Tag Archives: NCAA Basketball

VCU guarantees NCAA Tournament bid with CAA Championship a year removed from Final Four run

Behind a career night from Darius Theus (above) Virginia Commonwealth was able to knock of Drexel and win the Virginia 529 CAA Basketball Championship and advance to their second consecutive NCAA Tournament.

by Joseph Kuykendall

RICHMOND, Virginia – Neutrality and specifically neutral court has been the conversation of choice here at the Virginia 529 CAA Tournament this weekend. Reason being, Virginia Commonwealth has been playing extremely well in the CAA Tournament this year. Almost too good for anyone to think that playing the game a mile from their home court has no influence on whether they win or lose. After wins over Northeastern and George Mason at the Richmond Coliseum, VCU didn’t prove anyone wrong as they knocked off CAA regular season champion, Drexel, 59-56 Monday night in front of a sold-out crowd to claim their first CAA championship in three years and earn the CAA’s automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament.

“It is what it is, it’s a business decision. It’s always been down here,” said Drexel Head Coach Bruiser Flint on the “home court” advantage VCU had, “I don’t think anyone would complain if [VCU wasn’t] a good team. You got to deal with it. We knew that coming down here.”

Early on, Drexel and VCU played neck-and-neck basketball, something new for VCU who in their first two games jumped out to large leads immediately. But with time came a decent lead for the Rams. Eventually, VCU got some separation with a 25-10 advantage to close the half. This 15-point run started with 15:04 to go in the first half.

A big reason for this run was due to none other than the VCU defense and “HAVOC” press. VCU forced Drexel into 12 first half turnovers which resulted in 16 points off turnovers for the Rams in the first half compared to Drexel’s five. Not only does the “HAVOC” press help with defense but it spurs the offense as well. “It was a great championship game,” said VCU Head Coach Shaka Smart, “It took a whole team effort to do what we did tonight.”

With a halftime score of 36-20, surprisingly, VCU led Drexel at the half by as many points as they led George Mason in the semifinal game the night prior. The reason for the surprise? VCU led George Mason 32-4 in the early going of that game whereas Drexel seemed to match up well with VCU.

VCU Junior guard Darius Theus scored 10 of his team-high 16 points in the first half, a career-high for the eventual MVP of the CAA Tournament. “[Theus has] been terrific in terms of his attitude and approach. We tell Darius that he equals the team and the team equals him,” said Smart of his starting guard.

Darius also had 4 rebounds, 5 assists and a career-high 36 minutes.

But as I say over-and-over again, a large lead means nothing in basketball. And as the second half went on, it meant nothing to Drexel as well.

By keeping their total turnovers to a minimum in the second half (only had 6 TO’s in the second half) Drexel was able to slowly but surely climb back into the game thanks in large part to the play of Freshman Damion Lee who was named CAA Rookie of the Year and was also named to the CAA All-Tournament team. Lee dropped a game-high twenty points, fifteen of which came in the second half and was one of the steady players for the Dragons.

Drexel didn’t put one big run together but rather gained a few points here and there lowering the lead to 11, then 8, then 4 and ultimately one point with 15 seconds to play when Chris Fouch nailed one of his three 3-pointers from the right wing to send the Drexel fans into a frenzy.

It seemed as though Drexel may complete the storied comeback, but after VCU’s Troy Daniels hit a pair of free throws, Drexel couldn’t respond on the other end as the horn buzzed following a Frantz Massenat missed three-pointer resulting in “havoc” on the Richmond Coliseum court as students and fans alike charged to celebrate with “their” team.

“I wanted to take that shot. I thought it was going in, I just missed it,” said Massenat, a CAA First Teamer and a member of the All-Tournament team.

With the win, VCU no longer has to play the waiting game as they solidified themselves a bid into the 2012 NCAA Tournament. Drexel, on the other hand, will have to play the waiting game as they could get an at-large bid into the tourney but are just on the cusp of getting in and you never know until Selection Sunday rolls around. Just ask VCU. But Coach Smart did go to bat for the Dragons after the game, “There’s no doubt that they’re an NCAA tournament team. Coach Flint’s cup is half full, “We’ll play again next week no matter what tournament we’re in.”

