There were 151 Division I basketball games played yesterday, as teams tried to avoid tonight’s Super Bowl — except if you’re most of the MAAC. Here is my takeaway from eight area games.
Seton Hall 90, Xavier 82: Isaiah Whitehead is back. The star freshman, who missed six weeks with a stress fracture in his right foot, came off the bench and scored 19 points in 23 minutes against Xavier. The offensive numbers are truly astounding considering the layoff. Whitehead went 1-4 on two-point attempts, but 3-5 from three and 8-10 from the line. He also had three assists, three steals and no turnovers. The 6’4″ freshman was the most highly touted of SHU’s highly touted class and his return — and this victory — gives Kevin Willard’s team a good shot at qualifying for the NCAA tournament.
St. John’s 75, Providence 66: The turmoil surrounding Rysheed Jordan seemed to strengthen the Red Storm’s embattled point guard, as he scored 14 points and dished out four assists in SJU’s must-have victory at the Garden. Jordan had an offensive rating of 164 in 32 minutes. It was the sophomore point guard’s best offensive game of the season. He’ll continue to be a weapon for Steve Lavin off the bench.
New Hampshire 63, Stony Brook 48: UNH is better than you think — the Wildcats have received an influx of talent from Texas (remind you of anyone) and with this win are tied for third in America East at looking at a home America East tournament game. The Seawolves though just put way too much pressure on Jameel Warney by only making 24% of their threes (5-21). Warney scored 20 points and grabed 15 rebounds, but he used 41% of SBU’s possessions while on the court, his high for the season, and it’s difficult for any offense to be effective when one player is taking two-fifths of its shots. (The defense sure knows who to focus on.) That’s probably why according to offensive rating Warney had his worst offensive game since the season opener against Columbia.
Iona 68, Saint Peter’s 61 (OT): This one involved a bunch of extra-curricular activity and wild swings in win probability. The Gaels had just a 2% chance of winning the game down 56-52 with 12 seconds remaining in the second half, according to Ken Pomeroy’s calculations. SPU makes teams play ugly and this was the first time in MAAC play — and just the second time all season — that Iona was held under a point per possession on offense. Unfortunately, Monday might be a big day for the Gaels, as the MAAC league office will have to sort out what happened after the Gaels completed their unexpected comeback.
Columbia 86, Brown 65: In a battle of teams down a big man, Columbia executed its offense perfectly on the way to an easy victory over the Bears. Corey Osetkowski missed this one with minor injuries after gutting out 20 minutes against Yale, but it didn’t matter as Luke Petrasek started and scored 14 points in 25 minutes. The loss of Leland King has left Brown in quite a bind and the Bears shot just 8-21 from three and turned the ball over 12 times (18% of possessions) in the loss. Freshman Kyle Castlin scored a career-high 21 points in the win, which has to be a welcome sign for Kyle Smith. CU has two more home games remaining in its five-game Ivy League homestand and needs both to stay within shouting distance of 4-0 Yale.
St. Francis Brooklyn 81, LIU Brooklyn 64: After a slow start, the Battle of Brooklyn went to the home team thanks to a balanced scoring effort from all of SFC’s star players. The Terriers scored 1.25 points per possession thanks to shooting 22-40 (55%) on twos and 8-19 (42%) on threes. Brent Jones as a perfect 4-4 beyond the arc and scored a team-high 15 points. The win gives the Terriers sole possession of first place (thanks to Robert Morris’ loss to Bryant) and puts SFC in the driver’s seat for home court throughout the NEC tournament. Ken Pomeroy projects SFC to finish NEC play at 14-4, which seems reasonable given their remaining schedule. Gerrell Martin scored 18 points in the loss, but one else on the LIU side was really able to get going offensively.
Towson 86, Hofstra 72: Vegas had the Pride as a 12.5-point favorite, so this one was an absolute shocker. It was Hofstra’s third straight loss in CAA play and the blue and white now have a dissapointing .500 record in league play at 5-5. The biggest problem for the Pride is a lack of commitment on the defensive end. The Tigers scored 1.23 points per possession, mostly by going to the rim. Towson shot 62% on twos (21-34) and went to the free throw line 41 times, making 29. Hofstra shot 23% on threes, but still scored 1.03 points per possession, thanks to 12 offensive rebounds and just nine turnovers. But the big men inside really struggled. Moussa Kone, Dion Nesmith and Malik Nichols all fouled out of the game.
Wagner 86, Central Connecticut 55: Congratulations to Marcus Burton, who finished with 21 points, just enough to get him to 1,000 for his career. Burton has really stepped up and embraced his role as the main offensive threat for this Seahawks team and is putting together a stellar senior season. Wagner has also been quite competitive in NEC play. The 31-point victory avenged a frustrating three-point loss just a week ago and leaves Bashir Mason’s club at 6-4 in league play. Wagner is currently part of a three-way tie for third place in the NEC, but KenPom thinks they’ll be the odd one out by the end of the season. Back-to-back games against St. Francis Brooklyn, hosting Bryant, and a final weekend at Robert Morris and Mount St. Mary’s leaves Burton and his teammates with an uphill climb still in NEC play.
— Noreen Morris (@NECcommish) January 31, 2015