W&M-Elon Halftime

The noon game got off to a somewhat sloppy start, as William & Mary denied Elon’s entry passes time after time in the opening few minutes. William & Mary had some opportunities on the break, and frosh Connor Burchfield, he of 14 points and eight DNPs in conference play, connected on back-to-back 3-pointers to give William & Mary an early 10-point lead.

Out of the U12 media timeout, Elon made its run. Christian Hairston and Austin Hamilton sandwiched layups around an Elijah Bryant 3-pointer, and Elon pulled within three.

That was when Marcus Thornton, who’d only attempted one shot to that point, began to assert himself. Thornton drilled a 3-pointer to push William & Mary’s lead back to six. Thornton began attacking the lane, creating for himself and for teammates cutting towards the hoop.

On the final possession of the half, Thornton was lolligagging around halfcourt with the clock winding down. Chill as a cucumber, he rolled towards the right side of the court and drilled a stepback three to give William & Mary a 36-26 lead at halftime.

Elon 74, Towson 69 (OT)

The 2015 CAA Tournament is off to a phenomenal start.

The first half of the opening game saw Elon and Towson playing to their strengths. Elon hit 7-of-13 from downtown, and when the Phoenix is shooting accurately while playing at its typically swift pace, it can beat with anyone in the league. Meanwhile, the Tigers did their thing, dominating the glass to create a 15-0 advantage for second-chance points.

Towson took a 34-33 lead into halftime after A.J. Astroh’s buzzer-beater lay-in.

But Elon buckled down in the second half. The Phoenix stopped the onslaught of extra possessions. And after allowing Towson to push the game into overtime, Elon created some crucial second chances of its own.

You’d expect a veteran like Austin Hamilton to take the air out of the ball with his team up three and 28 seconds on the shot clock. But seniors play to win, and Hamilton’s deep 3-pointer with 2:21 to play gave Elon a 70-64 lead that proved to be insurmountable.

Hamilton proceeded to force a momentous steal with 20 seconds to go, and classmate Kevin Blake flushed home the fast-break dunk that wrapped up the victory. Elon eventually won 74-69 in its first-ever CAA Tournament game.

We’ve made it this far without mentioning CAA Rookie of the Year Elijah Bryant, who was just magnificent on Friday night. Bryant scored a game-high 21 points to lead five Elon players in double figures. Seniors Hamilton and Blake joined three-point ace Tanner Samson in double figures. We’ve come to expect standout performances from the guard quartet.

For Matt Matheny’s group, the most surprising performance came from freshman wing Collin Luther, who scored a career-high 11 points in 16 minutes of play. Luther came in averaging 1.7 points over 18 conference games. If you need proof that it’s officially March, allow Luther to serve as your calendar.

Towson All-Rookie pick Mike Morsell scored a team-best 18 points, and Four McGlynn (13 points) hit several crucial free throws to spur Towson along. It’s no consolation now, but Towson’s an exciting young team with a bright futureElon has experienced guards it can rely upon in the clutch moments of the game. Towson has McGlynn and little else in the way of D-I postseason experience.

Less than 16 hours after beating Towson, Elon will take the floor to battle William & Mary. Elon and William & Mary split the season series, with each team holding serve on its own court. Tribe Athletics has some notes on the upcoming dual, which will be broadcast on Comcast SportNet at noon EST.

in the way of player with postseason experience. Towson only loses two players from this season’s team, and should push to finish in the top half of the league next season.

One to Go

It took until the penultimate game of Colonial play, but our conference tournament is finally starting to take shape. Heading into the final day of the regular season, here’s what the current seeding looks like:

  1. William & Mary
  2. UNCW
  3. Northeastern
  4. James Madison
  5. Hofstra
  6. Delaware
  7. Drexel
  8. Elon
  9. Towson
  10. Charleston

This much is certain:

  • Hofstra will face off with one of James Madison/Northeastern in the 4-5 game at 2:30 during next Saturday’s quarterfinals versus either .
  • Elon and Towson will play in the 8-9 game on Friday night, with a chance to play William & Mary or UNCW the next day.
  • Charleston is the 10 seed, and will play either Delaware or Drexel on Friday night.

It’s Senior Day in Williamsburg, Baltimore, Elon, and Charleston. Elon certainly threw a wrench into Northeastern’s plans on Thursday, and if there’s going to be drama again today, it seems most likely to come from the Carolinas.

