Saturday, February 24, 2024

Sha Sounds Off: Butler

On Seton Hall’s defensive effort:
“I was happy with the way we came out. I thought we had three solid days of practice. This was a good bye week for us, we kind of needed it, guys were banged up. I’m a little disappointed that we didn’t keep that same energy, but Butler’s a good team, they can score the basketball. I told our guys, when you go win at Creighton and you go win at Marquette, hostile environments like that, they’re not afraid of being on the road. So I tried to make sure that we…the first half, I was disappointed because they had eight threes. At halftime, we made some adjustments and they had four, and I thought that was the difference in the game.”

On Butler’s field goal drought:
“Just being solid. I thought the first half, they spaced us out a little bit. Our pick-and-roll defense was up too much, so I pushed it back out to the college 3-point line and once we did that, it kind of closed the court up a little bit. So when they had those short rolls, we were scrambling and they were getting threes. The second half, the last, I think, 12 minutes of the game, we did a better job with that.”

On Seton Hall’s backcourt:
“That’s something they’ve been doing all year. They don’t get enough credit. I don’t think Dre gets a lot of credit, but we’re not worried about that. Things speak for themselves. We’re just trying to take these games day by day.”

On Dylan Addae-Wusu and Jaden Bediako:
“I got on Dylan because Dylan normally gives us a lot of little plays that don’t show up on the stat sheet. I thought the last — from the 8-minute mark down, I thought he got a lot of loose balls, 50-50 balls for us, that I was on him about getting. JB is JB. He’s been doing this for us all year. He’s somebody that, I told you guys in the beginning of the year, ‘don’t worry about him, he’s gonna be fine,’ and he’s kind of being fine.”

On Seton Hall’s alumni turnout Saturday night:
“It’s huge. I thought it was good for Fuquan Edwin to get honored today in the hall of fame, he deserved it, he had a great career. And for everybody else coming out here supporting us and showing love, it’s always good. I told you guys before, Seton Hall, when I’m here, they’re here. So we’re all together. It’s big. You see my boy Isaiah (Whitehead) was here, he was here all week with us, so it was good. I don’t want to leave people out, I know we had a lot of alums here, I saw a lot of people in the stands. It was good to see everybody. (Whitehead) came to school, not practice. He came to school.”

On Seton Hall’s fan support:
“It was good. I think Kooks said it, it’s a Saturday night, right? It’s Saturday night, 8:30, they could have been anywhere doing things. For them to be out here and understand the importance of this game and the next couple games, it’s super important. But not just for the students, I want to say all the regular fans have been coming out all year, and I want to thank those guys for coming out as well. But it’s always good to have the students there. They bring a lot of energy, I think tonight was Greek night if I’m not mistaken, they came out and we kind of felt their energy.”

On positioning entering the Big East tournament:
“Just keep defending, keep playing Seton Hall basketball and share the ball. Our three guys gotta be our three guys, period, and just try to stay solid. Don’t try to get ahead ourselves, take every game step by step.”

On Seton Hall’s improved consistency:
“Better. We’ve still got some ways to go, but a lot better. I thought we came out with a lot of energy, then we kind of died down and we came out in the second half with some more energy. In this league, you gotta be careful doing that. Teams are too good.”

Winthrop responds the right way, never trails in win over Upstate

 

Winthrop's Micheal Anumba paced the Eagles with 15 in Saturday's win over Upstate.  (Photo:  Winthrop Athletics/PPG)



ROCK HILL, S.C. – Just shy of 72 hours before the ball was tossed in the air Saturday afternoon in Winthrop Coliseum, Winthrop coach Mark Prosser sat on press row, telling Jim Szoke and Brett Ferguson of the Winthrop Radio Network that he was “at a loss” regarding what he had just seen from his team. Saturday, the response – from both Prosser and his Eagles – was significantly differed.

Four Eagles finished in double figures in a game Winthrop never trailed, as the Eagles used 38 paint points and 22 second-chance points to run past Upstate, 83-74, before an announced crowd of 2,225.

“I thought for 40 minutes we played hard enough and smart enough,” Prosser said. “When we made mistakes, we were aggressive and trying to make plays. I think that we played hard.”

Winthrop (17-12, 8-6 Big South) opened a 5-0 lead on a Kelton Talford bucket and Kasen Harrison triple, only for Justin Bailey to eventually draw the game level at seven after back-to-back triples. Upstate (9-19, 4-11) drew the game level at 18 at the 11:50 mark on a trio of consecutive triples from Trae Broadnax. Winthrop seized back the lead on a Nick Johnson layup, with Noah Van Bibber providing eight of the next 16 Eagle points off the bench to stretch the Eagle advantage to six.

“He’s earned it in practice,” Prosser said of Van Bibber. “I thought he stood his ground and helped our team win. He was prepared the first time that ball hit his hands and he buried a three. He was rewarded. He rewarded our team today.”

Winthrop ventured to the interval with a 40-37 lead, buoyed by four straight Johnson free throws. Talford and Harrison again teamed to expand the Eagle lead as the second stanza got underway. The duo booked the first seven points of the half to put the Eagles ahead by seven. The lead grew to 12 at the nine-minute mark on back-to-back buckets from Alex Timmerman.

Simultaneously, the Eagle defense clamped down on Upstate further away from the bucket, forcing several errant looks from the Spartans after they cashed nine first-half threes. Upstate hit just 2-of-11 tries in a nine-plus minute span that allowed the homestanding Eagles to build a more comfortable margin. Winthrop expanded its lead to 16 before seven straight Jalen Brazeale points cut it to 11. Upstate continued to peck away at the margin before finally cutting it to five on a Broadnax bucket with 20 seconds remaining, but Winthrop closed out the Spartans from there to get the victory.

“The biggest problem today was that we came a little bit unglued,” Upstate coach Dave Dickerson said after the game. “We took 32 threes – which, for us, that’s way too many – and I thought in the second half, in that stretch, we took some ill-advised shots. We should have been driving the basketball and getting to the free throw line and trying to get ourselves in the bonus a little bit quicker.”

“We talked about that at halftime, that they would do a good job of taking away threes in the second half. We had to play in the paint. We had to play inside-out basketball. We just were not able to do that. We failed to play chess. We played checkers the whole day.”

The Eagle effort surely had much to do with that Upstate game plan. Winthrop responded after Wednesday’s challenging result, led by strong games from the Eagle upperclassmen. Guard/forward Micheal Anumba turned in a 15-point effort and grabbed five boards without committing a foul in 30-plus minutes of game action.

“It was definitely a big win,” Anumba said. “After what happened Wednesday, we came back Thursday and had a great practice. We were ready.”

