Sunday, December 17, 2017

Uptempo attack helping LIU Brooklyn take flight as NEC play approaches

Derek Kellogg has installed uptempo offense in first season at LIU Brooklyn, and despite 4-8 record, Blackbirds are showing encouraging signs going into conference play. (Photo by Bob Dea/Daly Dose Of Hoops)

By Ray Floriani (@rfloriani)

BROOKLYN -- The record lies when reflecting LIU Brooklyn’s performance.

The stats show the Blackbirds to be a 4-8 team, but that is in sheer numbers only. The fact is, they are a much better team than the record indicates. To expound on that point, head coach Derek Kellogg remains upbeat and positive over what he has witnessed.

Following the Blackbirds’ 71-56 setback to Saint Peter’s Sunday afternoon at Barclays Center, the first thing Kellogg could discuss was the free throw line. LIU Brooklyn shot 15-of-28 from the charity stripe while going just 5-of-29 on three-point field goals.

“We are a team of good shooters,” Kellogg stated. “Last week (a loss to Fairfield), we shot poor from the line. So all week, we went over free throw mechanics and spent time shooting. This week, we have to do more of the same.”

If there was something to be encouraged with, it was the resiliency of Kellogg’s team. They trailed by nine midway through the first half before fighting back to trail by just one at the intermission. Through the second half, Saint Peter’s threatened to pull away, but each time, could not put the Blackbirds away.
“I watched them on tape against Stony Brook,” Saint Peter’s coach John Dunne said of LIU. “Stony Brook got out to an early lead, but LIU fought back. This is a team that turns you over blocks shots and gets out in transition. They are talented, and I knew they never quit.”
In the stretch today, Saint Peter’s was able to make their move late before pulling away, benefitting from a casualty to one of LIU’s mainstays.

“Julian Batts got involved in a loose ball scrum and had to come out,” Kellogg said. “That hurts  because we need him on the floor.”
While shooting was a primary concern, Kellogg; digging deeper, noted a few other factors. “Getting 50-50 balls and rebounds,” he said. Saint Peter’s led 46-40 in the battle of the boards, but it was the type of rebounds lost that concerned Kellogg.

“We gave up too many loose ball rebounds,” he lamented. “That is something we can’t allow. You want to win you have to make your plays.”
Joel Hernandez of LIU Brooklyn led all scorers with 20 points. “He’s a man,” gushed Dunne of the fifth-year senior.

“Hernandez is a dynamic offensive player,” Kellogg added. “He can score in the paint and from three. What we would like from him is a bit better play on the defensive end.”

Conference play commences in twelve days with a visit from FDU. Kellogg feels encouraged with the team’s direction, but admits there are a few things that need to be addressed.

“We have to tighten up defensively,” he said. “We want to play uptempo and force turnovers, but need guys to commit for the full 40 minutes.” On media day, Kellogg, who came from UMass, was asked of his familiarity with the NEC. He noted that during his time in Amherst, he frequently went up against Northeast Conference opposition. He knows the styles of the league and knows the teams are well coached. For LIU Brooklyn to succeed everyone, as noted, must be engaged.

“We are a small team size-wise,” he said. “The uptempo game is beneficial and can help us against bigger opposition.”

Upset of Seton Hall is latest proof of Rutgers' road back to relevance

Steve Pikiell has first signature win at Rutgers, against a Top 15 team in Seton Hall, and it solidifies his claim that Scarlet Knights are in a better place midway through his second season. (Photo by On The Banks)

PISCATAWAY, NJ -- Steve Pikiell was part of a career-defining court storm 21 months ago, one that helped get him to where he is now, when the Stony Brook program he built from the ground up; bridesmaids four times in the America East Conference, finally broke down the door on their fifth attempt and secured an automatic bid to the school's first-ever NCAA Tournament at the Division I level.

Nearly two years later, the affable Jim Calhoun disciple, now in his second season at the helm of his mentor's former Big East rival, Rutgers, experienced a similar feeling of postgame jubilation in Saturday's takedown of Seton Hall, the 15th-ranked team in the nation and former Big East companion who just so happens to be the Scarlet Knights' fiercest rival. However, this one did not carry the reward of hearing his team's name announced on Selection Sunday. Instead, it was a harbinger of optimism, and Pikiell's long-held belief that he would indeed be the man to awaken the sleeping giant on the banks of the old Raritan.

"Every job along the way, I've never let an athletic director down, I've never let a president down, and I've never let a student body down," Pikiell vowed in March of 2016, when he was hired to replace Eddie Jordan and trusted with the daunting task of bringing winning basketball back to a program now 26 years removed from its last dance at the highest level.

"We're a better program right now than we were a year ago," the confident coach emphatically assured at Big Ten media day this past October, doubling down on the wager he placed on himself, that Rutgers president Robert Barchi and athletic director Pat Hobbs placed on him.

Saturday afternoon, amid a sold-out RAC, may have been the first true validity behind the boasts, and offered substance behind the veneers in the process. As Rutgers fought harder for loose balls, took a quicker step for each offensive rebound, the desire of upperclassmen the likes of Mike Williams and Corey Sanders willing a hungry, scrappy team to victory, you got the sense that this was only the beginning of the long road back to respectability.

