Philadelphia Haunted by Its Past in Defeat

There was no magic in the Sixers’ hats in another defeat.

In a back-and-forth game against a woeful Orlando Magic opponent, the Sixers faltered down the stretch in dropping their 5th straight game and and 12th of their last 13, 99-91.  Two guys with Philadelphia ties did in the Sixers on the evening.  Former Sixer Nikola Vucevic recorded his 35th double-double of the season, 35 more than Andrew Bynum and Jason Richardson combined, with 14 points and 17 rebounds.  Vucevic has now averaged over 16 rebounds a game in the teams’ three meetings this season, likely a combination of extra motivation to show his former team what they missed out on and the soft Sixers frontcourt.

The Magic player who did the bulk of the damage was St. Joes alum Jameer Nelson.  Nelson drained five threes on his way to 24 points, in addition to 5 rebounds and 10 assists.  The ex-Hawk was huge in the fourth quarter, orchestrating the Magic offense and hitting two huge threes to stave off Philadelphia runs.  Jrue Holiday had another disappointing showing in what has become a disturbing trend for the all-star guard.  Not only was Holiday unable to shut down Nelson, a player with just the 35th-highest PER among point guards, his outside jumper was again consistently falling short, as he shot just 4-16 on the night for 8 points.  The Sixers aren’t going to win many games with production like that from their on-court leader, even against a struggling Orlando squad.

On the bright side, Thad Young did everything in his power to guide the Sixers back into the win column.  He recorded a game-high 26 points on exceptional 13-17 shooting, along with a team-high 12 rebounds and 5 steals.  Young brought his usual brand of defensive hustle and finishing around the rim; it has to be frustrating for him to continually bring a high-level of effort in a losing cause when a number of his teammates aren’t showing the same level of desire on a nightly basis.  Among Young’s teammates, Damien Wilkins earned his first start of the season and found the starting role to his liking.  He finished with 16 points, 6 assists, and 3 blocks, although he did commit a team-high 4 turnovers, including a crucial mistake with just over a minute left that turned the deficit from 4 to 7.  Spencer Hawes also contributed a solid performance with 15 points on 50% shooting and 7 rebounds.

With another loss in the books, the Sixers fly home to take on the Brooklyn Nets Monday night.  It will remain to be seen whether Thaddeus Young can bring the same level of effort on the second night of a back-to-back.  One thing is for sure though, if Jrue Holiday doesn’t get his act together, Brooklyn will likely make it 6 straight losses for Philadelphia.

Owls Soar Behind Huge Effort From Wyatt

TempleT

The Owls look to be peaking at the right time heading into tournament play.

With a boisterous crowd at the Liacouras Center donning the free white t-shirts the university gave out for Senior Day, the Owls shot right out of the gate against a startled VCU Rams opponent.  With Fran Dunphy starting the five seniors who have been integral to the Owls’ success this season, Temple got out to a 7-0 and then a 12-3 lead.  VCU’s Troy Daniels, the team’s leading three-point shooter, picked up his second foul less than three minutes into the game and everything seemed to be coming up roses for the Owls.  However, the frenetic pace of the Rams’ full court press seemed to wear frazzle Temple; when they weren’t turning the ball over, the Owls were taking quick ill-advised shots on offense, leading to an 18-0 VCU run that saw them take control of the game.  To the Owls’ credit, they regrouped and began taking the ball hard to the rim, as a parade to the free throw line saw them end the first half on an 11-0 run, cutting the lead to five.

In the second half, the efforts of Khalif Wyatt and Jake O’Brien propelled the Owls into the lead and ahead for good, finishing off an 84-76 victory.  O’Brien continued his marksmanship from the outside, hitting 3 three-pointers in the second half, going 5-8 downtown for the game on his way to 19 points.  But the Owls would not have come out on top without their leader Khalif Wyatt, who seemed bound and determined to lose his final game in front of the Liacouras home crowd.  Again and again, Wyatt aggressively attacked the basket, using his size over the smaller VCU guards to convert in the paint and earn trips to the charity stripe.  Wyatt would finish 13-16 from the foul line as he totaled a game-high 30 points.