“We took (Wednesday’s loss to Presbyterian) personal. We definitely took it personal. I know we’re the best team in the conference, though sometimes we don’t show it. We came in (today) and we were ready to go.”

Anumba’s 15 guided the Eagles, with six of his eight tries from the field finding the net. Sin’Cere McMahon poured in 13 in reserve duty, hitting three triples to help build the total. Talford booked 12 and finished two boards shy of a double-double, while Johnson hit 9-of-10 from the line to finish with 11. Winthrop shot 49.1 percent (26-for-53) from the field and got to the free throw line 35 times for the ninth time in a game this season, with 25 of those tries (71.4 percent) connecting.

Broadnax led Upstate and all scorers with 22 points on 8-for-17 from the field (4-for-8 from three) and 2-for-3 from the line. Bailey added 15 for the Spartans, cashing 5-for-8 from the deck, 3-for-4 from three, and 2-for-3 from the stripe. Brazeale contributed 15 in reserve duty, hitting all four of his three-point tries and all three of his free throw attempts. Nick Alves added 11, hitting 5-of-10 field goal attempts. The Spartans shot 25-for-56 (44.6 percent) on the day, making a season-high 14 threes and hitting 43.8 percent from deep. Upstate got to the line just 14 times, hitting 10 (71.4 percent).

Both teams return to Big South play Wednesday evening. Winthrop travels to the Qubein Center in High Point, N.C., to square off with the first-place High Point Panthers, while Upstate hosts Presbyterian in the Hodge Center in Spartanburg, S.C. Both games are slated for 7:00 (Eastern) starts, with streaming coverage available over ESPN+.

WINTHROP 83, UPSTATE 74

UPSTATE (9-19, 4-11 BIG SOUTH)

Ochoa 0-3 0-0 0, Alves 5-10 0-1 11, Bailey 5-8 2-3 15, Broadnax 8-17 2-3 22, Ayesa 2-7 0-0 6, Surratt 1-2 1-2 3, Brazeale 4-5 3-3 15, Rideau 0-2 2-2 2, Sheida 0-0 0-0 0, Placer 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 25-56 10-14 74.

WINTHROP (17-12, 8-6)

Talford 5-6 2-3 12, Doucet 2-5 2-4 6, Anumba 6-8 3-5 15, Johnson 1-6 9-10 11, Harrison 3-7 2-2 9, McMahon 4-13 2-2 13, Claxton 1-1 1-2 3, Timmerman 2-4 2-4 6, Diallo 0-0 0-0 0, Van Bibber 2-3 2-3 8. Totals 26-53 25-35 83.

Halftime:  Winthrop 40-37. 3-Point goals:  Upstate 14-32 (Ochoa 0-1, Alves 1-5, Bailey 3-4, Broadnax 4-8, Ayesa 2-7, Brazeale 4-4, Rideau 0-2, Placer 0-1), Winthrop 6-23 (Doucet 0-2, Anumba 0-2, Johnson 0-4, Harrison 1-2, McMahon 3-9, Timmerman 0-1, Van Bibber 2-3). Fouled out:  Bailey (UPST).  Rebounds:  Winthrop 40 (Talford 8), Upstate 24 (Broadnax 6). Total fouls:  Upstate 28, Winthrop 18. Technicals:  NA.

Points off turnovers:  Winthrop 8, Upstate 4.  Points in the paint:  Winthrop 38, Upstate 20.  Second-chance points:  Winthrop 22, Upstate 6.  Fast-break points:  Upstate 13, Winthrop 9.  Bench points:  Winthrop 30, Upstate 20.

 


Fairfield enacts revenge on Quinnipiac in instant MAAC classic

By Pete Janny (@pete_janny)

HAMDEN, Conn. — 
Any successful business trip on the road is a good feeling in college basketball. 

Fairfield had even more to play for Friday night against Quinnipiac, considering how things ended last time these two teams met on January 28, when Matt Balanc hit a game-winning layup with 3.5 seconds left to secure a huge road win for the Bobcats. Nearly three weeks later, Fairfield played like there was everything to lose and with a sense of urgency that led to a rousing 85-81 victory at M&T Bank Arena.

It was unfortunate that only one team would emerge victorious in this game after 40 minutes of captivating plays on both ends, as well as nine lead changes and six ties. The largest lead was nine points for Fairfield early on, and seven for Quinnipiac in the second half of a game Bobcats head coach Tom Pecora compared to an NBA game given the high level of shot making on display. There was also the fact the three-pointers rained all night, with Fairfield going 13-of-26 and Quinnipiac firing away at 15-of-33.

“In the first game, I think both teams were like two good fighters in a 12-round fight and they tried to feel each other out,” Fairfield head coach Chris Casey said about the sequel to the Stags’ 66-64 loss to Quinnipiac at Mahoney Arena. “In this game, both teams knew each other and went at each other.”

This game was too close to call for almost the full distance before the Fairfield guards found a different gear late. The four-headed monster of Jalen Leach, Caleb Fields, Jasper Floyd and Brycen Goodine carried the Stags like it has the whole season, and arguably had its best collective performance Friday on the biggest stage.

A late 7-1 run, made possible by a Goodine layup and three before setting up Louis Bleechmore for another basket inside, gave Fairfield a 76-70 lead with 2:32 left. The Stags, who have shot 75 percent on the season from the foul line as a team, never relinquished the lead from there and iced the game with a handful of free throws in the final minute. 

For the guards, this game was personal after falling victim to Balanc’s late heroics last month. Fields opened the game with two threes before Leach scored 13 of the Stags’ next 17 points. Their ability to beat Quinnipiac inside and out, and in Leach’s case, to draw fouls, was huge. Leach had a near flawless performance with 27 points, six rebounds, three assists on 4-of-6 shooting from three and 7-for-7 from the charity stripe. 

“We take those things personal,” Fields said about the matchup with Quinnipiac’s dynamic guards. “We know the preseason all-conference guys, and I believe every guard is a preseason all-conference player.”

On a night where Leach made his latest argument for MAAC Player of the Year, the Stags received big plays from Jasper Floyd down the stretch and had their spark plug in Goodine show up when needed by overcoming some missed shots. Not often does a team have a guy who scored 40 points in a game come off the bench, but Fairfield is far from an average team in the backcourt. 

“He’s such an unselfish player,” Leach said about Goodine. “Any other player may have pouted given his pedigree. He just has a very positive mindset, and for him, it doesn’t matter.”