Corey Sanders raises Garden State Hardwood Classic trophy after Rutgers used game-ending 17-2 run to upset Seton Hall and score first victory over Pirates since 2013. (Photo by Peter Ackerman/Asbury Park Press)

"We've been in games, plugging away," Pikiell recollected while addressing a gaggle of media on hand to see Rutgers' first victory over a ranked opponent in nearly three years. "I thought we had tremendous poise down the stretch. They played with good swagger and great intensity. Everybody kind of made a big play."

"It was an exciting environment," he added, citing the largest crowd at a Rutgers home game since 2002, three years before he took over the reins at Stony Brook. 
"I learned that if we keep plugging, and we have better basketball ahead of us too, that's exciting to me. And when the place is rocking like this is, it's a tough place to play."

Considering that from which the Scarlet Knights have come over the past decade, the morass of Fred Hill, Mike Rice and Eddie Jordan; where moments of glory have been far more fleeting than sustaining, Saturday was certainly a step in the right direction, and one all too familiar for the program's shepherd.

"You know what, I think the first game I coached here; 1,800 fans, this is the most fans to watch a Rutgers game here at the RAC since 2002," Pikiell reaffirmed, striking a parallel to his remembrance of a mere 172 patrons in attendance for his Pritchard Gymnasium debut with Stony Brook in 2005. "To have a place like that after a year of being here is a credit to these guys. They made this a game, and these are the guys that believed in us a year ago and stayed the course. It's a step in the process, and if these guys keep working and keep believing, good things happen. I'm excited, but we can play better, too. We have the potential to be better."

"I enjoyed coaching in it today," he said of the atmosphere inside the RAC. "It was a lot of fun. Today was awesome. We have a lot of people. The marketing people do a great job, the students came out. It takes everybody. Rutgers is a good place, it's a good time for us. It's an exciting place, and I'm very thankful I'm the head coach."

Saturday, December 16, 2017

5 Thoughts: Rutgers stuns No. 15 Seton Hall in RAC attack

Rutgers earned first court storm since upset of Wisconsin in 2015 with 71-65 victory over archrival Seton Hall. (Photo by Jerry Carino/Asbury Park Press)

PISCATAWAY, NJ -- There were no over-the-top theatrics, no drama in the handshake line or press conferences, solely one team whose desire and will to win exceeded that of their highly regarded opponent, who took the floor as the 15th-ranked team in the nation.

So it was at the Rutgers Athletic Center Saturday afternoon, as the Scarlet Knights (10-3) walked away with a 71-65 victory over in-state rival Seton Hall, finally getting one back against their longtime adversary for the first time since leaving the Big East in 2013 and earning head coach Steve Pikiell his first of what could be many more signature moments by turning the Pirates (9-2) into the latest in a long line of nationally ranked upset victims that have only solidified Piscataway as a house of horrors for opposing teams, especially when the RAC attracts the capacity crowd it did today.

While Rutgers gets nearly a week of rest before welcoming Pikiell's former Stony Brook program to New Jersey in the back end of a two-year home-and-home series on Friday, Seton Hall must regroup sooner, only getting a 72-hour respite before two games in four days against Wagner (Wednesday night) and Manhattan (one week from today) to culminate non-conference play. In the meantime, we'll offer some thoughts about the now-concluded 2017 renewal of the Garden State Hardwood Classic:

1) You have reached the Corey Hotline.
Here are some words that rhyme with Corey: "Gory," "story," "allegory," and you can even add another one in "glory." At least three of the four can be applied to Rutgers' Corey Sanders, whose game-high 22 points on 9-of-16 shooting were enough to establish the junior guard as this year's Joe Calabrese Most Valuable Player, wresting the honor away from two-time reigning recipient Angel Delgado.

Sanders' defining moment in a season following a much-chronicled testing of the NBA Draft waters came over the final 6:06 of regulation, when he scored eight points in the 17-2 Rutgers run that flipped the script on what looked to be a wire-to-wire win for the visiting Pirates, turning a businesslike victory into a cataclysmic defeat.

"I can't even put it into words," Sanders gushed when asked to convey the feeling of the impromptu postgame celebration, in which scores of students rushed the court to mob the Scarlet Knights as Bruce Springsteen's "Glory Days" serenaded the crowd after the final buzzer. "We just came out and we did what we wanted to do, which was win. We executed our game plan, which was the reason why we got that win, so it just feels good to bring it back home."

"Corey made some huge baskets for us," Pikiell reiterated as the glow of the victory still enveloped his players. "I loved his defense, and I thought he came in at the end well-rested. He had great poise down the stretch and he grabbed a couple of big rebounds too. He stuck his nose in there, and he did a really good job. He was a good veteran guard today."

2) Clipping Angel's wings.
The final box score will show that Angel Delgado amassed 21 rebounds, one shy of his career-high set last January against Butler, but the 6-foot-10 All-America candidate did not have as strong an outing offensively, only making three of his nine field goal attempts while Rutgers' four forwards combined to neutralize the unanimous all-Big East pick and force Khadeen Carrington and Myles Powell to beat them while Desi Rodriguez was plagued by foul trouble.

