlantic City, a reminder of the steps needed to secure the Saints’ first league championship since 2010.

“These guys need to realize this is a new year,” he stated. “No one’s giving us anything. We have to take every game as an opportunity to get better, and we have to take every game as a chance to realize that everyone wants to beat us. We’re the preseason favorite, and I hate talking about that — it means nothing — but we have to continue to get better. That’s the end of the day, especially now with whatever the seedings are for Atlantic City. You can’t not show up that first game, or you’re going home.”

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

5 Takeaways: St. John’s blown out at Villanova

By Anthony E. Parelli (@reportedbytheAP)


Traveling to face the No. 8 team in the country coming off the worst loss of the year with your season on life support is not the ideal recipe for success.


But maybe St. John’s would play loose, the way it did during its six weeks of success spanning most of 2021. Maybe it could frustrate Villanova the way it did three weeks ago.




The Wildcats ran the Red Storm out of Finneran Pavilion81-58, in a game that was never remotely competitive Tuesday night.


The Wildcats jumped out to a 20-9 start. They shot 50 percent from the floor, hit six 3-pointers and eventually took a 42-25 lead into the break. St. John’s, (14-10, 8-9 Big East) on the other hand, shot just 26.7 percent from the field and 2-of-13 from three in the first period. 


The final numbers weren’t much prettier for the Johnnies, ending the game shooting just 36.2 percent from the field and 3-of-23 from deep, and for most of the night, the product on the floor didn’t even look that efficient. Even at the line, where St. John’s entered with the second-best percentage in the conference, the Red Storm went just 13-of-21.


St. John’s 58 points were the fewest it has mustered this season.


My takeaways from the loss:


Champagnie’s slow starts

Julian Champagnie has been one of the best players in the conference, and maybe the country, this season, but he’s been plagued by slow starts at times. Tuesday was representative of those struggles, as the sophomore missed his first six shots and didn’t hit his first field goal until the final minute of the opening frame.


Champagnie finished with a team-high 16 points and seven rebounds, but shot just 5-of-18 from the field, including 0-of-6 from deep. 


Bench woes continue

Entering Saturday’s contest with DePaul, St. John’s had the highest scoring bench in the conference. On Tuesday, the Red Storm reserves managed just 25 points, with 10 coming from Isaih Moore. 


Marcellus Earlington, who was instrumental in the Johnnies’ success, has just four total points in his last two games.


Backcourt issues

Guards Rasheem Dunn and Posh Alexander are what make St. John’s go, both offensively and defensively. Their struggles the last two games – each finished with just four points Tuesday – directly influenced the team’s as a whole. 


Health concerns

Greg Williams, Jr. scored just five points, but looked as healthy as he has since injuring his back in January. He said prior to the game however that he’s never quite sure how the injury will hold up. 


Meanwhile, Alexander exited Tuesday’s contest with about three minutes remaining with a finger injury. The freshman looked to be in immense pain as he left the court and is one of two players – along with Champagnie – that the Red Storm flat out cannot afford to lose.


What now?

In just four days, NCAA Tournament hopes have dwindled to danger of failing to even qualify for the NIT. At this point, any postseason experience would be beneficial for a team that should return all but one of its contributors from this season in Dunn. 


The Red Storm desperately needs to come out of its eight-day layoff with a sense of urgency against Providence and Seton Hall before the Big East Tournament. As it stands, 2020-21 is in dire risk of becoming a lost year.


Next up

It was once thought St. John’s might try to fill this eight-day layoff with a non-conference game in hopes of boosting its tournament resume. With those hopes dashed, it’s now up to coach Mike Anderson to use this time to refocus his team and hope that Williams and Alexander can heal up. 


The Red Storm return to Carnesecca Arena to host Providence on March 3 at 7 p.m. in desperate need of a win.

