Big East Live Blog, Day 2
Bringing you all five days from the Garden live.
Day two; it’s a clean slate. It doesn’t matter how you got here, all that matters is you’re here. For the teams that survived round one, yesterday no longer matters. Paris Horne and your 23 points versus Georgetown, who cares. Dar Tucker’s 15 second half points in the win over Cincinnati, big whoop. The beauty of tournament time is the aim is to win by any means necessary, but once that goal is accomplished everything in the past becomes irrelevant. For four more teams it’s time to get reved up and ready to go today as we get a look at the 5, 6, 7 and 8 seeds with four more games in tow. I’m expecting bigger crowds, bigger dunks and more excitement today. You can already feel a different air in the Garden this morning as fans start to file in. DePaul and Providence are tipping off in about 30 minutes, I’ll have the game preview in just a little bit. So grab a seat, turn on the tube (games are on ESPN today) and get set for round two from the Big Apple.
Check-out the Day 1 Live Blog of the Big East Tournament here.
Game 5: No. 16 DePaul vs. No. 8 Providence
It’s Cinderella versus the reemerging Friars in the first game of the day at the Garden. I have no qualms about referring to DePaul as a cinderalla already; the Blue Demons won exactly 0 games during the conference regular season and managed to knock off a pretty good Cincinnati team yesterday. That in my book qualifies them as a Cinderella.
Dar Tucker, the rising sophomore, was a big reason DePaul came away with win over the Bearcats. The undersized forward was in foul trouble early on and limited to just two points and five minutes of playing time in the first half. He came out roaring in the second half though, netting 15 points on an array of spinning moves and floaters in the lane. The Blue Demons shot nearly 50 percent from the floor and in one of their best defensive showings of the year held Cinci to 36 percent shooting for their first win since December 28th (that is not a typo). Things get much tougher today though with a Providence team that is looking to get into the NCAA Tournament.
At 18-12 (10-8) the Friars are very much on the bubble, but with a win or two this week should land themselves an at-large bid. First year head coach Keno Davis has proven to be worth every cent that he was paid to leave Drake, getting the Friars back into the Big East picture immedietely. Providence is a very balanced scoring team with seven players averaging between 8 and 16 ppg. Senior swingman Weyinmi Efejuku (a favorite of mine but try saying his name five times fast) leads the way with 15.4 ppg on a very solid 47 percent shooting. He has been on a tear as of late, scoring 20 or more points in four out of his last six games, including 29 against Villanova on Friday. Undersized Sharaud Curry does a solid job running the show at the point position and Jonathan Kale for what he lacks in size, more than makes up for it with hustle inside. The key for the Friars this tournament though will be the play of forward Geoff McDermott. The athletic swingman has solid averages of 8 ppg and nearly 9 rpg, but has the ability to perform at a higher level than his number would indicate. A good week by McDermott could mean a run by the Friars.
Neither of these teams has had a lot of recent success at the Garden in March. Prior to yesterday DePaul was 0-1 all-time in Big East Tournament and Providence hasn’t won a tournament game since 2003 when Ryan Gomes was still tearing up the college ranks. The easy money has to be on Providence in this one, the Friars knocked off DePaul in early January, and they are just two weeks removed from their upset of Pitt. A little over two minutes to go until starters and the national anthem.
– Today’s crowd is already looking bigger than the ones that filed in yesterday; the DePaul vs. Cincinnati game at noon looked like a high school game. I’m noticing some early gamesmanship between the DePaul and Providence pep bands with the two squads going back and for at one another. I even caught the band directors throwing a couple of nasty looks in the opposites general direction. After a rousing chant by the Blue Demon band though, the Providence student section responded with “Where are your fans?” A good point, this place is packed with Providence fans but I see maybe a handful of DePaul faithful. I guess the treck from Rhode Island is a bit easier than the Windy City. Tip off is seconds away, time to settle in for the day.
– Opening two minutes are ugly. The fans are getting more action than the baskets as we’re scoreless, both teams have missed a pair of baskets and a Jeff Xavier pass was thrown into the stands. Two days in a row the noon game has been sluggish early.
– Under 16 timeout with Providence out to an early 4-2 lead. It’s been sloppy play but the two players to watch in this one (Efejuku and Dar Tucker) have gotten into the action early. Efejuku had a strong two handed slam that brought the mostly pro-Providence crowd to its feet momentarily. Tucker continuing his pattern from yesterday had a good looking spin move at the elbow that went right into a floater in the lane. The kid has some superb athleticism, once he gets the shooting touch to be more consistent he is going to really do some damage.
– Tucker must have heard my comment about his shooting because he just finished a great play. Gets past McDermott with a quick first step, then pulls back for the baseline jumper, nails it plus the foul. After completing the three-point play, Tucker’s running mate yesterday Will Walker gets a nice finish in transition before Tucker drills another three. Give the sophomore a ten spot early. A couple of jumpers by Sharaud Curry are keeping the Friars close, DePaul leads 12-11.
– Looks like Providence big man Jonathan Kale had a contact knocked out; he responds nicely though with a finish inside after the Friars dump it in low to the senior out of Mattapan, MA. I metioned yesterday how I wasn’t a big fan of the Rugters Scarlet Knight, well the Providence Friar isn’t making a good first impression with me either. Dude doesn’t do a whole lot (I guess most Friars don’t) but the whole white, hooded robe seems very out of place at a basketball game. During the break a Providence fan defeats a DePaul fan in a free throw shooting contest to win a digital camera. To be fair the Providence fan looked like he was a senior in college while the kid from DePaul might be on spring break from high school right now. Under 12 break, DePaul still out in front 14-13.
