Monday, January 30, 2012

Marist Women: Another Season, More Success

Here's a look at and some impressions on the Marist women's basketball team, after your Hoopscribe's first in-person viewing of the team this season.

Just when most conference followers thought this might be the year the Red Foxes came back to the pack ....

Marist is now 10-0 in conference play with an 11-point, but not easy, 56-45 victory at Siena on Sunday.

It was the Red Foxes' 34th straight victory over conference opponents, a streak that includes both regular-season and conference-tournament games, dating back to the last regular-season game of 2009-10.

What's amazing is that Marist is doing it this year after all of this: graduating an elite backcourt of 2010-11 Player of the Year Erica Allenspach and standout point guard Elise Caron and, then, suffering the unexpected transfer (to USC) of emerging offensive talent 6-4 Kate Oliver. If that wasn't enough, it also lost this year's starting point guard, senior Kristine Best, for the season (knee injury) after six games. (Best hopes to return to play again in 2012-13).

Rarely does any team lose three key starters and, then, another starter right away in the following year and not suffer a significant drop.

The drop for Marist? After outscoring conference opponents by an average margin of 23.6 points per game a year ago, the team is "only" winning by an average point differential of 14.4 points this season.

"To be honest, I didn't expect this," claimed Marist head coach Brian Giorgis, the architect of the greatest dynasty the MAAC has ever seen for either men's or women's programs. "This has been a pleasant surprise."

So, how has it happened?

As Poughkeepsie Journal sportswriter Mike Benischek opined after a recent Marist victory over Iona: "The Red Foxes rise to the  occasion, and fight for it with as much grit as any Marist team has in the past."

Rise to the occasion?

How about on these occasions, from Sunday afternoon's victory at Siena?

When Siena had pulled within five midway through the second half, Marist's junior forward Kelsey Beynnon drained a three-pointer to push her team's advantage to eight.

Two minutes later, with Siena still hanging within nine points, Beynnon swished another deep trey to push the Saints' deficit to 12.

Prior to those three-pointers, Beynnon had made just 5-of-26 three-point attempts on the season.

Siena once again got within range, pulling within seven with 3:10 remaining and was making a strong defensive stand that appeared destined to have the Saints get a possession to pull even closer.

Instead, as the shot clock ticked down to two, reserve freshman point guard Natalie Gomez, who had struggled this day (eight turnovers in 16 minutes) to the point where she was clearly hanging her head at times, had the ball in her hands, fired away from 21 feet out ... and hit nothing but net.

It was the only shot she made in the game and just the fourth three-pointer she converted all season.

"That," said Siena coach Gina Castelli, "was the biggest shot in the game."

Rising to the occasion?

How about sophomore Casey Dulin, the team's least-used scholarship player a year ago, stepping up to volunteer as Best's replacement at point guard seven games into the season, averaging 8.6 points and having the MAAC's seventh-best assist-to-turnover ratio entering Saturday's contest?

Finding ways to win?

Marist didn't play particularly well, committing an uncharacteristic 16 turnovers while suffering a huge 45-26 disadvantage in rebounding. But, somehow, through clutch shooting and a traditional defensive blanket that, on this day, held Siena to 25.9 percent shooting from the floor (and 22 turnovers by the Saints), Marist rose to the occasion.

This wasn't expected to be another proverbial brick in the wall of unmatched Marist seasons. This was supposed to be the year, with the graduations, Oliver's defection and Best's injury, that someone quite possibly would catch up to Marist.

Instead, it's just more of the same, and let's give a great deal of the credit to what Giorgis does in his practice laboratory at the school's Poughkeepsie, N.Y., gymnasium in what just might be his best work as a coach yet.

What has he done to date at Marist? An 8-10 conference record in his first year (2002-03) was followed by a 13-5 2003-04 record that matched Siena's as the MAAC's best that season (although Siena held tie-breakers to be the post-season tournament's top seed).

Since then, it has been wall-to-wall Marist.

Since the start of the 2003-04 season's post-season conference tournament (which Marist won) Giorgis's teams have been an unbelievable 148-12 record against other teams from the MAAC, a .925 winning percentage.

And, it looks like there's no end in sight.

Despite Struggles, Future Bright For Marist Men

Your Hoopscribe had the opportunity to see both the Marist men's and women's teams this past weekend and is passing along information and personal thoughts on both.

Here's a report on the Marist men.

Despite a 2-8 record against conference foes, a 7-14 overall mark and an active seven-game losing streak, Marist has the clear look of a program finally on the rise.

A year ago, while it was struggling through a 3-15/6-25 campaign, Manhattan had a similar look and was touted in this blog as a program likely to turn it around quickly.

Now? The Jaspers are tied the lead in the MAAC standings with a 9-2 record and a 16-7 overall ledger.

The similarities between last year's Manhattan team and this year's Marist squad are, well, similar.

Manhattan last season, like Marist this year, had good young and developing talent. It had a key player out for the season and it had a good recruiting class coming in.

Sounds a lot like this year's Marist team that has just one senior on its roster (R.J. Hall), and he is not currently in the playing rotation, a standout (6-foot-6 forward Dorvell Carter) who won't play again this season, and has two incoming recruits (6-10, 240-pound Eric Truog and 6-7 Phillip Lawrence) to help a thin front court a year from now ... although recruits are always an uncertainty until they start playing at the college level.

Still, the Red Foxes look like the future will be well-served, particularly as freshmen Chavaughn Lewis, a talented swingman; the point guard tandem of Isaiah Morton and T.J. Curry and sophomore big man Adam Kemp develop.

Manhattan's quick turnaround also included a change on the sidelines as Barry Rohrssen, who accumulated much of his program's talent, gave way to current first-year head coach Steve Masiello.

And, on occasion, a coaching transition is part of a program's turnaround. Your blogger can't claim inside information as to Chuck Martin's contract status at Marist, but the feeling here is that any in-place coach that (if we can paraphrase former football coach Bill Parcells) buys the proverbial groceries should have the opportunity to also cook the meal.

Anyway, here are some thoughts from Martin on his program's current state, immediately following his team's 66-55 loss against Siena recently in which the Saints' junior forward O.D. Anosike scored 21 points and pulled down 12 rebounds.

"He's a different player than a year ago ... as a junior he has come into his own," said Martin. "He's just more physical than our guys."

Anosike is also a year older, and vastly more experienced than Marist's inside players, particularly Kemp (8 points/8 rebounds vs. Siena), who only played 16 games as a freshmen before a season-ending injury.

But, the potential is that opponents might be voicing similar sentiments about Kemp a year from now, as well as some other players whose physiques fill out (particularly the slender Lewis).

"With players like Morton, Kemp, T.J. Curry, Chavaughn, Manny (Thomas, a freshman), Jay Bowie (a sophomore) ... our future is bright," said Martin. "But there's still a long way to go this season, and we hope the process begins paying off before the year is out.

"What we really need right now is a win to kind of clear away the doubts. If we can get a win, get the pieces to start to come together ... we're capable of rattling off two or three more in a row. We're playing for today, but we know there's also a bright tomorrow here. We feel like the future here is legitimate."

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Mid-Season Report Card: Women's Stars Selected

Mid-season honor time for the women ...

First team:

- Lily Grenci, Siena (15.3 points, 7.6 rebounds). Leads the league in scoring, No. 4 in rebounds.

- Corielle Yarde, Marist (15.2 points, 6.8 rebounds, 4.5 assists). No. 2 in scoring, No. 2 in assists, No. 6 in rebounding.

- Miriam McKenzie, Loyola (15.2 points, 8.1 rebounds). No. 2 in scoring, No. 3 in rebounding.

- Katie Sheahin, Loyola (14.5 points, 6.4 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 3.6 steals). League's most-versatile player; Top eight in the league in points, rebounds, assists and steals. Ranks 15th nationally in steals.

- Taryn Johnson, Fairfield (13.0 points, 8.2 rebounds, 53.3 FG percentage):  No. 2 in rebounding, No. 1 in FG%, and in top 30 nationally in that statistic.

Player of the Year

Contenders: A case can be made for any of the five, although Loyola's record to date (a far-below-expected 3-6) will hurt the candidacy of its two players. Siena's sub-.500 record (4-5) will also hurt Grenci's hopes. Johnson is having a very nice year, particularly in league play. But, Yarde was the preseason pick and has done nothing to hurt her chances.