Monday, February 22, 2021

MAAC Monday: Back-to-backs, stat leaders, power rankings

The last MAAC Monday of February shifts away from team spotlights before transitioning into stat leaders and power rankings, instead focusing on the back-to-back series that are unique to this season’s schedule, a device installed by commissioner Rich Ensor as a means to cut back on travel and costs during the pandemic, yet still provide an efficient way of testing and completing games. For the most part, the effort has succeeded, save for a handful of games that will likely not be made up due to lack of time. Through ten weeks of the conference season and 37 back-to-back series, each team’s record in the second game of back-to-backs, as well as its subsequent point improvement (or regression), is listed below in order of most wins to least:

Siena: 6-0
Fairfield: 5-3
Manhattan: 4-3
Saint Peter’s: 4-3
Marist: 4-4
Monmouth: 4-4
Niagara: 4-4
Iona: 2-2
Canisius: 2-3
Quinnipiac: 2-4
Rider: 0-7

Average point improvement in second games of back-to-backs, from greatest to least:
Fairfield: +13.75
Manhattan: +8.71
Niagara: +7.13
Siena: +4.67
Saint Peter’s: +1.14
Marist: -1.75
Quinnipiac: -2.67
Monmouth: -7.33
Canisius: -8.8
Rider: -12.29
Iona: -14

Why the wide disparity between the first and second games? And how is it that the biggest beneficiaries of the back-to-back are teams in the middle of the MAAC standings? Rick Pitino attempted to explain after Iona opened MAAC play in December with a split against Fairfield, who saw a 43-point swing between losing game one and winning game two:

“It’s very, very difficult to play an opponent twice,” Pitino intimated. “One thing I could tell you, we would play the Nets on Friday night, go across the bridge to New Jersey, we’d have a lopsided win at home and go get our butts kicked the next night. If you have a great team, you could do it. I think in this league, parity is the magic word. I don’t think you can say one team is better than the other. We’re certainly just an average basketball team.”

Scoring Leaders
1) Isaiah Ross, Iona (20.5 PPG)
2) Deion Hammond, Monmouth (17.4)
3) Dwight Murray, Jr., Rider (14.9)
4) Kobi Nwandu, Niagara (14.5)
5) Manny Camper, Siena (13.3)
6) Anthony Nelson, Manhattan (13.3)
7) Marcus Hammond, Niagara (13.2)
8) George Papas, Monmouth (12.9)
9) Jordan King, Siena (12.8)
10) KC Ndefo, Saint Peter’s (12.7)

Rebounding Leaders
1) Manny Camper, Siena (10.5 RPG)
2) Warren Williams, Manhattan (7.9)
3) Malek Green, Canisius (7.3)
4) Nelly Junior Joseph, Iona (7.1)
5) Fousseyni Drame, Saint Peter’s (6.9)
6) Elijah Buchanan, Manhattan (6.8)
7) Jacob Rigoni, Quinnipiac (6.7)
8) Jalen Pickett, Siena (6.7)
9) Jacco Fritz, Canisius (6.6)
10) Dylan van Eyck, Iona (6.5)

Assist Leaders
1) Manny Camper, Siena (4.3 APG)
2) Dwight Murray, Jr., Rider (4.2)
3) Jalen Pickett, Siena (4.2)
4) Asante Gist, Iona (4.0)
5) Matthew Lee, Saint Peter’s (3.4)
6) Savion Lewis, Quinnipiac (3.3)
7) Samuel Chaput, Monmouth (3.2)
8) Raheim Sullivan, Marist (3.2)
9) Luis Kortright, Quinnipiac (3.1)
10) Anthony Nelson, Manhattan (3.1)

Field Goal Percentage Leaders
1) Seth Pinkney, Quinnipiac (.800)
2) Jackson Stormo, Siena (.658)
3) Ajiri Ogemuno-Johnson, Rider (.631)
4) Nelly Junior Joseph, Iona (.612)
5) Jordan Jones, Marist (.595)
6) Warren Williams, Manhattan (.531)
7) Malek Green, Canisius (.500)
8) KC Ndefo, Saint Peter’s (.497)
9) Isaiah Ross, Iona (.489)
10) Melik Martin, Monmouth (.475)

Free Throw Percentage Leaders
1) Dwight Murray, Jr., Rider (.868)
2) Doug Edert, Saint Peter’s (.860)
3) Jacob Rigoni, Quinnipiac (.848)
4) Asante Gist, Iona (.846)
5) Isaiah Ross, Iona (.839)
6) Taj Benning, Fairfield (.833)
7) Ahamadou Fofana, Canisius (.821)
8) Jordan King, Siena (.810)
9) George Papas, Monmouth (.807)
10) Anthony Nelson, Manhattan (.792)

