Before I get into the quarterfinals of the CAA tournament, there was plenty of other mid major action, plus one bit of news.
I'd also like to give some props to my friend Tony Bozzella and the Iona Lady Gaels, who have made the MAAC Women's Basketball Conference Championship game after defeating Loyola 62-58. The #2 seeded Gaels will face #1 seeded Marist in the finals. The Gaels have at least locked up a Women's NIT bid by Marist and Iona making the conference final (the Women's NIT automaticaly takes the second best team in the MAAC). Its the first time in the history of Iona women's basketball that they have made the MAAC conference final. However Coach Bozzella wants the NCAA bid and if leading scorer Martina Weber can have a big game, Iona might just finally get that win over Marist and get that bid. Good luck Bo!
Winthrop (28-4) survived a major scare as they had to hold off high scoring VMI 84-81 win the Big South Championship. The Eagles won their nineteenth game in a row as they earned their seventh NCAA bid in nine seasons. The Eagles shot 49 percent from the field as Torrell Martin had 17 points to lead five double digit scorers. The Eagles and the Keydets were tied at 66 until Taj McCullough hit a three point to put Winthrop up to stay. The Keydets had a chance to tie at the end, but Reggie Williams missed a 30 footer at the buzzer. Williams, the leading scorer in the country at 28 points per game only scored 13.
Davidson (29-4) was the best team in the Southern Conference during the regular season and showed everyone they were the best team in the postseason as the Wildcats downed the College of Charleston 72-65 to win the Southern Conference Tournament. Stephen Curry scored 29 points as the Wildcats came back from a 56-51 deficit. Davidson held Cougars’ leading scorer Dontaye Draper, who poured in 38 in the Cougars’ upset of Appalachian State, was held to 11 points.
The Wildcats and the Eagles will be two tough outs in the NCAA tournament.
Meanwhile, at the MVC, the top two seeds Southern Illinois and Creighton will meet for the Missouri Valley Championship. The Salukis (27-5) had to hold on for dear life as Matt Shaw tipped in a layup with 3.2 seconds left to lift Southern Illinois to a 53-51 win over Bradley (21-12), who may have seen their slim at large bid hopes end. The Braves were up 8 on the Salukis in the second half, but the Salukis rallied back behind Jamaal Tatum’s 20 points. Both teams struggled from the field as Bradley shot 35.6 percent and Southern Illinois shot 34.6 percent.
The Bluejays (21-10) didn’t struggle as much as they pounded Missouri State (22-10) 75-58. Nate Funk scored a season high 33 points for the Bluejays extended a 39-34 halftime lead with an 11-4 run to start the second half and Creighton never looked back. The Bears were held to 35.6 percent from the field. The Bluejays will face Southern Illinois for the title. The Bluejays lost both games to the Salukis during the season by a total of five points. Missouri State must now sweat out Selection Sunday to see if the tournament committee will take three MVC teams.
Its now time to review the CAA quarterfinals. I wrote down four questions, one for each game yesterday at breakfast that I thought were important.
1) How will Georgia State handle VCU’s press?
2) Can Northeastern play effective defense against Drexel?
3) Will Towson’s defense play as well as they did against UNC Wilmington?
4) Will Hofstra play good post defense to hold off George Mason’s superior inside play?
The answers turned out to be “No”, “No”, “Yes” and “Not early on and it cost them”
I am going to start with the last game of the quarters, the only upset in the quarters. When I started this college basketball season, I traveled with my friend Tony down to Charlotte to watch Hofstra take on the 49ers. In that game, Charlotte exposed Hofstra’s weak frontcourt in the first half, taking a 47-29 halftime lead. Hofstra came back to cut the lead to three but ran out of gas, losing 88-82.
The possible last game of the season for Hofstra (unless they get a NIT bid) was eerily similar. #6 seeded George Mason went out to a 43-28 halftime lead using a 21-4 run. #3 seeded Hofstra came back in the second half holding the Patriots to 21 second half points and had a chance to tie the game at the end, only to fall short 64-61.