Note: Theus was joined on the All-Tournament by teammates Rob Brandenberg and Bradford Burgess. And not already mentioned Mike Morrison of George Mason

Kuykendall can be followed on Twitter @JoeKBSU18 and contacted at JKuykendall@BostonSportsU18.com

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VCU wreaks “HAVOC” on Northeastern to make it to CAA Tournament semifinals

17 points and five rebounds from Junior captain Joel Smith (above) wasn't enough for Northeastern against defending Final Four Team VCU in the CAA Tournament Quarterfinals.

by Joseph Kuykendall

Playing in front of 11, 200 fans where at least a solid 95% of the fans are rooting against you is no easy task for any team. The 6th or maybe even 7th man advantage helped Virginia Commonwealth (26-6) walk away with a 75-65 win against the Northeastern Huskies (14-17) despite playing with a “never give up” attitude down the stretch.

“I thought it was a good team win, our guys really turned it on their in the second half there,” said VCU head coach Shaka Smart postgame

As fans started piling into Richmond Coliseum to be the first ones to ever witness a sold-out CAA Tournament Quarterfinal, it was apparent that NU fans would be greatly outnumbered.

Early on both teams were having trouble scoring and the VCU defense was giving the Northeastern offense a fit-and-a-half. Despite effectiveness on the defensive end, the Rams couldn’t seem to find the bottom of the basket much either resulting in a low-scoring 4-0 lead for VCU at the first media timeout.

Northeastern finally made some shots but VCU started making them more consistently too. Thus, the Rams jumped out to a 14-5 lead just over seven minutes into the game. But it wouldn’t be college basketball without a comeback from Northeastern. And to close the first half…it was a college basketball game.

The tables seemed to turn a little later in the first half as Northeastern started to force VCU into bad shots and wouldn’t let them get close to the rim. “Northeastern, give them a lot of credit, they really, I think defensively, got us on our heels at the end of the first half,” said Smart of the NU defense that held VCU scoreless over the last 6:15 of the first half.

The 6th ranked defense in the CAA helped NU close the half on a 21-12 run after VCU’s early 14-5 lead. If you do the math, that means both teams were knotted at 26 at the break.

For NU, it seemed like a win at the half although they were just tied with twenty minutes still to play. Many expected them to get blown out of the waters, but to be tied with the Rams and have some momentum heading into the locker rooms was a plus for the Huskies.

And that was probably the last bright spot for NU the rest of the night. The way VCU opened up the second half, was almost as though Smart threw his team in a big bottle of champagne, shook it up, and then popped the cork right before his team started playing again.

The VCU press, also known as “HAVOC”, went completely bonkers and threw Northeastern off like no other. “HAVOC” was, without argument, the difference maker in the game. The Rams ability to cause turnover after turnover allowed the Rams to quickly jump back out to an eight point lead just three minutes into the half.

In the end, VCU caused 25 Northeastern turnovers, a season-high for the Huskies at the wrong time. Also, VCU who leads the nation with 10.6 steals per game picked the Huskies’ pockets 14 times Saturday night. NU Head Coach Bill Coen, rightfully so, was upset with how his team handled the press, “Traditionally we’ve had some pretty good success [against the VCU press]. I thought we were very casual a couple times when we could’ve pushed the ball up the floor and fronted the ball. We didn’t, we chose to dribble it…they are a great pursuit team.”

Eventually the Rams would build a lead as large as 21 points with 7:24 to play. The offensive spurt was also a product of the “HAVOC”, “In the second half, I give our guys credit. Our style of play really allowed us to get going and attack and get some open shots,” said Smart who will be coaching in his third CAA Tournament semifinal in as many seasons at the helm of the Rams.

Showing they weren’t quite ready to go home, the Huskies made a mild comeback that saw them get as close as eight points with just over a minute to play. The comeback was too little, too late but showed a lot of resiliency in the Huskies. Coen stated his pleasures with his team, “I was proud of our effort and our character today and I think that character’s going to serve us well in our preparation going forward.”

One reason NU was able to get back into the game late was VCU’s inability to knock down its free throws. They shot a dismal 45.2% from the line and Smart simply said, “We’ll be better with [free throws on Sunday].”

With the win, the Rams get to take on rival George Mason in the semifinals on Sunday who knocked off Georgia State in a thriller on Saturday night.

With the loss, NU’s season comes to a close with a lot to look forward to next season as they graduate just one senior and return all five starters. To close the book on NU’s season I’ll leave you with a great quote from Coen that sums up the game Saturday night, he couldn’t have put it any better, “I was proud of our effort [and] disappointed in the results.”

