The first 10 games are in the books, and a pair of one-possession losses in Philadelphia were the only blemishes on an otherwise perfect opening weekend.
William & Mary’s 85-68 win at NC State was the rightful headline grabber. The Tribe dominated from the start, and never let the Pack cut its lead to single digits after halftime. Omar Prewitt and Daniel Dixon scored 36 in aggregate, Terry Tarpey did what Terry Tarpey does, and Colorado State transfer David Cohn had a promising debut.
It’s an admittedly unexpected result, but probably shouldn’t be so surprising. While the Pack is integrating transfers and recruits into a team with a lot of shoot-first players, Tony Shaver’s group is comprised of talented guys who know who they are, and how to play team basketball. From a metrics standpoint, this was a massive win for the entire CAA, as NC State is too talented not to pull off some big wins in the ACC.
Willliam & Mary has a challenging nonconference schedule that includes trips to Dayton and UVA, which makes this confidence-boosting something to build upon.
JMU went down to Richmond and manhandled a team that, until the last calendar year, has had its number. The story there was Shakir Brown, the 6’6” JUCO transfer who dropped a 20-12 double-double on the Spiders. Brown’s a trigger-happy scorer who appears to have that A.J. Davis shot filter, meaning he was throwing up (and hitting) plenty of out of rhythm shots. Brady likes the kid at the three, but the rebounding prowess Brown displayed gives hope that he’ll be able to play the four in stretches.
Absent its best player (Yohannny Dalembert), JMU’s frontcourt took full advantage of the extended playing time. The Dukes posted a +17 rebounding margin, and grabbed 48.5% of their own missed shots to accrue a 22-3 advantage for second-chance points. Juniors Paulius Satkus and Tom Vodanovich started, and combined to tally 24 points, 11 boards, and five assists. Dalembert has proven to be foul-prone in his first two seasons, so it’s important for Brady to know that he can lean on his other guys when needed.
Vodanovich went 3-of-3 from deep, and his last 3-pointer sparked the 20-7 run that effectively ended the game. Vodanovich shot 2-of-16 from three last season, so his three-point shooting improvement is certainly a welcome development. It’s a skill that could keep him on the floor in lieu of Dimitrije Cabarkapa.
Lots of things in flux for JMU, but this team has talent, depth, and a noted confidence. I found myself wanting Ron Curry (19 points, eight assists) to do more, and he came on strong in the closing minutes. The Dukes need work defensively, as they were picked apart by 6’8” forward Terry Allen for the game’s first 30 minutes. Dalembert will help there.
We’ll learn a lot more about JMU tonight, as the Dukes will venture to Charleston for a date with the West Virginia Mountaineers. Expect to see much more Joey McLean and Devontae Morgan against ‘Press Virginia.’
- Terrell Allen is for real.
The freshman point guard turned heads all night long in his collegiate debut. Allen (18 points, four assists, four steals) played smart basketball, and ran Drexel’s offense with a calm confidence not seen since Frantz Massenat left campus.
Maybe expectations have to be tempered after just one game. Perhaps it was just the adrenaline of playing his first career game in a hostile arena for a team cycling out pieces because of foul trouble. Maybe, in his first home game against High Point, with anticipations amplified after a standout debut, he will return to Earth.
But there’s also a chance that Allen is just this good. Bruiser Flint had the wherewithal to start Allen, regardless of Major Canady’s availability. He clearly saw, in preseason practices and scrimmages, what everyone else saw against the Hawks. Terrell Allen can be the point guard the Dragons have been waiting on, and he arrived in style.
- The defense needs improvement.
St. Joe’s flew out of the gates on Friday, and Flint’s team stood helpless as DeAndre’ Bembry and his horde of Hawks soared right by. It was 15-2 in no time. You can’t dig 13-point holes and expect to have a fighting chance in many games, especially when you’re playing a superior opponent.
The Hawks’ 82 points were the most Drexel’s allowed in a season opener in Flint’s 15 years at the university. A large number of them can be attributed to over-sensitive officiating as refs and players alike adjust to the new rules. But the defense simply has to be better. Friday night, there was plenty left to be desired.
- Ahmad Fields has potential.
The Utah transfer scored nine points in the first half before sitting much of the second half with what appeared to be cramping and nagging leg injuries. Flint said after the game that Fields has been in and out of practice for the past month, and that foul trouble forced him to play the guard more than he’d intended.
In his solid first half, Fields drove to the hoop with a similar confidence and athleticism as his friend and former Dragon great Damion Lee, slicing defenders and finishing strong on the left side of the rim. But Fields didn’t show much of his range, hesitating on a couple of opportunities from the perimeter and missing his only three-point attempt of the evening.
Fields finished 3-of-8 from the field and gathered five rebounds in 18 minutes. As he gets healthier and assumes a heavier workload, Fields should be counted on to contribute similar to the way Tavon Allen (20 points) did on Friday. He looked good. He just isn’t all the way back yet.
- Shooting, and shot selection, need to be much better.
The Dragons shot 50 percent on their two-point field goals, which is nice to look at, but not necessarily the place you need to excel in a basketball game in 2015. Great teams lean heavily on three-point shots and free throw conversion, and Drexel faltered heavily in both categories.