"I thought we did a good job on him," said Pikiell. "I thought the bodies that we put on him -- again, they're a team that you have to kind of pick your poison a little bit, and he's as good a passer as there is, so we didn't get in any double-teaming action. We really just tried to get him off the block and make it tough for him to catch. We had four guys defend him and keep him off the glass a little bit, and make his touches tough. He's a good player, and we made it tough for him to get a lot of touches."

3) Death. Taxes. Sanogo.
The glue guy in Seton Hall's lineup seemed to be the Pirates' savior down the stretch, making plays on both sides of the basketball as Seton Hall broke a 54-all tie with nine unanswered points to take a 63-54 lead with 6:06 remaining in regulation. And on a night where Delgado and Carrington shot a combined 7-for-26, Sanogo's 10 points, four rebounds and five blocked shots alongside Powell's team-leading 18 points were valued higher than usual for the Pirates, albeit in the losing effort.

4) All the right moves in all the right places.
Willard had the unquestioned edge in depth and pieces on his bench, but on this day, it was Pikiell who reigned supreme with an eight-man rotation that was able to outhustle the Pirates to nearly every 50-50 ball and long rebound down the stretch. Casual observers will point to the 34-11 disparity in free throw attempts that favored the Scarlet Knights, but a 17-5 advantage in bench scoring, with a near-double-double from Eugene Omoruyi (10 points and nine rebounds in his second straight clutch game against Seton Hall) and just eight turnovers as a unit; coupled with a team simply hungry for bragging rights (more on that later), was what willed Rutgers over the hump.

"When you have the enemy down and you have your foot on their necks, you've got to keep your foot on their necks and crush their throats," Sanogo opined when prompted for a lesson that could be learned from Seton Hall's bitter defeat. "Don't let them breathe any air. That's what we did. We let them breathe and they came back and beat us. Credit to them, though."

"We've been in games, we've been close," a proud Pikiell proclaimed. "I thought we had a good game plan and they executed it, and that's a real positive against a really good basketball team with a lot of experience. It's a very good day for Rutgers Nation."

5) The rivalry is back...well, it actually never left.

From the double technicals assessed to Rodriguez and Omoruyi in the first half to Delgado's stiff arm toward the Rutgers mascot before the opening tip, it was clear that the battle lines had been drawn in permanent marker. The feeling was no different after the final horn, only reflected in two distinctly separate tones.

"They just wanted it more at the end," a terse Sanogo stated.

"We had them right where we wanted them in the first half," Powell chimed in. "Coming out of halftime, I think we got too complacent and I think coming out of the second half, their first hit knocked us off our feet. They just kept coming. We couldn't handle the pressure."

Regarding the chippy nature of the encounter, particularly in the opening stanza, Sanogo pulled no punches.

"It's a rivalry game," the senior from Newark intimated. "That's how it's supposed to be. We're not out there to be friends, we're not out there to be buddy-buddy. I don't want to be friends with these guys, I don't like anybody on their team. That's how it's supposed to be. You're not going to attack one person on our team and not think anybody else is going to say anything."

Moments later, the mood shifted to one of jubilation and elation.

"I don't have the words to describe this feeling," Mike Williams, a senior who avoided going winless against Seton Hall, reflected. "The last three years, it's eluded me and for me to get it in front of my fans, it's the best feeling in the world. I'm just thankful for this moment."

Kevin Willard quote book: Rutgers

On final six minutes of game:
"I thought turnovers really hurt us. We had some tough turnovers that led to them getting some easy buckets and getting momentum. I thought we did a good job when the score got 54 -- somewhere in that range -- of running offense and not turning it over. I thought we turned it over in the last six minutes and it gave them some easy buckets, it gave them some momentum, and then (Corey) Sanders hit some tough shots."

On Rutgers' 34-11 disparity in free throw attempts:
"I don't know. I didn't have the whistle."

On whether going to his bench up 31-18 was a turning point:
"We were still up 10 at half on the road. We missed two free throws when were up 13 and I thought that was big, to be perfectly honest with you. We didn't get there a lot and we didn't shoot them good again, but you're up 10 at half -- I thought we came out and we were just a little bit -- we just didn't have the same intensity that we had to start the game."

On regretting going to bench:
"Not at all. I've got a lot of confidence in my bench and I'll keep going to them. You can't play five guys 40 minutes."

On a sellout crowd raising the profile of New Jersey college basketball:
"It's great that the interest is back in both programs, and it's great that -- I love the fact that -- it helps both programs, to be honest with you. It just does. It's a great atmosphere. I thought last year at home, our atmosphere was really good too, so the more interest that it gets, it just shows more and more people how good both these programs can be."

On Corey Sanders:
"Corey played fantastic. For the amount of minutes that he played, he really didn't do anything besides go one-on-one, to be honest with you. He just made some really tough shots. We were worried about him and (Geo) Baker just being up top going one-on-one, and give the kid credit, he made some really tough shots. Again, I thought us turning it over and giving him some easy buckets got him going."