Kuykendall will be covering the entire CAA Tournament from Richmond, Virginia. He can be followed on Twitter @JoeKBSU18 for game updates and more. He can also be contacted @JoeKBSU18

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Northeastern vs. Va. Commonwealth Preview (CAA Tournament Quarterfinals)

 

 

 

 

 

NORTHEASTERN:   Game Notes |   Radio |   Twitter

VA COMMON:            Game Notes |   Radio |   Twitter

TV:   ESPN3

by Joseph Kuykendall

RICHMOND, Virginia — With Friday night’s win over William & Mary, the Northeastern Huskies (14-16, 9-9) are in familiar territory. Since joining the CAA seven years ago, NU has made the Quarterfinals of the CAA Tournament six times, twice via byes, and four times via first round wins. The only time they were not in the quarterfinals was last season when they lost their first round game against Delaware 60-58.

The Huskies will be the underdog not just in terms of the seeding (NU-7, VCU-2) but also in terms on fan support for their saturday night date with Virginia Commonwealth (25-6, 15-3). VCU’s campus and home basketball court is just right down the street from the Richmond Coliseum. Because of this and VCU’s Final Four excitement last season, the session in which NU and VCU are playing in was sold out on Friday Night. It marks the first time in CAA Tournament history that one of the quarterfinal sessions was sold out. Northeastern and VCU have never met in the CAA Tournament.

Northeastern had beaten VCU at least once for three straight seasons dating to last season but lost in their only matchup this year. Therefore over the past four seasons, NU is 4-2 against the Rams. All-time, VCU holds the slim edge in the matchup with a 7-6 record.

In the only matchup of the two teams this season, the Rams narrowly beat the Huskies 59-56 just a short walk down the street at the Siegel Center.

In that game, despite trailing at the half 31-25, the Huskies scored ten points over the game’s final minute and ten seconds. This comeback still wasn’t enough as the Rams dropped the Huskies to 11-12 overall and 7-6 in the league at that point on February 4th. In that game, Demetrius Pollard of NU set career-highs in minutes (14), points (six), and rebounds (three). Although they lost, NU had three players in double-figures in that game compared to VCU having only two. Captain Jonathan Lee led all scorers with 16 points.

The winner of this quarterfinal matchup will take on the George Mason/Georgia State winner who play after the Huskies and Rams on Saturday Night.

Kuykendall will be covering the whole CAA Basketball Tournament in Richmond, Virginia. For game updates and more, he can be followed on Twitter @JoeKBSU18 and can also be contacted at JKuykendall@BostonSportsU18.com

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Northeastern advances in CAA Tournament with win over William & Mary

Behind a game-high 18-points from rookie sensation Quincy Ford (above) Northeastern cruised to a CAA Tournament First Round Victory over William & Mary.

by Joseph Kuykendall

RICHMOND, Virginia – William & Mary may have put a beat down on Northeastern back on February 11 by beating the Huskies 79-54 but that did not have any lasting affect on NU. Led by Quincy Ford, who scored a game-high 18 points, the Huskies pulled out a 57-49 victory over the local team. “We probably had our worst effort down at William & Mary this year, we had a good week in preparation leading up to this game tonight,” said NU Head Coach Bill Coen who is now 5-5 all-time in the CAA Tournament, “We needed every bounce and every ounce of effort to get a very hard-fought victory this evening.”

After the Huskies won the opening tip they were able to score on their first possession following a put back for freshman Reggie Spencer after teammate Joel Smith, who finished with 10 points and five rebounds, missed a 3-pointer.

CAA All-Academic second teamer Brandon Britt knocked down a three-pointer for the Tribe on their ensuing possession. This 3-2 lead for W&M would be their first and last lead of the night and they would only hold the lead for 53 seconds.

When Northeastern retook the lead, they took it with authority and for good going on an 18-7 run over ten minutes to hold their biggest lead at the time. They led the Tribe 20-10.

A huge part of this run and quick start for the Huskies was their defensive effort. They forced W&M into many low percentage shots and then grabbed the rebounds that followed the missed shots, “We gave up [many] offensive rebounds (in Williamsburg), it was a big point of concern for us. I thought we did a much better job of that this evening,” added Coen.

Northeastern outrebounded William & Mary 42-27.

At the 5:24 mark of the first half, and still holding a ten-point advantage, All-CAA third teamer and team captain Jonathan Lee picked up his third personal foul. With just over 25 minutes still to play, Husky head coach Bill Coen, smartly subbed out Lee.

This substitution would be just the beginning of a 10-3 run for the Tribe to close out the half. During the run, they got as close as two points following a 3-pointer from Senior Kendrix Brown who finished with four points and seven rebounds. W&M would get as close three points once again in the second half but that was as close as they would get to tying things up with Northeastern despite one more valiant attempt later in the second half.

