Starting tomorrow,my MidMajorHoops.Net site will be temporarily moving from Typepad to Blogger.com. This is temporary until probably the end of the month. I am not going to talk about my reasons why, but the move should only be temporary. I have nothing but high praise for the guys at Typepad but I need to make this move for reasons that will go unexplained.
I was at Hofstra on Saturday where arguably the Pride played their best game of the season as they beat previously unbeaten in conference Northeastern 57-52. The Pride made a statement early by, I know this is stunning so hold your heart...actually working the ball inside! Hofstra on the strength of this strategy led 11-6 early. But slowly Northeastern crept back into the game, mostly on the strength of Matt Janning's three pointers. Janning's third three pointer of the half put the Huskies up one, 19-18. Again the Pride's inside play would be instrumental in a 8-2 run to put the Pride up 26-21. However Northeastern would end the half with an 8-0 run, finished off by an alley oop play to Manny
Adako off an inbounds pass with 1.1 seconds left. It was a combination of a nice play run by Northeastern and shoddy defense by Hofstra.
Down by three at halftime, 29-26, Hofstra went on a 14-4 run in the second half to open up a 40-33 lead. During this run, Charles Jenkins finally found his groove, scoring 9 of the 14 points. The game was not over however as Northeastern went on an 11-4 run to tie the game at 44. The Huskies then actually went up 51-50 with 1:47 left on a Manny Adako layup. However, the Pride would outscore the Huskies 7-1 down the stretch as the Huskies only answer for the Pride's dribble penetrations to the basket was to foul the player with the ball. Hofstra's last eleven points in the game were actually scored on free throws as the Pride shot 18 of 25 from the line.
The keys to the game were first the re-emergence of Charles Jenkins. As noted here, Jenkins had struggled mightily over his last nine games before Saturday's contest, with his FG percentage going from 47.5 percent to 37 percent. In fact in his last four games prior to Saturday Jenkins shot 13 of 59 from the field (22 percent). Saturday, Jenkins was 8 of 16 from the field and 5 of 6 from the line. Arminas Urbutis (8 points and 9 rebounds) and Tony Dennison (9 points in 20 minutes) provided much needed help from the bench. The Pride shot over 40 percent (42 percent) for the first time since a 90-79 win at Towson on December 6th, a span of eleven games.
More importantly, the Pride did an excellent job defensively on Northeastern, holding the Huskies to 38 percent (which is what Hofstra holds teams to on a season average). Even more impressive, after Janning's the third three pointer of the game with 4:40 left in the first half, Janning did not have a field goal the rest of the game. Janning in fact only had six field goal attempts over the last 24:40 due in large part to the defense of Charles Jenkins.
Ok, it's time, finally, for the new Baker's Dozen.
1) Butler (16-1) - As if their impressive first half against Loyola Chicago wasn't enough, I got home on Saturday in time to watch the second half of their game vs. Illinois Chicago. Down eleven at the half to the Flames at 28-17, the Bulldogs spotted the Flames a three pointer, then roared back and won 59-52. What was really impressive was that the Bulldogs best player, Matt Howard had only six points on six field goal attempts. That left it up to freshmen Gordon Hayward and Shelvin Mack to combine for 43 points. Hayward, who had 25 points, shot 7 of 13 from beyond the arc. Hayward entered the game leading the Horizon in three point shooting at 46.4 percent. Reminder, the Bulldogs start three freshman, a sophomore, and a junior. Amazing.
2) Saint Mary's (17-1) - The Gaels only won by fifty, 96-46. I say "only won by fifty" because one of the Gaels' best players, Omar Samhan, only had 2 points. The Gaels shot 15 of 31 from three. Diamon Simpson, who didn't attempt a three, had 24 points on 7 of 9 shooting and 10 of 11 from the free throw line. If the Gaels can get Simpson, who has struggled from the field this season, on track, the Gaels will even be more dangerous. So, would everyone like to see Butler vs Saint Mary's on Bracketbuster Saturday? I would.
3) Davidson (14-3) - Andrew Lovedale had a monster day with 16 points and 15 rebounds as the Wildcats won easily 89-68 over Georgia Southern. Stephen Curry had 29 points on 11 of 30 shooting. The Wildcats are home for their next two games before possibly their toughest game left in the regular season in the SoCon, a road game at UTC. The Wildcats should have a very good game on BracketBuster Saturday, most likely vs. a CAA team, either George Mason or VCU.
4) Gonzaga (12-4) - The Zags seem to be back in form after a thirty point pasting of San Francisco. The key - the emergence of Gonzaga sophomore Austin Daye. Daye had twenty five points vs. the Dons on 10 of 14 shooting. Daye over his last four games, all Bulldogs wins, is shooting 59.5 percent (25 of 42) and is shooting 48 percent on the season. Daye's other numbers are down, specifically his free throw shooting (from 88 percent as a freshman to 69.8 percent). As Daye goes, so goes the Zags.
5) Utah State (17-1) - The Aggies kept sole possession of first place with a solid 79-65 win over Boise State on Saturday. The Aggies shot 50 percent from the field as Tai Wesley had a season high 26 points. The Aggies had a 2-1 assist to turnover ratio for the game (18-9). This is not surprising as the Aggies lead the WAC in this category at 1.46. Also not surprising is that the Aggies lead the WAC in FG percentage at 51.6 percent and free throw shooting at 74.1 percent. But here are the surprising categories - the Aggies lead the WAC in rebounding margin (+8.6) and scoring defense in 59.9 points per game. The Aggies are a very balanced team that holds onto the ball well, defends well and scores well - a triple threat if I ever saw one.
