Jim Baron

Pregame Shootaround 1.25.13: Atlantic Sun, MAAC battles headline light slate

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Game of the Night: Canisius at Rider (7:00 p.m.)

There are just six games on the schedule tonight but the matchup between Canisius and Rider is one of Friday’s best. After a rough start to the season Kevin Baggett’s Broncs are playing their best basketball of the season as they’ve won five straight games and sit just a game out of first place in the MAAC. Rider features four players averaging double figures with guard Anthony Myles (12.5 ppg) leading the way, and forward Daniel Stewart has been of the MAAC’s best front court players.

Jim Baron’s Golden Griffins can be a tough team to slow down given weapons such as Billy Baron and Harold Washington, and senior guard Isaac Sosa has scored 43 points in Canisius’ last two games (both wins). With first-place Niagara visiting a reeling Siena this game becomes even more important for both teams, especially Canisius (two games back).

Mid-Major Matchup of the Night: Stetson at Florida Gulf Coast (7:05 p.m., ESPN3) 

Belmont’s departure to the OVC led to many believing that the Atlantic Sun race would be a wide-open affair and that’s certainly  been the case. The top five teams in the standings are separated by just one game in the loss column with Stetson in a first place tie with Jacksonville. Senior center Adam Pegg leads four Hatters averaging double figures while also grabbing a team-best 5.8 rebounds per game, and his matchup with FGCU forward Chase Fieler will go a long way in determining the outcome. FGCU guard Sherwood Brown and Bernard Thompson combine to average nearly 29 points per game, and if the Eagles can take advantage of Stetson allowing opponents to shoot 46.9% from the field they stand a good chance of defending their home floor.

Who’s getting upset? Loyola (MD) (at Manhattan, 7:00 p.m. ESPNU) 

This season’s been a rough one for Steve Masiello’s Jaspers due in large part to the injury bug. Manhattan’s been without George Beamon for much of the season and Michael Alvarado has also missed time, and the end result has been a team that’s had to play slower than it would like. But Manhattan still has forward Rhamel Brown, who is averaging 11.7 points and 6.9 rebounds per game. He’ll have his hands full with Loyola’s Erik Etherly, but don’t sell Manhattan short at home especially with Loyola’s Dylon Cormier out with food poisoning. If they can turn this into a sloppy contest Manhattan can pull off the upset.

Five Facts 

1) One of the nation’s highest scoring guard tandems will be in action as Niagara visits Siena. Juan’ya Green (16.2 ppg) and Antoine Mason (18.4) are averaging more than 34 points per game, and given how fast the Purple Eagles like to play this one could get ugly for Mitch Buonaguro’s squad.

2) The good news for Siena is that Rob Poole (flu) is expected to return to the floor after missing the Saints’ last four games, and they also regained the services of Trenity Burdine (academic suspension). But given the Saints’ luck this season, of course Imoh Silas (ankle), Rakeem Brookins (back) and Ryan Oliver (knee) will all miss tonight’s game.

3) Iona enters tonight’s game against Saint Peter’s averaging 81.5 points per game and they’ll be looking to bounce back from a poor offensive performance in their loss at Rider last Sunday. The Gaels shot 5-of-24 from three and 33.9% overall in the loss to the Broncs.

4) There’s also a Horizon League rivalry game on the docket as Green Bay visits Milwaukee. The Panthers have struggled offensively, shooting 37.6% from the field, and that’s a big reason why Rob Jeter’s team is 1-5 in league play.

5) Keifer Sykes and Alec Brown lead the way offensively for Green Bay, who is 0-8 on the road this season. Currently tied for third in the Horizon League standings, the Phoenix can’t afford to lose a game like this if they’re to grab the highest seed possible for the conference tournament.

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

VIDEO: Kris Dunn wills Providence to win over No. 11 Arizona

Kris Dunn, Elliott Pitts
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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Kris Dunn spent the first 35 minutes of Friday night’s game against No. 11 Arizona in foul trouble, splitting his time between sitting on the bench and trying to avoid finding himself, again, on the wrong side the whistle.