Coming out of the half and looking to pad their three-point lead a little, captains Lee and Smith knocked down three-pointers on consecutive possessions respectively on Northeastern’s first two possessions of the second half. This quickly gave the Huskies another nine-point lead. A lead that NU would eventually extend to twelve points for their largest lead of the game

Once Northeastern scored to make it a 12-point game, neither team would score for the next four minutes when finally Julian Boatner hit a 3-pointer for the Tribe.

At the 10:38 mark of the second half, an interesting situation arose for the Huskies. Lee picked up his fifth foul with still a quarter of the game to go. At this point Northeastern led by seven and it seemed that this could be the turning point in the game, one in which William & Mary would finally make a push for the lead. “Jon’s been such a leader and so consistent for us. At that point in time to lose him was critical,” said Coen of Lee fouling out, “I was very proud of our guys to withstand the adversity and execute down the stretch and really finish off the victory.”

The Tribe would get as close as three as mentioned before, but the Huskies persevered without their leader and in the end prevailed as winners.

Of note is that Senior leader Quinn McDowell of W&M was very emotional post-game even having trouble to speak. He has done a lot for the Tribe program and was two-time All-CAA, two-time Dean Ehlers Leadership Award Winner, two-time CAA All-Academic First Team, and a 2012 Lowe’s Senior Class Award National Finalist. McDowell finished with six points and three rebounds in his final collegiate game.

It should be a reassuring sign knowing the Huskies could still pull out the win without arguably their best player.

As reward for winning, the Huskies get to play Virginia Commonwealth in the same time slot (6 P.M.) Saturday night in the CAA Quarterfinals. Because VCU is playing just down the street from campus, the session for which they are playing in is already sold out and it marks the first time in CAA History that a quarterfinal session is sold out. “As far as VCU, we’ve had a couple of great matches with them. Coach Smart has done an unbelievable job of getting his team back to the top of this league. They haven’t skipped a beat,” said Coen of the Rams, “We’re going to have to have another great effort tomorrow if we hope to compete.”

GAME 1: #9 UNCW 70   #8 James Madison 59

After JMU jumped out to a quick 13-4 lead to open the game, UNCW responded and went on a 30-12 run to take the game into halftime with a 34-25 lead. It was all downhill from their for the Dukes as the injury cursed team never got in a groove to make a comeback. In the end the Seahawks won 70-59. Seahawks Freshman Cedrick Williams scored a game-high and career-high 22 points. On the other side, Senior Humpty Hitchens led the Dukes with 12-points in his final collegiate game. UNCW will play Drexel Saturday afternoon.

GAME 2: #5 Delaware 72   #12 Towson 65

The 1-30 Towson Tigers put a late scare into the Blue Hens but in the end UDel was able hang on for the 72-65 win. Towson only led for just over a minute early in the game. As many expected, Delaware jumped out to a huge 18-point lead at one point including an 11-point lead at the half. In the second half, Towson made a furious comeback backed by the crowd rooting for the upset as they were able to tie the ball game at 53 late in the second half. That would be as close as they would get to taking the lead as Delaware would escape with the first round win. Devon Saddler of the Blue Hens led all scorers with 28 points and Towson’s Robert Nwankwo closely followed with 27 points of his own. Delaware will play Old Dominion Saturday afternoon.

GAME 4: #6 Georgia State 85   #11 Hofstra 50

My pick for CAA coach of the year, Ron Hunter, had his Georgia State Panthers more than ready for their opening round game in the CAA Tournament. His Panthers proved to be no match for the Hofstra Pride as they had no trouble putting them away. Although both teams were tied at 13 with 12:43 to go in the first half, the Panthers started to turn their jets on and ultimately led 45-24 at the half. GSU continued in the second half what they started in the first half…a beating of Hofstra. Seven different players helped GSU score 40 second-half points to help the Panthers win by 35 points. All-CAA second teamer Mike Moore led the Pride with 16 points and All-CAA third teamer Eric Buckner led the Panthers with 21 points. GSU will play George Mason on Saturday Night.

Kuykendall will be covering the entire CAA Tournament in Richmond, Va and can be followed on Twitter @JoeKBSU18 and contacted at JKuykendall@BostonSportsU18.com

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Built Ford Tough

by Joseph Kuykendall

It’s that time of year again..campaign time. No, not presidential campaigning although I am campaigning for none other than Quincy Ford. Before you ask, he is NOT a long lost relative of the two Quincy President’s nor is he a grandson of Gerald Ford. He is simply Quincy Ford from St. Petersburg, Florida who is having a phenomenal freshman season. It’s time that Ford really stands out among his family; after all he is one of ten kids.

