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