Johnny Dee, Jito Kok

Defense, rebounding the keys as San Diego looks to climb the WCC mountain

Leave a comment
source:
Christopher Anderson (AP) and Johnny Dee (Getty)

All month long, CBT will be rolling out our 2013-2014 season preview. To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click here.

Being in a conference that many tend to associate with a couple powerful programs can be a bit of a double-edged sword for the other members. On one hand, the national attention that comes as a result of those powerful programs can help elevate the entire conference, with the membership looking to use the raised profile as a springboard to bigger and better things.

But on the other hand it makes the climb that much tougher for those other schools, with the details ultimately making all the difference.

One of the programs in the West Coast Conference looking to make a move in 2013-14 is San Diego, which finished the 2012-13 season with an overall record of 16-18 (7-9 WCC). Bill Grier’s Toreros are a year older, and in guards Christopher Anderson and Johnny Dee, they’ve got one of the better perimeter tandems on the west coast. And frankly, given the importance of guard play in basketball that’s not a bad place to start when looking to make a climb up the conference pecking order.

Both players were honorable mention All-WCC selections last season, with the 5-foot-7 Anderson running the point and the 6-foot Dee playing the role of shooting guard. Anderson, who can be a downright nuisance to opponents on the defensive end, averaged 9.4 points and ranked second in the WCC in assists with 5.7 helpers per contest. Dee was San Diego’s leading scorer a season ago, scoring 15.0 points per night on 43% shooting from the field and 37.7% shooting from beyond the arc. And in the case of Dee, Anderson’s presence played a key role in his offseason development as the two squared off against each other more often than not in the team’s summer pickup sessions.

(CLICK HERE to read NBCSports.com’s West Coast Conference Preview)

“I think we have one of the best perimeter on-ball defenders in our conference in Chris Anderson,” Dee said in an interview with NBC Sports. “Going against him in open gym and in practice has really helped me to develop the ball-handling skills I need to handle a good defender guarding me. It’s really helped me improve, and I’m excited about that aspect of my game for when I play other teams and not just Chris.”

While Dee was asked to attack the offseason with the mindset of a point guard, the requirements were a little different for Anderson. Anderson’s very quick with the basketball in his hands, which allows him to get to the basket against many opponents, but there was also the need to develop a middle game of sorts.

“I don’t know if there’s a quicker guy in our league,” Grier said of Anderson in an interview with NBC Sports. “He’s always had this tremendous quickness and an ability to get to the basket, and he’s very good at reading when a defenders helps. He’s very good at finding guys.

“But where I’ve asked him to improve, and he has, is when he gets a guy on his heels and he stops to take a 15-17 foot pull-up and shooting that consistently. He has a tendency to want to get all the way in to try to draw help or get to the rim. He’s worked on it and I think he has more confidence in his ability to knock down that shot; now he has to go do it in a game because his ‘default’ is to just go by guys.”

Those two won’t do all of the heavy lifting by themselves, meaning that other players will need to step up with the Toreros having lost wing Ken Rancifer (10.2 ppg, 3.7 rpg) and forward Chris Manresa (9.0 ppg, 7.1 rpg) to graduation. Grier mentioned both freshman Brett Bailey and sophomore Duda Sanadze as possibilities when it comes to accounting for the loss of Rancifer. Sanadze, a native of the Republic of Georgia, had to sit out last season but has experience playing at the international level. The hope for Sanadze is that he can produce enough offensively to help take some of the load off of the shoulders of Anderson and Dee.

“That’s the thing I’ve felt through the preseason is his ability to score is really going to help Chris and Johnny and take the weight off their shoulders,” said Grier. “And now it’s another guy who’s capable of scoring. Two years ago in the Under-20 European Championships [Sanadze] was the second-leading scorer in the tournament, so he can put the ball in the basket and that will help take some pressure off of those two.”

(CLICK HERE to read through the rest of NBCSports.com’s feature stories)

Manresa was the team’s leading rebounder last season, and given San Diego’s struggles on the glass last season (last in the WCC in defensive rebounding percentage and 8th in offensive rebounding percentage) that’s a tough loss to absorb. But in sophomore center Jito Kok the Toreros have a big man who tied the school freshman record for blocks in a season with 55, and with Kok having put on about 15 pounds the hope is that he’s ready to produce even more in 2013-14. Senior Dennis Kramer, who started 21 games last season but wasn’t 100% for much of the 2012-13 campaign, and Simi Fajemisin will also be asked to help account for the departure of Manresa inside.