3-Point Field Goal Percentage Leaders
1) Ryan Myers, Iona (.459)
2) Jordan Henderson, Canisius (.429)
3) Isaiah Ross, Iona (.418)
4) Donovann Toatley, Monmouth (.417)
5) George Papas, Monmouth (.410)
6) Tymu Chenery, Quinnipiac (.397)
7) Daryl Banks III, Saint Peter’s (.391)
8) Jacob Rigoni, Quinnipiac (.390)
9) Dwight Murray, Jr., Rider (.390)
10) Allen Powell, Rider (.389)

Steal Leaders
1) Berrick JeanLouis, Iona (2.3 SPG)
2) Elijah Buchanan, Manhattan (1.9)
3) Myles Ruth, Monmouth (1.7)
4) Isaiah Ross, Iona (1.6)
5) Deion Hammond, Monmouth (1.4)

Blocked Shot Leaders
1) KC Ndefo, Saint Peter’s (3.8 BPG)
2) Seth Pinkney, Quinnipiac (2.2)
3) Jordan Jones, Marist (2.2)
4) Nelly Junior Joseph, Iona (1.8)
5) Warren Williams, Manhattan (1.7)

Power Rankings
1) Siena (9-3, 9-3 MAAC)
Last Week: 1
Last Game: Sunday 2/21 at Niagara (W 68-66)
Next Game: Wednesday 2/24 vs. Manhattan, 7 p.m.

2) Iona (8-5, 6-3 MAAC)
Last Week: 5
Last Game: Saturday 2/20 vs. Monmouth (W 88-65)
Next Game: Wednesday 2/24 at Marist, 5 p.m.

3) Monmouth (10-7, 10-6 MAAC)
Last Week: 2
Last Game: Saturday 2/20 at Iona (L 88-65)
Next Game: Friday 2/26 vs. Fairfield, 5 p.m.

4) Saint Peter’s (11-8, 8-6 MAAC)
Last Week: 3
Last Game: Saturday 2/20 vs. Marist (L 51-50)
Next Game: Wednesday 2/24 at Quinnipiac, 4 p.m.

5) Canisius (6-4, 6-4 MAAC)
Last Week: 6
Last Game: Saturday 2/20 at Fairfield (L 66-53)
Next Game: Friday 2/26 vs. Manhattan, 7 p.m.

6) Marist (10-8, 8-8 MAAC)
Last Week: 4
Last Game: Saturday 2/20 at Saint Peter’s (W 51-50)
Next Game: Wednesday 2/24 vs. Iona, 5 p.m.

7) Quinnipiac (8-9, 6-7 MAAC)
Last Week: 11
Last Game: Sunday 2/21 vs. Rider (W 93-68)
Next Game: Wednesday 2/24 vs. Saint Peter’s, 4 p.m.

8) Niagara (8-10, 7-9 MAAC)
Last Week: 7
Last Game: Sunday 2/21 vs. Siena (W 68-66)
Next Game: Thursday 3/4 vs. Canisius, 4 p.m.

9) Manhattan (6-9, 5-9 MAAC)
Last Week: 8
Last Game: Saturday 2/13 at Iona (W 77-70)
Next Game: Wednesday 2/24 at Siena, 7 p.m.

10) Fairfield (6-15, 6-10 MAAC)
Last Week: 10
Last Game: Saturday 2/20 vs. Canisius (W 66-53)
Next Game: Friday 2/26 at Monmouth, 5 p.m.

11) Rider (4-13, 4-10 MAAC)
Last Week: 9
Last Game: Sunday 2/21 at Quinnipiac (L 93-68)
Next Game: Friday 2/26 at Saint Peter’s, TBA

Sunday, February 21, 2021

St. John’s season on life support after DePaul dud

Julian Champagnie looks on as St. John’s battles DePaul. (Photo by Vincent Dusovic/St. John’s University Athletics)

By Anthony E. Parelli (@reportedbytheAP)

In the 40 days between St. John’s 18-point loss to Creighton and its showdown with lowly DePaul on Saturday, the Red Storm made believers out of everyone.


In 40 minutes Saturday night, it all came crashing down.


The six-game winning streak, the upsets of Villanova and UConn, beating Xavier for the first time in six years, the emergence of bona fide stars in Julian Champagnie and Posh Alexander, the prediction of cleaning up at the Big East postseason awards, all a heartbreaking footnote of a likely lost season.