Enjoy the five games and eight hours between 2 pm and 10 pm. The wait til Friday will be a painstakingly slow one.

On a Thursday

We enter the Thursday Night showdown with a three-way tie for second place, which could become a four-way tie for first place depending on tonight’s outcome.

Some brief thoughts from Wednesday’s action before we dive into the grandeur significance of tonight’s game…

Northeastern’s 75-64 win over William & Mary verified what we knew but hadn’t seen: that the Huskies can beat any team in this league. Although the natural reaction is to downplay the win on account of Daniel Dixon’s absence, it must be noted that the Tribe’s three-point shooting (12-of-22, 54.5%) wasn’t the issue here. Northeastern had a 38.1% offensive rebounding mark, which gave Northeastern a 12-2 advantage for second-chance points. Dixon would not have helped on that front.

Northeastern registered assists on 20 of its 26 buckets en route to 1.44 points per possession. David Walker, Scott Eatherton, T.J. Williams, and Zach Stahl all had O-Ratings above 144. Walker scored the game-high 21 points, and bolstered his 191 O-Rating with a seven assist, zero-turnover performance.

From the Tribe’s side, I found it interesting that Tom Schalk played as many minutes as Sean Sheldon (19), and it wasn’t because of foul trouble. Usual suspects Marcus Thornton and Terry Tarpey chipped in 17 points apiece, and frosh Greg Malinowski came off the bench to hit 3-of-4 from beyond the arc.

I touched on this in the preview, but it’s fascinating how Hofstra and Towson’s differing styles produce similar results. As the top offensive rebounding teams in the CAA, these two thrive on second-chance points and getting to the free-throw line.

Towson came into Wednesday’s dual with the second best three-throw rate (50.9%) in the nation. But it was Hofstra that posted an astounding 85.7% free-throw rate by getting to the line 42 times. So when you hear that the Tigers converted seven more field goals on the same number of attempts, you don’t have to wonder why they lost.

Juan’ya Green and Ameen Tanksley combined for 42 points, with 24 of them coming from the foul line. Green leads the country with 183 free-throw makes. Towson’s Four McGlynn had 27 points off the bench, and John Davis chipped in 17 points.

JMU won its fourth game in a row, downing Drexel 82-78. The Dukes shot 57.1% on the game, but committed more than twice as many turnovers as the Dragons. Early in the second half it felt like Damion Lee was going to be too lead Drexel to another victory, but JMU used a 25-13 run to turn a tie game into a 12-point lead. Drexel whittled that lead down to just three with 23 seconds left, but Ron Curry sealed it with a free throw.

Tom Vodanovich tallied 18 points on a plethora of cuts to the basket, and Dimitrije Cabarkapa continued his recent advent by scoring 12 points in 11 minutes. The aforementioned Curry (25 points) went toe-to-toe with the aforesaid Lee (26 points).

By averaging 16.9 points and four assists in conference play, Curry has emerged as a dark horse for First Team All-CAA. He’s averaged 18.6 points in the 11 games of the Post-Nation Era. His rise to prominence has coincided with his suddenly lethal three-point shot. Curry’s shot 42.9% from three in conference play. Curry had shot 25.6% on 223 attempts over his first two seasons.

The Charleston Cougars pulled into a ninth place tie with a 77-63 win versus Elon. Charleston shots 65.2% in the first half and 56.3% on the night while holding Elon to 37.5% from the field. Canyon Barry had 22 points, and fellow sophomore Joe Chealey had 16.

Charleston survived a three-point onslaught from Tanner Samson, who scored 20 of Elon’s first 33 points. Elijah Bryant scored 20 points, and committed just one turnover.


UNCW (10-4) at Delaware (6-8) – Video Stream – 7:00

On the surface this looks like a potential quarterfinal matchup in Baltimore, but further inspection reveals this as an opportunity for Delaware to pull within one game of Drexel. With a trip to the DAC still on tap and some solid wins (W&M twice, at Northeastern) under its belt, Delaware actually still has a decent chance to avoid Friday in Baltimore. A win against another upper echelon squad would certainly help that cause.

