By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)
1 (Formerly: 1). Villanova (25-2, 12-2 Big East)
Previous week: W 80-54 vs. Seton Hall, W 87-76 @ Marquette
Upcoming week: Tuesday vs. Providence, Saturday @ Xavier
I was courtside for the Wildcats’ dominating win over Seton Hall; revisit the full recap. Villanova then extended their winning streak to 8 games with a win over the pesky Golden Eagles in Milwaukee. Despite leading scorer Matt Carlino sitting out with a concussion, Marquette hung around all game, keeping the deficit around 10 to 14 points the majority of the second half. However, any time the Wildcats looked to be in danger, as usual, it was their perimeter shooting that bailed them out. Darrun Hilliard, Dylan Ennis, and Ryan Arcidiacono each hit 3 treys a piece, as the Wildcats made 11 of 21 threes as a team on the afternoon. Ennis had a strong all-around game with 14 points, 7 rebounds, and 6 assists.
Villanova now holds a 3-game lead in the Big East with 4 games to play; a regular season conference title is all but secure. They’re off to the best start in school history, but the season’s success will be ultimately be decided but how they fare in tournament play. However, this year’s squad certainly has all the pieces in place to make a deep run: great depth, strong defense on the perimeter and protecting the rim, and a versatile offensive attack. They’ll look to knock off a couple more difficult Big East opponents this week as they gear up for the stretch run.
2 (2). Temple (19-9, 10-5 AAC)
Previous week: L 67-58 @ SMU, L 55-39 @ Tulsa
Upcoming week: Thursday vs. Houston
Temple’s season-best 7-game winning streak came to a screeching halt down in Texas, as just like their earlier meeting with the Mustangs, a second-half collapse led to defeat for the Owls. Temple led by 10 five minutes into the second half, before a 7-0 SMU run got the Mustangs back into the game. The Owls still led by 3 in the closing minutes, but SMU went on another 10-0 run behind two Ryan Manual three pointers (just his second and third treys of the season). Will Cummings was the only Owl to finish in double figures, finishing with 14 points, 7 assists, and 7 steals.
The Owls’ offensive struggles continued in Oklahoma, as Temple had its lowest point total of the season against the Golden Hurricane. Tulsa went on a 16-2 run in the second half, a stretch that included a 8-minute scoring drought for the Owls. On the game, Temple shot just 24.6% from the field and only made 1 of 14 attempts from behind the arc. Once again, Will Cummings was the lone player in double figures for Temple, recording 15 points on 5-7 shooting. Aside from Cummings, the team shot an absymal 18%.
This 2-game losing streak severely damaged the Owls at-large NCAA tournament hopes; they could really use another quality win or two on the resume. With only one game upcoming this week against a Houston team 1-13 in conference play, Temple needs to regain its stroke from the floor and begin finishing the regular season strong.
3 (3). La Salle (15-12, 7-7 A-10)
Previous week: W 87-72 vs. Duquesne, L 68-64 (OT) @ Saint Louis
Upcoming week: Wednesday @ Fordham, Saturday vs. Rhode Island
The Explorers had their highest offensive output of the season this past week against the Dukes, using the long ball (13-30 3PT) to great effect to roll to an easy victory. La Salle wasted no time getting going, jumping out to a 15-2 lead behind 5 threes (3 from Jordan Price, 2 from Cleon Roberts). Price finished with a game-high 19 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists, while Jerrell Wright recorded 14 points and 10 rebounds, the senior’s first double-double in 6 games.
Unfortunately for La Salle, that long-distance prowess completely escaped them their next contests against the Billikens (just 1-11 on the game). Still, the Explorers found themselves up 5 with 2 minutes left in regulation before a quick 7-0 St. Louis run (aided by 2 La Salle turnovers) put the Billikens back in front. Jordan Price (game-high 22 points) was able to draw a foul on the Explorers’ final possession to send the game to overtime, In the extra frame, La Salle went over 3 minutes without scoring and Price’s potential game-winning three-point attempt in the closing moments was off the mark. Mike Crawford made the final 4 free throws to ice the game for St. Louis.
Now at 7-7 in the A-10, La Salle finds itself squarely in the group where they’re unlikely to move up into the top-4 and earn the double bye, but also unlikely to drop down to the bottom 4 and into the play-in games. These final four games for the Explorers will be about finding some consistency and getting on a roll heading into the postseason.
4 (4). Drexel (10-17, 8-8 CAA)
Previous week: L 82-78 @ James Madison, L 83-73 (OT) @ Northeastern
Upcoming week: Thursday vs. Delaware, Saturday @ William & Mary
Following their terrific 6-game winning streak, Drexel has now lost 3 straight games with their normally reliable defense letting them down this past week. Against James Madison, the Dragons hit 14 threes to stay in the game, led by Damion Lee, who drained 4 of 8 treys on his way to a game-high 26 points. Freddie Wilson also exploded for a season-high 16 points in just 10 minutes, drilling 4 of 5 triples. Sammy Mojica had two chances from three in the closing seconds which could have brought the team within a point, but neither found the mark.