On the bubble and in firm control of their own destiny, the Johnnies laid an egg at home Saturday, getting outplayed and out-toughed by the perennial basement-dwelling Blue Demons. DePaul not only downed the Red Storm, 88-83; it shot 63 percent from the field, it outscored St. John’s laughably in the paint, 58-18, and off the bench, 49-32.


The Red Storm shot just 33.8 percent from the field. It attempted 33 3-pointers and made just 12. Champagnie filled it up with 29 points, but was just 9-of-22 from the field. Alexander was uncharacteristically quiet, finishing with five points on 2-of-9 shooting. Fifth-year senior Rasheem Dunn, who has been so instrumental to the Johnnies’ recent success, had his worst game in a St. John’s uniform, scoring seven points on an ugly 1-of-10 shooting and committing six turnovers in the loss. Greg Williams, Jr. is still injured, he scored just three points, and Marcellus Earlington, who put up 16 points and nine rebounds to help down Xavier on Tuesday, was scoreless


DePaul senior guard Charlie Moore returned from injury and came off the bench to score 24 points, grab six rebounds and notch eight assists. Moore is a nice player with a lot of experience, but what he was able to accomplish against the normally-stout defense of Alexander and Dunn is inexcusable.


“We always talk about our defense and how our defense has come along,” St. John’s coach Mike Anderson said after the loss. “But I thought tonight, our defense was nonexistent, and not like we have been playing.


Now St. John’s has the unenviable task of traveling to play No. 10 Villanova on Tuesday. The Wildcats haven’t forgotten their loss to the Red Storm on February 3, and can smell blood in the water.


It’s upsetting, but we’re not going to lay down,” Champagnie said. “We have to battle, and that’s it. You’ve got to move on. Next game, we play Villanova on the road, which we have to win now, regardless. We are not going to sit here and cry about it.”      


The sophomore is saying the right things, but executing those sentiments is a completely different issue. St. John’s has shown the ability to bounce back after a tough loss, like it did in defeating Xavier a week after falling to Butler, but this type of loss in this stage of the season is more likely to take the wind out of a team’s sails than it is to springboard it. 


The silver lining is that St. John’s only fell eight spots to 76 ithe NET rankings, while DePaul moved up enough to qualify the loss as Quad 3 instead of Quad 4. There’s still a pulse, albeit a faint one. Maybe the Red Storm upsets Villanova a second time, then handles Providence and Seton Hall, makes a little noise in the Big East Tournament and gets some help from outside teams. Maybe the Johnnies win the conference tournament outright. Stranger things have happened.


But more than likely, St. John’s target now falls to the NIT. Postseason experience is good. Dunn is the only contributor that’s set to graduate, Champagnie should return as a junior next year looking to impress NBA scouts, and Alexander figures to take another step in his second year. The rest of the supporting cast probably returns. Year three of a coach’s tenure is usually the bench mark for its trajectory, and 2021-22 will surely be an NCAA Tournament or bust mindset for the Red Storm.


But man, what could’ve been.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Kevin Willard quote book: Georgetown

On Seton Hall’s 3-point defense:
“It’s something that we had talked about going into the game. We did a really good job on Jahvon Blair, but we didn’t do a good job on the other guys. I just thought we let them get off to too good of a start shooting the basketball, then we just had some breakdowns in the second half where they hit some really tough shots.”

On his concern for Seton Hall’s present standing:
“No. This is our third game in six days and they’re coming off a seven-day bye week, so we’re still 10-6 in the league and we’ve played more games than anybody. When you play against a team that’s coming off a bye week, you’ve got to make sure you’re coming in and execute defensively. We just didn’t execute defensively.”

On how much Seton Hall misses Bryce Aiken:
“It’s a big loss. Shavar’s been great all year, but the second half, we really never were in a position where we could give him a long, extended break. But he’s been playing great and it’s a matter of he’s got to try to pick his spots to where he could get a rest, and sometimes that’s hard to do. It’s a big loss, but I think we’ve just got to get other guys to step up right now.”

On Aiken’s return:
“Honestly, I have no idea. As of right now, he’s out indefinitely.”