With 11 minutes left in the game, and with Dunn yet to find a rhythm, the all-american point guard was whistled for his fourth foul as he battled for a rebound with Arizona’s Mark Tollefsen. Head coach Ed Cooley say his superstar beside his for six game minutes, time enough for Arizona to turn a 49-47 deficit into a 58-54 lead.

There were just over five minutes left when Dunn reentered the second semifinal of the Wooden Legacy, and he proceeded to show everyone in the country why he was named the NBCSports.com Preseason Player of the Year. Providence had nine possessions after he reentered the game. Dunn scored 11 points and had a pair of assists on those eight possessions, and if Ben Bentil had stuck a wide-open three — that was setup by Dunn — the Friars would have scored on all nine.

In total, Dunn was responsible for all 15 Friar points in a game-changing, 15-7 run in the final 4:30. It was capped off by this Kobe-in-his-prime-esque game-winner:

The win for Providence is huge for a couple of reasons:

  • Dunn showed a killer instinct against a marquee opponent, something that we didn’t necessarily see out of him a season ago. He wasn’t going to let his team lose, and given that Providence doesn’t have anyone else that can consistently create good shots, they are going to need that from him a lot this year.
  • It makes a statement for the Friars. Arizona is overrated at No. 11 in the country, yes, but going out on national television against an elite program and getting this kind of performance from Dunn is a confidence-booster and a tone-setter. Providence hasn’t been accustomed to winning in recent years. This is a way to set a trend.
  • Ben Bentil continues to play like a star. Dunn had 19 points and eight assists on Friday, but Bentil followed up a 24-point performance in the win over Evansville with 21 critical points on Friday.

This win sets up a matchup between No. 3 Michigan State and Providence on Sunday night, which means that Denzel Valentine and Kris Dunn — the two best players in the country, sorry Ben Simmons — will be going head-to-head.

Oh. Hell. Yes.

No. 14 Cal goes 0-2 in Las Vegas Invitational

Jaylen Brown
AP Photo/Ben Margot
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After midnight on the east coast on Thanksgiving, No. 14 Cal blew a 15 point second half lead against San Diego State, allowing the Aztecs to use a 30-6 run to put away the game and advance to the final of the Las Vegas Invitational. That’s the same San Diego State team had scored 43 points in a loss to Arkansas-Little Rock last week.

Not 24 hours later, the Golden Bears were shredded defensively by the Richmond Spiders, losing 94-90 in the consolation game of a four-team tournament they were considered to be the heavy favorite in.

It’s a disappointing two-game stretch for Cal, who entered the season as a Pac-12 favorite and had looked the part for the first four games of the season.

And the issue appears to be on the defensive end of the floor.

Richmond is a good Atlantic 10 team. Terry Allen and Marshall Wood are high-major big men, Shawn’Dre Jones is a jitterbug at the point and Chris Mooney runs a Princeton-esque system that is very difficult to prepare for without a day in-between games. So it’s not really surprising that the Spiders gave Cal a fight.

But 94 points?

On the heels of giving up 44 points in the second half against the offensively-challenged Aztecs?

That’s a problem, one that I’m sure that Cuonzo Martin is going to address this week in practice. Martin has managed to put together a roster that is build for small-ball, with four talented perimeter players surrounding a first round pick in the post. But that’s not the style that he’s known for. Martin played his college ball at Purdue in the Gene Keady days. He cut his teeth as a head coach at Missouri State in the Missouri Valley. His team’s at Tennessee were known for being tough and physical defensively.

That’s how Martin coaches, which is part of the reason Cal had such hype entering the year.

The talents of Tyrone Wallace, Jaylen Brown, Ivan Rabb, Jabari Bird and Jordan Mathews on a team with a coach that gets teams to defend the way Martin does? It’s no surprise that pundits would be optimistic.

But as of now, they have some work to do defensively if they want to live up to that hype.