The win secured the third seed and a first-round bye in the A-10 Tournament for the Owls.  Temple will play Friday night against the winner of Massachusetts and George Washington.  Riding a 7-game winning streak and playing their best ball of the season, I like the Owls’ chances to make some noise in the conference tournament before moving on the Big Dance.

Sixers @ Magic Game Preview (3/10/13)

The Sixers’ (lack of) effort against Orlando in their last meeting marked when fans truly knew this season was over.

Two weeks ago, Philadelphia put the nail in the coffin of this lost season in a no-show defeat to the Magic that was not as close as the 14-point final deficit indicated.  The performance prompted Doug Collins to call out members of his team and the terrible roster construction in a memorable press conference.  In turn, writers across the country trotting out the ‘Collins has never coached more than 3 seasons and this is Year 3’ mantra, with some rightfully pointing out that Collins was largely responsible for the team’s construction in the first place so he’s as much to blame as anyone.  While Philadelphia has shown better effort since that unraveling loss, they’ve still lost 5 of 6 games since then.  Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner have been mired in shooting slumps, both well below 40% in the month of March.  With the roster having been gutted this past offseason, Philadelphia will not win many games when it’s two main scorers are not getting the job done; they need Holiday to return to an all-star level and Turner to either play like a league-average player or stop dominating the ball like he believes he’s an all-star.

Like Philadelphia, Orlando has also gone 1-5 since the last meeting with the Sixers.  One player that has made the most of an increased opportunity is Tobias Harris, acquired in the J.J. Redick trade.  In his 7 games with the Magic, Harris has a 22.19 PER, averaging 16.7 ppg and 6,3 rpg on 56.0% shooting.  In his second season, Harris has enjoyed the chance to get regular playing time after being lost on the end of the Milwaukee bench; the Magic may have obtained another keeper in what people thought was just another sell-off trade.

Keys to the Game:

  • The Magic are truly a bad team, unsurprisingly ranking toward the bottom of the league in both offensive and defensive ratings.  However, after their dismantling of the Sixers in the last meeting, they will come into play with confidence and believe they deserve to win.  Get out to a strong first quarter and quickly abuse them of that notion.
  • Holiday needs to get back on track, having averaged only 13 ppg in the last 4 games on on 27.1% shooting.  He will have a combination of Jameer Nelson, Beno Udrih, and E’Twaun Moore guarding him, none of which are defensive standouts.  The Sixers will need a classic 20-point, 10-assist effort from Holiday in this one.

Prediction:

Orlando is one of a very small number of teams Philadelphia could be said to have more talent than at this point of the season.  When giving full effort, the Sixers should be able to dispatch of the Magic as they did in their 78-61 victory five weeks ago.  Despite recent defeats, the Sixers’ energy and effort has been encouraging in recent losses to Boston and Miami.  Philadelphia should come out on top in this contest to break their current 4-game losing streak.

Daily Cup of City 6 (3/10/13)

City 6 Cup 2

Yesterday’s Action

La Salle entered their regular season finale Saturday with a chance to win the Atlantic 10 title.  They might not have been far from Saint Louis in the standings but the Explorers’ play on the court showed they were far from being on even footing with the Billikens as they fell apart in the second half, losing 78-54.  La Salle played very poor defensively, routinely allowing Saint Louis easy lanes to the basket and getting crushed by the larger Billikens on the glass.  Offensively, La Salle settled far too often for long jumpers without making the defense work.  Ramon Galloway was the prime culprit, shooting a poor 3-12 from the field.

Two Billikens really stood out to me over the course of the game.  Rob Loe took time away from the Parks and Recreation set to flash his versatile offensive game, going a perfect 7-7 from the field and 3-3 from the line.  Besides showing the ability to step outside (hitting 3 threes), Loe displayed great footwork in the post and had some excellent finishes around the basket.  Additionally, Dwayne Evans was relentless on the glass, accruing 17 rebounds (including 6 offensive) to go along with 16 points.  Evans actually missed a number of easy lay-ups and put-backs or the damage would have been even worse.  La Salle will need to play much better on the both ends of the court to win any potential re-match in the Atlantic 10 tournament.

