By Sean Kennedy
Drexel 85, Alabama 83 (3OT)
Try as they might, Drexel couldn’t give the game away against Alabama, finally prevailing in triple overtime to secure third place in the NIT Season Tip-Off tournament. Playing without Damion Lee, Tavon Allen assumed his role within the Dragons’ three-guard offense. Allen (16 points) filled in admirably, showing off a nice pull-up jumper and some chops in attacking the rim. Drexel began the game in a zone defense, a rarity for the man-defense-inclined Bruiser Flint, and Alabama really struggled to solve that zone in the first half. The Dragons were in complete control of the game until they got sloppy against the Alabame full-court pressure. A few turnovers led to a 9-0 Crimson Tide run to tie the game at 46. Alabama took their first lead with 4:30 left in the game, setting the stage for a number of crazy finishes.
Down two and on defense with time winding down in regulation, Drexel sent a half-court trap at Alabama’s Trevor Releford, leading to a steal and breakaway la-up for Chris Fouch (team-high 19 points) to send the game to overtime. In the overtime periods, Kazembe Abif, returning to the lineup after sitting out Wednesday with a concussion, came up huge time and again, getting a ton of offensive rebounds and getting fouled on his put-back attempts. Abif finished with a career-high 15 points and 11 rebounds (including 8 offensive boards). The only thing keeping Alabama in the game was the play of forward Nick Jacobs. Jacobs carried the load for the Crimson Tide, scoring a game-high 23 points on 11-15 shooting; his lefty jump hook after he established deep post position was basically unstoppable. Still, The Dragons were in a position to seal the game at the end of the first overtime but Fouch missed the front-end of a one-and-one while up two in the closing seconds. Alabama was fouled on the other end and sank both free throws to force double OT.
In double overtime, with the game tied, Fouch drove in for the game-winning bucket and was absolutely raked across the arm but the whistle didn’t sound. The Madison Square Garden crowd booed the refs the rest of the game because they were waiting for the Duke-Arizona game to start and wanted this game to end. Then, in the third extra frame, Drexel was leading by two but couldn’t secure a defensive rebound following an Alabama miss. The Tide’s Jimmie Taylor was then fouled but missed the first free throw. After he missed the second intentionally, Alabama once again corralled the rebound but Releford’s last-second shot attempt didn’t find the mark and Drexel finally secured victory.
Good win for the Dragons without Damion Lee, although they had so many opportunities to run away with the game and didn’t cut off the head of the opponent. Still, the win over an SEC-school will be a nice resume-boost come tournament-selection time. They’ll have a difficult battle on their hands in their next contest as well against Cleveland State Wednesday.
Saint Joseph’s 78, Siena 66
Looking to bounce back from a bad loss to LSU in the opening round of the Old Spice Classic tournament, the Hawks took care of business Friday night against an over-matched Siena Saints squad. Saint Joe’s opened the game on a 14-1 run and led by as many as 24 points in the first half; the Hawks would lead by double figures the rest of the game to cruise to an easy victory.
Langston Galloway had his best game of the season, with a game-high 27 points behind 6-10 shooting from downtown, 7 rebounds, and 5 steals. The Hawks are now 3-0 on the year when Galloway scores at least 20 points, and 0-2 when he doesn’t. Ronald Roberts, Jr. chipped in with 19 points of his own and when both of those guys have it going on the same night, the Hawks can beat most teams in the nation. Saint Joe’s will finish out the consolation bracket of the tournament tomorrow afternoon against Washington State.
Villanova 63, Kansas 59
In a game of crazy runs, Villanova found itself down one with ten seconds left, and drew up a play for Ryan Arcidiacono, who hadn’t made a field goal the entire game. So naturally, the sophomore sank the shot with a hand in his face, to serve as the game-winner and stun the powerhouse Jawhawks.
Overall, it was a very sloppy game from both teams with plenty of poor shooting to go around. Villanova went the first 7 minutes of the game without making a shot from the floor, as they fell behind 11-2. But then it was Kansas’ turn to go ice-cold and the Wildcats fought their way into a 7-point lead at intermission. Villanova maintained that advantage until the lid when on the basket again late in the second half. The boys in blue and white again went 7 minutes without sinking a shot, with Arcidiacono’s huge bucket finally breaking that drought just in time.
Darrun Hilliard dropped 14 points and 6 rebounds, and was instrumental during the run in the first half to build the lead for the Wildcats. They also got some great play on the bench from sophomore Dylan Ennis, who was the rare man capable of finding the hoop, scoring 14 points on 3-3 shooting from behind the arc. Ennis has scored 14 points in each of the last two games after breaking his hand and missing the initial portion of the season. So far, the transfer from Rice looks to be a great addition to the time.
With the upset victory, Villanova moves on to the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament championship today against Iowa. No matter what happens in that game, the trip has already been a success for the Wildcats. A win over Kansas is the type of premier victory that gets a team into the Big Dance when they’re on the bubble in March. However, the way Villanova has played so far this year, that won’t even be an issue.
2:00 PM: Pennsylvania (2-3, 0-0 Ivy) @ Lafayette (0-5, 0-0 Patriot)
After their most convincing win of the season earlier this week against Niagara, the Quakers take a short road trip to face the Lafayette Leopards. City 6 fans saw the Leopards battle Villanova in the season opener, where they initially stayed in the game through some hot shooting but were eventually worn down by the superior size of the Wildcats. Lafayette is one of the worst rebounding teams in the nation, and I would expect Darien Nelson-Henry to have a huge day for Penn today..
Seth Hinrichs will be the biggest concern for the Quakers defense. The 6’7″ junior leads the team at 21.2 ppg on 55.4% shooting, including 46.7% from behind the arc. He’ll be matched point-for-point by Penn’s rising star, Tony Hicks. Hicks is coming off a career-high 33-points effort and there’s no reason to think Lafayette should slow him down. The Leopards have already dropped two close games to Ivy League foes in Princeton and Yale this season. I would expect the Quakers to make that a third today.
9:30 PM: Villanova (6-0, 0-0 Big East) vs. Iowa (7-0, 0-0 Big Ten)
The Wildcats will try to come back from the emotional high of defeating Kansas and remain undefeated against a very formidable Iowa Hawkeyes team. We saw Iowa stomp all over Penn a week ago and I’ll they’ve done since then is beat Xavier in overtime and destroy UTEP yesterday. Despite their lower positioning in the top-25, Iowa actually rates as one of the best teams in the country, behind a huge frontcourt that has the Hawkeyes 5th in the nation in rebounding. Iowa has 6 guys 6’7″ or taller in their regular rotation and leading scorer Roy Devyn Marble is 6’6″ himself at the guard position. Marble isn’t the most efficient player but he can really fill it up when the team needs him, as evidenced by his 30 points against Xavier Thursday night.
As crazy as it sounds, Iowa may actually be a more difficult opponent for the Wildcats than Kansas. All of that size may be a tough match-up for a Villanova squad that relies on its wings for so much of their rebounding responsibilities. The Wildcats are no doubt playing good ball but it wasn’t a great performance that propelled them past Kansas as much as catching the Jayhawks on an off night. 35% shooting isn’t going to get it down against Iowa so unless they re-gain their stroke from the outside, I think Villanova is destined for a second-place finish down in the Bahamas.