For this, I am endorsing Ford for the CAA Rookie of the Year. Ford is trying to become the first NU “diaper dandy” to win CAA Rookie of the Year honors since the 2006-07 when Matt Janning took that award.

In addition to helping a team finish
higher than projected in the final CAA standings, Ford has the stats to prove
his legitimacy for Rookie of the Year. Ford averages 11.1 points per game which
is 4th best among rookies and 22nd overall in the conference. Additionally,
Ford picks up his game for conference play as he leads all freshmen (14th overall) in conference game scoring averaging 12.8 points per game.

He also gets work done on the glass as he averages 4.7 rebounds per game, notching him at fourth best among rookies in the CAA. Comparing rebounding and scoring, Ford is the ONLY player to rank in the Top 4 for both scoring and rebounding among CAA rookies.

The man who probably knows Ford best, his head coach Bill Coen, had complimentary words to say about Ford, “He’s got tremendous talent, he’s got a variety of skills,
he’s played well for us.” said Coen who is looking to coach his second Rookie
of the Year as a head coach. “I’m very happy for him with his development. I
think he’s a great kid and works very hard at the game. He wants to be a good
player.”

Probably Ford’s closet competitor for CAA Rookie of the year is Drexel’s Damion Lee. Lee is 2nd in the CAA among rookies in scoring and 5th in rebounding. But still he doesn’t
rank in the Top 4 in BOTH categories and is almost a whole point behind Ford in
scoring average in conference games alone.

No matter who wins rookie of the year though, Coen talked about the depth of this year’s CAA Rookies, “I think this is the best rookie class that’s come into the CAA since I’ve been coaching in the league. Whoever wins it, I think is going to be a special player.

To add one more stat for good measure, I looked at blocks. Ford averages one block a game compared to Lee who averages just .27 blocks per game. Sorry Lee, but the Block Party is for CAA Rookie of the Year candidates only. Anyway, I think enough has been said to prove my point. “Vote Ford, Vote Ford, Vote Ford!” But be sure that when you
chant this people understand that you are not having a flashback to the ‘70s.
You may even want to consider him for a write-in this November too…He’s that
awesome.

SPECIFICS

  • Quincy Ford
  • Freshman
  • Guard/Forward
  • 6’8”, 212 lbs.
  • St. Petersburg, Florida
  • Gibbs High School

Kuykendall can be followed on Twitter @JoeKBSU18 and contacted at JKuykendall@BostonSportsU18.com

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Penn upsets Harvard to make Ivy League interesting down the stretch

Backed by a game-high 20 points and incredible play down the stretch from senior Zack Rosen (above), Penn upset Harvard to keep their outright Ivy League title hopes alive.

by Joseph Kuykendall

ALLSTON, Mass – With another Ivy League championship within grasp and needing just a win to at least share the title, Harvard welcomed the second place team in the Ivy, Penn, to Allston, Ma. After twice closing out a 9-point or more deficit, the visiting Quakers marched into Lavietes Pavilion Saturday night and beat the Harvard Crimson 55-54 in front of a sold out crowd. Prior to the game, Harvard had won 28 straight home games dating all the way back to February 19, 2010. This streak was the second longest active streak in the nation, only second to Kentucky.

“Obviously an incredibly tough loss for us, I give all the credit to Penn,” said Harvard head coach Tommy Amaker following the loss,” congratulate them on a terrific win, they outplayed us and I thought that’s why they won.”

The beginning of the game saw much neck-and-neck action as no team had a lead of more than four points until 4:04 left in the first half. This was when Keith Wright made two free throws to give Harvard a five-point lead. But the close basketball would lead both teams into the half as Harvard held the 30-24 advantage at the break.

No scorer had double-figuring scoring for either team and Harvard’s Laurent Rivard led all scorers at the half with 8 points.

Things would change in the second half, especially for one Penn senior who proved exactly why he was the Ivy League player of the week last week. With just six points at intermission, Zack Rosen put on a performance to remember to lead the Quakers to victory.

After Kyle Casey made the front end of his free throws, the Crimson took a 35-24 lead at the 18:03 mark of the second half to mark Harvard’s biggest lead of the game.

I now sound like a broken record but it wouldn’t be basketball if Penn just threw in the towel. Instead, Penn went on a quick 12-2 run to pull within one at the 12:49.

Following a nine point Harvard lead the Penn would again diminish, The Quakers finally took the lead for good after Zack Rosen, who seemed absolutely unstoppable down the stretch knocked down two free throws with 23.2 seconds left. On Harvard’s next possession Penn would seal the deal as Kyle Casey ran over Penn’s Tyler Bernardini with 4 seconds to go. Casey was called for the charge and then Penn would zero out the clock to complete the upset win.