On what lesson could be learned from today's loss:
"We've played -- this was the first time I thought our schedule was kind of -- I wouldn't say wear us down, but I knew all along this was the toughest game we were going to play probably all year. Coming off the games we've played, going into finals, playing at a tough place with a very good, well-coached team, I thought this would be our toughest test. I give Rutgers credit, they played well, they beat us. But we're 9-2, we're still a really good basketball team. I'm not going to the drawing board or doing anything crazy. We've played one of the toughest schedules in college basketball. We haven't been home forever, so I'm not worried about anything. To be honest with you, the biggest thing I'm looking forward to is a couple of days off for these guys. We haven't had it, and I'm looking forward to it."

"We've just gotta take care of the basketball on the road, and I think being just a little bit more ball secure on the road. You can get away with maybe turnovers for touchdowns at home, but on the road, where we were in control of the game -- I thought we were playing really good defensively when we got up nine -- we just had three turnovers that gave them momentum. You can't give teams at home who are struggling momentum. I thought that's what we did."

On whether playing faster was part of Seton Hall's game plan:
"I was happy with our pace in the first half, and obviously in the second half, the offensive rebounds stopped us from getting out. I've always been a big Deshawn Freeman fan, but I thought their guards got a couple of big ones. When you're giving up offensive rebounds, it slows you down. I've always said the best transition defense is offensive rebounding, because it just gets your guys going back towards the basket instead of out and running, and I thought their offensive rebounds in the second half -- I don't know how many they had -- it stopped us from getting out and going."

On Khadeen Carrington at point guard:
"I think Deeno's playing really well. Probably, 34 minutes at the point guard spot trying to guard Corey is tough, but I think he's been playing terrific. He just had a tough shooting night. He had some really good looks, he had some good looks on the break that; usually, he makes. Sometimes the ball just doesn't go in."

On Desi Rodriguez being benched due to foul trouble:
"Des picked up his third, they went small, then he picked up his fourth and so we shuffled in. And whenever I shuffle him in and out, he doesn't do good with that and I probably should keep him in there. But Myles Cale gave us a good lift. I think we went on a 9-0 run when we put Myles in there, so sometimes when you pull someone out, someone's in and you go on a good run, that has something to do with it too."

On whether today was a bad loss:
"Not at all. I look at it as a loss on the road."

On today enhancing the Seton Hall-Rutgers rivalry:
"I think it's great, I do. I think these games have always come down to this stuff. It's always been -- there's been headbutts, there's been guys in the stands and flagrant fouls and the intensity's great -- and again, I think Corey being here, I think Deshawn being here for as long as they have and then our guys being here for as long -- I think that really helps too, having guys that have been around and been through the game, I think that makes a difference."

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Inside the mind of a student-athlete

A view of Sports Business Journal's SBJ/SBD Intercollegiate Athletic Conference in Times Square. (Photo by Jason Schott/Daly Dose Of Hoops)

By Jason Schott (@JESchott19)

NEW YORK -- The Sports Business Journal's SBJ/SBD Intercollegiate Athletic Conference was held last week at the Crowne Plaza Times Square.

Jack Ford, the veteran journalist who played college football at Yale and is a board member of the National Football Foundation, moderated a panel with student athletes and what their college lives have been like.

The panel included the following student-athletes, who are all seniors: Chayse Capps, a gymnast from Oklahoma University; Cassie Pantelas, a golfer from Seton Hall; and three football players,  Brad Lundblade from Oklahoma State; Blaise Taylor from Arkansas State, and Justin Jackson from Northwestern.

Ford opened the panel by saying, "This is one of the special events here. It reminds that all of the conversations when we're talking about the intercollegiate sports landscape eventually focuses on these young people, and oftentimes we don't hear enough from them."

The players were asked to look back on when they were freshmen, and what was different than what they figured it would be entering school.

"For me, it was the time," Jackson said, "I don't think you can really understand how much time it takes to be a student-athlete in college, from the scheduling to the classes to missing classes for traveling, all those things play a part in how much time it takes to be a college athlete."

Pantelas said, "The time events play a huge role into it, and getting used to the position you're now in. Some of us travel out of state to a different school, so just getting used to and understanding the new way of life that you're about to live on your own and being 18 and younger. Being older I can see there are things that are a pretty big adjustment, nothing that a student-athlete can't handle. Those little adjustments sometimes can be hard at that time."

Taylor said, "The biggest thing for me looking back now, when I came out of high school, I was expecting a big university, coming here to play football, school, not realizing how much the community would embrace me and how many connections you would make inside that community. It really almost becomes like your hometown."

Time demands were the biggest adjustment for Lundblade, who said, "I think in high school, and I went to a private high school that had a pretty rigorous academic program so I thought I knew what it had been to balance a lot of time demands. Being a collegiate student-athlete is a completely different deal. It presents a lot of challenges that I had to adjust to."

Capps said, "I completely agree with everything they said. Time management is definitely a key factor into your success as a student-athlete. I was home schooled growing up, so that was definitely an adjustment I had to get used to. Also, the opportunities you're presented. As a freshman, you don't expect to see so many of those, learn how to take advantage of those opportunities presented to you."

Ford picked up on that they all highlighted time demands, and he mentioned how his kids were both Division I athletes and the demands on their time were a lot greater than they were when he was an athlete. He said they also felt like a full student there as well.