– First random thought of the day. How many enemies did Cleveland State make in the Big East last night. With several teams sitting on the bubble, the Vikings ate up an extra at-large bid last night by knocking off Butler in the Horizon League Championship. Cleveland State will take the automatic bid while Butler is a lock to get in the Tournament regardless.
– Walker and Tucker are at it again for DePaul and the Demons are out in front 22-16 at the under 8 timeout! Walker drills a three to give him 10 points as well and on the ensuing trip down the court for Providence, Tucker draws a charge against Efejuku out near the top of the key. Keno Davis seems very calm during the timeout right now as he draws up a play for after the break. The Friars are shooting 18 percent higher from the floor right now but turnovers are allowing DePaul to control the game.
– Walker drills another three. The senior shot 36 percent from beyond the arc this season and was 0-3 yesterday, he’s 3-5 today with a game high 13 points so far. Providence capitalizes on two straight turnovers though thanks to some pressure defense. Curry hits another three and Efejuku gets a layup off a great look from McDermott in transition; the big man can dish having played some PG in the past.
– So freecreditreport.com is one of the sponsors of this years Big East Tournament. You know them, they’re the website with the unbelievably catchy jingles “F-R-E-E that spells FREE”. We’ve all heard them and probably hummed along at least once. Once a game during an official timeout they bring a fan onto the floor and have them sing along with the commercial for the entire arena to hear. Maybe it’s because the crowd is made up of so many New Yorkers, but all five performances have been booed so far. I’ll continue to monitor this developing trend.
– Efejuku is a player. The way he is able to get into the lane and beat defenders off the dribble has made me a fan of his for a couple of years now. He slices in on a pretty looking crossover and gets to the laine for a couple, he goes 1-2 to give him 8 points and keep the Friars close. Both teams have been shooting the deep ball, reserve Mario Stula just hit back-to-back bombs for DePaul, considering he averaged 1.4 ppg during the regular season, I think the Demons will take it. DePaul is 6-15 from deep with the Friars a slighlty more efficient 4-9. Just 1:41 remaining in the half and DePaul is making a push for another upset, ahead 31-29.
– Providence holds for the last shot of the half and when the designed play breaks down Sharaud Curry decides to bank home another three with 4 seconds on the clock. I didn’t hear him call it but with 16 first half points and having connected on 4 of 5 attempts from the outside, I think he’s earned a little slack. The bucket gives the Friars their first lead in a while at 32-31 as the teams head to the break. Still, DePaul once again is hanging around and in the game. Maybe it’s because head coach Jerry Wainwright has been sick as of late and the team wants to win one for the Gipper, maybe it’s because they are sick of losing, whatever it is, DePaul is making things interesting as a 16 seed! We’ll see if the Curry shot gives the Friars some momentum now to start the second half. Efejuku was quite during the first 20 minutes, so if he gets his game going it could mean big things for Providence.
– Geoff McDermott opens the scoring in the second half with a nice drive and flush from the foul line, but DePaul regains the lead after back to back bombs from Walker and Tucker. The backcourt duo have combined for 29 of DePaul’s 39 points. Walker in particualr has impressed me, I knew what I was getting with Tucker, but the senior guard has been scoring in a variety of ways and has been the cog for the Blue Demons this week.
– Walker is starting to get more aggressive, splitting the D from the right side and getting credit for a lay in after McDermott is called for goal tending. There have been a total of four players that have defended Walker the last two days and I have yet to see one who has been able to consistently keep him from either getting to the rack or freeing himself on the perimeter for a good look. Full timeout for Providence, DePaul ahead 41-36 with 17:10 remaining.
– Now we’re starting to get ourselves a good old fashioned shootout as the pace picks up. Walker and Curry are going back and forth for their respective teams. Curry hits a tough floater in the lane, before Walker pulls up and rattles one in from the foul line. On the very next possession Curry hits yet another three (21 points now) and follows that up with an assist in the lane to Kale. Walker hits Tucker in transition for a reverse lay in. I’ve finally got the one-on-one showdown I’ve been waiting for and we’ve got a tie ball game at 45 with the under 16 break.
– Mario Stula hits another three from the corner! The sophomore out of Croatia has nearly nonadrupled (it means 9 times, I looked it up) his season scoring average. The play is wasted though as Marshon Brooks is fouled by Dar Tucker on a three point attempt from the top of the key. After converting the free throws its back to a 2-point DePaul lead.
– It’s raining threes in the Garden. Dar Tucker goes on a mini 7-0 personal scoring highlighted by another three to give him 22 points. The Blue Demons are shooting 43 percent from beyond the arc, having hit 10-23 attempts; this is a team that shot 29 percent during the regular season. There’s no better time to get hot than March. A cold blooded three by Jeff Xavier with a hand in his face and a tough lay in off the glass by McDermott makes it a 55-53 game with Providence trailing at the under 12 break. Another strong drive to the rack has Walker shooting two for the Blue Demons after the break.
– Funny moment. The Providence Friar and Dibs the DePaul Blue Demon were just standing near each other at halfcourt during the timeout when suddenly it dawned on me; this is a battle of good vs. evil. Either DaPaul sold their souls to the devil for this unlikliest of runs or it’s suddenly just a good time to be bad.