We’ve got guards on guards on guards tonight, as UNCW’s quartet of Addison Spruill, Freddie Jackson, Craig Ponder, and Jordon Talley all scored in double figures in the Northeastern win last Saturday. The four guards are all averaging in double figures in conference play. Talley played a huge part in UNCW’s wins last week, and as Eric Detweiler’s pregame notes, this is the second of (hopefully many) Talley vs. Kory Holden showdowns.

Delaware went into Kaplan and snapped William & Mary’s 14-game home winning streak. The Hens are guard-oriented in the same vein, as Holden, Kyle Anderson, and Cazmon Hayes lead the way. Anderson has been in double figures in all but one game this season, Hayes has recovered from a so-so start to conference play to score in double figures in nine of his past 11.

Both teams flashed flaws in UNCW’s skin-of-the-teeth overtime win in January. The Hens committed 20 turnovers (with 10 from Kory Holden), and the Hawks hit just 12-of-21 from the foul line while posting a 58.1% defensive rebounding mark. The Hens’ flaw looks more exploitable, as UNCW has forced a CAA-best 21.5% turnover rate throughout conference play.

UNCW hasn’t owned sole possession of first place this late in the season since Brownell, Callahan and Blizzard roamed the sidelines. You think Kevin Keatts’ group is about to relinquish that now?

Green Birds 65, Blue Birds 63


Six weeks ago, Northeastern head man Bill Coen stated that the CAA’s hyper competitive nature meant that each team would wind up with at least four conference losses. It’s held true for six weeks, as we’re about 80% of the way through the conference slate and still have six of the league’s 10 teams within two games of first place.

That further adds to the importance of tonight’s games, as Charleston, Drexel, and Northeastern have chances to pull themselves into ties with the teams they’re opposing. On the other side, if Elon, JMU, and William & Mary can thwart those attempts, they’ll do wonders in their quests to obtain favorable matchups in Baltimore.

Four games in 11 days. This is the homestretch y’all.

Elon (3-11) at Charleston (2-12) — Video Stream — 7:00 

Elon’s lost 10-of-11 and Charleston’s lost eight of nine. That’s what we’re looking at in this unofficial Battle for the Ninth Seed, which might be each team’s final chance to avoid skidding into Baltimore on black ice. A win probably puts Elon in the 8-9 game with Towson or Delaware, while a loss would give Charleston a season sweep and the tiebreaker in the conference standings.

Elon’s had some positive developments (namely Austin Hamilton’s surge), but I just like Charleston at home tonight. The Cougars controlled the tempo in the first matchup, and the Phoenix is netting a CAA-worst -10.5 points per 100 possession in conference play. It’s time for the Charleston, the country’s 14th least lucky team (KenPom explains the whole luck thing here), to have some things go its way.

Cougars 65, Phoenix 61

Drexel (8-6) at James Madison (9-5) — Video Stream — 7:00 

These guys met five weeks ago in JMU’s first game without Andre Nation, and the Dukes smothered the Dragons into their lowest scoring game of the Bruiser Flint Era. But there are many reasons to expect this one to be different, as Rodney Williams’ availability will certainly be a game changer. JMU flirted with danger by committing a 30.5% turnover rate in the first matchup, and Drexel can’t conceivably shoot 24% from the floor again.

Dan Crain’s long-awaited post summarizing Drexel’s four-guard vs. three-guard lineups concludes that the three-guard rendition has netted 17 points better than the four-guard rendition over a full 40-minute game. Although we know Drexel’s rebounding isn’t up to Bru’s usual standard, JMU is feeble on the glass. I agree with Crain’s thought that this is the perfect opportunity for the Dragons to use the three-guard lineup to bait Yohanny Dalembert into some early fouls. He’s the only JMU big that doesn’t fancy himself as a stretch four, and Bruiser’s bruisers could have a field day on the glass without Dalembert.

Matt Brady has shown a recent tendency for man defense, but given the success his team had with zones against Drexel the first time around, we should expect him to play something that gives Drexel ample opportunities from beyond the arc. That’s a scary proposition when you’re facing Damion Lee, a marksman who hits from the outside at a 40% clip. But if Ron Curry can match even 80% of Lee’s offensive production, he’ll continue to cement himself as one of the CAA’s best players.

JMU has some momentum after a successful 3-0 road swing, and it’s hard to ignore the dominance we saw in the first matchup.