Facing the Huskies, Drexel charged all the way back from an 11-point deficit with 3 minutes left to tie the game at the buzzer. Mohamad Bah put back a Damion Lee missed jumper despite getting fouled, but unfortunately for the Dragons, missed the ensuing free throw which would have won the game. Northeastern’s David Walker then scored 11 of his 25 points in overtime to propel the Huskies to victory. Lee took game-high honors with 30 points, while Tavon Allen added 14, including 8 points during Drexel’s pivotal run late in regulation. The pair are the only two Dragons averaging double figures, with Lee now 5th in the nation in scoring.
Devastingly, word came late Sunday that the terrible injury imp that has plagued the Dragons in recent seasons has struck once again.
Drexel’s Damion Lee is out for the season with a fracture in his right hand, the school announces.
— Josh Verlin (@jmverlin) February 22, 2015
Without Lee, it’s hard to muster any optimism for Drexel the rest of the way. The Dragons’ next game against rival Delaware carries a ton of significance, as a win will guarantee Drexel finishes in the top 6 and avoids one of the play-in games in the CAA conference tournament. Given the defense regressing in the past week and the loss of the guy who they rely on for such a huge portion of their offense, the Drexels may very well continue their downward spiral.
5 (5). Saint Joseph’s (11-15, 5-9 A-10)
Previous week: L 68-64 @ Dayton, L 70-60 (OT) vs. St. Bonaventure
Upcoming week: Wednesday @ Massachusetts, Saturday vs. Richmond
The Hawks had every opportunity to record a pair of wins this past week, but repeatedly shot themselves in the foot (or dribbled the ball off it). First, St. Joe’s was down just 2 points in the closing seconds against Dayton, but star DeAndre Bembry dribbled the ball off his foot and out-of-bounds for a turnover. Dyshawn Pierre then sank two free throws to secure the victory for the Flyers. Bembry was otherwise strong for the Hawks, recording 23 points, 9 rebounds, and 5 assists, although his 5 turnovers certainly did prove to be costly. Isaiah Miles made a career-high 5 threes on 9 attempts to tie team-high honors with 23 points, his 3rd-straight game in double figures.
Events back home against St. Bonaventure proved to be even more calamitous. Neither team scored a point over the final 3:51 of regulation, while Bembry wore the late-game goat horns once again by twice missing the front end of a one-and-one free throw situation in the final 10 seconds. Overall, St. Joe’s went without a field goal for an 11-minute period from the end of regulation into overtime. The Bonnies’ Dion Wright (17 points) outscored St. Joe’s by himself in overtime, with 9 points to the Hawks’ 8. It was a truly a self-inflicted loss for the Hawks, who committed 20 turnovers and shot a miserable 8-17 from the foul line. Guard Chris Wilson was a lone bright spot with 20 points (4-9 from three) and 9 rebounds.
The Hawks are now just 1 game ahead of 11th-place Duquesne; they would ultimately want to avoid falling into that bottom four and the additional play-in games in the A-10 tournament. However, with their remaining four games coming against teams .500 or better in the conference, St. Joe’s better figure some things out in a hurry.
6 (6). Pennsylvania (7-16, 2-7 Ivy)
Previous week: L 69-46 @ Harvard, L 67-62 @ Dartmouth
Upcoming week: Friday @ Brown, Saturday @ Yale
The Quakers’ season continues to head into a tailspin, as they’ve now lost 5 straight games, matching their worst losing streak on the year. Like their earlier meeting with Harvard, this past contest against the Crimson was an entirely lopsided affair. After Penn closed within 6 early in the second half, Harvard went on a 12-0 run to basically put the game to bed. Playing without leading scorer Tony Hicks, who was suspended two games by the team for incidents during and following last weekend’s Brown game, the Quakers struggled to get anything going offensively. Freshman guard Antonio Woods led Penn with 12 points, but the team shot just 4-14 from three, and only attempted 10 free throws, making just 4.
Unlike the Harvard game, where the Quakers didn’t realistically have a shot, Penn let one slip away the next night against Dartmouth. Leading by 4 with 5 minutes to play, the Quakers allowed the Big Green to score on their next 6 straight possessions to lose control of the game. Junior center Darien Nelson-Henry was the high man for Penn with 12 points, disappointingly the first time in his last 8 games he reached double figures. Penn will remain on the road next weekend and look to break their skid against two clubs who they’ve already lost to by double figures at home earlier this season. Hopefully the return of a re-focused Hicks can help them steal one of those contests.