Because Penn won, if both Penn and Harvard win out it will set up yet again a tie-breaker game to see who gets the Ivy bid into the NCAA Tournament. Harvard is 10-2 in the Ivy League with two games remaining and Penn is 9-2 with three games remaining.

Harvard has remaining games with Cornell and Columbia and Penn has remaining games with Brown, Yale, and Princeton. Needless to say, the Ivy League will still have drama despite not having a conference tournament.

Kuykendall can be followed on Twitter @JoeKBSU18 and contacted at JKuykendall@BostonSportsU18.com

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Harvard closer to NCAA Tournament bid with revenge win over Princeton

With a game-high 20-points and 8-rebounds, junior Kyle Casey led the Harvard Crimson to a crucial win over perennial Ivy League powerhouse Princeton.

by Joseph Kuykendall

ALLSTON, Mass – At times, revenge can be the best motivator for a team, especially in a high intensity sport such as college basketball. Needing just two wins this weekend to clinch at-least a share of the Ivy League crown and perhaps their first appearance in the NCAA Tournament since 1946, Harvard played come from behind basketball to beat Princeton 67-64 in front of a sold out crowd of 2,195 at Lavietes Pavilion. Princeton was the only Ivy League team to beat the Crimson to this point so far. Revenge is what Harvard got.

“What a tremendous win by our kids and our program,” said Harvard Head Coach Tommy Amaker following the Harvard win.

In a game that started out unlike most Ivy matchups, both teams were done with their respective possessions very early in the shot clock. Through just under three minute of playing time, Harvard had already jumped out to a 7-0 lead. But Princeton wasn’t ready to give up the chance to beat Harvard twice in as many weeks.

A 7 minute 29 second charge by the Tigers, saw them claw back and tie things up with 9:59 to go at a score of 18-18. On Princeton’s next possession, they took their first lead on the night following a left corner three from New Hampshire native-Patrick Saunders. The corner three was his third 3-pointer in just under 2 minutes. Saunders would finish the night with 12 total points and his only three-pointers being the ones he made during that stretch.

This quick Princeton outburst would just be the base of an amazing 16-5 run for Princeton spanning 6:13 to give the Tigers their biggest lead on the night and the biggest lead for either team; 10 points.

Much like Princeton did after Harvard jumped out to a quick 7-0 lead, the Crimson were not ready to lose for the second time in as many weeks to Princeton.

The Crimson would hold the Tigers scoreless over the last 3:59 of the first half, scoring 9 points of their own to only be down by one point to Princeton at the half.

The second half of the game was much more of what fans pay to see and what many expect in a high-intensity college basketball game. No team seemed to be able to completely pull away as when one team did get some breathing room, the other would start taking the air right back.

Twice Princeton had a lead of seven in the second half…and twice in the second half Harvard would come back.

Princeton first extended their lead to seven in the second half around the 17:51 mark following a baseline jumper by junior forward Ian Hummer. After Harvard once again got as close as one, Princeton eventually went back on top by seven.

Fast-Forwarding to the 10:04 mark of the second half, the Harvard defense provided the spark that may have been the turning-point in the game.

Immediately after a 3-point play by Brandyn Curry, the Crimson defense forced a Princeton turnover to put the ball right back in Harvard’s hands and on the subsequent possession the Crimson would capitalize to tie things up and make it a new ballgame with 9:58 to go. After the turnover, Curry was the one to show emotion and get the team and crowd pumped up.

Coach Amaker has been impressed with Curry’s play of late,“I thought Brandyn Curry’s play in particular, he’s been spectacular for us going down the stretch.”

With some back-and-forth basketball to ensue, Harvard finally went on top for good after a right wing three from none other than Curry to give the Crimson a 57-55 lead with 6:53 to go.

Princeton would get as close as two points with just 10 seconds to go after T.J. Bray hit a clutch three-pointer but on the other end, Captain Oliver McNally converted both of his free throws to make it a four-point Harvard lead and put the final touches on the game.

Despite the team shooting just 15-of-22 from the free throw line, McNally shot 6-for-6 himself from the line showing great senior leadership.

Defense has been the rock for Harvard this year and Amaker thought that defense once again won the game for Harvard, “I can’t say enough about our team defense in critical moments,” Amaker then added, “I thought we had great concentration, great composure, and I thought we had to have good confidence…those three words that we talk so much about at our program.”