The pick: Yarde of Marist. She is the only player in the league to be leading her team in scoring, rebounding and assists. And, Marist remains the MAAC's best team with its 8-0 league record.

Rookie of the Year

Contenders: Like the men, another strong year for first-year players, among them Iona's tandem of Damika Martinez and Aleesha Powell, Siena's Tehresa Coles, Loyola's Kara Marshall  and Canisius' Kayla Hoohuli ... and, that's probably the all-rookie team roster right now.

The pick: This one is as clear cut as any award thus far ... Martinez of Iona. Her scoring average is second in the conference, and no freshman has ever finished higher than fifth in the women's scoring statistics. She is also the top rebounding freshman in the league, as well as the freshman leader for FG%.

Coach of the Year

Contenders: Marist's Brian Giorgis, for keeping his team unbeaten in a season of personnel turnover and injuries unlike any his program has had before; Iona's Tony Bozzella; Fairfield's Joe Frager. Those three teams are the only ones with better-than-.500 records in conference play thus far.

The pick: Whew ... might be the toughest of any selection, men or women. All three have strong cases to be made. And, this individual race will ... and, should ... go right down to the final game of the regular-season. But, until now ... we'll go with Iona's Bozzella. Not only was his team not expected to be this strong (picked for fifth in the preseason poll), but he lost Player of the Year candidate Kristina Ford for seven games earlier this season with a knee injury. His team not only survived, but excelled with the focus of the offense falling to freshmen Damika Martinez and Aleesha Powell.

Men's Mid-Season Report Card: Top Picks Made

This weekend marked the mid-way point of the conference season, as good a time as any to give one Hoopscribe's opinion on the conference's best so far:

At the mid-way point, here are my choices for top conference honors, with reasoning when applicable ...


- Mike Glover, Iona (18.8 points, 8.9 rebounds).  He leads the conference in scoring, and is No. 2 in rebounds. His 66.8 field-goal percentage is fourth-best nationally.

- Scott Machado, Iona (13.3 points, 10.0 assists). Not only leads the MAAC in assists, but is No. 1 nationally.

- George Beamon, Manhattan (18.0 points, 5.7 rebounds).  Conference's second-leading scorer after a career-high 33-point effort vs. Canisius on Friday. My preseason choice as the MAAC's top scorer this season, and he still might get there.

- O.D. Anosike, Siena (15.2 points, 12.7 rebounds). Mr. Automatic Double-Double, a school-record 16 straight and approaching the league's record of 19. Leads not only the conference, but the country in rebounding.

- Rakim Sanders, Fairfield (16.3 points, 8.2 rebounds). Fifth in the league in scoring, fourth in rebounding. One of just two league players in the top five in both categories (Glover is the other).


Player of the Year

Contenders: Anosike is a rare inside force. His double-double streak is just three short of the league's all-time record; Glover, the preseason pick for the award, leads the league in scoring and is No. 2 in rebounding. And, Machado leads the country in assists.

The pick: Machado ... for now. Having seen Iona several times, when Machado plays well so does the Gaels and when he has a rare off-night, the Gaels struggle. His position is the most-important at the college level, and the MAAC hasn't had a better point guard in many, many years ... if ever.

Rookie of the Year

Contenders: A year for great rookies, and we won't begin to try to name them all except to say that this scribe can't remember the last time so much first-year talent ... true freshmen ... came aboard all at once.

The Pick: Juan'ya Green, Niagara. His 17.2 ppg. average is third-best in the MAAC, and second-best nationally among all freshmen.

Coach of the Year

Contenders: Tim Cluess, Iona; Steve Masiello, Manhattan; Jimmy Patsos, Loyola; Mitch Buonaguro, Siena.

If either Manhattan or Loyola wins the regular-season title, its coach is the likely post-season pick. Masiello becomes an obvious choice for keeping Manhattan in contention at the end. Cluess's team, Iona, would probably need to run the table. The preseason pick already has two losses in its first 10 league games. And, Buonaguro's Saints are 5-5 in MAAC play with wins over Iona, Fairfield and Rider, and are playing with, basically, a six-man rotation. No one expected this. If Siena finishes over .500 in conference play, Buonaguro definitely deserves consideration.

The choice: Masiello of Manhattan. His team is 8-2 in the league and in a three-way tie for the top spot. It's 15-7 overall. Last year the Jaspers finished 3-15 and 6-25 but, now, are poised for potentially the best turnaround by any team nationally. Masiello, a first-year coach, had to get a team to adjust to a new style, new roles, etc. To now, no coach has done more, and no team has exceeded expectations more so than Manhattan.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Much-Traveled PG Lindsey Makes Rider Next Stop

The Rider men's basketball program will replace one-year transfer senior guard Jeff Jones (formerly at Virginia) with another potential impact transfer next season.
Former St. John's point guard Nurideen Lindsey will be joining the Broncs, according to Rider coach Tommy Dempsey, who confirmed the transfer earlier this week after receiving the requisite paperwork.
The 6-foot-3 Nurideen averaged 11.8 points and 2.9 assists in nine games for St. John's this year, before leaving the team to seek another school He originally indicated that he would transfer to Arkansas, before optig instead for Rider. Prior to turning up at St. John's he played a year at Redlands CC in Oklahoma where he averaged 22.3 points per game.
Nurideen, according to traditional transfer rules, would become eligible for the 2012-13 season's second semester and have one-and-a-half seasons of eligibility remaining. However, internet sources indicate that the player will seek to obtain a waiver in order to be eligible at the start of next season.
Lindsey has a history of complicated family issues, including the murder of a younger brother, and there is some thought that he may be able to obtain a waiver to become eligible at the start of the 2012-13 season.
Lindsey was a highly touted recruit as a standout at Overbrook High School in Philadelphia, scoring at a pace that threatened Wilt Chamberlain's records at that school.
Lindsey, though, admitted that academic apathy and homesickness derailed his career as he bailed out of a Connecticut prep school in the fall of 2008 without ever playing there and he went without playing in an organized setting for two seasons.
Lindsey averaged closer to 38 points per game as a high school junior and initially made a verbal commitment to play at La Salle.

Leaving prep school though, meant that Lindsey would never play at La Salle, whose coach John Giannini remains one of the player's staunchest supporters.
Giannini, in a 2010 story that appeared in the New York Times, said Lindsey has traces of Allen Iverson's game and mental makeup.
If you were going to pick one player with toughness and tenacity whose emotions can get the best of them and who has the supreme confidence and quickness to score, that's the best comparison, Giannini said in the article.
As for Lindsey's character, Giannini said that if people looked past the player's tattoos, they would find someone with the intelligence of an Ivy League philosopher.
The Broncs surely will welcome the infusion of scoring ability Lindsey appears capable of eventually providing. The program, after this season, will lose Jones (12.8 points per game), along with forwards Brandon Penn (12.9) and Novar Gadson (9.2).

Monday, January 23, 2012

Biggest Surprise Yet: Siena Upends Mighty Iona

This season's Iona team was supposed to be one for the MAAC ages, possessing a perimeter group maybe as deep and talented as the conference has ever seen, and also having the requisite inside beast.

Its scoring average prior to play Monday night was second-best nationally. It had the national leader in assists (senior guard Scott Machado) and an inside scorer (senior forward Mike Glover) so effective that his field-goal percentage was second-best nationally.

On Monday it played against an opponent that it just demolished, 95-59, 20 days earlier and started Monday's game by taking a 20-2 lead after the game's first 4:33.

So, how did this happen Monday night at the Times Union Center in Albany, N.Y. ... Siena 65, Iona 62?

It happened when Machado picked up three first half fouls (one a technical when he stood up and woofed from the bench), was limited to 25 minutes and dished out just three assists.

It happened when the Gaels were held to 34.4 percent shooting and just 23 second-half points.

And, it happened when Siena went on a 19-5 run over the game's final nine minutes to turn an 11-point deficit into a three-point victory.

It also happened to be the most-surprising result in the conference this season, by far, a team with a 3-5 league record entering play Monday night knocking off the supposed team-for-the-ages.