On Georgetown’s Chudier Bile:
“I think he’s made a huge difference in the way they’re playing. I think it’s helped him out defensively, because it takes the pressure off Jamorko (Pickett) having to guard the three man at times, and again, I think it’s given them a guy who’s a tough matchup because he can drive the basketball, he’s shooting the basketball pretty darn good, and he plays really hard. So I think he’s given Jahvon and Jamorko a chance to kind of be a little more free on the offensive end, and it’s really helped them.”

On what Seton Hall has to do to play a complete game:
“I’ve always said this: Sometimes, how you play depends on how your schedule has been, and three games in six days is a lot in this conference, especially since we haven’t had a COVID break. We haven’t been on pause at all this year, so we’ve been doing what we’re supposed to be doing, and when you come and play a team that’s been off seven days and this is your third game in six days, you’re maybe not going to play the best. I’m not too worried, obviously I want to win every game, but I told my guys we battled. I thought they played really hard, but we just didn’t have enough focus. I think the third game in six days really kind of wore at us a little bit.”

On Seton Hall’s effort in the last five minutes:
“I think our execution down the stretch — I thought we had some chances at the rim, I thought (Qudus) Wahab had some big blocks at the rim, I thought there were some chances where we could have got to the free throw line, but we didn’t — but sometimes when you’re gassed and you’re a little bit out there, sometimes you just don’t make the plays that you need to play, and we had a couple of turnovers late in the game. Again, to play the way we did and battle the way we did after all these games, the energy was great. I thought the effort was great, we just didn’t have it from a mental standpoint today.”

On Seton Hall’s offensive execution:
“I thought our tempo was really good, I thought it was better today. Again, different teams play different ways. Georgetown’s not the most physical defensive team, they don’t battle you kind of like DePaul and Marquette do, so it’s a different example. I thought we would play well against them because they’re just not as physical a team as DePaul and Marquette, but they’ve been really getting up and down lately and that’s kind of what they did to us. It was two totally different styles from the two teams we had just played, so again, I think we’re in a really good spot. I like where we’re at, it’s just that we need to take a couple of days to get our rest, get our legs under us and get ready for the stretch run.”

Friday, February 19, 2021

Iona’s hot shooting, veteran leadership help fend off late Monmouth rally

Asante Gist scored 18 points as Iona used 54-point first half to survive Monmouth’s second-half onslaught. (Photo by Iona College Athletics)

Throughout the course of his first season at Iona, Rick Pitino has not hesitated to mention that instilling a style of play to a program where two-thirds of the roster is new to Division I basketball would be a struggle, but a fruitful year in which several pearls of wisdom would ultimately be imparted.

The latest teaching moment occurred Friday, when a 22-point lead was nearly erased, but thanks to an offensive explosion in the first half, the Gaels were able to survive.

An opening stanza that saw Iona torch the Hynes Athletics Center nets en route to 54 points against a Monmouth team leading the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference in wins was enough to push the Gaels across the finish line despite a valiant surge from the visiting Hawks in the closing minutes, guiding the hosts to a 91-86 victory in a contest that was the fourth in eight days since returning from a program-record 51-day pause.

“I told our guys, the toughest thing in basketball — pro or college — is to play with a lead,” Pitino remarked as Iona overcame 27 turnovers with four players scoring 13 or more points. “The other team is so upset that they’re down 20, they come out with a vengeance, and it’s just human behavior. We learned a lot tonight, but the first half was brilliant.”

“It was the best first half of the season, by far, defensively and offensively. We ran out of gas in the second half, but I’m not going to complain, because that was a brilliant first half.”

Iona (7-5, 5-3 MAAC) spotted Monmouth the first four points of the evening before seizing control for good by scoring the next seven. As the Hawks struggled to get into a rhythm, stymied by Iona’s use of Dwayne Koroma and Dylan van Eyck alongside Nelly Junior Joseph to deny drives to the basket while also running a potent perimeter attack off the 3-point line as the Gaels ripped off a 21-3 run to extend their lead to double digits, where it remained for a majority of the night.

“We made a huge effort to get the ball inside,” Asante Gist said after his 18-point outing, which was complemented by five assists and a handful of plays to set up a career night for Joseph. “I thought we played good defense, we guarded the 3-point line well. They only made five threes, and that’s a big part of their offense.”

“You guys have been around the MAAC much longer than me,” Pitino told the media while prefacing his effusive praise for Joseph, who tallied 19 points and 11 rebounds, and blocked five shots. “Have you ever seen a freshman with this much potential? I mean, he’s got great potential, and he’s just scratching his potential. We’re looking, potentially, at a great basketball player down the road. We can have something special.”