– Things are starting to get a little chippy and Keno Davis wasn’t afraid to voice his opinion to the officials. The Providence coach goes a little further than he knows (I was able to make out what he said but I won’t repeat it here) and gets himself a technical. Walker goes to the line and connects on 1 of 2. He’s now at 22 points for the game while Tucker is at 25 as he continues to be hot from the floor. He’ll have a shot to add to that total after coming away with a steal and drawing a foul going to the rim in transition. Less than 9 to go and DePaul has pushed the lead back to 5.
– Random stat: This has literally been a four man game between the two teams; each letting their top two go to work. Of the 118 points that have been scored so far through 32 minutes of action, Efejuku, Curry, Tucker and Walker have combined to score 84 of them.
– Efejuku is starting to get more active as this game winds down, exactly what Providence needs. After picking up a hard earned basket on the offensive glass, he comes back down the floor the next trip and breaks down his defender off the dribble, gets into the lane and draws contact. The senior knocks down both attempts from the charity stripe to give him 19 points and to pull his team within one, 62-61, with 6:08 remaining.
– The Garden explodes as Efejuku dirves and kicks to Jeff Xavier for an open three and a Friar lead 64-62. Jerry Wainwright fearing a major momentum shift calls a 30-second timeout. On the first possession out of the break though Stula airballs a mid-range jumper and Efejuku goes the other way for a tough lay in in traffic. Four-point Providence lead with 4 to go.
– The lid is ready to blow, it’s a 9-0 run for Providence and DePaul takes their final timeout. Sharaun Curry connected on a short jumper following the Efejuku lay in, then a quick steal by McDermott allowed the big man to run and finish in transition with a finger roll. DePaul looks like a deer in the headlights right now and Providence is as fired up as they have been all game. The Friar student section behind their basket is on their feet and they don’t look like they’ll be sitting for the remainder of this one. It’s an 8 point lead with 3:30 remaining.
– Providence and DePaul trade bombs as Jeff Xavier and Will Walker (25 points) each connect from deep. With less than a minute to go though and the Friars leading by 7, the Blue Demons have no choice but to start fouling.
– Will Walker hits three 3′s in the final minute to give him 31 points, tying his season high. Providence hit their free throws down the stretch holding on to win 83-74. I give a ton of credit to DePaul though, the two-man wrecking ball of Walker and Dar Tucker each scored 30+ and made it a game the entire way. In the end Providence’s defense made plays down the stretch and Efejuku in the second half picked up where Curry left off at the half; both players finished with 20+. So Providence moves on and earns themselves a date with Louisville tomorrow. I’ll have thoughts from Keno Davis after his press conference in a few minutes then its on to game two of the day.
– Just some final notes from game one of the day. Will Walker and Dar Tucker became the first teammates in Big East Tournament history to each score over 30 points in the same. Providence coach Keno Davis says with this win he now feels his teams is “squarley on the bubble” and that the Louisville game tomorrow should not have any impact on his teams NCAA Tournament chances. Back in a few with the preview of St. John’s and Marquette.
Game 6: No. 13 St. John’s vs. No. 5 Marquette
Our first look at a ranked team at ranked team this week comes in this battle between the Johnnies who knocked off Georgetown yesterday and Marquette. St. John’s was led by guard Paris Horne who was lights out from the field and hit some clutch jumpers down the stretch. The Hoyas were frustrated into a paltry 37 percent shooting performance from the floor and played sloppy basketball all afternoon; they were never able to take advantage of their interior size.
For Marquette it has been a season of ups and downs. The Golden Eagles have lost four straight games coming into the tournament after losing guard Dominic James to a broken foot. There is still a ton of talent on this roster, I mean a ton. Jerel McNeal (20.1 ppg), Wesley Matthews (18.5 ppg) and Lazar Hayward (16.2 ppg) are one of the highest scoring trios in the country. McNeal, the school’s all-time leading scorer is one of the best lock down defenders in the country and will be a headache for the St. John’s backcourt. The majority of the bulk inside (and there isn’t much) comes from Hayward who is hauling down an impressive 8.5 rpg; impressive since he is only 6-6.
The game is underway with Marquette out to a quick 11-4 lead at the 13:25 mark. The Golden Eagles are pushing the tempo and have been cleaning up the glass thanks to great second efforts from Hayward and jumping-jack guard Jimmy Butler.
– It’s no wonder Hayward has averaged as many rebounds as he did this season, dude can jump right out of the building. He does an excellent job of establishing position and then explodes to the basketball. The Johnnie’s are struggling to get anything going on the offensive end as a result of the quickness Marquette brings to the floor, particularly on the perimeter. If not for some solid play by Horne on the defensive end, St. John’s might be in a bigger hole. It’s 11-4 at the under 12 timeout.
– This is really starting to look like a conference tournament now as the entire lower bowl at the Garden is packed for this game. I’m ever starting to see certain section in the upper levels fill up with fans as well. Marquette has a good showing of support with the pep bands and dedicated student section set up to the right of the Golden Eagle bench under one of the baskets. Making the trip all the way from Wisconsin, not a bad way to spend spring break.
– The Red Storm are shooting just 11 percent from the floor with 10 minutes gone by in the first half; that isn’t going to win you any basketball games. On a positive note though, guard D.J. Kennedy is back on the floor for the Johnnies, seemingly showing no ill effects from his head on collision with a referee during yesterdays game. Kennedy connected on his first shot attempt.