It happened when Siena got a lot of basketball from almost everyone on its depleted roster, not the least of it coming from junior forward O.D. Anosike (17 points, 15 rebounds for a national-best 15th straight double-double), senior guard Kyle Downey (16 points, including 10 in the final 10 minutes) and freshman swingman Rob Poole (14 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists and one turnover).

It happened when the usually offensively gifted Gaels managed to shoot just 21-of-61 (34.4 percent) in the game, just 9-of-31 (29 percent) in the second half and just 2-of-12 (16.7 percent) in the final nine minutes.

"This is my best and the team's best win since I've been head coach here," said Saints' second-year head coach Mitch Buonaguro. "Our resiliency is something I'm really proud of. Everyone counted us out. Very few people thought we'd win this game, but I did and so did our players.

"For our team to bounce back after two difficult road losses (at Loyola and at Manhattan) and play and beat arguably a top-30 team ... I'm very proud of our guys."

Said Iona coach Tim Cluess: "Siena out-executed us all night. We missed layups, foul shots, jump shots. They made their shots and we didn't. They just outplayed us."

Down the stretch, Siena also made plays and Iona didn't, particularly the one that mattered most.

Down 63-62 with 26 seconds left, Iona got its hands on the ball when the Saints committed a violation trying to in-bounds the ball.

But, the Gaels' designed play  never came to pass as junior guard Momo Jones drove into the teeth of Siena's defense and missed badly.

"That wasn't the shot we wanted ... Momo driving the lane into three defenders," admitted Cluess. "But sometimes kids are kids. He needed to know there was a lot of time left when he shot (about 13 seconds), and he didn't need to rush. It's a learning experience for him.

"We've also got to learn that if the other team is on a roll we can't catch the first catch and just throw it up. It's getting late in the season, and if we don't figure that out pretty quickly we can be in trouble."

What does the loss mean for Iona? Within the framework of the season, not that much. At the halfway point the Gaels are still 7-2 in MAAC play and 15-5 overall. They're still  in first place, albeit in a three-way tie with Loyola and Manhattan.

But it also means this: Iona's weaknesses are showing. When the Gaels don't hit perimeter shots and aren't looking for 6-7 inside presence Mike Glover enough, they're vulnerable.

It also means that, with five overall losses already and 10 more regular-season games remaining, the Gaels probably need to run the table until the conference tournament's championship game in order to retain a chance for an NCAA at-large berth should it fail to capture the league's automatic berth.

And, it means that these Gaels probably have likely lost their chance to claim a spot on the throne of MAAC royalty in a historical sense. Two conference losses at the halfway mark don't get you into the conversation with the 1989-90 La Salle team (16-0, 30-2 overall), or the Siena teams of 2009-10 (17-1,, 27-7), and 2008-09 (16-2, 27-8) or, probably. even with the 2003-04 Manhattan team (16-2, 25-6).

For Siena?

"It shows that we're a force to be reckoned with," said the Saints' Downey. "Down 18 to Iona early ... it was real hard to come back from that. But I think this will have people realizing that we can play with anyone."

Coach's Take: Saint Peter's Not There Yet

Here's another in the series looking at conference teams thorugh te eyes of their respective head coach.

Up now,


"Our group is getting better," said coach John Dunne, whose team, as of Monday, was 3-6 in the MAAC and 4-16 overall.. "I'm not overly concerned with our overall record right now. We're getting better. We're light years ahead of where we were a month ago. But, we're still a group trying to find ourselves. We're still trying to set rotations and game-playing awareness. It's not where you want to be this late in the season, but we're getting there."

The Peacocks are extremely young and inexperienced, particularly after losing four senior starters from last year's team. One of the bright spots has been 5-foot-9 freshman guard Lamin Fulton, who averages 9.9 points per game.

"He has been scoring well recently,  but he still defers way too much," added Dunne. "Still, early in the season he wasn't even looking at the rim ... not even in practice. He's starting to come along playing off the guard. He played with a ton of Division I guys in high school, and was a pass-first point guard, even though he had a knack for scoring the ball. But, he doesn't mind deferring. He's a great teammate.

"Still, we brought him here to fill a void, and that's to put points on the board. Some times he worries too much about upperclassmen's feelings. He's got mental toughness. If he can put the ball in the basket, I don't care what size you are."

Dunne is reminded that his program, before his arrival, had no problem putting the scoring load on another undersized guard, one Keydren Clark, who at 5-8 finished with more than 3,000 career points and twice led the nation in scoring.

"Both small, scoring guard's, but no parallel there," admitted Dunne. "Lamin is a good player in his own right, but Keydren is one of the best of all time to have played in the MAAC."

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Anosike, Saints Meet NBA Legend Wes Unseld

A fortuitous decision by the Siena men's basketball team to have a team dinner at one of Baltimore's finest Italian restaurants on its recent trip there to play Loyola brought about a meeting between one of the NBA's greatest rebounders and the current Division I rebounding leader.

When the Saints were dining at Sabbatino's, in Baltimore's Little Italy section earlier this week, a sports-minded staff member mentioned that basketball Hall of Famer Wes Unseld, who resides in the area, was also dining in another part of the facility.

A meeting was arranged, Unseld spent about 10 minutes with the Siena players and staff, and specifically posed for a photo with Siena's O.D. Anosike, whose 12.5 rebound-per-game average leads all Division I players.

The photo, which can be found on Siena's facebook page, is a bit of a shock to the eyes since Anosike, who measures about 6-foot-7 1/2, physically towers over Unseld.

But, height wasn't what made Unseld a five-time NBA all-star, one of just two players in league history to be the league's MVP and Rookie of the Year in the same season (Wilt Chamberlain is the other) and a career 14-rebound per game inside force.

After all, Unseld, a bruising player, was generously listed as being 6-7, but most inside sources claim he was much closer to being 6-5. The photo with Anosiki is proof that, at least these days, Unseld isn't anywhere near his listed height from his playing days.

Anosike towers over the former NBA star, who played for the old Baltimore Bullets from 1968-69 through 1981-82. Over that time he pulled in 13,769 rebounds, almost every one of them secured in the vicinity of taller, more-athletic inside players. In his best year he averaged 18.2 rebounds per game, and brought down 42 in one particular game.

"When you played against Wes Unseld you abused your body," said contemporary Willis Reed, in a tribute found on YouTube.

"He wasn't the biggest, the most athletic or most talented player out there, but no one ever got more out of what he had," said another contemporary, Rick Barry, in the YouTube tribute.

And so it is, in a relative sense, with Anosike, who is certainly a little undersized to be a national rebounder in rebounding. But Anosike, like Unseld, uses the force of his will to secure rebounds as much as his physical ability.

Anosike said he knew Unseld was an NBA great, but didn't know much about him before meeting, which is natural since Unseld's career was over almost a decade before Anosike was born.

"I haven't looked him up, but the coaching staff told me a little about him," said Anosike. "I knew he was a great outlet passer, and he told me he had 42 rebounds in one game.

"He talked to me for a couple of minutes, just to say to keep up the good work and that it's pretty impressive to be leading any level in rebounding. He just told me that rebounding isn't just about ability, but it's also about heart and desire."

And Unseld also displayed a nice sense of humor.

"He asked me how many rebounds a game I averaged," said Anosike. "When I told him that I was getting almost 13 a game, he responded that he used to get that many in a game just with his left hand."

Friday, January 20, 2012

Former Jasper Coach Sharp Fired at Kean

It's not always positive news we can pass along about individuals with past conference connections, and so it is with former Manhattan women's basketball coach Michele Sharp, who was just relieved of her duties at Division III program Kean University of New Jersey.

A story in the Newark Star-Ledger reports that Sharp's program at Kean has been charged with numerous NCAA violations in the last year, and she was forced to leave her coaching position an has been re-assigned within the athletic department. Her team, a perennial Division III power, was 15-3 overall prior to her re-assignment.

School officials declined comment, except to confirm that Sharp was fired as its coach.

The school, in September, received notice from the NCAA that it must answer to five violations uncovered by the infractions committee, four of which occurred within Sharp's program. Among them were providing "extra benefits" to players in connection with a team trip to Europe, changing grades for one of the team's top player, and awarding more than the allowed scholarship aid.

