MAAC Weekly Recap – December 6

Wednesday means MAAC Recap, and this week brought some solid wins and a few close calls. Manhattan represented the league in the inaugural Belfast Classic, while Monmouth traded blows with UConn, and Marist picked up its first win of the year.

Once again, teams are listed in the order of my unofficial power rankings. It should be noted that I see a line developing between the top four teams and the rest of the league, and within those groups I’d expect plenty of movement throughout the year.

*(n) denotes a game played on a neutral court

Niagara (4-5) – 106-87 L vs. Buffalo (11/29); 78-70 W @ New Hampshire (12/5)

Matt Scott is the nation’s second-leading scorer with 25.7 ppg and Kahlil Dukes knocked down a season-high 31 in the win over New Hampshire to bump his average up to 22.1 ppg. Together, they are the highest scoring teammates in the nation and rank 1-2 in the MAAC. Dukes set a career high with eight made 3-pointers in the victory and is now shooting 50 percent from long-range this season.

If it sounds like Scott and Dukes are doing it all for the Purple Eagles, that’s because they are. The duo accounted for 74 percent of the team’s points against New Hampshire, and have shouldered the load for Chris Casey’s squad all season. With Chris Barton the team’s third-leading scorer at just 6.4 ppg, the opportunity is ripe for someone to seize a larger role.

Also of note is the team’s porous defense, which has already allowed over 100 points three times this season and 95 twice. Niagara is playing well now, but is currently succeeding with a system that doesn’t seem sustainable. Matt Scott may very well be the MAAC Player of the Year when all is said and done, but for Niagara to succeed long-term it appears he will have to make that dream a reality.

Rider (5-3) – 88-84 L @ Providence (11/29); 89-77 L @ Drexel (12/2)

Kevin Baggett’s Broncs played well at Providence, but suffered a setback against Drexel

The Broncs are riding a two-game losing streak for the first time this season, but one of those losses was a well-fought defeat at Providence. Rider did suffer its first “bad” loss of the year at Drexel Saturday when Missouri transfer Tramaine Isabell went off for a career-high 35 points. It was the second 30-point game of the year for Isabell, whose 22.0 ppg ranks him amongst the nation’s top 30 scorers.

Freshman sensation Jordan Allen was held to just 10 points in the loss to Drexel. It was the fewest points Allen has scored in a game this year, but he did have a great performance with 28 in the previous game against the Friars. The Broncs kept it close against a talented Providence team despite committing 21 turnovers. Point guard Stevie Jordan matched a season high with 19 points along with nine assists in defeat.

Monmouth (3-5) – 84-81 L (OT) @ UConn (12/2)

The Hawks showed their grit this weekend when they went toe-to-toe on the road at UConn. King Rice’s squad played well enough to get the job done, but couldn’t get a pivotal bucket in overtime that would have put extra pressure on the Huskies. Monmouth led 80-76 with 1:59 left in overtime after a pair of Austin Tilghman free throws, but a collective 15-26 mark from the charity stripe was one reason the Hawks came up short.

It was Micah Seaborn’s second game back from an abbreviated visit to the shelf and all he did was post a career-high 27 points in 37 minutes of action. The Hawks have done well getting to the line overall this year, but don’t force a ton of turnovers and have benefited from opposing teams’ struggles at the line often this year (opponents are shooting an unsustainable 61.3 percent from the line thus far this season). Still, as long as Seaborn is leading the charge, Monmouth will remain one of the MAAC’s top teams.

Iona (3-4) – 82-75 W vs. Fairleigh Dickinson (12/2)

Can Jan Svandrlik build on his breakout game with more consistency this season?

The Gaels finally played a home game, and came away with the win thanks to a few unlikely contributors. Jan Svandrlik poured in a career-high 27 points on 7-12 shooting with six 3-pointers and a perfect 7-7 mark from the free throw line. We saw this story last year when Svandrlik knocked down 5-6 from distance en route to 19 points in a win over Ohio, but he never hit double figures again until Saturday.