Those rebounding issues factored into opponents making nearly 51% of their two-point shots, and those extra possessions allowed on the glass can make all the difference in close games. San Diego finished the 2012-13 season with a record of 4-6 in games decided by five points or less, and their 4-9 record in true road games proved to be problematic as well. The rebounding issues need to be shored up if the Toreros are to entertain any thoughts of improving their standing within the WCC, especially when considering the fact that seven of their first nine league games are on the road.

While the optimistic view of the schedule is to note that San Diego will get seven of their final nine WCC games at home, there’s also the real possibility of a tough start putting the Toreros in a hole they’ll have a hard time climbing out of. Taking care of the “little things” will ultimately have a significant impact on the outcome of San Diego’s 2013-14 campaign.

“We’re a small team, especially with me and Chris on the perimeter, but that’s really no excuse,” said Dee. “For us to move up in the WCC we have to improve our defensive rebounding and not give teams another chance to score on us. We can play pretty good defense for a possession, but if they get the offensive rebound then we’re in scramble mode and it’s harder on us. I think if we can rebound the basketball better we can make a jump [in the standings].”

With Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s and BYU once again expected to reside at the top of the standings and programs like Loyola Marymount and San Francisco also having quality pieces, the climb won’t be an easy one for San Diego. But with Anderson and Dee leading the way, the Toreros hope to make their move.

LATE NIGHT SNACKS: No. 15 Texas A&M, No. 20 Providence continue losing ways; No. 16 SMU falls at home

Texas A&M guard Anthony Collins (11) walks up the court during the second half of the team's NCAA college basketball game against Alabama, Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2016, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Alabama won 63-62. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
(AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Leave a comment

GAME OF THE NIGHT: Alabama 63, No. 15 Texas A&M 62

This one was tight until the final seconds and the Aggies had a chance to tie or take the lead with one of the nation’s best free-throw shooters at the line. Anthony Collins, a 92 percent free-throw shooter, missed both and Texas A&M continued its recent freefall. So what happens next for the Aggies?

IMPORTANT OUTCOMES

Marquette 96, No. 20 Providence 91, 2 OT: Marquette picked up a crucial season sweep over Providence in the Big East as freshman Henry Ellenson had 26 points and 16 rebounds and Haanif Cheatham tallied 21 points. The Friars saw Ben Bentil go for 41 points, but they still lost because he didn’t have enough help in the end.

Tulsa 82, No. 16 SMU 77: Nice road win for the Golden Hurricane in the American as Shaquille Harrison and James Woodard combined for 41 points. Tulsa shot a ridiculous 58 percent from the field to give the Mustangs their first home loss of the season.

Butler 81, Seton Hall 75: An important Big East road win for the Bulldogs as Roosevelt Jones made a late runner in traffic to ice the win. Kelan Martin tallied 23 points for Butler while Kellan Dunham added 18. After Isaiah Whitehead went 8-for-8 for 23 points in the first half, the Bulldogs defense held the sophomore to only three points in the second half. 

South Carolina 94, LSU 83: The Gamecocks continue to stockpile wins as they’re up to 21-3 on the season while gaining a share of first place in the SEC. Sindarius Thornwell finished with 24 points while Michael Carrera had 14 of his 16 points in the second half to lead South Carolina. Ben Simmons finished with 20 points while Antonio Blakeney had 22 points.

BUBBLE BANTER: Butler, Wisconsin among early winners

STARRED

Devonta Pollard, Houston: The former McDonald’s All-American certainly lived up to that billing in a win over Memphis as he went for 34 points on 14-for-24 shooting from the field. Pollard also added four rebounds, four assists and two steals.

Louis Dabney, Tulane: It only took three overtimes, but the Green Wave outlasted East Carolina as Dabney hit huge shots and pumped in 32 points. Dabney hit a game-tying jumper with under a minute left to end regulation and the first overtime as he went 11-for-20 from the floor.

Anthony Beane, Southern Illinois: The senior guard went for 31 points and six rebounds as the Salukis earned a Missouri Valley road win at Indiana State. Beane was 10-for-17 from the field and 5-for-10 from 3-point range.

Tra-Deon Hollins, Omaha: In a matchup of two of the top teams in the Summit League, Hollins had a stat-sheet-stuffing effort in a win over South Dakota State, as the junior guard had 28 points, nine rebounds, eight assists and four steals. Hollins was 9-for-12 from the field and 8-for-11 from the free-throw line.