When reached by a Star-Ledger reporter for comment, Sharp was brusque and said, "You guys don't really want the truth, so I have nothing to say to you. No comment is my comment," and, then, she hung up.

Sharp had coached six seasons at Manhattan (1992-93 through 1997-98) where she compiled a 66-104 record before she was dismissed there.

In 14 and-a-half seasons at Kean, she built a strong program that went to three Division III Final Fours in the past eight seasons and had a 251-129 overall record.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Mason-JMU Game Has MAAC Sideline Connections

When George Mason travels to Harrisonburg, Va., for a Colonial Athletic Association meeting with in-state rival James Madison tonight (7 p.m.), there will be more than a little MAAC history on the respective sidelines.

George Mason is coached by former Siena head man Paul Hewitt, midway through his first season with the Patriots.

James Madison is coached by Matt Brady, who coached four seasons at Marist and played at Siena. One of Brady's assistants is Rob Driscoll, who worked MAAC sidelines as an assistant for 12 years at three different programs.

Hewitt's team is currently 12-5 overall and 3-1 in the CAA (losing to Drexel).

Brady's team is 8-8 overall and 1-4 in the CAA.

The backgrounds ...

Hewitt's MAAC connection is from his three years at Siena (1997-98 through 1999-00). He took over a program that struggled in the three years before his arrival and turned things around immediately. His 66-27 record over his three seasons accounts for the highest winning percentage (.710) is the best ever in the Siena program. His Siena teams went to the NCAA tournament in 1998-99 and to the NIT in 1999-00.

After Siena, Hewitt coached 11 seasons at Georgia Tech (190-162) before the school bought out his contract. But, he wasn't out of work long, taking over at George Mason shortly after his dismissal from Georgia Tech.

Brady coached four seasons at Marist (2004-05 through 2007-08) where his teams accumulated a 73-50 record. Before he was at Marist, he was a Division I assistant for 17 seasons, two at Rhode Island, four at Wagner and 11 at St. Joseph's. He currently has a 63-55 record at JMU.

Brady's Siena connection comes from playing there from 1983-84 through 1986-87),as an all-league level point guard before the school joined the MAAC.

Brady's top assistant at James Madison is O'Driscoll, formerly a familiar sight on MAAC sidelines. O'Driscoll was a Manhattan assistant for two seasons (1996-97, 1997-98) under John Leonard, for six seasons at Iona under Jeff Ruland and for four years under Brady at Marist.

Take A Look at Andujar's Game-Winner

A couple of blog items below is a piece about the new instant replay system in place at all MAAC venues, and how well it worked at the end of the recent Manhattan upset victory over Iona.

Here's a link to a couple of photos, sent along by conference officials, directly from the replay system that show Emmy Andujar's game-winning three-pointer against te Gaels.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Manhattan Enjoys Improbable Upset of Iona

The early season hype portrayed the Iona men's basketball team as potentially the best Division I squad in the New York metropolitan area.

But, for now, the Gaels would be hard pressed to claim being the Big City-area's best even in their own conference.

Oh, Iona still has the conference's best record at 5-1. But, for a night anyway, an upstart, vastly improved Manhattan program has reawakened the echoes of its glory days earning a shocking 75-72 victory over the Gaels, at Iona's home court before a packed house in New Rochelle, no less.

Manhattan rallied from an 18-point deficit early in the second half and still faced a 17-point hole with 7:53 left to play.

Before the Jaspers' rally, it looked like one of those nights. Heck the team even struggled getting to the game as its team bus broke down on the Major Deegan highway in rush-hour traffic en route to the contest. But, players piled into a dozen taxis to get to the contest, and the unlikely happenings continued upon their arrival.

Like the rally from 17 down with 7:53 remaining to be tied (after Iona's Momo Jones made a floater with 3.3 seconds left), to needing an improbably game-deciding play to pull it out.

And, it came this way: After Jones' shot, Manhattan got the ball to half court, where coach Steve Masiello quickly called a time out.

"I didn't like how it was setting up, so I called the time out," Masiello said. "We designed a play for (sophomore guard) Mike Alvarado to in-bound the ball (from near half court). Our first three options were to get it inside to Rhamel Brown, or to the corner to George Beamon."

Pretty far down on the list of options was the if-all-else-failed pass to freshman forward Emmy Andujar, but that was what was available.

Andujar needed to jump to receive the pass while facing away from the basket had to quickly turn around and get back off his feet to launch a 22-footer over the top of Iona defender Scott Machado's outstretched hands.

Replays clearly showed that Andujar's shot beat the final buzzer, and it banked in for the game-winner.

And, suddenly, an Iona team that many thought had a chance to get through conference play without a loss has had two disappointing results (the other a Dec. 29 non-league setback at Hofstra) in less than three weeks.

"If you told me the game was going to end in regulation and who deserved to win ... it's Manhattan," said Iona coach Tim Cluess. "This wasn't a wake-up call (for Iona). This is a disgrace."

But it was a thing of beauty for Manhattan, which only won five total games all of last season and, now, stands 4-2 in MAAC play and 11-7 overall.

"The one constant thing for us is that there's no quit in our effort," said Masiello, a day after his team's upset victory. "Our resiliency is very high. We believe in our selves that we're never out of any game. Whether we're down 18, or 17 with eight minutes to play, we find a way to get back in games."

While the league season is only one third over, things are going very well for the Jaspers.

"I think we're the only team in the conference that, so far, has played the five teams picked to finish in the upper half of the division already (in order, Iona, Fairfield, Loyola, Rider and Saint Peter's)," said Masiello, whose team has played Rider twice and the other four once apiece.

"I told my guys that this early stretch would show how we stand. If we were still near the top of the standings after that, then we'd know we have a good team.

"I think we thought that we could have a good season, but (with the recent run of success), we know now that we can play with anyone on a given night.

"Anytime you win a game like that (Thursday's upset of Iona), you want to enjoy it a little. But, now (Friday afternoon), we're back at work and that game is behind us."

But, the benefits of that game remain, and so does the evidence that a program that has struggled in recent years is not only enjoying success once again but has proven that on a given night, it not only can play with anyone but can also lay claim, for a night, about being the MAAC's top metropolitan-area team.

Replay System's Test in Manhattan Win Scores "A"

The new "toy" available at every men's and women's MAAC game more often than not goes unused, unneeded.

But, the end of Thursday's stunning Manhattan upset of Iona on a last-second shot by Jaspers' freshman Emmy Andujar, the toy was consulted and it's nice to know that it works.

The toy is GamePlan SIFT, and your Hoopscribe will readily admit that he doesn't know what the acronym stands for. Suffice to say that it is a replay system that has five cameras, two at each end of the court (one from each side) plus one on the game clock, that is used as a tool for game officials to watch replays of certain situations.

The system allows officials to watch replays of, mostly, whether shooters were on or behind the three-point stripe and on timing calls (did a shot beat the shot clock or halftime/game-ending buzzer).

And, Thursday night at Iona, was the perfect test. With the score tied at 72 with slightly more than a second remaining, Manhattan in-bounded the ball from near half court.

A pass from Manhattan guard Mike Alvarado found Andujar a few steps beyond the three-point stripe. Andujar turned and fired and his shot banked in for the game-winning margin in the Jaspers' 75-72 victory.

Did it beat the final buzzer?

In the days prior to the installation of the replay system in every MAAC playing venue this season, there would have been no way to tell. Officials did have replay capabilities for games that were televised, either by networks or the MAAC's own productions. But, Thursday's Iona-Manhattan game was not part of any TV package.

A year ago, game officials would have made an on-court decision and that would have been it.

Thursday, though, they were able to take several minutes to view the replay, from two different angles, to ensure they got it right.

And, they did. Andujar's shot was clearly well out of his hands, probably about a third of the way toward the basket, when the game clock buzzed and the backboard lighting system, that is timed coordinated with the game clock, became visible.

The MAAC, justifiably, is proud that it is one of several mid-major conferences nationally to mandate the replay system, that also requires a courtside operator and a touch-screen monitor at the scorer's table.

"If at any point a ref wants to review a play, he can zero in on whatever he's looking for," said the conference's assistant commissioner Ken Taylor, who oversaw the system's installation at venues around the conference. "Every inch of the court is covered every second of time.