That unselfishness is apparent just by how the Stags communicate with each other on the court and how they speak about each other off of it. The resilience is just as special, too. Fairfield trailed 47-40 at the 16:58 mark following a three from Amarri Tice, before responding with a 7-0 run to tie the score. Even after Tice tied the score at 39 on a last-second heave near the edge of the logo to beat the first half buzzer, a cool, calm, and collected Casey made enough adjustments in the second half to find success on both ends. Quinnipiac worked hard for their points and were forced into 14 turnovers by Fairfield, who also prevented the Bobcats from going to the line until the 3:08 mark of the second half. Quinnipiac ended with six free throw attempts, whereas Fairfield went 16-of-20 from the line. The disparity was not an indictment on the referees, but instead a testament to Fairfield’s ability to make Quinnipiac settle for long threes. 

“Our big men did a great job not fouling,” Leach said. “We did a great job keeping them in front of us and not fouling until the end.”

While Doug Young and his 17 points off the bench had the look of an unsung hero for Quinnipiac, Birima Seck flew under the radar for Fairfield. Seck played 25 minutes and had five rebounds, plus a career-high four steals. His minutes had outsized importance, with Casey only playing Alexis Yetna six minutes and Peyton Smith five. 

“It’s game to game,” Casey said about how he deploys his trio of bigs. “It’s the same thing with the guard spot and the small forward spot. We have multiple guys and I have confidence in all of them.”

Fairfield, now winners of 16 of their its 20 games, is only a half-game behind Quinnipiac in the MAAC standings and is the most healthy it has been all season. Casey has proven to be a boon for Fairfield’s fortunes as well. The veteran coach is not only a prime candidate for MAAC Coach of the Year, but has also proven he should be the leader of the Stags program going forward. Casey’s counterpart on Friday was handed a contract extension earlier this week for the resurgence that has taken place at Quinnipiac this season.

Both Casey and Pecora coaches have each authored great stories this season with still more to be written. As for Casey, there is still much to be gained and lost for his chances of getting the full-time job as the calendar will soon turn to March. Still, none of that has taken away from Casey’s focus on his team and what his players mean to him and the entire Fairfield community.

“They’ve been through so much yet they still stay together,” Casey said. “They still work hard and still have a great approach and it’s helping them win games.”

Friday, February 23, 2024

Radford steals national spotlight with commanding win at Gardner-Webb

By Jacob Conley (@gwujake)

BOILING SPRINGS, N.C. — The national spotlight was shown on Boiling Springs as Gardner-Webb and Radford faced each other Thursday on ESPNU. 

Unfortunately for the Runnin’ Bulldogs, Radford stole that spotlight as the Highlanders dominated GWU, 90-74.


Radford started the game on a quick 7-2 run before Lucas Stieber hit a three. Both teams kept scoring as Radford led, 13-9, at the first media stoppage. Caleb Robinson then came in the game and scored on a driving layup, and by the time Quest Aldridge hit a deep triple, Gardner-Webb had taken an 18-17 advantage.

Radford responded with a 7-1 run before a DQ Nicholas three-point play. The Runnin’ Bulldogs went on a long drought from the field as Radford built a 14-point lead. Nicholas snapped the skid with a three, but Radford stayed hot from beyond the arc and hit a series of floaters to stretch its lead to 18 points, eventually taking a 53-35 cushion into the halftime break.

Things did not get better for the home team in the second half, as Radford led, 61-35. Ademide Badmus scored on a post move and Robinson converted a three-point play, but GWU could not cut into the deficit. Stieber hit a pair of threes down the stretch, as did Julien Soumaoro, to cut the deficit under 20, but it was not enough.

WHERE IS THE DEFENSE? The 90 points given up by Gardner-Webb was the most surrendered by the team since a 94-90 overtime loss to Akron on December 21, 2023. Radford shot just over 56 percent for the game after shooting a blistering 64 percent in the first half.

“They were able to do a lot of things against us,” GWU head coach Tim Craft said. “They got in the paint (58 points) and were able to hit some tough shots, or get all the way to the rim and get some easy buckets. We came out flat for the first 12-15 minutes and we could never recover.”

5 FOR 5: Radford put all five of its starters in double figures, led by DaQuan Smith’s 24 points. Kenyon Giles had 17 points, while Justin Archer had a big double-double with 12 points and 13 rebounds, seven of which were of the offensive variety.

ALL BETS ARE OFF: Predicting Big South games must drive bookmakers in Las Vegas nuts. Radford entered the night last in the conference, while Gardner-Webb was solidly in third. Upsets in the league are not uncommon, as USC Upstate — who is fighting to avoid the play-in-game — recently upset league leader High Point, and Longwood took down preseason favorite UNC Asheville.

“This league is so balanced,” Craft said. “Radford has the talent to go on a run and win the conference tournament. The same can be said of anybody in this league, including us. It’s so good from top to bottom. Anybody can beat anybody.”

UP NEXT: GWU will have a short turnaround before traveling to UNC Asheville Saturday, looking for the season sweep of the Bulldogs while Radford hosts  Longwood.

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Second-half lockdown gives Hofstra split with Drexel

Tyler Thomas (23) takes 3-pointer as Hofstra, behind his 28 points, avenged last week’s loss to Drexel. (Photo by Matteo Bracco/Hofstra Athletics)

By Jaden Daly (@DalyDoseOfHoops) and Jason Dimaio (@JasonDimaio1)

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. — Gritty, focused, and confident.

Those three adjectives can describe the mentality Hofstra took into Thursday’s game against Drexel, one that carried an underlying message of evening the score after the Pride held a second-half lead in the first meeting between the two schools seven days ago in Philadelphia.

Given a second chance to maintain its current top-four status in the Coastal Athletic Association standings, Hofstra did not disappoint.

After Drexel used a 9-0 run to take a 43-41 lead midway through the second half of what had been, to that point, a slog on both ends of the floor, the Pride punched back, using its defense to fuel a 16-4 run that slammed the door on the Dragons en route to a decisive 69-57 victory that secured a split of the season series.

“A monster win for us,” was how head coach Speedy Claxton dubbed the triumph. “It was a must-win game on our home court and we had to have it. To these kids’ credit, they went out and they won it. They earned this one.”

“We had a really good team on our home court, so we wanted to come in and stand on business. We let one slip away against them the last game, so we just wanted to come out here and play a full 40 minutes of Hofstra basketball.”

The mentality of businesslike confidence was also projected in Tyler Thomas, who dazzled yet again on the way to 28 points in his latest star turn as Hofstra (17-11, 10-5 CAA) continues to feed off his burgeoning ability to be a take-charge leader on both ends of the floor.