STRUGGLED

Tim Quarterman, LSU: The guard finished with seven points on 2-for-7 shooting (0-for-5 from 3-point range) and fouled out in a loss to South Carolina. Quarterman also had three turnovers and was mostly a non-factor.

OTHER TOP 25 RESULTS

  • Playing without Rico Gathers, No. 21 Baylor earned a road win at Kansas State in the Big 12 as Al Freeman had 21 points on 6-for-7 shooting from the field.

OTHER NOTABLE RESULTS

  • Wisconsin has won six consecutive games as Nigel Hayes had 20 points and Vitto Brown added 18 points in a Big Ten home win over Nebraska.
  • Vanderbilt cruised past Missouri as five players finished in double-figures. Wade Baldwin led with 17 points while Luke Kornet had 13 points and 13 rebounds.
  • Utah picked up a solid Pac-12 home win over Washington as Jakob Poeltl had 23 points and six rebounds. Poeltl was 11-for-12 from the field.
  • It wasn’t pretty, but Michigan won on the road in the Big Ten at Minnesota. Point guard Derrick Walton Jr. had 26 points, eight rebounds and seven assists to pace the Wolverines.
  • Georgia Tech topped Wake Forest in the ACC as Marcus Georges-Hunt went for 30 points and Charles Mitchell had 14 points and 15 rebounds.
  • Davidson beat La Salle in the Atlantic 10 as Brian Sullivan had 20 points and seven assists.
  • St. Bonaventure was able to outlast Fordham in overtime as Dion Wright and Marcus Posley both had 21 points.
  • Saint Joseph’s earned a great road win in the Atlantic 10 at George Washington as Isaiah Miles had 21 points.
  • T.J. Cline finished with 18 points as Richmond defeated Saint Louis in the Atlantic 10.
  • Northern Iowa ran away from Missouri State as Jeremy Morgan had 21 points, eight rebounds and five assists.
  • Belmont earned a win over Jacksonville State in the Ohio Valley as Evan Bradds had 18 points and nine rebounds.

Marquette upsets No. 20 Providence in double overtime to earn season sweep

Marquette's Duane Wilson grabs a loose ball in front of Providence's Ryan Fazekas (35) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2016, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
(AP Photo/Morry Gash)
Leave a comment

Marquette earned an important Big East season sweep for its postseason aspirations as they held on in double overtime to upset No. 20 Providence 96-91 on Wednesday night.

The Golden Eagles (16-9, 5-7) overcame rallies from the Friars in both regulation and the first overtime to finally put away the home victory. Freshmen led the way for Marquette as Henry Ellenson had 26 points and 16 rebounds while Haanif Cheatham added 21 points.

Providence was led by Ben Bentil, as he poured in 41 points by hitting numerous tough looks to keep the Friars in the game. Player of the Year candidate Kris Dunn finished with 17 points, seven rebounds and six assists for Providence but he committed a key turnover on an errant pass when the game was tied on the final possession in regulation. Dunn fouled out in the first overtime and Bentil did his best to knock in tough 3-pointers (6-for-13) to keep Providence in the game.

Marquette did just about everything they could to give this game away but still came away with a critical win. The Golden Eagles blew a nine-point lead in the second half and showed their youthful inexperience by fouling Bentil on a key 3-point attempt in extra time. With a chance to make it a two-possession game at the end of the first overtime, Cheatham corralled an offensive rebound — on a bad shot attempt in the first place — and put up a wild putback attempt when the Golden Eagles could have run clock and forced Providence to foul.

Despite those mistakes, the Golden Eagles have to be pleased to pick up a season sweep over the Friars as they beat a good team twice in very tight games. Playing without center Luke Fischer in overtime, Marquette still managed to pick up the victory. Coming off of consecutive losses, Marquette needed this win badly as they now get Creighton twice with a road game at DePaul sandwiched in between.

As for Providence (18-7, 6-6), Bentil showed that he’s recovering just fine from that ankle injury but this team still needs more help outside of the dynamic duo of Dunn and Bentil. It was encouraging that Providence rallied in the first overtime without Dunn in the game to force more time, but Bentil ran out of gas in the second overtime and didn’t have much help to keep the Friars in the game. The Friars have now dropped four of their last five games, including a three-game losing streak that includes road losses at DePaul and Marquette. Providence is back to .500 in the Big East and needs a solid showing its next three games against solid competition.