Drexel ended its disappointing 2012-13 campaign yesterday, losing in the first round of the CAA tournament to George Mason, 60-54.  The Dragons hung with the Colonials throughout the game, but could not overcome a poor shooting performance to mount that one big run and take control of the contest.  Leading scorer Damion Lee and Senior Derrick Thomas especially struggled, combining to shoot 4-21 from the field.  Frantz Massenat led the Dragons with 20 points but did commit 5 turnovers as Drexel had trouble taking care of the ball overall as a team.

Sherrod Wright dominated offensive play for the Patriots, scoring a game-high 23 points by getting to the line 12 times, hitting 11.  Bryon Allen took advantage of the Dragons’ sloppy play, recording 6 steals to help him along his way to 16 points.  George Mason will play Northeastern in the CAA semifinals today.  For Drexel, they will look to return next season with an almost completely intact roster, as Derrick Thomas is the lone graduating senior.

Traveling to Connecticut for its penultimate game of the season, Pennsylvania led Yale at halftime by one point before falling behind in the second half in a 79-65 defeat.  Yale out-rebounded the Quakers by a 36-21 margin, continually getting second chance opportunities with 11 offensive rebounds.  The Bulldogs also did an outstanding job getting to the free throw lane, converting 29 of 35 from the charity stripe.

Tony Hicks paced the Quakers’ attack, scoring a team-high 16 points on 6-12 shooting. The Bulldogs got every member of their roster into the game in their season finale with a few seniors uncharacteristically getting the nod in the starting lineup.  Normal starters Armani Cotton and Javier Duren combined with Brandon Sherrod for 46 points off the bench.  Penn will conclude its 2012-13 season Tuesday night against Princeton.

Saint Joseph’s may have caught itself looking ahead to next week’s A-10 tournament, coming out flat in a 52-40 loss to Charlotte.  The game was a brutal one to watch for fans of both sides, as the two teams combined to shoot an abysmal 30.8% from the field, including 4-35 from behind the arc.  St. Joe’s went two separate 5 minute stretches in the first half without scoring a point, but were still leading at halftime 19-18.  In the second half, Charlotte wised up and began attacking the basket and getting to the foul line.  The 49ers shot 21-26 from the charity stripe, as opposed to 9-15 for the Hawks, which proved to be the difference in a game where neither team could hit the broad side of a barn.  Langston Galloway was the lone Hawks’ player to reach double figures, with a game-high 13 points.  St. Joe’s will next play Thursday in the first round of the conference tournament.

Today’s Action

12:00 PM: Temple (22-8, 10-5 A-10) vs. VCU (24-6, 12-3) – CBS

The Owls will put the lid on its regular season in a nationally televised game against a nationally ranked opponent in the Virginia Commonwealth Rams.  Temple has a lot on the line in this contest as they can secure the 3rd seed in the A-10 tournament with a victory while they would fall to 5th with a loss and miss out on the first round bye accompanying the top 4 seeds.  Conversely, VCU is already locked in as the 2 seed and may fall victim to looking ahead to postseason action.  Both teams have played extremely well of late with Temple currently riding a 6-game winning streak, while VCU has won 8 of its last 9 games with the lone loss coming on the road to first place Saint Louis.

The Rams rate as a top-20 team with an extremely efficient offense and fast tempo leading to a 78.1 ppg mark that ranks within the top 15 in the country.  Four players average double figures for the Rams, led by Sophomore swingman Treveon Graham at 15.7 ppg and 5.9 rpg, and Junior forward Juvonte Reddic at 14.3 ppg and 8.2 rpg.  The Owls will have their hands full with a talented VCU squad.  However, having more to play for in this meeting and behind a raucous home court rocking a ‘White Out’, it would not surprise me to see Temple come out on top in this contest.