"This is something we made a decision on two years ago. We just thought that the way technology is going that it was an opportunity for us to improve the set up at all our schools to have consistency as much as possible and give officials and game staff the tools to get calls correct."

Cost of the systems, which went well into six figures for the entire league, was split between the league and member institutions.

"Some of the bigger conferences that televise every game don't need this because the telecasts already allow for a second look via replay," added Taylor. "But, for us, if the game wasn't televised we didn't have that luxury. We wanted to make sure we put the best product out there and to do everything we can to make sure there's a level playing field at every game.

"This ensures that there's no `smoking gun' play, no questionable call that might determine the outcome of a game without the opportunity to check to see if it was right, or to correct it. We wanted to be proactive on this. That's not to say we haven't had some issues on calls, but I don't think we've ever had one where you could say definitely altered a game. But, as technology evolves this makes a lot of sense to make sure we never have that issue. At the end of the day, we want to walk away doing everything possible to get it right."

And, when a shot that barely beat the buzzer determined a Manhattan upset victory over Iona on Thursday night, the league's new replay system left no doubt about whether the shot counted.

Players, coaches and fans alike might have been stunned by the outcome, but everyone knew that game officials had gotten the game-deciding call right.

No Suprise, Marist Women Still MAAC's Best

Just when you thought it might be possible for a women's team, other than Marist, to capture the conference crown this year ...

Well, think again.

Marist looked like it might be a little vulnerable when it started with an uncharacteristic 5-6 record in non-conference play. The naysayers pointed to graduation losses of two-thirds of last season's backcourt (Erica Allenspach and Elise Caron), and the unexpected transfer out of 6-foot-4 forward Kate Oliver. And, then, the team lost it's floor general, point guard Kristine Best, for the season after six games with a knee injury.

Wouldn't this be the year to take down the Red Foxes, winners of the last seven MAAC crowns?

As it appears now ... probably not.

First, the non-league schedule. One computer-generated rating placed Marist's pre-conference slate as the 10th-best nationally with losses coming to Virginia, Princeton Boston University, St. Bonaventure, Hofstra and Kansas State. Together those six teams, as of Friday morning, have a 15-2 record in their respective league games and a 74-22 overall ledger.

And since the start of MAAC play ... well, things have reverted to normal. That is: death, taxes, sunrises in the east and the Marist women winning games.

The Red Foxes are 5-0 in conference play, and the last remaining unbeaten team in the MAAC after traveling to previously unbeaten Fairfield's home court (the Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, Conn.) and earning a decisive 59-47 victory.

Overall domination? It was the 29th consecutive victory over a MAAC opponent for Marist.

"Right now, Marist is the best team in the league and everyone else is trying to catch them ... that's a fact," said Fairfield coach Joe Frager. "Do we think we could have played better? No doubt, but you have to give a lot of credit to Marist. They made us do a lot of that stuff."

Marist opened league play with an uncharacteristically close 56-54 victory over still-winless Saint Peter's, but has followed that with wins by margins of 12, 26, 20 and 12 points. The two-point victory over the Peahens marked just the second time since the end of the 2009-10 regular season that the Red Foxes haven't beaten a conference opponent by at least double figures.

Marist is doing it this year with the requisite star in Corielle Yarde, but not yet getting as much support elsewhere as in past seasons.

Yarde leads the team in scoring (15.6 points), rebounding (6.4) and assists (4.5), the only MAAC player to lead a team in those three statistics.

The next leading scorer is 6-2 forward Brandy Gang who only recently got her season scoring average (10.6) over double figures. No one else averages over 8.7 points per contest.

But Marist has never been about who scores how many. Head coach Brian Giorgis has consistently been more concerned about how his teams limit opponents on their offensive end. And, with the loss of so many players who were well-versed in that philosophy in recent years, well the questions about Marist's continued superiority earlier were legitimate.

"The biggest question mark on our team heading into this season was our defense," admitted Giorgis, after Thursday's victory over Fairfield. "But, we've played it pretty well in the last two games."

Indeed, Marist has only given up 41 (to Manhattan) and 47 (to Fairfield) in its last two contests and currently is allowing an average of just 51 points in its five league contests.

"Kids are starting to see that if you don't play it (defense), you're not going to play," added Giorgis.

On Thursday Fairfield held an early 10-2 lead and, misfired on 13 of its last 17 shots of the first half and went without a basket over the half's final 7:53 to trail, 29-21 at the intermission.

"I think we ticked them off ... I think we angered them," said Frager. "That's the challenge when you play them, it's sustaining an offense because they don't give you too much inside. They collapse down and when you kick the ball out you have to knock down shots."

Fairfield didn't. After leading 10-2 early the Stags made just 14 of their final 47 shots, a less-than-stellar 28.7 percent.

"They hit some shots early, and we had to pick up the intensity and trust the scouting report," added Giorgis, in post-game comments. "Trust in the things we do, and once we started doing that we forced some tough shots and we saw that they weren't going to make every shot, and we were slowly able to creep back."

And, Marist has slowly been able to creep back to dominating conference play yet again this season.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Canisius Report: Washington, Team Adjusting

Here's another in the series looking at men's programs through the eyes of their respective coach ...

Up now ...


The Golden Griffins are 0-5 in league play and 3-12 overall.

"This is a crazy league," said Tom Parrotta. "We feel that we can be a contender when all things shake out. We've had some issues to overcome, not the least was an early (back) injury to Gabby Belardo (the team's lone returning starter from a year ago), and that has stunted our growth and experience. We've been in games with chances to win at times but haven't been able to punch through on a consistent basis.

"That said, there are some good things going on. We've got a good and dynamic player in (junior) Harold Washington (a junior college transfer). (Alshwan) Hynes is doing an admirable job, although our turnovers are up and that's a concern. Chris Manhertz, Kevin Bleecker and Josiah Heath are doing a real good job considering their limited experience. But Gabby's back injury caught us at an inopportune time. He's going to have to play through it. You can see he's laboring ... he's about 60 percent right now, and I don't know if it will get anywhere near 100 percent this year. But he's our most-experienced player and he's got to find a way to get through it."

"Washington is a fantastic basketball player. The bad news is that he's also a wonderful kid, and we need him to be more of a guy who's a little selfish in a good way. He can take over games, but he's a new guy who defers to others. He has to turn into the guy on nights when we're laboring to score. We simply want him to be more aggressive from an offensive standpoint. He can score a lot of points.

"It's a daily thing trying to get him to that point. We have to pull him asie regularly, tell him how much we need him. It speaks to his character. I'm not sure if he's comfortable in that role at this time, but I state our expectations for him clearly. Everyone on our team knows what they're supposed to do, but Harold comes from the junior college ranks and gets thrust into a very good conference with a lot of good guards. It's something we'll continue to work on, but I don't want to understate what he's done for us so far, and his best days are to come. There are games when you don't think he's done enough, and you look at the stat sheet ... 24 points, 6 assists and just 2 turnovers and he's been out there for 34 minutes ... and I still think his best days are to come."

Iona Men: On Track After Hofstra Loss

Here's another in the series looking at men's teams through the eyes of their respective head coaches.

Up now ...


The Gaels are 5-0 in league play, 13-3 overall and look like one of the conference's more-dominant teams in recent years. Since a lackluster 83-75 loss at Hofstra in late December, Iona has won three straight league games by margins of 36, 12 and 24 points.

"I don't know how much that loss (to Hofstra) opened the eyes of our players ... it's just that Hofstra played very well," said Iona coach Tim Cluess. "We were sloppy with the ball. We ave to be careful not to push the issue too much."

In the Gaels next game, they demolished Siena, 95-59 at Madison Square Garden.

"It was awesome to play there," said Cluess. "The players we're thrilled. I grew up, as a kid, watching college games there. To bring a team there ... it was great for the Iona community. I hope there are, eventually, more opportunities for teams in our league to play there.

"Our backcourt (point guard Scott Machado, who leads the country in assists at 10.1 per game, and Arizona transfer Lamont "Momo" Jones) has been pretty good together. Momo is fitting in and fining his way more and more each game. Scott has been solid, for the most part, but the game at Hofstra (10 assists, six turnovers) was a tough one for him. Overall, I'm happy with the way he's played, but we have high expectations for him. The turnovers he had in that game were unusual for him. He made uncharacteristic passes, things that weren't available. I think he got caught up in the pace of the game."