“I can only speak for myself, but I think I’ve been more vocal,” Thomas said after Claxton considered the fifth-year senior to be, in the coach’s opinion, the CAA Player of the Year favorite. “The leadership, I think, comes on the defensive end, and I’m trying my hardest on every play. I think it’s carried over to some wins, and we’re a better defensive team when I’m guarding the ball.”

As Thomas ensured his on-ball defense matched his offensive game while denying Drexel open lanes to the paint most of the night, the same could be said for Silas Sunday, who affected Thursday’s game more profoundly than any of his other appearances this season. The Iona transfer only scored eight points and chipped in with four rebounds and three blocked shots, but had an imprint on nearly every play whenever he did see the floor.

“It’s just staying the course, just trying to get better every day and trying to improve every day,” Sunday said of his progression. “There’s always something to improve on.”

“It’s his overall confidence,” Claxton added. “I think the more he plays, the more confident he gets in himself. He’s been vital for us these last couple games, between Jacco getting in foul trouble and us wanting to play a different way. He’s been valuable, and I’m proud of him. Silas is a big boy. He takes up a lot of space, so when he’s rolling to the basket, you have to account for him. And when he comes into the game, we kind of do some different things on the defensive end because he’s a really good rim protector.”

In recent weeks, Hofstra had not been able to string together complete games, with losses to Monmouth and Drexel being the most noticeable signs of in-game struggles. Claxton has harped on the need to uphold consistency on the floor, and saw the fruits of his program’s labor pay off handsomely in a game the Pride capitalized upon.

“We’ve gotta get past that and not be satisfied with being up at the half, and play a full 40-minute game,” he said of the past lulls. “I think the last couple games, against Northeastern and tonight, we played a full 40 minutes. We got in a rut offensively, we missed a couple of shots and we relied heavily on our defense to carry us. I think that’s what put us over the hump.”

Still very much alive in the CAA regular season championship race, Hofstra has a pivotal two games on the road against league leaders Charleston and UNCW next week to conclude its final gauntlet before the conference tournament. However, one more challenge remains before that, at home Saturday against Elon, and Claxton was emphatic about not looking past the next test on the schedule.

“We’ve been saying that for weeks now,” he said of the gradual approach. “We control our own destiny at this point, so we’re gonna take it one game at a time. We’re not overlooking anyone at this point.”

Upstate’s late lead fizzles out as CSU caps off comeback

Justin Bailey goes up for shot as USC Upstate hosted Charleston Southern Wednesday. (Photo by Ryan Frye/USC Upstate Athletics)


By Justin Mathis (@J_Math23)


SPARTANBURG, S.C. – With the calendar quickly accelerating toward March, Charleston Southern and USC Upstate were both in search of a key win entering Wednesday night's contest.

 

Trailing by two possessions in the late stages, it was CSU who found a spark and rallied for a 63-60 victory, sweeping the Spartans in Big South Conference play. The win also snaps a three-game losing streak for the Buccaneers.

 

Two free throws by Upstate’s Jorge Ochoa tied the game at 50 with 6:28 to play, but A’lahn Sumler answered with a three-pointer that put CSU back in front on the ensuing possession. Following a Sumler free throw that gave the Bucs a two-point lead, Justin Bailey countered with a game-tying layup from the left side with 4:50 left.

 

“Anytime you can win in this league, it feels great,” CSU interim head coach Saah Nimley stated. “I was very pleased with the way our guys came out tonight with their concentration, effort, and their attention to detail on the defensive end. I’ve been pounding into them that we’re the most physical team in the league and that we can be one of the better defensive teams if we really put our mind to it.” 

 

“Tonight, they put their mind to it down by six with three and a half minutes left. We don’t quit.”

 

Bailey’s basket sparked an 8-0 burst for the Spartans that added up to a 60-54 lead with 3:04 left in regulation. During that flurry, Ochoa added a bucket along with two free throws each by Bailey and Nick Alves. However, one member of the Bucs provided a jolt on the next trip up court.

 

Nobal Days followed a missed shot from close range with an offensive rebound and putback that pulled CSU within four points at the 2:47 mark. That basket was part of a personal 6-0 run for Days, which took the Bucs from a six-point deficit to a tie game at 60 with 1:29 remaining in regulation.

 

“We had to make an adjustment,” Nimley pointed out. “Taje’ Kelly wasn’t playing his best game and (Upstate) did a really good job on him tonight. We put Nobal in the game and man, he gave us the spark of the night. He came in, plays tough, and is always in the right spot on the defensive end. He’s a great screen setter, teammate, and gets offensive rebounds. He just makes winning plays.”

 

Less than 30 seconds later, RJ Johnson drew a foul and knocked down both tries from the charity stripe that pushed CSU ahead by a 62-60 margin. After forcing a missed jumper by the Bucs, Upstate corralled the rebound and called its last timeout with 15.2 seconds left to map out one final play. 

 

Upstate’s Miguel Ayesa attempted a triple from the left wing that hit off the back iron and landed in the hands of Johnson, who was sent to the line with 3.5 seconds remaining. Johnson split the free throws, which left the door open for the Spartans. 

 

However, a half-court prayer went unanswered for Upstate, as the Bucs held on for the win.

 

“We just couldn’t close out the game,” lamented Upstate head coach Dave Dickerson. “We had a four-point lead going down the stretch with under three minutes to go. That’s the kind of game at home that you have got to win.” 

 

“This is on me. I’ve got to get this team to be able to rebound the basketball. When it’s February 21, you’ve got to find a way to win. We’ve got to find a way to negate them getting 14 offensive rebounds. Those are the things that kill you because they can get second-chance points. My hat’s off to the coaching staff at Charleston Southern and their players. We just couldn’t put the game away.”

 

Johnson and Sumler led the Bucs with a game-high 19 points, while the latter added eight rebounds. Days just missed double-figures with eight points and five boards. CSU outrebounded the Spartans 43-25 and outscored them 16-5 in second-chance points. As a team, the Bucs were 21-for-55 from the floor.

 

Bailey scored a team-high 17 points and five rebounds for the Spartans, followed by Ochoa (11 points) and Trae Broadnax (10 points, six rebounds). Upstate outscored CSU by a 24-11 margin in bench points, with each side tallying 24 points in the paint.

 

This Saturday, both teams will return to action as Charleston Southern (9-17, 5-8) will host High Point while USC Upstate (9-18, 4-10) travels up Interstate 85 to face Winthrop.

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Presbyterian takes the fight to Winthrop behind Teel's big night

Point guard Samage Teel paced the Blue Hose with 22 points in a big win over Winthrop Wednesday. (Photo:  Presbyterian Athletics)
 


ROCK HILL, S.C. – It’s been over 25 years since Mike Tyson had one of the more memorable quotes in sport.

“Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”

Winthrop and Presbyterian were locked in a game that never gained separation past two buckets, before a 7-0 Eagles run put the home side ahead by nine just inside the seven-minute mark of the first half. Presbyterian wasted little time in landing a staggering blow, however.

Carl Parrish had a layup. Kobe Stewart drained a three. Kaleb Scott had a bucket. Marquis Barnett scored four points. Trevon Reddish-Rhone hit a free throw.

When the dust cleared, Presbyterian had finished off a 12-0 run – and the Eagles. The Blue Hose never again trailed, getting 22 points from guard Samage Teel and shooting 52.5 percent from the deck in a 78-55 victory over Winthrop before an announced crowd of 2,272 at Winthrop Coliseum.

“That was (a full 40 minutes),” Presbyterian coach Quinton Ferrell said after the game. “It started out as not ideal in the first 10 minutes, because we just gave up too many layups. I thought after about the first 10 minutes, we settled in.”

“I thought last Wednesday at Asheville, when we were up 17 at the half, that was our best 20 minutes of the year on offense and defense. I think we had a tough week last week and we felt we should have at least won one game. To come back this week with our only game (being this one) and be really focused – I thought it was the best 40 minutes we’ve played all year.”

The seesaw battle dominated much of the first half. Winthrop (16-12, 7-6 Big South) claimed the first two buckets of the game before the visiting Blue Hose responded with a Scott bucket to get on the board. Presbyterian (13-16, 5-9) stayed within four before Winthrop’s run and its counter-run. The Blue Hose landed another strong volley over the final 1:21 of the first half, outscoring the homestanding Eagles, 8-2, in the run-up to the interval behind five Scott points and a Teel triple to take a 43-35 lead at the break.

After a 6-0 Presbyterian run to start the second half and stretch the Blue Hose lead to 13, Winthrop got back-to-back buckets from Mike Anumba and Alex Timmerman to take a chunk out of the advantage and force it to nine. The Eagles again chipped it to nine on back-to-back buckets from Sin’Cere McMahon and Kelton Talford.

Presbyterian then threw another punch in the form of an 11-4 burst that stretched the lead to 16. Teel then fueled his scoring binge, putting home 10 of the final 12 Blue Hose points and helping to turn away any possible Winthrop challenge.

“We wanted to go get a veteran point guard,” Ferrell said. “When we had a scholarship open up in the spring, we felt we could get even better. I felt (freshman point guard) Kory (Mincy) was good enough to play early on – which he has, and he’s played well for us – but I wanted to go out and find a veteran point guard to mentor him. (Teel) won a lot at (Winston-Salem State), had the ball in his hands a lot, and made big plays for them. I think tonight, people got to see that, in terms of his ability to control the game, make shots, and run the team.”

“It’s been a beautiful journey watching him grow. He’s experienced some adversity in getting used to me and trying to fulfill the role how I see it and how I need it. I think, now, he’s starting to turn the corner to be more consistent with what I want. I think his reward is the way he’s been playing lately.”

The victory was the first for Presbyterian in Winthrop Coliseum since a 48-45 result on Valentine’s Day of 2012, and just the second all-time for the Hose in the building. Winthrop coach Mark Prosser seemed to struggle to find words to describe what took place after the game.

“(It was) effort, care, and want-to,” Prosser said, through hesitation. “You lose every hustle play, every category that you could possibly think of, and it’s just the culmination of – I think – several things.  You could see it happen, and today was about the worst version of that.”

Teel’s 22 led Presbyterian and all scorers. The Greenville, N.C., native put home 9-of-15 shots on the night. Barnett booked 19 and hauled in seven boards, putting home 7-of-11 tries and 4-of-5 from the line. Scott finished two boards shy of a double-double, finding the net six times in 11 tries and hitting his lone free throw to tally 13 points. The Blue Hose bolstered their 50-plus percent shooting effort for the game with a 57.7 percent effort (15-for-26) in the second half.

Presbyterian outrebounded Winthrop, 35-29, including 14 offensive rebounds on their 29 misses that helped lead to 50 points in the paint and 13 second-chance points. Ferrell acknowledged the interior effort helped provide a key boost to his team.

“Rebounding, I believe, wins championships,” Ferrell said. “It’s something we emphasize and something we stress. It’s been our Achilles’ heel at times. Tonight, against a really physical team – a long, athletic, and tough team – to come in their building and rebound the way that we did played a big part in the outcome of the game.”

Talford had a strong rebounding night of his own, gobbling up 10 caroms to go with his 15-point effort to pace the Eagles. The Great Falls, S.C., native also drew 10 fouls from Presbyterian defenders, hitting 3-of-4 tries from the line to go with his 6-of-9 night from the field. Anumba added 13 to join Talford in double figures. The Eagles shot 43.1 percent (22-for-51), despite an icy 8-for-29 (27.6 percent) in the second stanza. Winthrop hit 5-of-19 (26.3 percent) from distance and 6-of-12 (50 percent) from the stripe.

Winthrop resumes Big South play Saturday afternoon as it welcomes USC Upstate to Winthrop Coliseum. Tip time is set for 2 p.m., with streaming coverage over ESPN+. Presbyterian will be off until next Wednesday, when it travels to Spartanburg to visit the same Upstate team for the penultimate game of Big South play. The ball will go in the air in the Hodge Center in Spartanburg, S.C., at 7 p.m. ESPN+ will also stream that contest.

PRESBYTERIAN 78, WINTHROP 55

PRESBYTERIAN (13-16, 5-9 BIG SOUTH)

Scott 6-11 1-1 13, Barnett 7-11 4-5 19, Teel 9-15 1-3 22, Stewart 2-8 0-0 5, Reddish-Rhone 4-6 1-3 9, James 0-2 0-0 0, Pierce 1-2 1-1 3, Mincy 0-3 0-0 0, Parrish 3-3 0-0 7. Totals 32-61 8-13 78.

WINTHROP (16-12, 7-6)

Talford 6-9 3-4 15, Doucet 4-10 0-0 9, Anumba 4-8 3-4 13, Johnson 1-3 0-2 3, Harrison 2-7 0-0 4, McMahon 2-8 0-0 5, Claxton 0-0 0-0 0, Timmerman 3-6 0-0 6, Diallo 0-0 0-2 0. Totals 22-51 6-12 55.

Halftime:  Presbyterian 43-36. 3-Point goals:  Presbyterian 6-19 (Barnett 1-4, Teel 3-7, Stewart 1-5, James 0-1, Mincy 0-1, Parrish 1-1), Winthrop 5-19 (Doucet 1-6, Anumba 2-4, Johnson 1-2, Harrison 0-2, McMahon 1-5). Fouled out:  NA.  Rebounds:  Presbyterian 35 (Scott 8), Winthrop 29 (Talford 10). Total fouls:  Presbyterian 17, Winthrop 15. Technicals:  NA.