Daily Cup of City 6 (3/9/13)

City 6 Cup 2

Yesterday’s Action

Pennsylvania traveled to Rhode Island ready to play Friday night and were neck and neck with Brown all evening.  While Brown dominated the glass, out-rebounding Penn 39-23, a swarming Quakers’ defense forced 25 turnovers to keep them in the game.  In the end, the Quakers clamped down on defense down the stretch, not allowing Brown to score in the last two minutes of the game, turning a 6-point deficit into a 66-64 victory.

Miles Cartwright had another top-notch performance against Brown, as he was the Quakers’ offense in the evening, finishing with a game-high 25 points on 8-12 shooting, including a perfect 4-4 from downtown.  Also contributing was sophomore Patrick Lucas-Perry, who came off the bench to tie a career-high with 15 points.  The win moved the Quakers back to .500 in Ivy League play with two games remaining this season.

Today’s Action

1:30 PM: La Salle (21-7, 11-4 A-10) @ Saint Louis (23-6, 12-3 A-10) – NBC Sports Network

The Explorers’ regular season comes to end in a marquee match-up with A-10 title implications.  Believe it or not, La Salle will earn the A-10 regular season title with a win and some help from their Philadelphia brethren Temple in defeating VCU.  The Explorers have done an outstanding job putting themselves in this position after starting off the conference schedule 4-3.  La Salle can drop no lower than the 4th seed with a loss so a bye to the quarterfinal round of the A-10 tournament is secured regardless of this outcome.  Of course, Saint Louis earns the top seed with a win or a loss by VCU so they will come in with equal motivation.

The Billikens enter play following an overtime loss to Xavier Wednesday night, but had an 11-game winning streak prior to that game.  Saint Louis sports a top 25 defense this season and feature a balanced offensive attack with 5 players averaging at least 9.7 points per game.   Dwayne Evans does the bulk of the work inside for the Billikens, leading the team with 12.8 points on 51.2% shooting and 7.2 rebounds.  They’re not a team with any significant weaknesses and with the home court advantage in this match-up, I don’t expect La Salle to come out on top without one of their best efforts of the season.

3:30 PM: Drexel (13-17, 9-9 CAA) @ George Mason (17-13, 10-8 CAA) [CAA quarterfinal game in Richmond, VA]

Following a disappoint 2012-13 campaign, the Drexel Dragons’ last chance at redemption begins today in the CAA conference tournament.  They’ll be facing George Mason, a team with whom they split the regular season series, with both teams winning on the road.  Unsurprisingly, leading scorer Damion Lee led the Dragons in both games, dropping a game-high 29 points in the victory at Fairfax, and a team-high 16 points in defeat two weeks later.

The Patriots are led by Junior Sherrod Wright, who leads the team at 16.5 ppg with very respectable shooting numbers of 46.2% from the field and 35.8% from behind the arc.  The Dragons have done a good job containing him this season, as he’s averaged only 13 points across the teams’ two meetings.  There’s nothing particularly intimidating about this Patriots bunch; if Drexel continues to contain Wright and plays up to their capabilities, they should keep their Cinderella hopes going another day.

7:00 PM: Pennsylvania (9-20, 6-6 Ivy) @ Yale (13-17, 7-6 Ivy)

Riding a modest two-game winning streak, the Quakers travel to New Haven to take on the Bulldogs.  While one of the biggest questions on the evening remains whether the Gilmore clan will be in attendance, both teams are looking to finish the regular season on a high note after falling behind the rest of the Ivy League pack early on.

Yale won the team’s first meeting in early February 68-59 by controlling the boards (a 41-31 advantage), and consistently getting to the free throw line, making twice as many shots from the charity stripe as the Quakers (24-31 as compared to 12-20).  The Bulldogs toppled then-conference leader Princeton last evening and will certainly be playing with confidence in what is their last game of the season against a Penn team they’ve previously defeated.  With Penn facing those same Tigers Tuesday night, winning this game is their best bet to finishing their season at least .500 in conference play.