6) George Mason (14-3) - The Patriots have sole possession of first place in the CAA after their win over James Madison and Northeastern's loss at Hofstra. GMU, unbeaten in CAA play at 7-0, shot 46 percent from the field in their 71-57 win over the Dukes on Saturday. The Dukes were held to 31.6 percent from the field including 6 of 26 from beyond the arc. Typical day at the office for the Patriots as Mason is second to Hofstra in FG percentage defense and first in three point FG percentage defense.Louis Birdsong had 15 points while Cam Long and super frosh Ryan Pearson each had 13 points. The next two games for the Patriots are big as they play at Northeastern, then at VCU, the two teams tied for second place in the CAA.
7) Northern Iowa (12-6) - At the beginning of the season, all the Missouri Valley talk centered on Illinois State and Creighton. Yet after seven games, the Panthers are leading the Valley with a 7-1 record. This is due in large part to being first in the Valley in field goal percentage at 47 percent and first in assist to turnover ratio. In their 81-59 drubbing of Drake AT DRAKE, the Panthers shot nearly 52 percent including 11 of 26 from three. Northern Iowa was up as much as 37, 65-28 in the second half. The Panthers had 17 assists to only four turnovers. Johnny Moran had 20 to lead Northern Iowa. The Panthers have won six in a row in the Valley and four of those came on the road, a pretty mean feat in the Valley.
8) Illinois State (16-2) - The Redbirds seemed to have righted themselves after knocking off Missouri State 68-56. Emmanuel Holloway and Champ Oguchi each had 15 points for the Redbirds. Illinois State leads the Valley in scoring offense and in field goal percentage defense (they also lead in three point FG percentage defense), a very important balance. Makes perfect sense that the Redbirds lead the Valley in scoring margin. Illinois State will play at Northern Iowa on January 28. Maybe the game will be on TV. Can only hope.
9) Siena (14-5) - The Saints improved to 8-0 in the MAAC with an impressive 16 point win, 78-62 at Fairfield. I know that Kyle Whelliston had the Saints as his most disappointing team of the first part of the season in his Christmas day article. But if you think about the Saints' losses, only one, vs Wichita State at the Old Spice Classic could be considered a bad loss. The Saints other losses were to former #1 Pitt, formerly ranked Tennessee in the Old Spice Classic, by seven at formerly ranked Kansas and to 12-4 Oklahoma State at the Old Spice Classic. The combined record of those four teams - 53-14. Just think Davidson from last year. Now mind you the Saints aren't as good as Davidson was last year. But remember, the Saints knocked off Vandy in the first round of the NCAA tourney last season with the same cast. Don't think they can't knock off someone again.
10) Western Kentucky (12-6) - The Hilltoppers lead the East division of the Sun Belt with a 6-1 conference record. UALR leads the Sun Belt West with the same conference record and a better overall record (13-5). Why do the Hilltoppers make the list and the Trojans don't? Two reasons. One, Western Kentucky has a signature win over Louisville while UALR's best win was a home win over now slumping Creighton. Second, the Hilltoppers crushed the Trojans 79-47 in their first meeting.
11) VCU (13-5) - The Rams are now tied for second place in the CAA at 6-1 after a very solid 61-44 win at home over ODU. After the Monarchs lit up Georgia State shooting 62 percent from the field including 10 of 16 from beyond the three point arc, VCU held them to 30 percent from the field including 2 of 11 from beyond the arc. The maturation of Larry Sanders continues as Sanders led the Rams with 16 points. Sanders has scored in double figures in seven of the last eight games. The only game that Sanders did not, the Rams lost that one 81-79 to Delaware, their only conference loss.
12) Portland State (12-5) - The Vikings lead the Big Sky with a 5-1 conference record. The team that knocked off Gonzaga in Spokane is not just star guard Jeremiah Dominguez. Dominguez, who is not even the team's leading scorer, is joined by three other players in double figures, led by Dominic Waters' 12.5 points per game. Their only real blemish is a conference loss at home to second place Weber State. The rematch at Weber State is still a month away on February 19th.
13) Tie - Wisconsin Green Bay (13-5) and Charleston (14-3) - Wisconsin Green Bay snags the final spot along with the College of Charleston based on their 6-1 record. Though they are in third in the Horizon a half game behind Wisconsin Milwaukee for second (Wisc Milwaukee is 7-1), they beat the Panthers on their home court. They also have wins over Cleveland State and Wright State. The Phoenix have four players that average double digit scoring led by guard Ryan Tilemma. They have a big game at Butler on Thursday.
Meanwhile, Charleston continues to roll in the SoCon after winning at Furman 78-71. The Cougars are one of the rare teams in the country in which all five starters average double figures in scoring led by Andrew Goudelock's nearly 17 points per game average. The Cougars lead the SoCon in field goal percentage at 48.6 percent, three point FG percentage at 38 percent and assist to turnover ratio at 1.2. The Cougars who are second in the South Division next to Davidson, have five games in between their rematch at Davidson.