On being immersed in the academic community at school," Lundblade said, "I think I was able to balance it pretty well, but there were times where I felt that I wasn't able to experience things a regular student would, as far as getting involved in organizations on campus and getting to know other students around me. I feel like we have a great academic program, we have tutoring and things like that as student-athletes that really help us out, but I found in terms of getting to know other regular students and getting more involved in classes, I found I couldn't be involved in that as I would have liked.

"It's a balancing act," Pantelas said. "Some days you're going to be an athlete, some days you're going to be a student. The way I like to see it is, it's kind of like a triangle where you have to rotate this triangle between social life and academic life and athletic life. When you throw in the social life being a student-athlete, it can be difficult, but I think that's also part of being a student is having a social life as well. Doing the things on campus, organizations, fraternities, sororities, so there are some things that are a little bit different, but you can absolutely find ways to immerse yourself in every opportunity on campus. Seton Hall has great opportunities for us, so I think if you balance it well, you can be a student as well as an athlete."

Ford then asked the panel if they ever got the sense that they were viewed differently, that some viewed them as not real students.

Jackson said, "Obviously as football players, a lot of us are larger, could be the largest human beings on the campus. So, obviously at first sight they're gonna know we're not a normal student there. It is different, like lead different lives as student-athletes. We have a lot more on our plate, there's a lot of things they can do that we can't. It's different. On the one hand, you try to embrace the difference, but on the other hand, sometimes you feel you're not the same as your peers. Professors don't care if you play a sport, they still expect the same out of you as other students."

Lundblade said, "I think sometimes there's a stereotype when it comes to being a student athlete.I think sometimes professors and other students see the academic services and tutoring that we receive. People think grades are just given to us, that we don't have to earn it. I think that sometimes you have to battle it out when you have professors who might look at you differently because you're a student athlete. I've had a couple instances where professors look at you negatively if you're a student-athlete because they may think you don't take academics seriously or because you get extra help, that you're not really earning your grade. They treat you a little differently sometimes."

Taylor said, "A lot of people have perceptions of student-athletes that aren't really true. They think that we get everything handed to us, you're on scholarship, you're not having to pay for school. A lot of people don't understand the time demands that we have to deal with on a day-to-day basis and the opportunities we have to pass up because we're student-athletes. A lot of people talk about organizations and things like that. Most organizations meet after class hours, which are in the afternoon, right in the middle of practice. Especially in the season, there's little opportunities for me and the other football guys to get involved in different student organizations and things like that because of our football practice schedule. I definitely think that people sometimes assume that because we have all these resources and help offered to us that we don't have to earn anything.I would really encourage people to take a step back and look at us and view things through our eyes, that it's not as easy as it looks."

Ford said that one of the most striking statistics to him is that the graduation rate for student-athletes is 86 percent, while it is 65 percent for regular students. What can be done to have student-athletes viewed differently?

Lundblade said, "The Big 12 started this campaign called Champions for Life, basically a series of short videos that features student-athletes, telling their stories, how they worked in college, got a degree, and features them as students, not just athletes.It shows the value of the scholarship and the work they put in academically to get to where they are. Something like that can be very powerful, because a lot of times, people see what we do on the field, they don't have the opportunity to see the work put in academically to earn that degree.

Taylor said, "Just letting athletes speak more as students, tell their story, that we're more than just athletes, highlighting their academic achievements. Promoting them more so as students than just student-athletes because student-athletes you can always find highlights of achievements made on the field or on the court, things like that, but I don't think enough attention goes to what is done academically.

Capps said, " I don't think that the professors and the people from the outside, the fans take into account the 20-plus hours on top of the schoolwork, just how much that is. In my sport, in particular not many people continue after college, so many of us there have dreams or aspirations to be something and to have a successful career. So yes, we are student-athletes, but we are also students who focus on academics and we value that opportunity highly and I don't think they take us seriously enough as student-athletes."

Pantelas said,  "Giving a visual representation could be helpful. I know the NCAA, when you come in, you see what the day-to-day life of a student-athlete experience is. It could be helpful to put on paper from Sunday to Monday, visually, what we do on a regular basis. I think some people don't realize to get to practice, traveling to facilities counts as extra time. It might not be time that is documented but that's extra time that we could be studying or things we won't be able to do because of that. I think giving outside bodies the need to see that, just laid out in paper, people would be like, 'wow, that's a hefty amount. I know,  even with golf, when I tell people we play 36 holes a day, it's really from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., they're like ' you don't just ride around in a golf cart?' No, we're walking. I think there's a lot of perceptions that can be changed just by telling our stories, giving visuals and representation of what we actually do in a week or a semester just so people can understand, oh yeah, they're dealing with a lot. We value our education just as much as any other student.

On recommendations to find them for them to experience more student life, Pantelas said, "Maybe not a suggestion, but more of a compromise, because as student athletes, we come here, we train all throughout high school, even in elementary school to be student-athletes, so there is a pride coming here, doing what we're doing in representing the school the best we can. I think it can be where there truly is something to discuss, you can talk to the Athletic Director. I'm fortunate enough to have a great administration (at Seton Hall) that I can go to. If this is important to me, they will get me involved in that. I think it has be that we as student-athletes feel comfortable to express what is important to us. We might need a day off of practice or a couple hour difference here and there in order to manage whatever it is we're getting into. I think it can be more of a compromise between the student and athletic department, just open communication on both ends, expressing what is going to be the best outcome for both sides."