After the Hofstra game, several Iona players hinted that they might have gotten caught up in all the publicity the program had been receiving. Cluess, though, claims he's not affected.

"It's a bigger stage now (than his previous coaching position at Division II C.W. Post), but I live in the same house in the same community. I am happy for the players, though. It's more about them getting recognition and, maybe opportunities. Maybe all the extra attention gets them more looks from NBA scouts, or opportunities to play overseas, or even, job opportunities from alums.

"Some of our guys aren't used to the notoriety we've been getting. We have to get them to understand that all the media attention is great, but they can't get false ideas that they're better than they are. In this league if you're not ready to play anyone can drill you on a given night. That's what we're going through right now. We're enjoying our early season success, but you have to put it in perspective."

Cluess also touched on his standout senior forward Mike Glover's loss of about 10 pounds since the start of the year.

"He put on a little extra weight in the off-season to be stronger, but he lost a little quickness. He's in a lot better shape now and back to the athletic level he was a year ago. I like the way he's taking the ball to the hoop, attacking from the perimeter and shooting it. We just have to do a better job of getting him more touches."

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Men's Report: Niagara's Green A Find

Here's another in the series looking at conference men's teams through the eyes of their respective head coach.

Niagara is now 1-4 in league play and 6-11 overall. The leading scorer for Joe Mihalich's team is Juan'ya Green, who currently averages 19.1 points per game. Green entered the game against Siena, a 72-60 loss, as the nation's leading scorer among freshmen. Green, though, only scored 11 against the Saints and the Purple Eagles made only 3-of-21 three-point attempts against Siena's zone defense.

"We play four guards," said Mihalich, about the Siena game. "We aren't going to beat anybody shooting 3-for-21 from three."

Niagara's top players eventually figure to be Green, and another freshman, 6-5 Josh Turner.

"Turner is showing signs for us," said Mihalich. "He's a talented kid, but still rusty. He couldn't even practice with us in the first semester (due to eligibility issues), and he didn't play at all last year when his prep school closed down. He's rusty, but every once in a while he shows how talented he is.

"Green has been terrific. I don't keep track, but every once in a while someone will bark it out that he's either the leading, or second-leading freshman scorer in the country, and I'm not even sure that scoring is the best part of his game. He's also a great passer.

"To do well at this level you have to get guys who could play somewhere else (a higher level). Iona has three guys who could play in any league in the country. Fairfield has at least two. Juan'ya is a guy who could play at a lot of different places, and that's what makes him different. He had a foot injury between his junior and senior year, but still played on the AAU circuit and didn't look as good as he is. We're just fortunate that a lot of schools that were interested maybe backed off a little, got someone else or whatever ... and he ends up being a Purple Eagle."

Men's Report: Big Weekend For Siena

Here's another in the series examining men's teams, through the eyes of each's head coach.

The Siena men are now 2-3 in MAAC play and 7-8 overall after a 73-60 upset victory over Fairfield and, then, a 72-60 victory over Niagara Sunday afternoon. The Saints' junior forward O.D. Anosiki posted another double-double (27 points, 14 rebounds). He entered the game leading the nation in rebounding and in consecutive double-doubles.

The Saints shot extremely well over the weekend, hitting 47.2 percent of their shots against Niagara and an incredible 63,4 percent Friday against Fairfield, just three nights after connecting on just 36.5 percent in a 95-59 drubbing at the hands of Iona.

"Fairfield was our best game of the year," said Siena coach Mitch Buonaguro. "We only used six guys (Siena has only seven healthy players who started the year on scholarship), and all six played well. We played zone defensive exclusively. We have to, to keep guys out of foul trouble (Siena entered Sunday's game with the fewest fouls committed of any team nationally).

'What it comes down to is making shots. Against Fairfield we made them and they didn't. We made about 35 percent of our shots against Iona. If we shot 65 percent against them, like we did against Fairfield, now it's a close game."

Buonaguro also had some positive comments for his freshman point guard Evan Hymes, who averages 14.9 points per game and is on pace to be just the second freshman in program history to lead the Saints in scoring (Jack McClinton did it in the 2004-05 season).

"I didn't expect this from him," said Buonaguro. "I expected the quickness, but I didn't expect the scoring and the clutch shots and everything else he has given us in clutch moments. His season so far is a credit to him and his ability."

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Eye-Opener: Siena In Upset Win Over Fairfield

Maybe the most eye-opening result of the young conference season was the Siena men's 73-60 defeat of Fairfield Friday night at the Times Union Center in Albany N.Y.

Unexpected? The Saints were three days removed from a 95-59 demolition at the hands of the MAAC's preseason No. 1 pick Iona, and, then, here came preseason No. 2 Fairfield.

Instead Siena's zone defense gave every Stag except junior point guard Desmond Wade (7-of-11 shooting from 3-point range and a career-high 27 points) significant problems. Other than Wade, who mad 9-of-15 shots overall, Fairfield shot 11-of-54, an abysmal 20.4 percent.

Siena, on the other hand, had its best shooting performance in some time, making 26-of-41 shots. The Saints' iron-man six-player lineup all shot at least 50 percent from floor with five players scoring in double figures.

Fairfield is now 3-1 in MAAC play, while a depleted Siena squad, although just 1-3 in the conference, continues to play well (6-8 overall) with wins this season over some fairly strong opponents including Albany, Princeton, Florida Atlantic and, now, Fairfield.

It just shows that in the MAAC, on a given night ... although that assessment might not pertain to an Iona team that looks like it might have a chance to be the first team to run through an 18-game conference schedule unbeaten.

Reaction ...

"The result speaks for itself," said Fairfield coach Sydney Johnson, whose team is now 8-7 overall. "I am immensely disappointed. We probably didn't have our finest effort here. We were humbled tonight. They (Siena) just played a little harder than us."

Siena stymied Fairfield with its balanced play. When the Stags overloaded its defense inside to slow Saints' junior forward O.D. Anosike, the perimeter attack took over.

Anosike went scoreless in the first half, but Siena's perimeter players shot 13-of-21 from the field including 6-of-9 from 3-point range.

"When we adjusted to come out on their shooters, he (Anosike) got going (making 5-of-6 second-half shots to finish with 13 points and 15 rebounds)," added Johnson.

"It was an unbelieavable game for us," admitted Siena coach Mitch Buonaguro. "We could not play any better. This was our first game all year when all six of our guys played played well. We've been resilient all year.

"This team continues to overachieve. But, does any of what we've done surprise me? No ... we've overachieved all year."

All six Siena players were on the court for at least 23 minutes. Two starters, the backcourt of Kyle Downey (19 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists) and Evan Hymes (10 points, 3 assists) played all 40 minutes. The Saints' starters, as a group, lead the nation in minutes played and the team has the fewest per-game minutes by reserves nationally.

"Our key is that we've got the best chemistry of any team I've been on here," said Downey, a senior. "We all hold each other accountable. It was a good win for us, because we bounced right back after a lopsided loss (to Iona).

"It just shows that we can beat anyone on a given night."

Friday, January 6, 2012

Coach Report: Marist Men Making Strides

You've got questions about your team?

We have, hopefully, answers.

The questions went to coaches of men's teams, who provided the answers.

We'll do team-by-team reports, through the eyes of the respective coaches, over the next few days, in no particular order.

We'll start with Marist, and its head coach Chuck Martin, whose team is off to a 2-1 in MAAC play and 7-7 overall and already has more victories than last year's team that finished 6-27 overall (and, 3-15 in the MAAC).

"Are we excited? Absolutely. Winning makes you feel good and we've won six in a row at home. The kids feel really good about where we're at, but we're still taking baby steps to get there, and we're getting there, slowly but surely.

"Our success so far is chemistry more than anything else. We've brought in kids from winning high school programs. When you have that, the kids don't run away (from tough in-game situations).

"Also, the talent has gotten a little better. We went out in the last off-season and brought in four really good players. This program is on the rise. The group we have here is capable, in the future, of being one of the better groups in the MAAC.