Dukes 69, Dragons 68

Hofstra (8-6) at Towson (5-9) — Video Stream — 7:00 

Towson shot 57.8% in an out-of-character 86-point offensive explosion at Hofstra 18 days ago. That was the low point of Hofstra’s season, as the Pride had just lost for the fifth time in six games. But since the calendar turned to February, Hofstra’s won three of four, and has held its opponents below 70 points in each of its three wins.

That’s the magic number for Mihalich’s group, as the Pride is 15-1 when keeping the opposition below the 70-point mark. You worry about pace here, but Hofstra’s 81-57 massacre at The DAC proved that the Pride can blow the shell off a snail. Hofstra attempted just 12 3-pointers at Drexel, and we’re hoping that’s something that continues. Moussa Kone (10-of-10) and first-half hero Malik Nichols defined efficient in that one.

Meanwhile, Pat Skerry’s squad continues to show steady progress, having played .500 basketball over the past month. If this team manages to survive its seemingly inevitable Friday game, it would prove to be a tough matchup for some highly-seeded team in Baltimore. The Tigers physical, choppy style is reminiscent of your older brother’s CAA, and would frustrate the heck out of a team that wants to play a game in the 70s.

Like Towson, Hofstra also puts a lot of emphasis on rebounding the ball on the offensive end. It’s not the best matchup for Green, Tanksley, & Associates, but I think they can get enough 3-pointers to fall to steal one on the road. Using that 70-point mark as a barometer, I’m picking the Pride.

Pride 69, Tigers 67

William & Mary (10-4) at Northeastern (9-5) — Video Stream — 7:00 

Wednesday’s crème de la crème provides the Huskies with the chance to garner an attention-grabbing win. Northeastern is 0-3 against W&M and UNCW this year, and needs to win a big one to a) grab part of a tiebreaker with William & Mary and b) show everyone that they can beat (and be) the CAA’s top dogs.

A few recent trends work in Northeastern’s favor tonight, as the Huskies are 8-1 when coming off a loss, and are 6-1 all-time against the Tribe in Mathews. But William & Mary’s last trip to Mathews was victorious, and we know that the Tribe plays up (or down) to the level of its competition. William & Mary is still without Daniel Dixon, but won’t just roll over for the Huskies.

Northeastern permits outside shooting, and W&M is an absurdly good three-point shooting program. Having said that, I like the Huskies at home. Scott Eatherton earned Jerrelle Benimon status before the season began, which means we unfairly overlook his greatness because expect. He’s scored in double figures in 22 of 27 games this season, and although he’s not putting up the eye-popping numbers from a year ago, he’s become a much better overall player.

This seems like a prime spot for The Beasterton to emerge.

Huskies 72, Tribe 66

(Un)Lucky 13

I’m happy with how the scheduling worked out this week. The CAA’s constant clustering makes it impossible to hash out definitive seeding scenarios, but with the 13th collective conference game spread over the three-day midweek stretch preceding Friday the 13th, we’ll get a chance to watch our games more closely than if they were all bunched up on a Wednesday night.

We’ll probably end Thursday night more baffled than ever, but if the Tournament started today, things would be simple. The four teams that are below .500 in league play would play on Friday, while the other six would get an extra day to rest.

But Towson and Delaware are looking to jumble things up tonight, and given the way the season’s played out thus far, we expect one of them to do just that.

Both games are slated for Comcast SportsNet, but if it’s not syndicated in your area, you should be able to see both here.

Towson (4-8) at Drexel (7-5) — Comcast SportsNet — 6:00

Drexel won the first meeting 55-41, but it’s worth noting that Towson has been victorious in its last two trips to The DAC. As one of the more striking moments from Towson’s historic turnaround season (2012-2013), the first one was particularly memorable. You don’t need me to tell you that that was a lost season for Drexel.

Drexel got back to its roots Saturday, holding Charleston below 30% from the field and scoreless (0-of-11) from beyond the arc. It was a reminder that Bruiser Flint’s team still wants to win the same way it’s won for the past 10+ years. Still, there were nits to be picked, as Charleston posted a 37.2% offensive rebounding rate.