Points off turnovers:  Presbyterian 17, Winthrop 11.  Points in the paint:  Presbyterian 50, Winthrop 34.  Second-chance points:  Presbyterian 13, Winthrop 13.  Fast-break points:  Presbyterian 11, Winthrop 5.  Bench points:  Winthrop 11, Presbyterian 10.

 


Monday, February 19, 2024

MAAC Monday: Niagara’s road takes on double meaning, stat leaders, power rankings

By Jaden Daly (@DalyDoseOfHoops) and Pete Janny (@pete_janny)


MAAC Monday returns from a weeklong hiatus today, and opens with Pete’s recap of Sunday’s battle of the top two teams in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, one that Niagara won by a convincing 14 points over league leader Quinnipiac. From there, an updated set of stat leaders and power rankings will follow.


A minor programming note here: The quick hits segment will return next week.


HAMDEN, Conn. — The body of work so far from a new-look Niagara roster assembled over the offseason has been everything Greg Paulus has wanted for his Purple Eagles.


Add in Niagara’s hard-nosed mentality on the road, which has translated to winning its first seven conference road games, including a hard-fought 80-66 victory on Sunday over first-place Quinnipiac at M&T Bank Arena, and the Purple Eagles look like a legitimate contender to win the MAAC for the first time since 2007, when Joe Mihalich brought a second conference crown to Monteagle Ridge.


There was no better outcome to the Purple Eagles’ Connecticut swing than what they rendered over the course of this weekend, which could prove to be the big turning point for how the Purple Eagles view themselves and are viewed around the conference.


Leg one was made complete on Friday with a 65-63 win over Fairfield. Then, Niagara used a big second half in Hamden on Sunday to hand the Bobcats their first loss on York Hill since a 73-66 setback to Yale way back on December 11.


Quinnipiac is undoubtedly a different team today compared to when it last lost at home more than two months ago. As a result, Paulus knew this would be one of his team’s biggest challenges to date, and the Purple Eagles responded by passing leg two with flying colors. 


“Quinnipiac is a terrific team and is having an unbelievable season,” Paulus said after his team outscored the Bobcats, 43-29, in the second half to emerge victorious for the fourth time in its last five games. “We did a great job knocking down the free throws with confidence, and I really liked the shots we took from the three-point line.”


Trailing 30-21 after a mid-range jumper from Matt Balanc with 5:21 left in the first half, Niagara turned on the jets and got right back in it. Braxton Bayless nailed a three which cut the deficit to 30-24, and Quandre Bullock scored 11 of Niagara’s last 13 points of the half to even the score at 37 by the break. Bullock’s last points of the half came on a heads-up pass from Luke Bumbalough while Quinnipiac was slow to get back on defense following a missed free throw from JJ Riggins. The teardrop floater from Bullock went through the net just before the final horn sounded, sending the Bobcats into the locker room with sudden agita about how things were starting to turn in favor of the visitors.


Niagara continued to rip Quinnipiac’s hearts out into the second half, when Kwane Marble opened up the action with a three that gave Niagara its first lead of the day at 40-37. Bullock poured in a trio of threes in each half, and his sixth trifecta, at the 9:40 mark of the second half, gave the visitors their largest advantage of the afternoon to that point, at 62-53. Bullock and Bayless had their fingerprints all over the Purple Eagles’ execution on an afternoon where the former finished with a career-high 26 points and the latter scored 18.


Over the final eight minutes, Quinnipiac cut the deficit to four three separate times, but was unable to make one last play to get itself over the hump. With Bullock keeping close tabs on Balanc, the senior guard couldn’t reproduce his first-half success when he scored 13 points, and instead was held to four points over the final 15 minutes of regulation. Balanc finished with 22 points on 4-of-11 shooting from long range to lead the Bobcats.


Behind Bullock’s career night and clutch baskets from Bayless, the Purple Eagles slammed the door shut on Quinnipiac’s comeback hopes by being scrappy defensively and going a perfect 27-for-27 at the free throw line. Niagara also outrebounded Quinnipiac, 17-11, in the second half and forced the Bobcats into 2-of-11 shooting from three-point range in the final stanza.


“This team had tremendous focus today,” Paulus said. “When you play hard and you play together, hopefully you are able to make some winning plays.”


Paulus was demonstrative at times on the sideline, pleading his case to the officials on a few second-half no-calls and even hitting his fist on the scorer’s table when one offensive possession ended in a miscommunication between Ahmad Henderson and Harlan Obioha. Emotions were not part of the tactics for getting across to his players, according to Paulus, but instead a natural response to the ebbs and flows of the game. 


“There’s a time and score, and there’s a time to push and time to execute,” said Paulus, whose Purple Eagles occupy second place in the MAAC standings by virtue of their regular season sweep of Fairfield. “We still have to learn how to win in different ways and learn how to be consistent.”


Niagara can and should appreciate its growth in a sport where fortunes can change quickly. Paulus is only 37 years old, but is now a veteran in these ranks in his fifth year at the helm, and wired on the importance of being able to peak at the right time. Last season, Niagara lost four of five games heading into Atlantic City, and has no plans of reliving that experience. 


“In this league, it’s so competitive. My message to the team is, ‘let’s keep working and getting better.’”


Scoring Leaders
1) Mervin James, Rider (18.6 PPG)
2) Matt Balanc, Quinnipiac (18.5)
3) Dakota Leffew, Mount St. Mary’s (17.4)
T-4) Caleb Fields, Fairfield (16.0)
T-4) Greg Gordon, Iona (15.4)
6) Jalen Leach, Fairfield (15.8)
7) Tre Dinkins, Canisius (15.2)
8) Siem Uijtendaal, Canisius (13.7)
9) Idan Tretout, Iona (13.7)
10) Brycen Goodine, Fairfield (13.4)

Rebounding Leaders
1) Frank Mitchell, Canisius (11.3 RPG)
2) Seydou Traore, Manhattan (8.3)
3) Harlan Obioha, Niagara (7.8)
4) Greg Gordon, Iona (7.3)
5) Amarri Tice, Quinnipiac (7.1)
6) Paul Otieno, Quinnipiac (6.9)
7) Tariq Ingraham, Rider (6.4)
8) Giovanni Emejuru, Siena (6.3)
9) Mervin James, Rider (6.2)
10) Jasper Floyd, Fairfield (6.2)

