By Sean Kennedy
VCU 97, La Salle 89 (2OT)
Sometimes you lose a game to a better team and sometimes you just beat yourselves. Unfortunately for the Explorers, Saturday afternoon was the latter case. Ahead by one and with the final seconds ticking away in the first overtime, Sam Mills reached-in and fouled Rams star Treveon Graham, despite the fact that there was help defense in place, and Graham would have needed to either throw up a wild shot or get rid of the ball. Luckily, Graham only made 1 of 2 free throws to send the game to a second extra session, but with Jerrell Wright having fouled out earlier in overtime, VCU was able to pull away for a comfortable victory.
Graham was a problem for the Explorers all game, scoring a career-high 34 points and securing 12 rebounds, in addition to having the game-tying drive with 9 seconds left in regulation. Big man Juvonte Reddic also recorded an impressive double-double with 27 points and 15 rebounds. After the Explorers shot just 30% in the first half, they charged back behind the strong play of Tyrone Garland Garland dropped 30 points (25 after halftime), and was fouled three times shooting a three-pointer, helping him shoot 13-14 from the line. While it was nice to see Garland break out, a win over VCU would have been a quality victory in the eyes of the tournament committee. This outcome can’t be viewed as anything but disappointing for La Salle.
Villanova 94, Marquette 85 (OT)
It was a day of bad fouls for Philly teams as Villanova almost let a win slip through their fingers in the final minute against Marquette. Down 4, Marquette’s Todd Mayo (18 points) hit what was only the team’s 2nd three of the game while drifting out of bounds in the right corner. After Ryan Arcidiacono hit both free throws to move the lead to three, the sophomore guard made the mistake of fouling Mayo on the other end during a three-point shot attempt. The Golden Eagle hit all three free throws to force overtime. Fortunately for Villanova, they went on a 9-2 run to begin the extra session, reclaiming the victory that was rightfully theirs.
James Bell put the Wildcats in the position to win, sinking 4 threes on his way to a career-high 30 points. Darrun Hilliard also drained 4 triples for 20 points and despite the late miscue, Arcidiacono had a solid game with 20 points and 11 assists. Wearing pink uniforms to support coaches vs. cancer (great cause but man, they looked awful), Marquette was led by Davante Gardner, who hurt the Wildcats on the offensive boards (7) to tally 29 points and 13 rebounds. Overall, Marquette is a tough place to play and good to see the Wildcats prevail; they’ll face another tough road test Monday at Georgetown.
Richmond 77, Saint Joseph’s 62
There are days when you can’t buy a bucket and the other team hits everything; this game was just one of those days for the Hawks. The Spiders hit 7 threes in the first half to help propel them to a big lead, while the Hawks were ice-cold shooting on the afternoon, going just 6-22 from three and 4-10 from the foul line. Kendall Anthony hit 3 of those triples for Richmond, ending the contest with a team-high 19 points.
The Hawks were able to hang around for a while by tenaciously attacking the offensive glass, with 21 o-boards on the game. Halil Kanacevic secured 6 of those on his way to a game-high 21 points and career-high 19 rebounds. St. Joe’s had a late 13-2 run to cut it to single digits in the closing minutes but it was too little, too late. You couldn’t fault the Hawks’ effort in this game, but they can’t afford too many of these losses going forward if they’re going to make any noise in March.
William & Mary 68, Drexel 66
In a duel of two of the top-scoring guards in the CAA, it was Marcus Thornton and the Tribe who had the ball last and topped Chris Fouch and the Dragons. Fouch sank 5 threes and scored a career-high 31 points, 2 of which came on a go-ahead shot with 10 seconds left in the game to put Drexel ahead. However, that proved to be too much time for William & Mary, as Thornton drained one of his 6 threes on the game right at the buzzer, breaking the hearts of the Dragons faithful.
Drexel built itself a nice lead in the first half behind the play of Fouch and Frantz Massenat (19 points on 8-14 shooting). However, a 10-0 William & Mary run at the start of the second half behind the play of Thornton (26 points) and Tim Rusthoven (15 points) allowed the Tribe to re-gain the lead. The teams went back and forth from then on before the end-game theatrics. After wins in two triple-overtime games and a double-overtime game this season, Drexel was due to fall on the other side of the ledger in one of these close games. With all the injuries and some bad luck, it just doesn’t seem to be Drexel’s season.
Pennsylvania 89, N.J.I.T. 74
Facing one of the weaker teams in Division 1 and its lone independent, Penn knew it had to come away with a victory Saturday and handled its business on its home court. As expected, the Quakers dominated the glass by a 46-29 margin against the undersized Highlanders; Darien Nelson-Henry and Fran Dougherty each double-doubled on the night. However, the stars offensively for the Quakers were along the perimeter as Tony Hicks and Miles Jackson-Cartwright split top scoring honors with 23 points and 4 made threes a piece.
Damon Lynn hit 7 of 11 threes for N.J.I.T to record a game-high 25 points, but only one of his teammates reached double-digits. It was the last out-of-conference game for the Quakers, so they’ll look to use the lumps they’ve taken this season into Ivy league play and work to feel good about their work in conference play.
4:00: Temple (5-12, 0-6 AAC) vs. Cincinnati (18-2, 7-0 AAC) – CBS Sports Network
Temple enters play Sunday looking for their first conference win and a little revenge in the process. The Owls lost in Cincinnati just two weeks ago as the Bearcats’ leading scorer Sean Kilpatrick hit 6 threes on his way to a game-high 23 points. However, the Owls didn’t have the services of point guard Will Cummings for that contest so the hope his inclusion in the lineup as well as the home court advantage will be enough to turn the tides against Cincinnati.
As mentioned, Kilpatrick leads the team in scoring at 19 points per game, while big man Justin Jackson is a double-double threat averaging 12 points and 7 rebounds. But where Cincinnati really shines is on the defensive end where as they hold opponents to only 38% shooting (15th-best in the nation). Jackson is one of the premier shot blockers in college basketball at 3.5 per game, while he and Kilpatrick each swipe about 2 steals per game. Anthony Lee and the rest of the Owls are going to have a rough go of things scoring on the inside. They’ll need guys like Dalton Pepper and Cummings to be on target from the outside to have a shot in this contest.