For one, just 25 percent of the Dragons’ shots came from beyond the arc. That number needs to be higher. And when you take those 3-pointers, they need to fall more than 31.3 percent of the time, a percentage that was padded by a trio of late threes from Tavon and Terrell Allen.
Drexel hardly shot better at the charity stripe. Mohamed Bah had a ghastly night from the line, missing all four of his attempts after he was one of the team’s best free-throw shooters last season, and Rodney and Austin Williams combined to go 3-of-8 from the line. Forwards will get fouled when they go up in the paint, which is what Flint should want. But when that happens, you need your forwards to hit their free throws. If Drexel hits two more and goes 20-of-28, instead of hitting just 18, it’s a whole different ball game.
- There were glimmers.
There’s plenty to pick apart from just one game, but there were glimmers of something cohesive from Flint’s squad. With Allen running the point, the offense flowed much better than it did last year, when the world seemed to stop once Damion Lee grabbed the ball.
The Dragons ripped off a 14-4 run late in the first half to draw within five points, leaning heavily on fast break points — which seemed to be a strength — and solid defense to strike at least a single note of fear in Phil Martelli’s heart. And Tavon Allen, after botching a key defensive play, hit a pair of late 3-pointers to keep the Dragons within range of the Hawks until the final buzzer rang out.
According to KenPom’s rankings, St. Joe’s was the second-best team Drexel will face this season. Against lesser opponents, their effort Friday night is probably enough to win. And while Flint would obviously like this team to play up to its competition, it came close against the Hawks, which bodes well for the rest of the year.
Some brief bits and bites from around the league…
The Cardiac Canines are back. It looks like it’s going to be another one of those seasons for Northeastern, as Caleb Donnelly’s 3-pointer with 16 seconds remaining in overtime proved to be the difference in the Huskies’ 87-84 victory over the Boston University Terriers. David Walker scored 27 points, and was borderline unstoppable after halftime.
We mentioned that a Husky group that attempted just 15 3-pointers per game last season would likely be more reliant on the long ball, and that certainly held true. Northeastern shot 11-of-24 (45.8%) from three, and that was with Quincy Ford enduring an off shooting night (1-of-7 from three). Northeastern committed just nine turnovers on the evening.
Bill Coen on David Walker and the pressure to be “the guy” in the second half:
“This is Davey’s Senior Year. He’s worked extremely hard in the offseason, and he’s extremely excited for the challenges ahead, and I think what you saw in the last moments there was his excitement. And he knows that he’s the guy that’s going to have to step it up in big, big moments. Not that we don’t have players that can deliver, but he’s going to have to shoulder that load for us. He’s ready for it. He embraced it tonight. As a coaching staff, we couldn’t be more pleased with his effort.”
Hofstra showed a lot of resiliency in its 96-85 win over Canisius. The Pride came back from 18 down, as Brian Bernardi set a school record with eight 3-pointers en route to 26 points. Joe Mihalich’s squad had six (six!) players in double figures, and had three guys (Juan’ya Green, Rokas Gustys, Malik Nichols) post double-doubles.
Ryan Restivo from Big Apple Buckets gives us three thoughts on the Pride.
Eric Detweiler shares his thoughts on UNCW’s 100-62 win against D-II Milligan. It’s noteworthy that Jordon Talley didn’t play, and it appears that Kevin Keatts is sending strong messages early. Craig Ponder dropped 26, and was joined by four other Seahawks (all newcomers) in double figures. We’ll learn a lot more about UNCW after tonight’s bout with Eastern Kentucky.
With Joe Chealey and Grant Riller out for the season, Canyon Barry knows he has to be the man in Charleston. Barry poured in a career-best 31 points, and C of C used a 16-0 second-half run to down South Carolina State by 20. Earl Grant also got 18 points from Cameron Johnson, the sophomore guard who impressed in last year’s CAA Tournament, and appears to have carried some of that momentum into this season. Per The Post and Courier’s Andrew Miller, Grant was most happy to see his team hold SCSU to 32.1% from the field.
I’ll be attending C of C’s game at Navy tonight.
Per The News Journal’s Kevin Tresolini, Delaware outscored Delaware State 23-4 over the final 13 minutes on the way to a 62-56 victory. It’s extremely positive to see sixth man Devonne Pinkard come off the bench to score 10 points. Monté Ross only received 11 total minutes from his other bench players. Mitchell Northam provides more color here.
Elon jumped all over Charlotte, leading by as much as 37 before coasting to an 85-74 victory. Sophomore Dmitri Thompson scored 21 points and grabbed eight rebounds. He’s a springy, rangy kid who is a candidate to break out. Luke Eddy and Brian Dawkins were back playing meaningful basketball for the first time in 2015. Matt Matheny spread the minutes around, playing nine different guys 12+ minutes each.
The second loss in Philly came at Towson’s expense, as Pat Skerry’s team couldn’t hold off an undermanned La Salle squad. It seemed lofty to pick redshirt junior Arnaud William Adala Moto (Wake Forest transfer) to the All-CAA Second Team, but even that might not have been enough. The forward put up 28 points in his Towson debut. Sophomores Mike Morsell and Byron Hawkins each scored 13 points, and it was particularly encouraging to see Hawkins hit 4-of-6 from three.
Check out City of Basketball Love’s Dan Newhart’s article for more on that one.