That could be problematic against the sixth-best offensive rebounding team in the country. Towson just slaughtered JMU on the offensive boards, and while Drexel isn’t as anemic on the glass, it’s an area where Drexel hasn’t been up to its typically excellent standard. This is part of the reason why Dan Crain hates it when Damion Lee plays the four, as it prevents Lee and the team from playing to its strengths.

So here we are, wondering if Drexel can slow down Towson’s Samme Givens clone, sophomore forward John Davis. Pat Skerry’s tenacious young group has quickly integrated into his system, evidenced by its offensive rebounding successes and propensity to get to the foul line. From the Towson side, the strategy will revolve around letting Davis, Foster, and Parker-Rivera crash the boards in hopes of creating second chances and foul trouble for the Drexel bigs.

But we can’t forget a huge part of the reason why the Tigers get so many offensive caroms – because they miss a lot of shots, as proven by the lowest effective field goal percentage (45.4%) in the league play. The Dragons have actually been worse on the whole season, but we know which team is trending up.

We’re either looking at a sickening crash back to reality, or another reason to #DUBelieve. Even though Pomeroy tells us DrexeI’s overachieving, I just can’t stop believing right now.

Drexel 57, Towson 56

James Madison (7-5) at Delaware (5-7) —Comcast SportsNet — 8:00 

As things stand today, Delaware looks like the primary threat to escape the depths of the standings and avoid a Friday game in Baltimore. Over the past month, the Hens are 5-4 with wins against top-rung fixtures William & Mary and Northeastern. Remember that as a potential tiebreaker. The youthful Hens showed uncommon poise Saturday, as Delaware countered Northeastern’s 10-0 post-halftime spurt with a decisive 16-3 run of its own.

Efficient post play has been at the heart of Delaware’s turnaround as Marvin King-Davis (10.2 points, 5.8 rebounds) and Maurice Jeffers (7.0, 4.2) have given Monté Ross’ team an added dimension in conference play. In UD’s guard-oriented attack, it’s crucial for the big men to make the most of their limited touches. Jeffers scored 20 on Saturday, and has been a big part of the Hens’ resurgence.

James Madison also comes in on a high note, as Ron Curry and Joey McLean parlayed their successful weeks into Player of the Week and Rookie of the Week (shared with Sammy Mojica) honors. Curry’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer at Towson was another sign of his assumption to leadership. It was also the type of skin-of-your-teeth win that validates JMU’s status as KenPom’s 20th most “Lucky” team.

As was the case in the last matchup, we go in expecting the guards (Curry, Anderson, Holden) to get theirs. King-Davis was Delaware’s zone breaker shatterer, as MKD dropped a career-best 31 points. On the other end, JMU forwards Tom Vodanovich and Yohanny Dalembert scored 17 points apiece. JMU beat Delaware 88-82 in Harrisonburg 13 days ago, but if this game plays out like that one did, I’ve got every belief that the Hens will come out on top. Delaware is better equipped to a win games played in the 70s and 80s.

If JMU plays zone, Delaware has proven it can score inside and from the perimeter. Delaware is still horrendous defensively, but the Hens have shown some legitimate offensive balance of late.

Back at The Bob, I expect Delaware to keep the pressure on the 7-5 trio to keep on winnin’.

Delaware 70, James Madison 66

The Best Power Forward

Saturday should be remembered as a day when Pat Skerry and thousands of coaches and fans across America joined together to raise awareness and funds for Autism. In the second year of Coaches Powering Forward for Autism, a phenomenal cause received much-needed publicity, and great hoops games helped drive the train.

If you needed a reminder that college basketball has more faces that Harvey Dent, look no further than what happened in our league on Saturday. Although many conferences could claim to be a microcosm of this madness, the CAA exemplifies its craziness as well as any. Five games were played, and each had a little something to offer.

The five games were played between the reigning conference champ and our preseason favorite, the 33rd and 34th youngest teams in D-I, two tortoises, two hares, and two CAA blue bloods facing off for first place. The results included a surprising upset, a buzzer-beating jumper, a 54-possession defensive battle, its 75-possession antithesis, and a new conference leader that fittingly won in a rockfight.

Need some elaboration?

Let’s start with William & Mary, a team that endured an interesting 48-and-a-half hour stretch south of Virginia. The Tribe entered the trek playing well enough to be noticed by The Post, well enough to get Shades of 48 writing again, and well enough to have its success become a taboo subject at Gheorge: The Blog.