Assist Leaders
1) Savion Lewis, Quinnipiac (7.3 APG)
2) Jaden Winston, Manhattan (4.8)
3) Jasper Floyd, Fairfield (4.6)
4) Latrell Reid, Saint Peter’s (4.2)
5) Dakota Leffew, Mount St. Mary's (3.8)
6) Tre Dinkins, Canisius (3.6)
7) Joel Brown, Iona (3.5)
8) Corey McKeithan, Rider (3.5)
T-9) Luke Bumbalough, Niagara (3.2)
T-9) Jeremiah Quigley, Iona (3.2)

Field Goal Percentage Leaders
1) Paul Otieno, Quinnipiac (.617)
2) Harlan Obioha, Niagara (.600)
3) Frank Mitchell, Canisius (.576)
4) Giovanni Emejuru, Siena (.555)
5) Greg Gordon, Iona (.545)
6) Daniel Rouzan, Manhattan (.535)
7) Max Allen, Marist (.527)
8) Braxton Bayless, Niagara (.524)
9) Jean Aranguren, Iona (.520)
10) Mervin James, Rider (.519)

Free Throw Percentage Leaders
1) Jalen Leach, Fairfield (.896)
2) Matt Balanc, Quinnipiac (.882)
3) Braxton Bayless, Niagara (.857)
4) Jasper Floyd, Fairfield (.838)
5) Siem Uijtendaal, Canisius (.836)
6) Ahmad Henderson, Niagara (.831)
7) Roy Clarke, Saint Peter’s (.831)
8) Tre Dinkins, Canisius (.829)
9) Mervin James, Rider (.825)
10) Jeremiah Quigley, Iona (.798)

3-Point Field Goal Percentage Leaders
1) Brycen Goodine, Fairfield (.467)
2) Javon Cooley, Marist (.444)
3) Caleb Fields, Fairfield (.405)
4) Siem Uijtendaal, Canisius (.385)
5) Luke Bumbalough, Niagara (.381)
6) Tre Dinkins, Canisius (.378)
7) Corey McKeithan, Rider (.378)
8) Josh Pascarelli, Marist (.376)
9) Josh Reaves, Mount St. Mary’s (.376)
10) Amarri Tice, Quinnipiac (.367)

Steal Leaders
1) Jasper Floyd, Fairfield (2.5 SPG)
2) Jaden Winston, Manhattan (2.2)
3) Joel Brown, Iona (2.1)
4) Amarri Tice, Quinnipiac (1.9)
5) De’Shayne Montgomery, Mount St. Mary’s (1.8)

Blocked Shot Leaders
1) Seydou Traore, Manhattan (1.2 BPG)
2) Killian Gribben, Siena (1.2)
3) Paul Otieno, Quinnipiac (1.1)
4) Jaden Daughtry, Marist (1.0)
5) Amarri Tice, Quinnipiac (1.0)

Power Rankings
1) Quinnipiac (19-6, 11-3 MAAC)
Last Week: 1
Last Game: Sunday 2/18 vs. Niagara (L 80-66)
Next Game: Friday 2/23 vs. Fairfield, 9 p.m.

2) Niagara (15-11, 10-5 MAAC)
Last Week: 2
Last Game: Sunday 2/18 at Quinnipiac (W 80-66)
Next Game: Friday 2/23 at Canisius, 7 p.m.

3) Fairfield (16-10, 10-5 MAAC)
Last Week: 3
Last Game: Sunday 2/18 vs. Mount St. Mary’s (W 94-80)
Next Game: Friday 2/23 at Quinnipiac, 9 p.m.

4) Marist (14-9, 9-5 MAAC)
Last Week: 6
Last Game: Friday 2/16 vs. Canisius (W 78-55)
Next Game: Friday 2/23 at Manhattan, 7 p.m.

5) Saint Peter’s (13-11, 9-6 MAAC)
Last Week: 4
Last Game: Sunday 2/18 at Iona (W 59-53)
Next Game: Friday 2/23 at Mount St. Mary’s, 7 p.m.

6) Iona (11-10, 6-4 MAAC)
Last Week: 5
Last Game: Sunday 2/18 vs. Saint Peter’s (L 59-53)
Next Game: Friday 2/23 at Rider, 7 p.m.

7) Rider (10-16, 7-8 MAAC)
Last Week: 7
Last Game: Sunday 2/18 at Manhattan (W 104-62)
Next Game: Friday 2/23 vs. Iona, 7 p.m.

8) Mount St. Mary’s (11-15, 7-8 MAAC)
Last Week: 8
Last Game: Sunday 2/18 at Fairfield (L 94-80)
Next Game: Friday 2/23 vs. Saint Peter’s, 7 p.m.

9) Canisius (10-14, 5-10 MAAC)
Last Week: 9
Last Game: Sunday 2/18 at Siena (W 73-64)
Next Game: Friday 2/23 vs. Niagara, 7 p.m.

10) Siena (4-22, 3-12 MAAC)
Last Week: 11
Last Game: Sunday 2/18 vs. Canisius (L 73-64)
Next Game: Sunday 2/25 at Fairfield, 2 p.m.

11) Manhattan (5-19, 2-13 MAAC)
Last Week: 10
Last Game: Sunday 2/18 vs. Rider (L 104-62)
Next Game: Friday 2/23 vs. Marist, 7 p.m.

Sunday, February 18, 2024

5 Thoughts: Seton Hall out-toughs St. John’s

Al-Amir Dawes’ 19 points led Seton Hall as Pirates came back from 19-point deficit to complete season sweep of St. John’s. (Photo by Bob Dea/Daly Dose Of Hoops)

By Jason Guerette (@JPGuerette)

ELMONT, N.Y. — Given that Seton Hall ran St. John’s off the Prudential Center court with a 28-0 run in the first meeting of the season between the two teams, the rematch at UBS Arena would feature a spirited effort by the home team to exact a measure of revenge.

The spirited effort was there, and the crowd was, too, but after falling behind by a whopping 19 points in the first half, Seton Hall turned the defense and toughness up to 12, and simply took the game away by a final score of 68-62. It was an absolutely huge game for the bubble-dwelling Pirates, a fifth Quad 1 win that will most certainly help their at-large chances. 

Here are the Thoughts:

1. Moored on a Deserted Island

Seton Hall began this game similar to the game against Villanova a week ago. Turnovers abounded, and St. John’s capitalized on them to leap out to a big lead. Without Jaden Bediako and his seven early points along with four rebounds, the Pirates might have found themselves out of the game completely. Joel Soriano (11 points), Jordan Dingle (nine points) and ringleader Daniss Jenkins (eight points) all stepped up big in the first 20 minutes.