Schadrac Casimir enjoyed a throwback game with 21 points and four 3-pointers, but hit double digits for just the second time this season. Casimir will be the most prominent key to Iona’s success. If he is able to put together consistent scoring nights like we saw from him a few years ago, the Gaels are by far the MAAC’s most dangerous team.

Rickey McGill also had a strong game against the Knights, as he collected seven assists without a single turnover. Currently, his 5.7 apg ranks second in the league to Rider’s Stevie Jordan.

Canisius (4-4) – 73-60 W vs. Dartmouth (12/2)

Turnovers continue to plague what is overall one of the nation’s most efficient offenses. The Golden Griffins rank in the top 20 in the nation in effective field goal percentage (58.0 percent) and among the top ten in 2-point percentage (61.1 percent), but their offensive turnover percentage (23.9 percent) is one of the worst in the nation.

Canisius was able to flip the script in the win over Dartmouth, collecting 19 assists against 12 turnovers. Sophomore point guard Malik Johnson accounted for five dimes with just one turnover.

Senior Jermaine Crumpton had a season-high 24 in the victory, and now has four 20+ point games on the season. Crumpton was expected to be one of the league’s top scorers this preseason, and may be rounding into form as 2017 comes to a close. Freshman Takal Molson added 12 against the Big Green and already has four double-digit performances this year.

Saint Peter’s (3-4) – 77-53 W vs. Fairleigh Dickinson (11/29); 71-65 L (2OT) @ Elon (12/2)

Nick Griffin is doing it all for Saint Peter’s, checking in as one of the league’s leading scorers

The Peacocks put together a John Dunne special on the road at Elon, with a 52-all tie at the end of regulation. However, Saint Peter’s was unable to pick up what would have been a strong win against one of the Colonial Athletic Association’s chief challengers.

Senior guard Nick Griffin is putting together an all-league caliber season, leading the team and ranking fifth in the MAAC with 17.9 ppg. Griffin is the lone Peacock player to average double figures, though that may be skirting the facts, as junior Davauhnte Turner ranks second with 9.9 ppg. Junior Sam Idowu checks in third with 9.1 per game.

Dunne should be highly commended for having his squad as competitive as it is this early in the season after essentially turning over his starting rotation. Griffin did earn 24 of 36 starts last season, so it hasn’t been a complete overhaul, but considering the talent Saint Peter’s lost last offseason, they’ve been terrific thus far. The Peacocks have even dealt with a bit of bad luck as opponents have shot a stellar 78.8 percent from the free throw line against them.

Manhattan (3-5) – 70-54 W vs. Holy Cross (n) (12/1); 56-55 L vs. Towson (n) (12/2)

The Jaspers made some history this week, as they became the first college basketball team to win a regular season game in Europe. Manhattan traveled to Belfast, Northern Ireland to take part in the Belfast Classic, put together through a partnership between the Sport Changes Life Foundation, the MAAC, and the Basketball Hall of Fame.

Steve Masiello’s Jaspers became the first college basketball team to win a regular season game in Europe

Manhattan trailed for just 48 seconds throughout the entire event, but it was only enough to come away with one victory. The Jaspers won in wire-to-wire fashion against Holy Cross, then fell to Towson on Mike Morsell’s jumper with just 1.5 seconds remaining.

Manhattan’s narrow loss looks better when considering Towson has now won eight games in a row after a three-point loss at Old Dominion in its season opener, along with the fact that Jaspers leading scorer Rich Williams did not make the trip due to personal reasons. In his absence, senior forward Calvin Crawford averaged 14.5 ppg during the event.

Their overseas performance may be a sign of things to come for Steve Masiello’s team, but Manhattan will have to solve its turnover crisis sooner rather than later. The Jaspers have struggled to maintain possession all season long, and have committed at least 14 turnovers in all but one game this season.

Fairfield (3-4) – 78-76 L @ Wagner (12/1)

Tyler Nelson’s struggles from 3-point range continued in the Stags’ loss to Wagner. The senior led all scorers with 22 points, but shot just 7-23 from the field and 1-9 from behind the arc. Nelson is shooting just 27.3 percent from long range this season, but entered the year 38.4 percent from distance. Collectively, Fairfield is connecting on just 30 percent of its 3-point attempts.