Playing in front of 5,000+ on a night when John Goldsberry’s number was retired, UNCW forced 16 first-half turnovers, snagged 22 offensive rebounds (at a 43.1% clip), and didn’t allow the sweet-shooting Tribe to make its first 3-pointer until the 5:52 mark of the second half. That’ll be enough to beat W&M 98% of the time.

Yet it was one of the Tribe’s five offensive rebounds that proved to be the game’s most pivotal. Tom Schalk grabbed three offensive boards, with the final one resulting in a stickback that proved to be the go-ahead basket in the Tribe’s 56-53 win. It seems weird to say that a team stole one when it held the opposition to 28.8% shooting, but that’s certainly how it felt.

Schalk, a finesse big man who played a total of 31 minutes last season, scored a career-high 13 points in 20 minutes. The senior forward had started the previous three games while Sean Sheldon was working his way back from injury.

Tony Shaver was enamored to have his team come out on top in a gutty game. For a team that plays pretty basketball, the Tribe proved a lot by winning ugly.

“We told our team about a week ago, at some point we’re not going to make every shot, and we’ve got to find a way to win those games.”

Heading into the road trip, William & Mary had shot 55.1% over its previous six games. A loss at Charleston on Thursday proved what we already knew: that such shooting was unsustainable, and something that would be difficult to rely upon on consecutive days in Baltimore.

If you want to be the last team standing four weeks from today, you’d better be able to win a chippy battle. The Tribe erased all doubts on Saturday night.

Check out Dub writer Eric Detweiler’s three pieces on the game, found here, here, and here.


Delaware went into Mathews Arena having won just one road game this season. More experienced groups are better built for the rigors of March, but such words would be lost on the young Hens, who outworked the elder Northeastern Huskies and threw the conference a curve with a 73-68 road win.

The Hens were energized from the opening tip, blocking shots and attacking the lane. Delaware redshirt sophomore Maurice Jeffers was a force all afternoon, dropping a career-high 20 points while baiting Northeastern’s bigs into fouls. Sophomore Cazmon Hayes ran off seven consecutive points in the second half in what proved to be a decisive run.

T.J. Williams led Northeastern with 18 points. The Huskies shot just 21-of-31 from the foul line.

In the 2:00 game, Towson’s plethora of young talent glistened brightly, and dominated the lane all day. Unfortunately for Pat Skerry’s squad, this game was won on the perimeter, as JMU’s Ron Curry put up the CAA’s best individual performance of the day. Curry banged home five 3-pointers en route to 27 points, and his 18-foot jumper as time expired gave the Dukes the 63-61 win.

96.8% of the game’s scoring was done by underclassmen, which is a sign that these are two teams that should be expected to make a leap next season.

In Charleston, the Cougars attempted to build a winning streak when they hosted the resurgent Drexel Dragons. Damion Lee had an off game, but Tavon Allen stepped up to post a businesslike 18 points (6-of-10) and five assists in Drexel’s 59-45 win. Drexel has now won five in a row, and Allen has posted an offensive rating of at least 119 in four of the five. Allen is averaging 3.8 assists over that stretch, and for a guy who’s historically exhibited poor shot selection, that’s a hugely positive sign.

Anthony Stitt led Charleston with 15 points, and has scored in double figures in both games since returning from injury.

The final result from Saturday saw Hofstra parlay some defense with its offense. In a matchup between the country’s 16th and 22nd fastest teams, the Pride held its opponent below a point per possession for the second consecutive game. The Pride forced turnovers on 24% of possessions, turning 18 Phoenix turnovers into 23 points en route to an 80-69 win against Elon.

Super senior Dion Nesmith came off the bench to drop a season-high 22 points, and Juan’ya Green had 15 points and 10 assists. Despite those impressive lines, Moussa Kone’s 10 points and nine boards may have been the most encouraging. One discouraging sign was Hofstra’s 64.5% mark from the charity stripe. I’m interested to see how iffy free-throw shooting could effect this big Northeastern-Hofstra game on Thursday.

Austin Hamilton and Elijah Bryant each scored 11 points for Elon. Bryant was also charged with eight turnovers.


We’ve seen 12 games in six weeks, and get six more over the next three. With six teams within two games of first place, it’s time to gear up for a photo finish.