MAAC Weekly Recap – Thanksgiving Eve

Mark it down as a week to forget for the MAAC, which went a combined 5-16 since our last recap. A few programs picked up their first wins of the season while others suffered some losses where “disappointing” would be an understatement. With a great deal of action – including a few tournament appearances – left to summarize this week, let’s dive right in:

Canisius (1-3) – 104-84 W vs Youngtown State (11/18); 60-52 L @ Tennessee State (11/21)

Isaiah Reese posted the first triple-double in Canisius basketball history when he poured in a career-high 23 points along with 11 rebounds and 11 assists in the Golden Griffins’ win over Youngstown State. The boards and assists set and matched personal bests respectively, and Reese also became the first player in Division I this season to record a triple-double.

While we thought senior Jermaine Crumpton would pick up the slack from the transfer of Kassius Robertson, it is Reese who has taken the greatest leap forward so far. The sophomore leads the squad with 18.3 ppg and 7.0 rpg while adding 4.0 assists and 1.8 steals per game.

However, the Griffs failed to carry their momentum into the loss to Tennessee State. A major reason for Canisius’ poor early record has been turnovers. The Griffs were one of the top assist teams in the nation last year, but have committed more turnovers than assists in each of their three losses. Canisius had 29 assists against 14 turnovers against Youngstown State, but in their three losses combined have just 41 assists to 54 turnovers. When that A/T ratio improves, so will the Griffs’ record.

Fairfield (2-1) – 106-64 L @ #19 Purdue (11/18)

The Stags were one of four MAAC squads to play just one game this past week, and had perhaps the toughest assignment. Fairfield was taken out of it early against a senior-laden Purdue squad carrying major postseason aspirations. The Stags trailed 58-28 at halftime and never threatened.

One bright spot for Sydney Johnson’s group was one likely to shine all year long. Senior guard Tyler Nelson led the Stags with 16 points, but finally got going from the 3-point line. Nelson entered the game 1-10 from downtown, but knocked down 3-of-5 triples in the defeat.

Iona (1-4) – 80-72 W vs Weber State (11/17); 85-72 L vs Northern Kentucky (11/18); 89-84 L vs Coastal Carolina (11/19)

Schadrac Casimir had his fist double-digit effort of the season against Weber State

The Gaels picked up their first win of the season over Weber State in the opening round of the Island of the Bahamas Showcase this week, but couldn’t get over the hump in either the semifinal round or third place game.

Schadrac Casimir finally got on the board with 11 points against Weber State, but fell quiet again with just five combined points over the Gaels’ next two games of the Showcase. Zach Lewis posted double figures in each game and averaged 15.3 ppg during the event. Meanwhile, T.K. Edogi’s 72.7% field goal percentage leads the MAAC and ranks 23rd nationwide.

With a quick peek to KenPom, the Gaels are doing a great job of holding on to the ball while forcing turnovers (ranking within the top 100 in Turnover% and Steal%), but have been dismal at getting to the charity stripe. Iona’s 18.5% Free Throw Rate ranks 345th in the nation.

Five games in to the season, four Gaels are averaging double figures, but just seven currently average more than a point per game. Those top four have also been leaned on heavily to start the year, each averaging over 32.0 minutes per game.

Manhattan (2-2) – 73-69 W vs Harvard (11/18); 74-63 L vs UMKC (11/20); 69-65 L vs Missouri State (11/21)

After being the last MAAC squad to see action this year, the Jaspers have certainly piled on the games this week. Manhattan earned a hard-fought win over the Crimson after blowing a 15-point halftime lead, and opened the season 2-0 for the first time since 2013-14.

However, Manhattan has not carried that early fortune into the Gulf Coast Showcase, where they fell to UMKC and Missouri State before facing Northern Illinois Wednesday morning.

In typical form under Steve Masiello, the Jaspers have been aggressive on both ends of the floor. Their 46.0% Free Throw Rate ranks among the nation’s top-50, but the Jaspers have struggled to hold on to the ball themselves.

Rich Williams has returned from his year-plus layoff to lead the squad with 16.5 ppg while newcomer Pauly Paulicap has provided a paint presence the team lacked last season. Paulicap currently leads the MAAC with 2.8 blocks per game.

Marist (0-3) – 94-73 L vs Army (11/18)

The Red Foxes have yet to get on the board this year, and have a tough road ahead as they kick off the AdvoCare Invitational against #23 West Virginia on Thanksgiving evening. From there, Marist will face one of UCF or Nebraska Friday evening before taking on one of Missouri, Long Beach State, St. John’s, or Oregon State in the final round Sunday.

Marist let up a career-high 33 points to Army junior Jordan Fox, who knocked down a stellar 9-of-11 three-point attempts Saturday. The Red Foxes carry four players averaging double figures scoring, but have gotten minimal production outside of their starting five.

Marist’s defense has left a lot to be desired thus far. The Red Foxes rank 315th in adjusted defensive efficiency according to KenPom, and their 44.4% three-point defense ranks 333rd in Division I. However, Mike Maker’s squad has actually done well inside the arc. Marist has converted 55.0% of its two-point attempts and has held opponents to 43.2% inside the arc.

Monmouth (2-2) – 73-53 L @ Virginia (11/19)

Micah Seaborn will miss time for the Hawks.

The Hawks struggled to get around Virginia’s pack-line defense after building an early 15-8 lead in the game’s first eight minutes, but got the true bad news after the game when King Rice announced junior guard Micah Seaborn would be indefinitely shut down.