The Patriots started out to a 15-8 lead as Darryl Monroe scored six points early on to expose again Hofstra’s smaller frontcourt (thus answering the fourth question I had) while Folarin Campbell, Dre Smith and Jordan Carter added three pointers. Hofstra came back on the hot three point shooting of Carlos Rivera, who hit five three pointers, to lead 24-22. But Rivera picked up his second foul and GMU would go on a 21-4 run with Rivera mostly on the bench to go up 43-28 at the half.
Hofstra would rally in the second half as Loren Stokes who was held to four first half free throws, would score 14 second half points. The Pride cut the lead to four, 47-43 as the Pride used a 15-4 run. However, the Patriots would go on a 9-0 run to go up 56-43. Hofstra would come back again to trail 58-55 with 2:07 left. George Mason would go back up six, but Hofstra would come back one more time and when Jordan Carter missed the front end of a one and one with eight seconds left, the Pride had a chance to tie with a three down 64-61. But Greg “Playstation” Johnson suffered a glitch in his programming and decided to drive to the basket for a layup while several Hofstra players were open on the outside for a three. Johnson missed the layup and the Patriots secured the upset.
Carlos Rivera led the Pride with 21 points and Stokes had 18, but the Pride were held to 35 percent from the field. Stokes and Agudio were held to 9 of 29 shooting from the field. What also didn’t help the Pride as well was their usual struggle from the free throw line as the Pride only shot 60 percent from the field (12 of 20) while George Mason shot 76.5 percent from the field (13 of 17).
The Patriots will face #2 seeded Old Dominion (24-7) who had to rally back from a thirteen point first half deficit and held on to beat a game Towson squad 58-55. Brian Henderson led the Monarchs with 24 points on six of nine shooting from the three point arc. ODU went out to a 10-2 early lead but the Tigers went on an amazing 28-7 run to go up 30-17. But Gary Neal, who led the Tigers with 22 points, had to leave the game with his third foul and the Tigers lead was cut to five 30-25 at halftime. The Monarchs would continue their 23-3 run in the second half and the Monarchs went up 40-33 in the second half. Towson would answer back with a 12-4 run and went back up 45-44. The teams would go back and forth until Gerald Lee broke a tie with 3:46 left and the Monarchs never trailed again. However, the Tigers had a chance to tie at the end of the game, but Rodney Sprull’s three point attempt missed and the Monarchs moved on. What also hurt the Tigers down the stretch was missed free throws as the Tigers only shot 8 of 13 from the line while ODU went 13 of 15 from the line (86.5 percent). Towson did hold the Monarchs to 41 percent from the field (answering question #3) while shooting 48 percent from the field.
The afternoon session games were nowhere near as close or exciting as the evening session games. #1 seeded VCU (25-6) went out to a 23-7 run, using their press to force 20 Georgia State turnovers (answering question #1) and cruised to a 73-60 win over the #9 seeded Panthers. The Panthers cut the Rams lead to 48-45 with 13:35 left but the Panthers never came closer. TJ Gwynn and Jamal Shuler came off the bench to score a combined 27 points for VCU. Leonard Mendez led the Panthers with a game high 22 points.
The Rams will take on fourth seeded Drexel (23-7) as the Dragons stormed out to an 18-7 then a 35-18 halftime lead as the Huskies answered question #2 with a resounding NO and losing to Drexel 64-50. Frank Elegar dominated inside with 15 first half points on his way to scoring 23 points. The Dragons also held Bennet Davis to four first half points (Davis did score 16, mostly in garbage time at the end of the game). The Dragons would extend their lead to 58-36 with 5:10 left in the game. The Dragons’ student section had some of the best creative signs in the tournament as they pulled out three large banners during the game. Here are the three of them.
“Screw Clam Chowder” and “Gimme a Cheesesteak” were put out at the same time in the first half.
“Northeastern = Wicked Awful” was shown in the second half with Drexel up 20.
I wonder what they will pull out today against VCU. So, the semis are set and three of the top four teams remain with the fourth being the NCAA final four member from last season. Should make an interesting day. My prediction of ODU vs. Drexel in the final remains alive, and I will stick with my prediction.