A wild two days produced many headline-worthy stories. A three-way tie for first was created when Northeastern outgunned Hofstra and William & Mary came back from 22 down to topple UNCW. Delaware, winless just three weeks ago, moved to 2-3 in the CAA with an overtime win over Towson, and James Madison beat ice-cold Drexel in a game that produced fewer points (89) than Northeastern did against Hofstra (91).
And despite those happenings, the best moment from the past two days was Charleston’s win at Elon on Wednesday. The official CofC post-game release summarizes the grandiose challenges facing the Cougars. As bad as things were over the summer, this last month has been worse. Just two days before beating the Phoenix, the Cougars attended a memorial service for Chad Cooke, their former teammate who passed away on Christmas Eve.
Going through such struggles off the court helped CofC pull together on the hardwood. Canyon Barry (23 points) and Joe Chealey (17 points) got hot from behind the arc to help Charleston snap its eight-game skid. Elon was playing at home and is having a much better year, but Charleston (now 14-5 all-time against Elon) just seemed to know its long-time foes deficiencies. Elon’s 50 points were season-low.
I try to exclude bias from this blog, but I’m definitely pulling for the Cougars a bit this year.
And on that, let’s look at what will surely be an interesting Saturday.
William & Mary (4-1) at Towson (1-4) – Video – 12:00
Coming off a big emotional victory, this smells like a potential trap game for the Tribe. Through its first five conference games Pat Skerry’s squad has held CAA foes to a dismal 23.4% mark from three, and you know the Tribe makes a living behind the arc.
But our five-game conference sample size indicates that these teams are trending in opposite directions. William & Mary is netting +0.26 points more than Towson on each possession. Towson can still harness the spirit of a rockfight with a 55-possession game, and the Tribe can still win by double digits.
Maybe the Tigers can compete if they can get to the line (1st in D-I in free-throw rate) in a grind-it-out game, but unless Four McGlynn awakens to hit a slew of 3-pointers, it’s hard to imagine their offense being able to do enough to keep up with the Tribe.
Fightin’ Thorntons 69, Tigers 58
UNCW (3-2) at Hofstra (4-1) – Video – 2:00
The first conference rematch comes early, and projects as a fun, up-tempo affair. Once again, we find the Seahawks playing on a contender’s home court. This will be the Dubmen’s sixth conference game, and fourth against the Northeastern/William & Mary/Hofstra triumvirate.
Addison Spruill was fantastic on Wednesday, scoring a career-best 33 points at Kaplan. That was the result of some unsustainably hot outside shooting. Spruill had success bullying his way into the paint, and we’ll look for that to continue against a Hofstra team that defends the perimeter well, but is just so-so at defending the paint. UNCW is at its best when its guard are attacking the lane and finishing down low.
UNCW gave Hofstra quite the duel two weeks ago. That game at Trask was one of three instances in which Hofstra failed to score at least one point per possession. I’m inferring that the Pride’s offense will be better, and telling you that Joe Mihalich has his team knowing that giving up 91 points at Mathews (or anywhere) is unacceptable. That was a step in the wrong direction for a team that had played some very good defense since Christmas.
Look for Hofstra’s renewed focus on defense to pay off.
Hofstra 74, UNCW 65
Drexel (1-4) at Delaware (2-3) – Video – 4:00
In a rivalry where inexperience reigns supreme, your afternoon might be better spent watching the winter grass grow. Jokes aside, it’s fun to see young guards play, and you’re almost guaranteed to see one have a big game here. It’s crazy to think that Delaware, winless just three weeks ago, could move to 3-3 in the league with a win against a Drexel team coming off an absolutely horrendous offensive performance.
Dan Crain’s preview provides all of the insight you need. He’s understandably dismayed by Drexel, but I actually like this as a potential bounceback spot for the Dragons. Damon Lee will be most talented player on the floor, and although his supporting cast leaves much to be desired, I think the Dragons can come up with a win in a rivalry game.
Lees 58, Andersons 55
Charleston (1-4) at Northeastern (4-1) – Video – 7:00
I don’t have a lot to say on this one. I think the Cougars will start to play better now that they’ve snapped their losing streak, but I’m also expecting the Huskies to build some momentum heading into next Saturday’s trip to Williamsburg. Northeastern showed the ability to win a rapid, high-scoring affair.
It’s not that we doubt the Huskies ability to score, but it was still great to see four guys finish in double figures. The overall offensive balance was the best thing about this team coming into the season. I expect a defensive affair in the first half, with the Huskies figure things out in the second.
Dogs 67, Cats 59
Elon (2-3) at James Madison (3-2) – Video – 8:00
This one’s intriguing for two teams trying to fight their ways into the upper half of the conference standings. I’ve got plenty of thoughts on the Andre Nation situation, and I’d rather let JMU Sports Blog divulge on the subject. Nation’s repeated instances made his dismissal the least surprising event ever, and I’m excited to see what Brady can do with this current group that got off to a 4-1 start (albeit against lesser competition) when Nation was suspended earlier this season.
Elon is coming off a tough home loss. The Phoenix is getting buckets from Elijah Bryant and Tanner Samson, but they’ve been volume scorers more than anything. Back at home with some added fan support after Winter Break, I think we’ll see an inspired performance from the Dukes.
Bradys 65, Mathenys 60