– Norm Roberts is not happy with his team at all, as he takes a 30 second timeout. The Golden Eagles are running all over St. John’s right now, but more importantly they are hitting the offensive glass hard. Marquette has four O-boards so far, three of which have been corralled by Jimmy Butler. I’m starting to like him a lot, 4 points and 4 rebounds for the sophomore out of Tomball, Texas. As I write that, enter Lazar Hayward who cleans up a Matthews miss and gets the put back. Less than 7 to go in the half and its 19-8 Marquette.
– The Johnnie’s just took another timeout, this time a full, as Wesley Matthews drills a three from the top of the key to make it 22-8 with 6:32 remaining until the break. I’m in the process of flipping through the Big East Tournament book to check on this, but I’m fairly sure that St. John’s is going to be in the running for the lowest scoring half in tournament history with their eight spot right now.
– Marquette’s Buzz Williams is such a fun coach to watch; I’m convinced he gets more of a workout than his players do. At no point during this game yet has he gone a single defensive series without jumping up and down, spinning on one foot, or flailing his arms widely. Someone get the man a towel! Either way, he can’t be unhappy with the way his team is playing D in the first half. Red Storm still stuck at 8 points; 24-8 with 4:38 to go in the half.
– Eureka! It took a little searching, but the lowest scoring half in Big East Tournament history was 14 points put in by Georgetown in the second half of a game vs. Seton Hall back in 2001. With less than three minutes to go in the half and their players struggling to hold onto the basketball, St. John’s may be replacing the Hoyas in the record books relatively soon.
– Justin Burrell banks in a short jumper with 1:30 to go in the half and the crowd at the Garden goes nuts; it’s loaded with sarcasm, but still they cheer. Of course, Wesley Matthews spoils the fun with a step back three as the shot clock expires and Jimmy Butler promptly steals the ball from the Red Storm for an easy two.
– The first half is in the books and history at the Garden! Trailing 38-10 at the break, St. John’s sets the record for lowest point total in a single half in Big East Tournament history, hitting just three field goals. I would not want to be in that locker room with Norm Roberts right now. For Marquette it was a well balanced first twenty minutes of action. Wesley Matthews (11 points, 7 rebounds) Lazar Hayward (10 points, 6 rebounds) and Jimmy Butler (6 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists) all looked real good. The Johnnie’s have a lot of work to do if they want to make this one interesting. I’m off to the buffet for a quick bite, I’ll be back in a little bit with more!
– So if there is one thing I’ve learned in my time as a member of the media it’s that media buffets can be treacherous to your health. Nine times out of ten the most cost efficient, easy to produce in mass bulk foods are the one that will kill you. Seeing as how I was too tired this morning to wake up and go for a run, I decided to play it safe and go to the build your own sandwich bar. Tune on wheat was the eventual choice.
– Both teams are back out on the floor and St. John’s is making their shots during their halftime shoot around, that has to spell good news for the Red Storm. Marquette, as much of a cliche as it is, just needs to keep doing what they’re doing. Obviously they can’t take all the credit for the 10-points showing from the Johnnies, some of that is just poor shooting, but the Golden Eagles did play good D in the first half. We’re just about set with the start of the second half here at the Garden.
– St. John’s scores a pair of buckets in the opening two minutes, they are already off to a much better start this half (notice the sarcasm). Wesley Matthews just proved to me he had more athleticism than I thought getting called for a goal tending violation as he literally skied over the top of Paris Horne to pin his shot against the glass. Impressive. Marquette not going to lose this one, 40-16 with 16:47 remaining.
– Norm Roberts gets hit with a technical after he gives verbal confirmation of his disapproval with his teams play. Maurice Acker, the pint sized junior out of Illinois, gets 1 of 2 at the line to push the lead to 29 points for the Golden Eagles. Certainly while Buzz Williams has to be happy with his teams trouncing of the Red Storm, the concern needs to be getting to complacent with an easy win going into what should be a very hotly contested match up with ‘Nova tomorrow. We’re almost at the under 12 break and it’s a 51-22 ballgame.
– With this game getting out of hand, I figure now is as good as any time to start going off on random basketball related tangents. Despite losing Dominic James, Wesley Matthews and Jerel McNeal to graduation after this season, Marquette should still be in pretty good shape. Hayward and Jimmy Butler will both be back and Buzz Williams locked up a top-20 recruiting class that includes 3 top-100 committs. Junior Cadougan is the jewel of the class, ranked as the No. 5 point guard in the class of 2009. The 6-1 floor general hails from Houston, TX, a hotbed of hoops talent. Joining Cadougan will be forwards Erik Williams and Jeronne Maymon, both of who rank in the top 30 at their repsective positions. Williams, another Texas native will give the Golden Eagles some size on the wing with his 6-7 frame.
– This game has fallen into a pretty back and forth rhythm with Marquette maintaining there 30-point margin at 57-27 with less than 9 minutes to play. McNeal, Hayward and Matthews are all in double figures at this point, no surprise there. Taking a look at the incoming class for St. John’s, everything primarily hinges on Lance Stephenson, who at this point is likely not going to be donning a uniform with the words Red Storm written across the front. Still, there is reason for some optimism. Omari Lawerence, the No. 22 small forward in the class of 2009 out of South Kent Prep will be joining the program. I saw Lawrence last year at the National High School Hoops Festival in Maryland and I was pretty impressed with what I saw from him as a junior. Physically he is a good athlete with a great wingspan, he’ll be a tough perimeter defender. His outside shot certainly needed some work, but most players at that stage of development need some work. The Johnnies will also be bringing in junior college shooting guard Dwight Hardy who is a 3-star recruit. At the 6:10 mark it’s a 35-point lead for Marquette, Matthews is leading all scorers with 20 points thanks to a couple of nice finishes in the lane.