Frustrations continued to mount during that stretch, as following a play where Monmouth guard Marcus McClary was knocked down and bloodied with no foul called, King Rice was ejected after a heated exchange of words with official Brandon Cruz, who rung up the Hawks’ head coach with a double technical foul.

With associate head coach Rick Callahan taking the reins in the second half, Monmouth (10-6, 10-5 MAAC) was able to gradually whittle away at its deficit, coming out of a 54-34 halftime hole with a 9-2 run in the first three minutes removed from the intermission. The Hawks used galvanizing contributions from seniors Deion Hammond, Melik Martin and George Papas to draw closer, even pulling within three points in the final minute of regulation, but were ultimately unable to close the gap after Myles Ruth’s attempt to drive the lane and incite contact resulted in a held ball that swung possession back to Iona.

The two teams will reprise one of the MAAC’s marquee rivalries Saturday, and as his team prepares to contest its third game in 96 hours, Gist has made sure to not waver from the warrior mindset that Iona has employed in making up for lost time in this unconventional season.

“Coach keeps telling us, ‘are we going to keep fighting, or are we going to lay down?’” Gist reaffirmed. “As one of the leaders of the team, my mindset is to always keep fighting, and I’m just proud of my guys. It’s a lot of games we’re going to be playing in a number of days, but as long as everybody stays mentally engaged and focused, we’ll be able to have a good stretch. And like I said, everybody’s going hard every single day, coming in with that same mindset, so we’ll be fine.”

Thursday, February 18, 2021

A-10 Tempo Thursday: February 18, 2021

By Ray Floriani (@rfloriani)

VCU is at the top of the conference. The Rams edged St. Bonaventure last Friday to move into first place. Davidson and UMass are just behind in the standings, and are set to return to action after a pause in activity. St. Bonaventure and Saint Louis round out the leaders. The Bonnies, as noted, fell from the top by virtue of their loss at VCU. On a hot streak of late, Saint Louis is rounding into top form and making its move. The regular season is set to end in just 17 days, so there could be a shuffling in the final standings. For now, it will be interesting to see how contenders such as Davidson and UMass will react to their time off, as well as scheduling changes down the road leading up to postseason play.

Efficiency Margins and Records (courtesy of KenPom)

1) Saint Louis (+14, 4-2)

T-2) St. Bonaventure (+12, 8-3)

T-2) Davidson (+12, 6-2)

4) UMass (+11, 6-2)

T-5) VCU (+7, 9-2)

T-5) Richmond (+7, 4-3)

T-7) Dayton (+3, 7-6)

T-7) Duquesne (+3, 6-5)

9) Rhode Island (+2, 7-8)

10) George Mason (-1, 5-6)

11) George Washington (-2, 2-3)

12) La Salle (-11, 5-9)

13) Saint Joseph’s (-18, 0-9)

14) Fordham (-24, 2-11)

Offensive Efficiency Leaders

1) Davidson (109)

2) Richmond (108)

T-3) Saint Louis and St. Bonaventure (107)

5) Dayton (103)

A significant pause in activity naturally saw no change for the top two. Saint Louis is playing well on the offensive end, but that is not the main reason for its recent success (see below). St. Bonaventure and Dayton are holding steady, with a few teams, specifically UMass and VCU, on their heels threatening to enter the top five. 

Defensive Efficiency Leaders

1) UMass (90)

2) VCU (93)

3) Saint Louis (94)

4) Duquesne and St. Bonaventure (95)

It’s the defense. The coaching cliche of offense selling tickets while defense wins ballgames is holding true in the case of Saint Louis. In each of their six conference games, the Billikens have posted an efficiency of 100, a good number, or better on offense. The defense is another story. In their two losses, Travis Ford’s conference favorites have yielded over 100 on the defensive end. In the four wins, the defensive efficiency failed to reach triple digits. The breakdown by opponent with the Saint Louis offensive and defensive efficiency in each game:

Dayton (L) 100 vs. 107

La Salle (L) 103 vs. 112

St. Bonaventure (W) 109 vs. 92

Rhode Island (W) 100 vs. 90

Fordham (W) 113 vs. 67

La Salle (W) 122 vs. 89

The offense has been on track. Now the defense is taking it to another level. A continued effort on that end will make Saint Louis a tough out come tournament time. 