Fordham edges St. John's in double OT: Recap, Photos & Highlights

By Andy Lipton
Special To Daly Dose Of Hoops

JAMAICA, NY -- Sorry for the cliché, but it was a shame one team had to lose in this incredibly hard-fought and exciting game that went 50 minutes with simply no let-up on either side. The players had a right to be exhausted, yet hustled until the final buzzer.

In the end, Fordham emerged with a thrilling three-point victory against St. John’s this past
Tuesday night at Carnesecca Arena, 67-64, in double overtime.

The Rams' starters played 240 minutes out of 250 minutes, with junior guard Lauren Holden and junior forward Mary Goulding playing the whole game. For the Red Storm, senior forward Maya Singleton and freshman point guard Tiana England played 49 and 48 minutes, respectively. Bodies were flying all over as players dove on the court and were knocked down, but it is in the DNA of both Fordham and St. John’s teams not to back down to anyone.

Going into the game Fordham was 5-3 and was St. John’s was 6-2. The Rams' Breanna Cavanaugh led both teams in scoring with 20 and England was second high scorer with 17. The game was close the whole way. Fordham’s largest lead was by seven in the first period and St. John’s by six in the third period. Both teams played ferocious man-to man defense, and yet the ball moved constantly in their half-court offenses. Fordham, adept at slowing the pace of the game on offense, had the same number of shots as St. John’s at 64. It was a low scoring first quarter with Fordham ahead 13-10 despite St. John’s

getting off 14 shots to Fordham’s 10.

St. John’s seemed like it was asserting itself in the second quarter, outscoring Fordham 17-9 and taking a 27-22 lead. Cavanaugh had only two points in the first half.

In that first half, Fordham's 6’3” freshman forward, Johanna Klug; from Nordlingen, Germany, made all three of her field goal attempts, leading the Rams with seven points for the half. Klug finished the game with a Fordham career high of 14 points on 6-for-8 shooting, scoring both inside and from the three-point line. Cavanaugh, playing in her first college season after having sat out the last two years, (one season due to injury, the other due to transferring) was cool and calm down the stretch, as she shared the responsibility of bringing the ball up the court with point guard Lauren Holden.

With 1:20 left in the first overtime, Cavanaugh hit a three-pointer to give Fordham a three-point lead. About 20 seconds later, England answered with a three-pointer to tie the game at 61 and that’s where the score was going into the second overtime. St. John’s senior Maya Singleton was strong in her tight and active defense and held Fordham’s season leading scorer, senior forward G’mrice Davis, to 11 points on 4-for-12 shooting. Singleton was also very active offensively in the post in the first half, leading the Red Storm in scoring with nine points and 10 shots that half.

With about two-and-a-half minutes left in the game, Davis, determined not to be denied, was closely guarded by Singleton, but scored on a strong move to her left down low and cut the St. John’s lead at that point to 64-63. Fordham took the lead for good with 46 seconds left on a pass from Goulding up top to Cavanaugh underneath. With 24 seconds left, Cavanaugh hit two free throws to widen the lead to three. The Red Storm missed its chance to tie in the last 24 seconds, as Fordham played tough defense and St. John’s shot right before the final buzzer was not a good look and forced.

Photos (All photos by Andy Lipton/Daly Dose Of Hoops)


Kevin Willard quote book: Saint Peter's

*All quotes courtesy of Jason Guerette, who handled all our Seton Hall coverage Tuesday*

On how Seton Hall handled what could have been considered a trap game:
"I loved the way we came out and played defensively. I thought we came out -- we talked about taking away (Nick) Griffin and making it hard for him to get shots, and making the other guys shoot. I thought we came out -- again, really the first ten minutes of the game defensively, I thought we played terrific."

On extending Saint Peter's away from the basket:
"Just the way John (Dunne) plays, he's got one of the slowest tempos and they run their offense so well. we played a little bit of zone at the beginning of the game just to try to kind of get them out of rhythm. If you let them get in a rhythm, they're going to make shots, which they did in the second half. Again, we just talked about coming out with the same intensity that we had with VCU come out in this game, and I thought for the most part, defensively, we did a good job."

On whether playing at Walsh Gymnasium affected Seton Hall offensively:
"Every basketball court is the same. College and NBA are the same, it's just the lanes are a little narrower."

On Angel Delgado moving into third place on Seton Hall's all-time rebound list:
"He's only third? No one's ever going to catch Walter Dukes. Again, it just shows you more the workhorse he's been, how much intensity he's played with, how much he's brought it every game, because you can't get those numbers if you don't bring it every game."

On getting caught up in Seton Hall's No. 15 ranking:
"We've embraced it. I think you have to. You respect it and you understand how you got there, and you just make sure you don't want to lose it."