– Well it looks like the Johnnies are in line to find themselves in the record book again with this game winding down. With just under three minutes to go and trailing by 32 points, the Red Storm are currently looking at the third largest deficit ever in a Big East Tournament game. The all-time worst beat down was a 41-point win for Syracuse over Boston College back in 1999.
– Well you can put the morning session on day two in the books. Marquette emptied their bench in the final minutes and came away with a 74-45 win to advance to the next round. The Johnnies avoid making the record books with a couple of buckets at the end to close the margin to 29. I’m off for the next couple of hours with intermission, but I’ll be back with final thoughts on this one and a preview for all the action tonight!
Game 7: No. 10 Notre Dame vs. No. 7 West Virginia
So I decided to take a break from the arena scene tonight and ventured towards Times Square to Joe’s Pizzeria (had a 4-star rating on Google). It turned out to be an excellent choice, gave me a chance to stretch my legs a bit, and now I’m ready for our nighttime double-header.
We know what Notre Dame is capable of at this point, they showed that yesterday. Harangody is a workhorse inside, but if he isn’t getting his baskets the trio of Kyle McAlarney, Ryan Ayers and Tory Jackson (all were in double figures scoring) can put the ball in the hoop. The Irish ran hot and cold from beyond the arc yesterday, but that was still the primary staple of their offense. Defensively they looked real good keeping Rutgers to just 50 points and frustrating star freshman Mike Rosario into a poor shooting night.
West Virginia is a two man attack crew with some solid supporting actors. Da’Sean Butler is a long, athletic forward who can hurt teams inside or outside (6.1 rpg and 35.5 percent shooting from beyond the arc). Senior Alex Ruoff is a deadly shooter, able to kill it from beyond the arc or pulling up from mid-range. Also worth noting is Ruoff needs just one three-pointer to eclipse Kevin Pittsnoggle (remember him?) as the all-time three-point leader for the Moutaineers.
A trio of freshman have been producing all season for WVU. Devin Ebanks, who originally was going to Indiana before that whole coaching debacle, is a tremendous athlete and a constant double-double threat thanks to his toughness inside. Darryl Bryant has emerged as a nice scoring option and can do some damage from the perimeter if he has time to set his feet. My guy is Mt. Vernon’s Kevin Jones. An undersized power forward who is trying to transition to more of a three, has a motor that just won’t stop. He is a high energy player who gets a lot of garbage points on the offensive glass and has been averaging in double figures the last few weeks of the season. He could be a major x-factor in this game if it’s a close one.
So far the Fighting Irish pep band has been dominating the ensemble from Morgantown, but it’s still early, so I’m sure that could change. The crowd is still filing into the Garden, but I have a feeling there will be a larger showing of Irish fans than supporters for the Mountaineers. Five minutes until tip, I’m back in my seat, lets play two more.
– ESPN mixing it up for the second set of games tonight, they’ve got the big 3 out for the nightcap: Sean McDonough, Jay Bilas and everyone’s favorite Bill Raftery.
– I stand corrected on my assumptions about the turnout of West Virginia fans. As the PA announcer introduced the Mountaineers there was a rousing ovation and I saw patches of fans around the arena rise to their feet. Although, I had to laugh a little when even some of the West Virginia applause died down when Bob Huggins was introduced.
– West Virginia comes out looking aggressive and the freshman are active right away. Bryant hits the opening basket of the game, a three from the right side. On the next trip down floor Ebanks skies for an offensive rebound and a quick put back. Let’s not forget that this team only lost to Louisville by three on Saturday; they also whooped up on Notre Dame by 11 the last time these two met. At the 16:12 mark its 7-2 Mountaineers.
– I like Devin Ebanks, this is a freshman with a lot of upside. I saw him at the Boost Mobile Elite 24 two years ago and was very impressed with his physical ability. What I like most about him now, is despite being listed as an undersized 4, and he does play there a fair amount, at 6-9 he looks exceptionally comfortable handling the ball on the wing and has no issues about bringing it up the floor after a rebound. First official timeout of the ball game and we’re still at 7-2 WVU.
– Mike Brey calls timeout as Ruoff drills a three to make it 12-2. If I’m correct that makes Ruoff the all-time leader in three-point field goals at WVU now, so congratulations to him. Luke Harangody is having trouble inside to start the game. The Mountaineers are overplaying him on the block, throwing Kevin Jones and Ebanks at him. When he is fed the ball he has no problem backing down either of the freshman, (he outweighs Jones by 35 pounds and has 50 on Ebanks) but their length is making it difficult for the junior to get a good look at the rim without falling away.
– Tory Jackson nails a three and that finally slows the 17-2 West Virginia run to start the ballgame. The Irish are having all kinds of trouble slowing down the Mountaineer fast break right now. WVU is also playing taps with itself off the glass right now; they have 5 offensive rebounds compared to 6 total rebounds for the Irish. Under 12 break has it 17-5 West Virginia out in front early.