Conventional wisdom suggests Nelson will eventually hit his stride, and when he does the Stags will presumably make a run. Meanwhile, the supporting cast continues to be a mix-and-match special. Nelson has led the Stags in scoring in five of the team’s seven games this season, but in those five games, four different players have finished as the team’s second-leading scorer. Expect this group to gel as the year moves on and regular names to fill the box score.

Quinnipiac (3-6) – 68-66 W vs. UMass (11/29); 79-58 L @ Lafayette (12/2); 89-87 W @ Columbia (12/4)

The Bobcats had an eventful week with a disappointing loss at Lafayette sandwiched between solid wins over UMass and Columbia. The Leopards made 27-29 free throws and put up 50 second-half points to collect their first victory of the year in the teams’ first ever meeting.

Rich Kelly put together his first career double-double with 22 points and 10 assists in the Bobcats’ win at Columbia

Prior to that loss, Quinnipiac earned its first win over an Atlantic 10 opponent since defeating Rhode Island in 2010. The Bobcats let a win over Colorado slip through their fingers earlier in the year due to missed free throws, but sunk four free throws in the final 27 seconds of their win over UMass to seal the victory.

On Monday, freshman Rich Kelly played hero with the winning layup with just 4.8 seconds remaining to earn the Bobcats’ first road victory under first-year head coach Baker Dunleavy. Kelly led all scorers with 22 points and added 10 assists in the win over Columbia. It was the first 20+ point, 10+ assist performance for a Quinnipiac player since Rob Monroe posted 25 and 12 against Fairleigh Dickinson on Jan. 12, 2005.

Fellow freshman Jacob Rigoni also broke out with a 20-point performance on 4-6 shooting from behind the arc. Despite the Bobcats’ success with freshmen Mikey Dixon and Peter Kiss last season, that duo scored 20+ points in the same game just once, a feat which has already been matched by Kelly and Rigoni.

Siena (2-5) – 75-55 L vs. St. Bonaventure (11/29); 76-74 W vs. Robert Morris (12/2)

Nico Clareth came off the bench for the first time this season, and it seemed to make the difference in the Saints’ win over Robert Morris. The junior led the team with 20 points on 6-11 shooting including a pair of key 3-pointers midway through the second half.

Freshman Roman Penn put together another strong game, notching 14 points for the third time in four games after starting the season scoreless in his first two. Meanwhile, sophomore guard Ahsante Shivers hit double figures for the fourth time in his last five games. Shivers was the lone bright spot in the Saints’ dismal loss to St. Bonaventure, as he collected 19 points and was the lone Siena player to finish in double figures.

Following the win over Robert Morris, head coach Jimmy Patsos indicated Clareth could continue coming off the bench as he did much of last year. Although Clareth is now the elder-statesman of the team, this could end up being the role he’s best suited for.

Marist (1-7) – 100-91 W @ The Citadel (12/1); 82-75 L vs. Army (n) (12/2)

Marist picked up its first win of the season when it erased a 20-point second-half deficit to defeat host The Citadel in the first round of the Bulldog Bash tournament. The Citadel led 59-39 with 18:35 remaining in the game, but the Red Foxes recorded 61 second-half points to pull out the victory.

Mike Maker’s squad pulled into the lead with 7:01 to play, then held The Citadel scoreless for the final 4:32 and without a field goal for the final 5:52. A major reason Marist was able to climb back into the game so quickly is the fact The Citadel is one of the worst defensive teams in nation and plays at the highest adjusted tempo in Division I according to KenPom.com (83.0 possessions per game).

After taking down the host team, Marist fell to Army for the second time this season, but cut the margin of defeat down from 21 to seven. Freshman Lasse Gummerus notched his first double-digit scoring effort with 10 points in the rematch. Though the Red Foxes continue to struggle record-wise, success inside the arc remains a strong point. Marist hits on just a third of its attempts from long range, but connects at a stellar 56.4 percent on 2-point attempts.

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

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