The lead was 33-19 when Shaheen Holloway picked up a technical foul after a Kadary Richmond offensive foul. After Nahiem Alleyne made the two foul shots, Zuby Ejiofor made a layup to push the margin to 38-19 with 3:09 remaining in the first half.

And that's when everything changed.

“I thought in the first half, we kind of — I’m not sure what was going on,” Holloway said. “They were scoring off our turnovers. We had like, six turnovers and I think they jumped on us. And then once we settled down and I was able to get their attention with the tech, I thought after that, the game turned around for us.”

2. Pirates of the Cross Island Parkway

In the short term after the lead became 19 points, Seton Hall stabilized things in the form of four straight points from Dre Davis (more on him later). It kickstarted a 10-3 run to close the half and cut the deficit to 12 points. Rick Pitino even used a timeout after the Davis points to try and stem the tide.

But it was for naught, because from there on out, Seton Hall was the tougher team, and in the second half, held the Red Storm to just three points in the first eight minutes and 42 seconds (on a quick-release Sean Conway three over a defender). They took Soriano completely out of the game, and made things generally difficult for whoever tried to score. The Pirates then matriculated back into the contest, got it tied, then got the lead, and all the while, they did not let up on defense.

There was even a point where St. John’s almost turned the momentum back in its favor when the Johnnies ambushed Kadary Richmond on a screen, RJ Luis saved the loose ball on a dive near midcourt, and Jenkins hit a layup to tie the game at 50-50. 

But Seton Hall kept on Seton Hall-ing, and simply took the win away from the Red Storm, deflating a crowd of 9,584 that represented the best at the off-campus facility of the season for the home team.

3. Dawes Defends Daniss and Dominates

Al-Amir Dawes led the Pirates with 19 points in this game, knocking down a trio of threes after a slow start, including a big one shortly after the aforementioned hustle sequence for St. John’s in the second half. His off games are becoming more infrequent as the season goes along, and his on games remain incredibly impactful playing next to Richmond.

But he's also got an Energizer Bunny motor, and is routinely asked to defend quick guards. Jenkins is the perimeter engine that makes St. John’s go, and he had a solid first half as we mentioned. The numbers may not suggest it in the box score (he finished with 17 points on 7-for-16 shooting when all was said and done), but Dawes was in his shorts nearly the entire second half. In fact, the only points he scored that I can recall were when he shook free from Dawes on ball screens in the halfcourt or on transition opportunities.

I asked both Dawes and Holloway if they think his defense goes overlooked in favor of his shooting prowess. The former deferred to his teammates.

“I don't really pay attention to that,” Dawes said. “I just focus on what I can do and what the team can do as a whole. We take that approach as a defensive team first.”

“I don’t want to take nothing away from Al, but it was team defense, right?” Holloway said. “I think Al, I’m asking him to do a lot for us. I’m asking him to score for us, I’m asking him to play defense, to guard the better guards — and there’s great guards in this league — so for him to go out there and take that challenge, it’s good. But every night, he’s guarding a great guard in this league.”

Dawes had help, as the coach and Dawes himself said. But individually, he made Jenkins’ night really difficult, and St. John’s night difficult as a result. As for the Pirates’ team defense being superior in the second stanza, it boils down to the toughness factor.

4. Tough As Nails

There are two other Pirates I'd like to highlight here. First is Dre Davis. After missing the second half against Xavier on Wednesday, the rock-steady senior didn't even practice or get on the court at all until tonight, when he replaced starter David Tubek quickly, and proved himself as possessing a strong constitution indeed.

“I’ll tell you what: The last time Dre was on the court was the first half on Wednesday,” Holloway said. “He didn’t practice Thursday, Friday or yesterday. I didn’t know what he could do. He came to me before the game and he was like, ‘I want to give it a try.’ I’m a knucklehead. I played him 34 minutes, but we needed this game. We need every game. And I kept asking him if he was good, but to answer your question, shoutout to him. He’s been like that for us the whole year. He’s been our backbone.”

“A lot of guys aren't trying to get out there if their pinky hurts,” Dawes said of his classmate. “It shows his will for the game, and the love for the game he has. I appreciate Dre.”

Davis finished with 15 points and seven rebounds in the game, and while he only shot 4-for-10 in the game, he went 7-for-9 at the free throw line on a night where the Pirates faltered as a team, drawing six total fouls, which were second-most on the team to Richmond's nine.

Secondly, there's Dylan Addae-Wusu. In his first game against his former school, the Bronx native impacted the game offensively, scoring 16 points in Seton Hall's win. Tonight, he had only six, but boy, was he defensively fantastic. He grabbed six rebounds, got three steals, and even blocked a three-point shot, posting a team-high plus-14 rating in the process.

Those are all things that St. John’s could have used tonight, and it was telling that Pitino simultaneously praised Seton Hall’s toughness in his postgame press conference while bluntly considering his team deficient in that department.

“We just lack toughness,” the Hall of Famer said of his team. “We don't move our feet on defense. They shot 37 free throws. Throw out the (other) stats. You see it every game the amount of free throws they shoot and the amount of free throws we shoot. Look at what Nahiem (Alleyne)’s shot on the year, look at what Chris Ledlum’s shot on the year. You’re a power forward and you play 29 minutes without a free throw. That means you’re not offensive rebounding, you’re not getting to the line. So it's really all the toughness things (as to) why we give up leads.

So, what of the former Johnnie in particular?

“(Addae-Wusu) is much better here right now,” Pitino said. “He had six points, he was 2-for-9 from the field, 0-of-3 from three, 2-of-3 from the line, but he's a perfect fit for what they do.”

And what the Pirates do is out-tough teams on a regular basis. To borrow an oft-quoted line from a long-ago Pitino press conference, if the Johnnies want to get tougher, Dylan Addae-Wusu isn't walking through that door.

5. Bracket Booster

Brad Wachtel, the terrific bracketologist, had this to say immediately after the game:

One of the reasons why the Villanova loss was so disappointing for the Pirates is that it was, on paper, one of the two more-winnable Quad 1 victories left on their schedule. This game was the other one, and in the first 15 minutes, it looked like Seton Hall would again make things tough on itself by forcing itself to either go to Creighton or top-ranked UConn and find a win, or take charge at the Big East tournament, all while avoiding a bad loss.

Now that the Pirates made this comeback and swept the regular season series from St. John's, they've bought themselves a little breathing room. There were only 17 teams coming into today in the entire nation with five Quad 1 wins, and Seton Hall has now joined that group. The fact that it was a direct result of them imposing their DNA on the game and storming back like they did should make any Pirates fan smile.