– Alex Ruoff is making up for a senior night to forget in which he was held scoreless. The gunner has 9 points on 3-5 shooting from beyond the arc.
– The under 8 minute official timeout is here and it couldn’t come soon enough if you’re a Notre Dame fan. This one is starting to get out of hand quickly as West Virginia has pushed their lead up to 17 points, leading it 23-6. The Irish are shooting just 11 percent and are getting out-rebounded 16 to 9. On the other side of the coin, the Mountaineers are playing fantastic team basketball, recording 8 assists on their 9 field goals.
– Notre Dame takes another time out to try and slow down the West Virginia onslaught; it’s 31-11 with 3:42 to go in the half. Harangody’s shooting woes are continuing from the second half yesterday, he’s just 1-5 and Tory Jackson is fairing even worse at 1-7 from the floor. The Irish can afford to have one of their big scorers struggling, but not multiple, not down by this much.
– In light of the crowd here at the Garden mercilessly booing anyone unfortunate enough to be dragged onto the floor to sing the freecreditreport.com jingles, the people here at MSG have decided to make it a sing along for the entire arena. There were still some boos. Only in New York.
– I’m currently talking with a friend on mine online and he posed a very interesting question that I had not thought about until this very moment. With the score 36-18 in favor of West Virginia with 36 seconds remaining he asked, “Did you ever think that DePaul vs. Providence would be the best game you would see all day?” Wise words, I’d be lying if I said yes. Hopefully the nightcap featuring Syracuse and Seton Hall will be an improvement.
– The half comes to an end with the score still at 36-18. A couple of easy baskets made it possible for the Irish to bump their field goal percentage up to 25 percent; somewhat digestible. The difference for the Mountaineers has been the perimeter game. WVU connected on 7 of 14 attempts from beyond the arc, with Ruoff and Darryl Bryant each hitting three. This one looks like it could be another blow out unless Notre Dame starts contesting some shots and can begin hitting some of their own.
– The Louisville Cardinals were just honored at the half for being the Big East regular season champs and were presented with a trophy. Terrence Williams accepted the hardware with his teammates surrounding him, and what a surprise, he was smiling. Has there ever been a moment where that kid wasn’t smiling on a basketball court? It’s kind of refreshing to see.
– Random thought. The West Virginia Mountaineer carries a musket with him (either that or a rifle, correct me on this one). I know that he fires it off on occasion at football games, what about at basketball games? Is that kind of thing frowned upon at indoor sporting venues? If so, would that include domes for football games? If anyone can enlighten me on this I would love to know.
– So, some additional stats I forgot to throw your way at the half. Remember how I talked about the impact freshman for West Virginia, how about these numbers. Darryl Bryant leads all scorers with 13 points and Devin Ebanks has already hauled in 10 rebounds at the break. Harangody finally just got on the board with a wide open dunk, followed up on the next possession with a spinning lay in in the paint. The Irish have started the half on a 9-3 run in the opening 2:30. Here we go!
– What may be the only thing that can get Notre Dame fans more pumped than a Luke Harangody dunk? Why a Kyle McAlarney three of course! The Long Island native drills his second long ball of the night coming out of the West Virginia time out and things are starting to get interesting. At least to the point that a dozen Irish fans in the expensive seats are letting the refs hear it after every call that doesn’t go there way. First official break of the second half and Notre Dame is clawing back into it, they trail 41-30.
– Random observation I just made. Bob Huggins is wearing his credential on his belt and it is dangling in site for the whole world to see. He is the only coach I have seen wearing a pass all week. Is he worried that he might be denied access to the arena by security?
– De’Sean Butler is exacting his will in this second half. After netting 9 points in the first half he’s already got himself 11 more for a grand total of 20. Dude has been finishing in the lane, drilling perimeter jumpers and getting to the line. He just knocked down all three freebies after being fouled on a bomb attempt. West Virginia has pushed it back to a 16 point lead with 12:30 to go.
– Mike Brey just got a technical for using some “questionable” language after Luke Harangody took a pretty nice bump inside from Ebanks. I agree with Brey on this one, but of course he can’t lose his cool like that and expect to get away unscathed. Ruoff knocks home both free throws, 20-point Mountaineer lead.
– Bryant drills another three, the rook has 16 points and has hit 4-7 from extended range. I’m very impressed with him so far today. I saw Bryant last January at the Nike Super 6 (also at the Garden) when he was with New York power St. Raymond’s. While I thought he had some game, I didn’t expect to see him lighting it up at the Big East Tournament his first time through the gauntlet. Luke Harangody has come alive in the second half as well. The big junior is now up to 17 points with a couple of big time throw downs to get the crowd fired up. The Irish are hanging around, trailing 61-48 with 7:29 remaining; plenty of time to make a run at this.
– My apologies for the delay on this next post, the wireless decided to bail on me for a few minutes. As it stands West Virginia is hanging on 66-57 at the 3:04 mark in the ballgame. Luke Harangody is refusing, I mean refusing to let his team go down easily. Dude has scored 23 points in the second half and has worked his tail off for every single point. On one play he absolutely steam rolled through De’Sean Butler, drew the foul, and knocked th wind out of the defender all in one go. He is the high point man from either squad right now with 27 total. Throw in a couple of long balls from McAlarney and the Irish faithful have been rowdy the last few minutes of play. Alex Ruoff just got a killer three-point play in the lane to go and push the lead back up to double figures.