Now at 10-1 in the Ivy, Harvard welcomes second place Penn (Ivy record of 8-2) to Lavietes Pavilion Saturday night for a date that with a win could clinch at-least a share of the Ivy League title for Harvard. Penn narrowly escaped with a win against Dartmouth on Friday night, keeping their Ivy League championship hopes alive.

Kuykendall can be followed on Twitter @JoeKBSU18 and contacted at JKuykendall@BostonSportsU18.com

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Northeastern looking for legitimacy/respect as they head down the stretch

Northeastern Head Coach Bill Coen looks to lead his Huskies to a statement-making win over current CAA-leader George Mason on Wednesday at Matthews Arena.

by Joseph Kuykendall

Legitimacy is a word often thrown around this time of year as March Madness approaches. Does a team have a legitimate resume? Did they play a legitimately tough schedule with a legitimate record to show for it? That is what the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee is looking for, legitimacy.

Despite playing better than expected this season, Northeastern still lacks legitimacy to completely prove themselves to the rest of the Colonial Athletic Association.

Just two seasons ago, Northeastern finished second in the CAA with a 14-4 record before losing in the CAA tournament semifinals. This season, the Huskies were picked to finish ninth in the CAA out of twelve teams which shows the lack of respect they have among other CAA coaches. Not in a negative way but just to show where other teams saw Northeastern finishing up.

Through 16-of-their-18 league games this season the Huskies are 8-8 in the CAA and 12-14 overall. Their 8-8 conference record is good enough for seventh in the CAA with just two CAA games to go before the CAA Tournament in Richmond, Va.

Yes 8-8 is good, only one problem…Northeastern has not beaten any of the Top four teams in the CAA. That would be Virginia Commonwealth, George Mason, Drexel, and Old Dominion. Northeastern is a combined 0-5 against those teams and therefore 8-3 against teams 5-12 in the CAA standings. In addition, Northeastern blew a late lead in their BracketBuster game against America East leading Stony Brook. BracketBusters is a “program” set up by ESPN to give mid-major teams a chance to prove legitimacy.

Because of this, the Huskies have been unable to prove that they belong within the top half of the league. Northeastern’s biggest win on the season is probably St. John’s, a team that earned a 6-seed in last year’s NCAA Tournament but this year is struggling in the Big East with 9  freshmen on their roster.

Northeastern’s last two games set the Huskies up to send a message to the rest of the league. NU closes out the regular season with George Mason and Delaware. Both are Top 6 teams in the CAA and George Mason is tied for first in the CAA. Therefore NU has one last opportunity to beat an upper-tier CAA team in the Patriots as well as enter the CAA tournament on a momentum high if they can knock off both George Mason AND Delaware.

That being said an 8-8 record in one of the top conferences in the nation isn’t too shabby. One CAA coach expressed that Northeastern is not a team to overlook, “They’ve continued to win close games and find ways to win, so certainly a lot of credit to Bill [Coen] and his staff,” said Hofstra head coach Mo Cassara after NU beat them in Boston, “I think their doing a terrific job with their young team and their continuing to get better.”

Surprisingly or not, legitimate wins are not something new for Northeastern Head Coach Bill Coen and his team in recent years. Despite finishing 10th in the CAA last season, the Huskies did knock off eventual Final Four team VCU last season.

Even though Coen and company must know that have not truly gotten a statement win, he is not worried about that as they enter their game against George Mason on Wednesday, “Whether it’s a top four team or bottom four team whatever team it is, we’re looking to win basketball games. We’re looking to play better and Wednesday is another opportunity,”  said the sixth year coach, “George Mason is an outstanding team and an outstanding program so we’re going to have our hands full with them…It’s a conference game and their all important”

Coach Coen has the right insight of not worrying about what others think of you because winning is what matters. Who knows? Maybe NU can gain ultimate respect from its CAA counterparts and find a way to win the CAA Tournament.

Kuykendall can be followed on Twitter @JoeKBSU18 and contacted at JKuykendall@BostonSportsU18.com

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Boston College knocks off nationally ranked Florida State for huge win

Jordan Daniels' (above) game-high 19 points led Boston College to the upset victory over Florida State.

by Joseph Kuykendall

CHESTNUT HILL, Mass.—Backed by a game-high 19 points from Jordan Daniels and a 21-5 run about midway through the first half the Boston College Eagles were able to upset (15/17) Florida State 64-60 Wednesday night.

The Eagles were down 23-10 with 9:37 left in the first half but thanks to timely three-point shooting the Eagles stormed back to take a 34-33 lead at the break. BC had made eight three-pointers in the first half. A number that was higher or equal to the TOTAL number of three-pointers BC had scored in a majority of its games this season.