"Have we turned the corner? We're better than last year, but we haven't completely turned the corner. We haven't swept a team yet. But we're better and excited about being 7-7 considering where we came from. Still, we've got a lot to learn and a lot to improve on."

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Iona's Armand Plans On More Big Nights

The 10 3-pointers made by Iona's Sean Armand's in the Gaels' 95-59 victory over Siena on Tuesday at Madison Square Garden matched the season's single-game best nationally (also accomplished by Lafayette's Jim Mawer).

But Armand claims he has had better nights.

"I think I might have had more than 10 in a game in high school," said Armand, who we spoke to after an Iona practice the day after his big game. "I know I had some big nights in high school."

Indeed he might have, having averaged 28 points per game his senior season at Central Jersey Each One Teach One Academy (CJEOTOA).

But, no one has had a bigger night for perimeter shooting on the college level this year.

Certainly no one has had a bigger night on a bigger stage, with Armand doing it in Madison Square Garden.

And, no one has had a bigger night in so few minutes, as he played just 22 minutes.

But, the big night for Armand, who had started just four games all year and came off the bench against Siena, seemed to set up perfectly.

For sure the Gaels, and Armand, were as focused as they had been at any time all season for a number of reasons.

Not the least of which was a loss to Hofstra in the now 11-3 team's previous game, an outing the Gaels universally agreed included a lackluster effort.

Then, there was Siena's junior forward O.D. Anosike's comments several days prior to the game that his team, which had won the MAAC's automatic NCAA berth for three straight years recently (2007-08 through 2009-10) was still the "Cadillac" team of the conference.

(Afterwards, Iona point guard Scott Machado had a response to the automobile theme: "We're like a Bentley program. We're known, but not very well advertised.")

There was the Madison Square Garden stage, not far from Armand's Brooklyn home and proximitous enough for dozens of family members and friends to attend.

But, mostly, there was a zone defense played exclusively for 40 minutes by a Siena team that has limited numbers and only used six players for more than nine minutes.

"We knew they would play zone against us, and I knew I'd have my chances because of that," Armand said. "Any team that wants to play zone against our team is going to be in trouble,. We've got a bunch of shooters."

And none better them himself, a 6-foot-3 sophomore with the sweetest shooting touch the MAAC has seen in some time.

Armand set a program freshman record in 2010-11 with 61 three-pointer, connecting on an impressive .421 percent last season. He's even more effective so far this year, making 32-of-64 from bonus land, his .500 percent rate the 28th-best nationally.

His output against Siena set a MAAC record for treys in a game, surpassing the previous best of nine hit five times (twice by Saint Peter's Keydren Clark and once each by Loyola's Andre Collins, Manhattan's Bruce Seals and Siena's Jim Secretarski).

Coincidentally, Secretarski's nine three-pointer night came against Iona.

"Guess I got a little payback," joked Armand.

And, only once has there been more three-pointers in a game against Siena. Before the Saints joined the MAAC, a 5-9 guard from Niagara, Gary Bossert, went 11-of-13 against the Saints midway through the 1987-88 season. Bossert still holds the NCAA record for consecutive treys without a miss (all 11, after missing his first two tries) from that game.

"I didn't know I was setting a league record," said Armand. "Kyle Smyth (his teammate) told me during a time out at one point that I had eight, and I went back in and hit the two more. I didn't know I set the conference record until after the game."

He didn't know of Bossert's 11 treys against a Siena team until a day later, a statistic he got a laugh about.

"Hey, if I knew someone had dropped 11 on them, I'd have tried to get back in the game to get that," he said, laughing.

But he had already done plenty when he came out late in Tuesday's game, after making 10-of-19 three-point tries for a game-high 32 points in just 22 minutes.

The court time was one of his most-extended periods of play thus far. Despite his ability to score (Armand says he prefers to be known as a "scorer who can shoot" rather than just as a shooter), he only averages 14 minutes of playing time per contest.

He is part of one of the most-talented backcourt groups ever assembled in the MAAC's 31-year history, deferring to starters senior Scott Machado, the nation's assist leader, and junior Lamont "Momo" Jones, a starter at Arizona prior to his transfer to Iona who is currently the MAAC's eighth-leading scorer. Iona's perimeter group also includes Smyth as a starter and Jermel Jenkins (16 points vs. Siena) and Ra'Shad James. The Gaels' three backcourt reserves (Armand, Jenkins and James) would likely start for the majority of MAAC teams.

"I've started some games, and come off the bench in others, and that doesn't bother me," said Armand. "I know I'm going to get time every game and I go in and try to ignite things with my scoring. But, I'm trying to give the team more than that ... I'm trying to get some rebounds, play some defense and get some steals, too."

For sure he has become a nice part of one of the most-potent offensive forces the conference has ever seen. The Gaels are currently fourth nationally with their per-game scoring average of 85.8. Only four MAAC teams in history have ever finished a season with a higher scoring average.

"I know that some day I'll look back at this and appreciate my night, which I was able to accomplish before a lot of people who support me, and that I did it at Madison Square Garden," added Armand.

"But I don't plan to look back at this as my one big night. I've got a lot of time left in college and, hopefully, I'll have more big nights before I'm through."

Top Women's Frosh Make Big Impression

Two games in three nights and your Hoopscribe saw the future of MAAC women's basketball.

The games, Canisiius at Siena and Siena at Iona, allowed your scribe to see what has to be the best of the best women's freshmen on conference rosters this season.

The players ...

- Kayla Hoohuli, a 5-foot-7 guard for Canisius. Your scribe saw her play at Siena on Monday. Hoohuli, believed to be the first MAAC player ever selected for Parade magazine's prestigious 40-player All-America team, lived up to her billing with 13 points on 5-of-6 shooting from the floor, including 3-of-3 from three-point range. The last trey, coming with her team trailing by five with about 30 seconds left came from all of 30 feet out, in perfect rhythm and touched nothing but net. She is an intelligent court presence, can handle the ball and definitely as long-range ability. On the year Hoohuli is averaging 8.1 points, 3.1 rebounds and has 19 assists against 20 turnovers.

- Tehresa Coles, a 5-9 guard for Siena. She has been a starter for just four games, and has used that time to be the conference's Rookie of the Week for the past two weeks. She is arguably the quickest end-to-end player in the conference, and her stats don't begin to measure her impact as a defensive pest and high-octane offensive catalyst. In her four starts she averages 9.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.0 steals and has 10 assists against 10 turnovers.

- Damika Martinez and Aleesha Powell, a tag-team backcourt from Iona. Your scribe saw their game against Siena on Wednesday in New Rochelle and they combined for 48 points (28 by Martinez and 20 by Powell). The guess here is that no two MAAC freshmen teammates, men or women, have ever combined for more points in a game. Please let me now if it has ever happened before.

Martinez is a 5-7 guard who not only is the MAAC's leading scorer among freshmen but is fifth on the conference scoring list for all players. She averages 13.4 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game. Powell, a 5-6 guard, has only been getting extended minutes in the absence of senior forward Kristina Ford (minor knee injury). In Iona's last three games she has averaged 14.3 points, 3.3 rebounds and 4.0 steals per game. Both Martinez and Powell are extremely quick, have long-range shooting ability and turn the corner against defenders and get to the basket with regularity.

It's still very early in the league season and much can still happen. But, this blogger would be highly surprised if these four young ladies don't comprise four of the five-member All-Rookie team when post-season honors are announced.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Record-Setting Night For Iona's Armand

A record setting long-range shooting performance came on one of the sport’s grandest stages from a somewhat unlikely source in Iona’s 95-59 victory over Siena in a men’s game played Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden.

In that game, Iona’s Sean Armand made 10 three-pointers (10-of-19) on his way to a game-high 32 points in just 22 minutes of playing time. The 3-pointer barrage by the 6-foot-3 sophomore guard is a MAAC record, surpassing the previous best of nine in a game.

Previous record-holders were St. Peter’s Keydren Clark, who twice made nine trifectas in a game, Loyola’s Andre Collins, Manhattan’s Bruce Seales and Siena’s Jim Secretarski.

Armand’s big night, though, wasn’t a total surprise. He had established himself as one of the league’s better marksmen as a freshmen when he set an Iona rookie record with 61 treys last season, making 42.1 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc.