– McAlarney missed a tough drive in the lane and with 1:32 to go and trailing by 8, the Irish are starting to play the fouling game. Darryl Bryant connects on both his attempts and now Ruoff is going to the line for a pair as well. It looks like the NIT is waiting for the Irish and the Moutaineers can start thinking ahead to Pitt tomorrow night.
– With a win in hand Bob Huggins is still yelling until he is red in the face.
– McAlarney fouls out with 43.7 seconds to go and 17 points; he gets a nice ovation from the Irish fans. The place really starts to rock when Darryl Bryant and De’Sean Butler dribble out the clock though, with the Moutaineers pulling off the win by a final of 74-62 to advance to the quarterfinals (that’s right, we’ve actually reached a point in the tournament where there are labels other than first or second round!)
– Bob Huggins was happy after the game, stating he felt his team was very aggressive and controlled the pace of place in the first half. Some final numbers from this one now. Harangody led all scorers with 27 hard earned points and McAlarney added 17 of his own. For West Virginia it was a three headed scoring attack with Ruoff (25), Butler (20) and Bryant (17) all providing some pop throughout the game. Ebanks finished with 18 rebounds; the kid is a vacuum cleaner on the glass. Think Brooks Robinson fielding at third base and you’ll get an idea.
Game 8: No. 11 Seton Hall vs. No. 6 Syracuse
Now we get set for the marquee game, the one that this near sell out crowd has been waiting for. Seton Hall put on a solid showing last night in pulling away from South Florida behind another 20+ scoring effort from Jeremy Hazell and added scoring from Eugene Harvey; but this is a whole different animal they’ll be facing tonight.
There is plenty of Orange in the stands ready to cheer on a Syracuse team that has showed tantalizing amounts of potential this season. Winners of four straight, the Orange have five players average in double-figures. The straw that stirs the drink doesn’t need much of an introduction: Jonny Flynn. Posting averages of 17.3 ppg and 6.4 apg, the sophomore is one of the top point guards in the country, and may be the most underrated player around, period. Flynn is very popular amongst NBA scouts and with good reason, he is the total package you look for in a floor general. Forwards Paul Harris and Arinze Onuaku provide plenty of strength inside and with each hauling in better than 7 rpg, they could make it a long night for the Seton Hall bigs. Eric Devendorf is the number two scoring option and pretty dangerous from beyond the arc if left alone.
We’re just about set for tip and by the sound of the crowd when the ‘Cuse starters were announced, I’d say this is as close to a home game as the Orange can get without playing in upstate New York.
– Seton Hall is trying a 2-3 zone against Syracuse but gets caught when the ball is skipped over the top to Flynn. He takes a quick hop step and finishes with the left hand in the lane. The next trip down Kristof Ongenaet goes with a drop step, baby hook to the middle for an easy two. Syracuse is out in front 8-3 with a little over three minutes gone by as chants of “Let’s Go Orange” come raining down.
– The Pirates pep band is trying their rendition of “All The Small Things” once again. The Syracuse fans voice their disapproval with a shower of boos. Bravo Syracuse fans, bravo.
– Jeremy Hazell drills an open three to give him 5 of Hall’s 10 points. I think save for the student section, every other Pirate fan is sitting behind me. On the other end of the floor Jonny Flynn gets just plain silly with a no look pass to Paul Harris for an easy deuce. It’s a fast paced 12-10 ‘Cuse lead at the 13:08 mark.
– Bobby Gonzalez decides it’s time for a 30-second timeout after Flynn steals a pass and goes coast to coast for a lay in. I haven’t seen a player this week who goes baseline to baseline fast than the sophomore does. The timeout doesn’t do much for the Hall though, as the next two possessions result in turnovers and transition baskets for Flynn and Andy Rautins. A near monster alley-oop by Philly native Rick Jackson sends us to the under 12 official timeout with ‘Cuse leading 18-10.
– We just had the fourth free throw shooting competition of the day during this timeout. So far the winning fan for each contest has been a student from the program that went on to win the game. A young gentleman from Syracuse just drained several freebies to win himself the coveted digital camera; foreshadowing perhaps?
– Flynn drills a three right in front of the Seton Hall bench coming out of the timeout. He has some words for them as well after he knocks down the jumper, I’m going to assume it was something along the lines of, “Gimme all three of those!” The lead is 11.
– It’s one thing to hear about how Paul Harris is 6-4, 6-5 and is such a machine on the glass. It’s another experience all together to witness it in person. First of all, 6-4 may even be a bit generous for his actual height, secondly, I can’t get over how much energy and ferocity he has. If he is within ten feet of the ball he is going after it, and the way that he elevates in traffic is incredible. He may be a long shot to get drafted, but if he was a few inches taller, forget about it. Flynn drills another long two with a pretty step back near the top of the key. Robert Mitchell gets the Hall back on the board with a step back of his own. The Orange are still out in front 25-16 at the under 8 break.
– Flynn can’t be stopped right now. Dude has 13 points on 6-7 shooting and 3 assists. He just beat two Seton Hall defenders baseline and finished things off with a pretty reverse. The more I watch him the more I realize I’m looking at arguably the most talented floor general in the country. ‘Cuse calls timeout though as the Pirates cut it to a 5 point game courtesy of back-to-back buckets inside from John Garcia. With 5:52 in the half its a 27-22 game.