On leaving Angel Delgado in late in the second half:
"He understands exactly what to do and how to do it. If he got the ball deep, he was going to throw it up, and if we were on defense, we were going to play a zone and we were going to keep it back and everyone was going to try to box out -- he's going to get his rebound. I learned this a long time ago from Coach Pitino: When you have seniors who are going to have future careers in the pros, then you'd better take care of their stats. I'm always aware of where my guys are stat-wise, and I make sure I get what I think they need to get."

On underclassmen getting significant minutes Tuesday night:
"Yeah, I like the way the young guys are playing. I think they're getting better. Again, the schedule's been tough for the freshmen just because of the grind. We haven't played many games where I can let them go out there and make mistakes without it being catastrophic. Tonight's nice because they can make a mistake and not feel like they've changed the tone of the game. They can go out there and just play, and again, I thought the way Myles Cale's playing, I like the way Sandro (Mamukelashvili) is playing, he's starting to get more comfortable. The more time they get, the better off they're going to do when the Big East comes along."

On playing New Jersey schools:
"It's -- again, the good thing about having a senior group is they understand how good the local schools are. They all play against each other in the summer, they all either come here and play in the gym or we go someplace to play, so they all know each other, they all respect each other. It's the great thing about having a veteran team, and it's tough because some of the younger kids, they don't understand college basketball yet. They don't understand that anybody can beat anybody on any given night if you don't bring it, and the seniors have done a phenomenal job with the younger kids, getting them to understand that the local schools -- it's not a Super Bowl game for them at all, but it's a bigger game, a chance to kind of knock us off, so our older guys have done a really good job of that, and obviously we have a huge one on Saturday."

On what to expect from traveling to Rutgers:
"I love the RAC just because you can play in there and there's 3,000 people who can be there for a game -- I think it seats 8,000 -- and it's loud, it's just the way the building is built. It's right on top of you, the fans are right on top of you. I think it's great for New Jersey basketball, especially college basketball seeing they're good, we're good, and it's a big game."

On playing at Walsh Gymnasium:
"I'm not a big fan of playing here. I told this to Gary Cohen the other night, this was my bright idea about doing this and thinking -- the problem is we got very comfortable playing at the Prudential Center. We don't practice in Walsh, we don't shoot around in Walsh, and we've become very comfortable. And sometimes when you bring schools that are used to playing in small gyms, they're more comfortable in this gym than they are at the Prudential Center. We're comfortable in the Prudential Center, we're not very comfortable, we've never shot well here from behind the arc for as long as I could remember, and we didn't shoot well tonight, I don't think."

On how Rutgers defended Seton Hall in the paint last season:
"I haven't watched it yet. I've watched one game. That's my homework tonight."

On how far Rutgers has come:
"I think Steve (Pikiell) has done an unbelievable job of implementing his style of play: A tough, hard-nosed, defensive -- when they shoot it, it almost looks like they have guys coming off the bench to offensive rebound -- they have two phenomenal guards in (Corey) Sanders and (Geo) Baker, and I'm as big a fan of (Deshawn) Freeman as probably anybody. I just love the way he plays, it reminds me of the way Mike (Nzei) and Ish (Sanogo) play: Hard-nosed, tough, can play and defend all positions. I think Steve's done a phenomenal job."

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

JP's 3 Thoughts: Seton Hall takes down Saint Peter's on campus

By Jason Guerette (@JPGuerette)

SOUTH ORANGE, NJ -- Armed with their first top-15 ranking since 2001, the 15th-ranked Seton Hall Pirates trounced the Saint Peter’s Peacocks, 84-61, in South Orange. Angel Delgado led the way with his 57th career double-double, pouring in 18 points along with 11 rebounds (passing Ken House to move into third place all-time in SHU history in rebounding), while Desi Rodriguez was his efficient self again, scoring 17 points along with six boards and three corner triples. Khadeen Carrington also contributed 11 points, five assists and no turnovers as the Hall led throughout. The game wasn’t close, so here are three thoughts on another impressive effort:

1. Purpose-Driven Start
Well, the Pirates certainly came out like a top-15 team tonight. Their defense suffocated Saint Peter’s completely, and they also got run-outs in transition, which represent death for opposing teams. The Pirates built up a near-immediate 10-point cushion and never looked back as the Peacocks were stifled into 1-for-12 shooting to start the game.

“I loved the way we came out and played defensively,” head coach Kevin Willard said. “We talked about taking away (Peacocks leading scorer Nick) Griffin, making it hard for him to get shots. I thought we came out and really the first 10 minutes of the game defensively played great.”

The Pirates even played a few possessions of zone defense, which is definitely out of the ordinary, but also worked like a charm.

“We played a little bit of zone at the beginning of the game to try and get them out of rhythm,” Willard added. “If you let them get in rhythm, they’re going to make shots, which they did in the second half. But really we just wanted to come out with the same intensity as the VCU game, and I thought we did a good job.”

Playing the Hall is a tough task no matter what, but for a rebuilding team like Saint Peter’s, which lost three pillar-type seniors from a year ago when they went on to win the CIT, they basically never had a chance.