Tempo Leaders

1) Saint Joseph’s and UMass (71 possessions per game)

3) VCU (70)

4) Rhode Island and La Salle (69)

Slowest Tempo

Fordham, Davidson, Dayton and St. Bonaventure (all 65 possessions per game)

Not a very big change, given there were several teams in the conference pausing. VCU has been rolling along, and is very comfortable with an uptempo game. The Rams’ conference-leading 34 percent defensive turnover rate creates offensive transition opportunities. On the opposite side of the spectrum, it may not seem much by the math, but the 65-possession tempo is decidedly pedestrian compared to the low seventies.

The Past Week

February 12: VCU 67, St. Bonaventure 64

The visiting Bonnies battled back from a 12- point second-half deficit. A long-distance 3-point attempt by Dominick Welch rimmed out and sent Mark Schmidt’s team home on the losing side of the ledger. For VCU, it was the regular formula, a 44 percent offensive rebound percentage and 22 percent defensive turnover rate, plus a 22-point outing from Bones Hyland. 

February 13: Saint Louis 68, Fordham 40

The Billikens won their third straight, dominating Fordham at Rose Hill Gym. Saint Louis held the Rams to a 67 offensive efficiency and just 17 first half points. Travis Ford’s group enjoyed a 55-26 rebounding edge, with 19 coming on the offensive end.

February 14: Richmond 90, St. Mary’s (MD) 49

On Valentine’s Day, the host Spiders showed no heart in rolling over St. Mary’s. It was Richmond’s first game in almost three weeks. Leading in every statistical category, Richmond excelled in 3-point shooting (16-of-33) and defensive turnover rate (32 percent).

February 16: Saint Louis 78, La Salle 57

The winning streak continued, as Saint Louis avenged an earlier loss at La Salle by posting an outstanding 122 offensive efficiency. Javonte Perkins (19 points) and Jordan Goodwin (16) paced a balanced attack. Goodwin also added 15 rebounds and eight assists, both game-highs. 

Rhode Island 91, Dayton 89 (2OT)

Fatts Russell shot 4-of-17 from the field, but the senior guard virtually willed the Rams to a senior night victory, scoring 20 points, grabbing five rebounds and handing out seven assists in 45 minutes. The win snapped a four-game losing streak for the Rams. Freshman Zimi Nwokeji led the Flyers with 29 points and nine rebounds, earning KenPom game MVP honors.

February 17: VCU 68, Richmond 56

The host Rams earned their sixth straight victory by virtue of a late run. Richmond committed just six turnovers, but was beaten on the boards by a 44-27 count. Mike Rhoades’ Rams got 20 points, 12 rebounds and six assists — all game pace-setting numbers — from Bones Hyland.

On the Schedule

February 18: Southern Virginia at Davidson

February 19: Saint Louis at Dayton

February 20: La Salle at Saint Joseph’s

George Mason at VCU

Duquesne at Richmond

February 21: Rhode Island at George Washington

Davidson at St. Bonaventure

February 23: Fordham at Richmond

Saint Louis at VCU

February 24: Davidson at George Mason

UMass at Saint Joseph’s

Davidson is following Richmond’s model. Bob McKillop’s Wildcats will exit their pause by playing a non-Division I opponent. Davidson hosts Southern Virginia on Thursday in its first game since late January.

At the eleventh hour, Wednesday afternoon word came that St. Bonaventure at George Mason, scheduled for Thursday afternoon, was cancelled due to a winter storm set to hit the Washington, D.C. area.  


Bones Hyland, VCU

Jordan Goodwin, Saint Louis

Jalen Crutcher, Dayton

Grant Golden, Richmond 

Javonte Perkins, Saint Louis

A-10 Stats

Efficiency: 99

Tempo: 68 possessions per game

Home wins: 40 of 70 (.571)

Close wins: 14 of 71 (19.7%

Blowouts: 13 of 71 (18.3%)

There is a disparity in home wins (70) and blowouts and close wins (71). That is due to Dayton having played George Washington on a neutral site at George Mason.

Home teams are starting to use their advantage. The home court is up to a 57 percent win total as opposed to just barely over 50 earlier this season. Chalk it up to just being familiar with your home turf and not having to travel.