– Seton Hall is actually getting some pretty good looks against the Orange 2-3 zone but haven’t been able to capitalize on some slow perimeter rotations by the ‘Cuse guards. Jimmy B isn’t happy with his team though, he’s letting them know it right now with a break in the action. On a side note, it’s great to finally see the Garden packed and rocking. This is by far the most zealous crowd so far this week with a classic NY vs. NJ battle raging on the floor.
– Bit of a mix up with the timeout entertainment. The Syracuse dance team was up to perform a routine and apparently someone failed to tell the Seton Hall squad. The girls realized their mistake and ran off the floor laughing, but the Pirate failed to notice so was left to waive at the crowd by himself while the Orange troop did their thing.
– Robert Mitchell is very quietly putting together an excellent first half for the Pirates. The junior forward has 12 points and 9 rebounds which puts him right around his season averages. His high for each this season is 24 points (reached twice) and 15 rebounds. Right now he is the main reason it’s only a 33-28 game with 1:50 to go in the half. On a side note, a sweater clad Seton Hall fan seated in the expensive seats about 20 feet to my right is giving one of the officials an ear full over the 10-3 foul disparity going against the Pirates.
– Jonny Flynn fast break dunk=lots of crowd noise
– Seton Hall works their final possession of the half for a couple of free throws from Brandon Walters. On the subsequent series Flynn is stripped going to the basket and a 75-foot heave from Jordan Theodore hits front rim as time expires. We’re at the half at the Garden and as Brent Musburger would say, “It’s been a dandy.” Syracuse leads 36-31.
– Seton Hall comes out to start the second half gunning and this place is rocking. Hazell drills a bomb from the left side and on the next possession John Garcia fumbled an entry pass, but recovers in time to hit an open Paul Gause on the right wing. The senior rattles home the three ball and wouldn’t you believe it, the Pirates lead it 37-36 with a quick 6-0 run to open the half.
– Congratulations to Robert Morris who just eked out a two-point win the claim the NEC Championship. RMU is going dancing for the first time since 1992. Montana St. (who is 14-16 by the way) and Portland St. are just getting underway out west for the right to be called top dog in the Big Sky.
– Arinze Onuaku draws a shooting foul and goes 1 of 2 from the line; the Syracuse crowd goes absolutely nuts. I guess that’s what happens when you shoot 30 percent from the charity stripe during the regular season.
– Things start to get a little chippy underneath between the Orange and Pirates. Onuaku and John Garcia each get hit with T’s after the two start jawing with one another after a physical play inside. The Orange are barely out in front 46-44 with 16:07 to go.
– Now things are just getting down right ugly. An intentional foul is called on Brandon Walters who made no attempt to go for the basketball on a fast break. After there is some pushing and shoving between the two teams and double technicals are assessed to Eugene Harvey and Eric Devendorf. Ongenaet hits 1 of 2 free throws and Devendorf drills a jumper. On Seton Hall’s next possession Onuaku swats a shot out of bounds and the crowd explodes. The energy level is through the roof right now and ‘Cuse leads it 52-44 with 15:05 remaining.
– Bobby Gonzalez takes a 30-second timeout as Flynn finds Andy Rautins for an open three and his 6th assist. Did I mention he’s also netted 17 points? This is likely the most critical juncture of the game. ‘Cuse leads by 14 and they have all the momentum going with 12 minutes to play. Seton Hall needs to slow the run now.
– With the official timeout, a little more recruiting news. Syracuse fans got great news a couple of days ago when the Orange got a commitment from Detroit big man DaShonte Riley. The 6-10 center is ranked 9th in the country at his position and is a major defensive presence. He’ll need some work on the offensive side of his game, but the physical tools will allow him to be a player while his skills develop.
– Hazell has scored 7 straight for the Hall and is heating up with 19 points total, but at the other end the Syracuse shooters can’t be stopped, so the sophomores run is nullified. The Orange have hit eight 3′s in total and after another dagger from beyond the arc by Devendorf, the Pirates are force to call their final timeout of the game. Orange lead it big, 74-55 with 9:09 to go. This one is starting to look like it might be heading towards over.
– How you know this game is a rout: both head coaches are sitting. Under 8 break and Syracuse is running away with a 20-point lead.
– Devendorf is doing work tonight, he just nailed his 4th three ball of the night and is now 4-7 from beyond the arc with 19 points. It’s business as usual for the Orange as they have four players in double figures.
– Not that I’m looking ahead or anything…but here are tomorrow’s match ups (pending Syracuse doesn’t have a monumental meltdown). Providence and Louisville will kick things off at noon, with an excellent Marquette vs. Villanova match up to follow that. The night set with feature West Virginia taking on Pittsburgh and Connecticut likely facing Syracuse. The over/under on NBA teams that will be represented for the day is all of them. Take your pick.
– Syracuse is starting to empty their bench up 24 points with just over 2 minutes to play. Their 89 points scored to this point is already the highest total for the week. Paul Harris and Rick Jackson are the only starters still on the floor for the Orange.
– This one goes final with Syracuse winning 89-74. Jeremy Hazell led all scores with 27 and Robert Mitchell finished with a very strong double-double, 17 points and 13 rebounds. The Orange put five in double figures with Flynn and Devendorf leading the way with 19 apiece. Flynn also dished out 10 assists giving him a double-double as well.
– So there it is, day two in the books. Twelve hours and nearly 9,000 words brings us to the quarterfinals. Tomorrow is where the show really begins at the Garden. I’m going to keep it short so I can catch a bus home for the night. Thanks for reading and I’ll see you back here tomorrow!