Florida State only held the lead once in the second half as BC was able to hold on down the stretch to go to 3-7 in the ACC and 8-16 overall.

Florida State was led by Michael Snaer who had 16 points. The Seminoles are now 7-2 in the ACC and 16-7 overall.

Of note, Florida State’s bench outscored BC’s bench 19-0 and BC’s team assist-turnover ratio was an astonishing 14-10.

For a full game recap check out former BSU18 writer Gethin Coolbaugh’s story here.

Joseph Kuykendall can be followed on Twitter @JoeKBSU18 and contacted at JKuykendall@BostonSportsU18.com

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Harvard sets program records with win over pesky Columbia

Harvard's sophomore guard Laurent Rivard (above) scored a game-high 20 points to lead his Harvard Crimson to a record-setting win over Columbia.

by Joseph Kuykendall

ALLSTON, Mass.— With a quick glance at the Harvard (20-2, 6-0 Ivy League)/Columbia (13-9, 2-4) it would easily appear to end up being a completely defensive-dominated game. Harvard entered the Ivy League contest with the third best scoring defense (53.4 ppg) in the nation and Columbia ranked 21st nationally (59.3 ppg) in the same category (as of January 29th). They are first and second in that category in the Ivy League respectively.

The halftime advantage of 30-27 that Harvard had was not quite indicative of two defensive minded-teams but by the end of the game, the score proved otherwise.

Despite seeing more than one lead reach as high as seven or eight points, the hometown Crimson could not officially say they were done with the Lions until the final horn buzzed with Harvard holding a 57-52 advantage for the win. Columbia kept storming back on more than one occasion to make it a close game the whole way.

“Certainly for us we’re very pleased to get this win over a team that battled very hard and was tough for us to guard,” said Harvard Head Coach Tommy Amaker, “But I was pleased for our guys…wasn’t easy for us.”

Both teams jumped out of the gate with great defensive stands by running the offense deep into the shot clock although the offense scored the majority of the time. Over the first five combined possessions the offense found a way to at least get one point on the respective offensive ends. After Columbia failed to score on their third offensive possession, Harvard would go on to score on their first five offensive possessions. Their first non-productive offensive possession came all the way at the 14:43 mark of the second half.

With 13:34 to go in the first half, a Brandyn Curry layup extended Harvard’s lead to seven points but the Lions would storm right back with a 7-0 run of their own to knot the score at 16 with 9:24 to play in the first half. A Chris Crockett three-pointer put the exclamation point on the 7-0 run for Columbia.

Harvard gone one more lead of seven points in the first half before taking just a three-point lead with them into the locker rooms at the break.

To end the half, Columbia star Brian Barbour, who finished the game with a team-high 15 points including 7-of-7 from the charity stripe, “missed” a shot that clearly appeared to be a goaltending call but no one of the three-official team seemed to think so.

A Columbia offensive drought to start the second half allowed the Crimson to jump out to a six-point lead to get things going in the second half. Columbia’s first second half bucket did not come until the 15:14 mark.

About a minute after the Columbia basket, Harvard again extended their lead to seven points and AGAIN Columbia closed the gap down to seven to remain within distance of the nationally ranked Crimson.

Following a few more big gaps for Harvard that Columbia would subsequently close, the Lions put a true scare into Harvard and its fans.

With 2:39 to go and down by five points, Columbia’s Alex Rosenberg, who finished with six points, completed a three-point play the old fashioned way to make it a one possession game due to just a two-point lead for the Crimson.

This would be Columbia’s last breath though as Harvard outscored Columbia 9-6 to close the game resulting in a 57-52 for Harvard.

With the win, Harvard improved to 6-0 in the Ivy League and 20-2 overall, both of which are now the best starts in their respective categories in program history.

With wins like these, Harvard is well on their way to making it back into the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1946.

Coming up now for Harvard is arguably its biggest weekend of the season as they travel to both Penn and Princeton to take on probably the most historically successful teams in the Ivy League. Because they are travel partners, teams face them both in the same weekend. Harvard welcomes the two teams to Lavietes Pavilion during the February 24/25 weekend and Boston Sports U18 will have live coverage of it from Lavietes Pavilion.

“Going on the road now with the two heavyweights traditionally in our conference…I told our kids it’s going to be a lot of fun,” said Amaker referring to his team’s upcoming weekend schedule, “[It’s] going to be a great environment I’m sure in both places. This is what we worked hard for. I’m sure they’ll be waiting for us on the side of the freeway.”

Kuykendall can be followed on Twitter @JoeKBSU18 and contacted at JKuykendall@BostonSportsU18.com

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