2. Rivalry Renewed
After not playing Saint Peter’s for the first time since the 1948-49 season last year, John Dunne’s squad came to South Orange to renew the longstanding series between the two oldest Catholic colleges in the state of New Jersey. For whatever reason, the two teams couldn’t get their schedules to match up in 2016-17, so it was nice to see them hook up once more. Plus, it gave the Pirates an opportunity to take their true home floor at Walsh Gym as a top-15 team for the first time since December 4, 2001, when the late Eddie Griffin recorded the first (and still only) triple-double in Seton Hall basketball history for the then-eighth-ranked Pirates. Obviously, that doesn’t happen every day, so it was a win on all fronts.

3. (Another) Rivalry Renewed
On paper, the Pirates’ upcoming game with Rutgers on Saturday should be an easy win, even on the road at what should be a raucous RAC in Piscataway. But although it has not been close the last few years with the Pirates surging and the Scarlet Knights languishing, if there’s one thing about Seton Hall-Rutgers, it’s that you cannot predict what exactly is going to happen.

There are worse positions to be in entering such a contest, however.

“The good thing about having a senior group is they understand how good the local schools are,” Willard said. “They all know each other, they all respect each other… it’s tough because some of the younger kids, they don’t understand college basketball yet- that anyone can beat anybody on any given night if you don’t bring it. The seniors have done a phenomenal job with the younger kids of getting them to understand that… it’s a bigger game, it’s their chance to knock us off.”

Will the Pirates win? Probably. Will it be close? I would wager it will be closer than folks think. It usually is. You can be sure the Pirates will be up for it.

“It’s the best game of the year,” Delgado said. “I always take that game personally. It’s going to be a great game. They’re going to be ready for us, so we have to be ready for them.”

Tipoff is set for noon Saturday.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Fairfield vs. LIU Brooklyn Photo Gallery

Photos from Fairfield's 76-72 victory over LIU Brooklyn at Barclays Center on December 10, 2017:

(All photos by Bob Dea/Daly Dose Of Hoops)

Fairfield progressing toward grand vision as MAAC play approaches

Fairfield's start to season has included stern non-conference tests, but Sydney Johnson is ultimately encouraged by what Stags' recent trends have projected as MAAC play beckons. (Photo by Bob Dea/Daly Dose Of Hoops)

BROOKLYN -- The future is bright.

To those who follow Fairfield head coach Sydney Johnson on social media, those four words have been a familiar refrain as the affable optimist has rebounded from three lackluster seasons to reposition the Stags among the top half of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. With the infusion of a talented freshman class and arrival of junior college transfer Ferron Flavors, Jr. to complement senior guard Tyler Nelson, selected as the MAAC's Preseason Player of the Year in October, Johnson's enthusiastic mantra remained a popular rally cry for a program whose NCAA Tournament drought is nearing the start of a third decade.

March grandeur and conference tournament glory is still further out on the horizon, especially with league play still more than two weeks away from commencing, but Fairfield seems to be getting into a groove at an opportune time, with Sunday's victory over LIU Brooklyn ending a three-game losing streak to provide a pick-me-up of sorts going into a three-game homestand that begins on Saturday when Old Dominion comes to Alumni Hall.

"We've been on the ropes a bit with three tough games," Johnson said with regard to losses to Wright State and Wagner by a combined three points before a third straight setback at Houston. "But I've got 16 guys in the locker room that are completely bought in, and all along the way, they're all together, so I'm really proud of them."

Tyler Nelson has picked up where he left off to begin senior season, leading Fairfield in scoring after being selected as MAAC's Preseason Player of the Year. (Photo by Bob Dea/Daly Dose Of Hoops)

Initially projected as a strong contender to win the MAAC immediately following the final buzzer of last year's national championship game, the Stags' hopes took a slight hit when guards Curtis Cobb and Jerry Johnson, Jr. decided to transfer, landing at Massachusetts and Chattanooga, respectively. In their place, though, stands a trio of promising newcomers in Flavors; a sophomore, and a pair of freshmen in Jesus Cruz and Wassef Methnani, and that does not count fellow rookies Kevin Senghore-Peterson and Omar El-Sheikh in what Johnson considers to be the best recruiting class he has been able to lure to the Nutmeg State in his six-plus years at the helm. And based on early returns, the new additions have quickly immersed themselves in the unselfish nature of the Fairfield offense, as Sunday's win was a total team effort where as many as seven players could have scored 10 or more points had it not been for foul trouble.

"The kids can play," Johnson proclaimed, referencing the impact of the new faces on a roster where Flavors and Cruz are the second and third-leading scorers behind Nelson. "They're not scared of big moments. Our big four (Nelson, Jerome Segura, Jonathan Kasibabu and Matija Milin) have been more aggressive so that the supporting cast can do their thing, but I think the future's bright with those guys."

"We're going to need all hands on deck," he declared as Old Dominion and New Hampshire serve as the final non-league tuneups for the Stags before Saint Peter's comes to Bridgeport to kick off MAAC play on December 28. "I just think we're looking closer and closer to what I want offensively in terms of sharing the ball, knowing Tyler's our main guy, but a lot of other guys can get involved. And defensively, we're working well together, so we're taking steps in the right direction. I'm hoping that we can continue that growth. We'll just take it one game at a time, but I like that we're looking closer to the team that I envisioned when we first started all this."