This season Armand already has 32 treys, converting 50% of his attempts beyond the bonus line, in an average of just 14 minutes of playing time through Iona’s first 14 contests.

Armand’s limited minutes is testimony to Iona’s depth, particularly in the backcourt which has a starting duo of all-league caliber performers point guard Scott Machado, who leads the nation in assists (10.3 per game) and Lamont “Momo” Jones, a transfer from Arizona who averages 15.6 points per game.

But it was Armand, who continually riddled Siena’s zone defense with his long-range effort Tuesday night.

Afterwards he expressed his pleasure at having the big night so close to home.

"That’s something I’m really happy about,” said Armand, a Brooklyn native. “My friends and family were here at Madison Square Garden. There is no better place to do this.”

Armand, who was averaging 6.8 points per game prior to his big night, had 20 points in the first half alone, all coming in the final 6:13 of play on 6-of-9 shooting from long range. Armand had four more three-pointers in the second half on his way to the MAAC’s one-game record.

“I felt good,” Armand said afterwards. “Someone told me on the bench when I hit the one that tied the record, but you have to keep going.”

He did, getting one more to break the conference’s record for most three-pointers in a single game.

Surprisingly, it was not the most three’s ever made against a Siena team. That came when Gary Bossert of Niagara made 11 on just 13 attempts in a game against the Saints in the 1986-87 season. At the time, though, both programs were members of the North Atlantic Conference.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Year''s Predictions for MAAC Teams

Happy New Year.

The New Year, kind of like the beginning of baseball's spring training, brings fresh hope for athletic teams. That's the sense within the MAAC where women's teams begin league play on Monday and where men's teams have 16 of their 18 conference games still to play.

So, for now, hope beats eternal.

And, rather than make New Year's resolutions for conference teams, we'll concentrate on each team's expectations for the rest of the way.


IONA: No more nights off like its most-recent game, a loss at sub-.500 Hofstra. Games like that serve as a reminder of how hard a team needs to play. The expectation here is great, a potential 18-0 conference record.

FAIRFIELD: A season of transition as new players continue to find chemistry with returnees and everyone adjusts to a new coach, resulting in its best play down the stretch and.

LOYOLA: A continued season of positive surprises, the continued emergence of sophomore guard Dylon Cormier as one of the conference's best perimeter players and the potential to legitimately challenge either for the regular-season or post-season titles.

RIDER: Like Fairfield, a season of transition as the Broncs adjust to key losses, new personnel and a sluggish start. But the talent here is too good for Rider not to eventually get at least to .500 overall and cause some late-season damage.

SAINT PETER'S: Another team in transition, after losing four starters. The regular-season record might not wind up being pretty, but there's a good chance things start coming together as the year progresses and the Peacocks earn some impressive late-season victories.

SIENA: The expectations with just six healthy scholarship players right now aren't very high, but the Saints are far exceeding those. Wins over Albany, Princeton and Florida Atlantic, three pretty good mid-major teams, are early eye-openers. Siena won't contend for a league title, but will be better than expected.

NIAGARA: An abundance of talent, but very young. A growing-pains season this year, but on some nights, particularly as freshman Josh Turner gets up to speed, the Purple Eagles will be very good and will be even better in subsequent seasons.

CANISIUS: More transition with the loss of four starters from last season, and even more ahead with three talented transfers currently practicing and becoming eligible a year from now. Still good enough to upset a few teams, but the best days begin next season.

MANHATTAN: A continuation of new confidence, new pride and a new culture within the program. The team's early season success is no mirage. Young players from past seasons have matured rapidly, and Manhattan is poised to return to the upper half of MAAC teams very soon.

MARIST: Yet another very young team that has had some eye-opening early season results that aren't a mirage. Marist should be fun to watch mature this year and move back to being a very solid team and possibly better than that next season.


MARIST: Even head coach Brian Giorgis admits his team isn't as good as last season, but he still believes it's good enough to win the conference title, and we haven't seen any real strong evidence to believe otherwise. It won't go 18-0 in the MAAC like last year, but we'd be surprised if it didn't win at least 14 conference contests.

LOYOLA: Year-long contention for the regular-season title, particularly since Miriam McKenzie, it's top scorer, returned after missing three games with a shoulder issue. If she and do-everything Katie Sheahin stay healthy the Greyhounds are poised to overtake Marist if the Red Foxes falter at all.

FAIRFIELD: A way to overcome early season rebounding issues, mostly through hard work which has been the program's calling card in recent years. Don't expect the Stags to drop below the top four positions in the standings.

SIENA: Much better than the 2-7 start thus far. Like a year ago, when the Saints started 1-8 before going 11-7 in league play, the current team is poised to go on a similar run.

RIDER: An 8-3 mark so far after winning just five games all last season. It has all the parts in place to continue to be strong. It would not be a surprise to see the Broncs finish in the top four this year.

SAINT PETER'S: A struggle right now with a young roster that's only going to get better as the season progresses.

CANISIUS: It might not be this year but Canisius is waiting in the wings to capture a league title if Marist slips at all. The Golden Griffs are the league's only team without a senior on the roster, but still look strong.

NIAGARA: A strong non-conference schedule (Niagara is currently 3-9) has toughed this team up for conference play. Won't contend this year, but will cause some problems.

IONA: It all depends on the health of senior forward Kristina Ford, who missed the team's last game with a leg injury. If she comes back healthy Iona can contend for league honors. If not, then the Gaels will fall back some.

MANHATTAN: An active four-game winning streak is no mirage. The Jaspers need to rebound better, but have more than enough offensive firepower to cause problems in the league this season.

Fairfield Women's Pre: Strong Once Again

Here's another, and the final, in the series previewing MAAC teams.

Up now ...


2011-12 RECORD TO DATE: 7-4.

2010-11 RECORD 10-8 in MAAC play, 17-13 overall.


KEY RETURNEES (This season's statistics): 5-8 sophomore guard Katelyn Linney (10.2 points, 1.8 rebounds), 5-10 sophomore guard Alexis Vazquez (5.6, 2.2), 5-6 senior guard Desiree Pina (11.0, 4.5, 3.5 assists), 5-11 senior forward Taryn Johnson (11.5, 7.3, 1.8 blocks), 6-2 sophomore forward Kate Cizinski (6.3, 4.3).

KEY LOSSES: Joelle Nawrocki (5.5, 3.2).

NOTES: Four non-conference losses against solid opponents Vermont, Quinnipiac, Providence and UConn. To date, the Stags have won all the games they have been "supposed" to win ... Just about everyone back, but last year's problems, primarily rebounding, remain unsolved. Opponents average 6.4 more rebounds per game than Fairfield ... Johnson, who missed three games recently but has returned, leads the league in blocks and field-goal percentage and is second in rebounding. She is one of the top players in the conference and any chance Fairfield has to legitimately contend for a regular-season crown rests on her continued good health. Pina remains at point guard, where she is somewhat misplaced, but is having a strong senior year. She already has more than 1,000 career points and Johnson and Linney will likely join that club later this season ... Junior forward Brittany MacFarlane (3.9, 5.1) is strong off the bench. Freshman guard Felicia DaCruz looks like she will develop into a nice player, but isn't there yet ... Linney is one of the league's top long-range shooters, and currently leads the MAAC with 2.5 treys per outing... The team doesn't score a lot of points, scoring only more than 56 just twice all year. But, that's not their style. Stags remain one of the better defensive units in the MAAC.

HOW FAIRFIELD CAN WIN: Get just a little more help on the boards. Otherwise the Stags are a team that can be highly competitive, particularly since its best two players are seniors and since Pina is playing much better than a year ago. The Stags are a difficult team to prepare for based strongly on dozens of offensive play sets. Over the last few years, between their strong defense and half-court precision offense they have been a methodical force, and will remain so this year as long as everyone stays healthy. They just need, mostly, to keep doing what they've done in recent years.

PREDICTION: The likelihood is that Marist's sub.-.500 non-league record to date is a product of an extremely challenging schedule. But, if the Red Foxes fall back a little, then Fairfield is one of the teams that will challenge. Otherwise, the Stags will contend for one of the top four spots with a chance to finish as high as second.