Seaborn underwent surgery to repair his left meniscus in March, but had taken a few hard hits early this season and was noticeably hurting. The hope is the Hawks’ leading scorer (13.5 ppg) will heal in time for MAAC play, but without him Rice will be left to piece together a lineup.

Freshman Deion Hammond is the leading candidate to pick up those extra shots, and is currently the team’s second-leading scorer with 12.0 ppg. Fellow guards Ray Salnave, Austin Tilghman, Louie Pillari, and George Papas will all carry added responsibility for as long as Seaborn is out.

One bright spot to be gleaned from the loss at Virginia was the first appearance this season of sophomore forward Sam Ibiezugbe, who tallied eight points. Perhaps the loss of Seaborn will push Rice to lean more on his frontcourt, and if so the return of Ibiezugbe is a great help.

Niagara (1-3) – 101-76 L @ UMass (11/19); 95-88 L @ BYU (11/21)

The Purple Eagles have just one win to their credit, but have yet to play a home game.

Matt Scott (24.3) and Kahlil Dukes (21.3) are the MAAC’s top two leading scorers this season, but have been leaned on heavily in the early going. Scott poured in a career-high 36 points against BYU Tuesday night, but he and Dukes combined to take 43 of Niagara’s 66 shots against the Cougars.

The Purple Eagles have been one of the best teams in the nation in terms of holding on to the ball, but their defense has struggled mightily. They have allowed opponents to shoot 43.8% from 3-point range, and 55.9% inside the arc. Part of that is simply a schedule which has pitted them against three KenPom top-100 teams. Niagara will likely not face another squad inside that threshold this season.

What Niagara desperately needs is junior forward Dominic Robb to start playing like himself again. The league’s leader in blocks with 2.2 per game last season, Robb has yet to record a single block this season while averaging just 7.0 ppg and 3.5 rpg.

Quinnipiac (1-4) – 70-69 L vs Colorado (11/17); 72-55 L vs Wake Forest (11/18); 84-72 L vs. Liberty (11/19)

The Bobcats went winless during their trip to Virginia for the relocated Paradise Jam, but could have won the whole thing. Quinnipiac suffered a heartbreaking defeat to eventual-champion Colorado in the tournament’s opening round when they led the Buffaloes 60-47 with 5:25 to play, but fell on freshman McKinley Wright IV’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer.

On the bright side, Cam Young has continued to impress with a pair of 26-point efforts during the event. The senior leads the team with 16.4 ppg and 6.4 rpg. Meanwhile, freshman Rich Kelly’s 5.8 apg rank second in the league, but he has struggled with 3.6 turnovers per game.

Offense and defense have both come slowly to this group, but the Bobcats’ schedule softens a bit with meetings against Maine and Lafayette sandwiched around a home bout with UMass upcoming.

Rider (3-1) – 67-65 @ George Washington (11/20)

Kevin Baggett’s Broncs have been one of the few MAAC teams to enjoy a positive early start

The Broncs played just one game this week, but earned a big win on the road at GW. It was Rider’s first win over an Atlantic 10 opponent since taking down La Salle in December 2010.

Newcomers have led the way for Kevin Baggett’s squad thus far this season. Frederick Scott’s career-high 17 points led the way against the Colonials and his 9.5 rpg is tops in the MAAC, while freshman Jordan Allen’s 16.5 ppg lead the team this year.

Sophomore point guard Stevie Jordan has averaged 15.5 ppg alongside 7.3 apg, and is a big reason why the Broncs are one of the 15 best team in the nation at holding on to the ball according to KenPom.

Rider will wrap up Las Vegas Invitational play with a trip to the desert, where they will face UC Irvine on Thanksgiving before wrapping up action Friday.

Saint Peter’s (1-3) – 70-61 W vs Sacred Heart (11/18); 54-49 L vs South Alabama (11/19)

The Peacocks got on the board with a win over Sacred Heart in the Hall of Fame Tip Off at Mohegan Sun Arena. Senior Nick Griffin has taken charge of the Saint Peter’s offense. He poured in a career-high 23 against the Pioneers, and leads the team with 14.5 ppg.

Freshman Davauhnte Turner finally broke out with an 18-point effort in the win, but went quiet again with just two points in the loss to South Alabama. The Peacocks’ offense as a whole hit a groove, shooting 49.0% against the Pioneers, but struggled to the tune of 28.1% against the Jaguars.

The Peacocks have been excellent at forcing turnovers so far this year, ranking 20th in defensive turnover percentage and 33rd in steal percentage according to KenPom. Sophomore Quinn Taylor’s 2.5 steals per game rank second in the MAAC.

Siena (0-4) – 91-90(OT) L @ Lehigh (11/17); 115-92 L @ Bucknell (11/20)

A typically tough non-conference schedule has yielded little results for Jimmy Patsos’ club this season, but the Saints fell in overtime for the second time this year when they failed to get a shot off with 3.4 seconds remaining against Lehigh. Siena then fell apart defensively against the Bison, allowing the most points since a 136-91 loss to Bowling Green in December 1989.

Patsos continues to shuffle players in search of the optimal lineup. Eleven players have logged at least 9.0 minutes per game, but none aside from junior Nico Clareth average double figures scoring. Clareth leads the team with 18.0 ppg and has been the lone constant this season.

Despite the tough week, the Saints did see a bright spot when freshman Roman Penn finally awoke from his slumber. Penn scored his first points of the season against Lehigh, then had 14 in the loss to Bucknell.

The non-conference slate will continue to challenge this young Saints team, but Patsos will have plenty of time to figure things out before kicking off MAAC play at Marist on December 29.

Vincent Simone covers the MAAC, Hofstra, and more for NYC Buckets. You can follow him on Twitter @VTSimone.

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