7:00 PM: Saint Joseph’s (17-11, 8-7 A-10) @ Charlotte (19-10, 7-8 A-10)

Having clinched a spot in the A-10 tournament, the Hawks look to finish the regular season strong against a struggling Charlotte squad looking to secure its spot in the A-10 tournament field as well.  The 49ers come into play having needed overtime to best last-place Duquesne in order to break a 4-game losing streak.  If you think they were lucky to win that one, you might be right as Charlotte rates as the luckiest team in college basketball this season.  The 49ers play at a much faster rate than St. Joe’s (at about 5 extra possessions per game than the Hawks) and shoot the ball fairly well at 44.6%.  The Hawks will look to slow the game down and control the tempo in this contest.  Given the recent play of both squads, I like the Hawks to emerge victorious.

Sixers Get Hot But Fall to the Heat

The Sixers were close…but no cigar…in a tough loss to the Heat.

The four Sixers coaches seated along the bench all decided to wear gray suits Friday night; I’m not sure if this was a group decision, or if subconsciously, they were reflecting the mood of the Sixers’ season.  However, when the game got underway, it looked like the Sixers might be on their way to an upset heard ’round the world.  In the first quarter, Spencer Hawes was active in scoring 9 points, Evan Turner drained 2 threes and the Heat committed 5 turnovers.  Then, midway through the quarter, the Heat called timeout, apparently looking in the mirror and remembering who they were.  Suddenly, they were throwing alley-oops, getting out on the fast break, and ended the first quarter on a 17-5 run.

Encouragingly for Sixers fans, they continued to stick around.  The long ball was key for Philadelphia, as they went 10-21 from downtown on the game, including a scorching 7 for 10 in the first half.  However, midway through the third quarter, the Sixers were up 6 when the turning point of the game occurred.  Spencer Hawes somehow found himself leading a fast break when he scored on what should have been an and-one; unfortunately for Sixers’ faithful, the referees called a charge even though Udonis Haslem clearly had his feet in the charge circle.  Hawes, who had been playing an excellent game to that point, was clearly thrown off his game and began taking bad shots and missing defensive assignments.  What should have been an 8 or 9 point Philadelphia lead, quickly devolved into a one-point Miami lead at the end of the third.  

In the fourth quarter, the Heat finally woke up and went into world-champions mode.  The outside shooting for Philadelphia went cold and Miami continued their efficient scoring on the offensive end as the Heat pulled ahead for a 102-93 victory.  The usual suspects fpr Miami were in full search-and-destroy mode on the evening.  LeBron finished with 25 points, 10 rebounds, and 5 assists, modest numbers for a man who has made that type of stat line look commonplace.  Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh finished with 22 and 16 points, respectively, both shooting 50% or better.

Thad Young and Spencer Hawes both did an excellent job of exploiting the Heat’s interior weakness on the defensive end.  Young finished 12-15 from the field tying a game-high with 25 points, and Hawes accrued a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds, much of which came before the crucial charge call.  Jrue Holiday did an excellent job distributing the ball, tallying 14 assists, but struggled to convert from the field, going 3-11 on the evening.

Looking back, this was probably the best case scenario a Sixers fan could have hoped for.  Philadelphia played their hearts off and made the Heat play a full game, providing an entertaining viewing experience for the folks at home.  In the end, the talent disparity proved to be too great and the Sixers fell short, but it can’t hurt to be encouraged from this game.  If Philadelphia can play with this level of energy and focus going forward, they will certainly come out on top more often than not.

Daily Cup of City 6 (3/8/13)

City 6 Cup 2

Today’s Action

7:00 PM: Pennsylvania (8-20, 5-6 Ivy) @ Brown (12-14, 6-6 Ivy)

Coming off their best win of the season against Harvard, the Quakers look to carry that momentum into Providence to take on the Brown Bears, where they will ask ‘What Do You See?’.  Brown enters play riding a three-game winning streak, though the three victories were against the bottom three teams in the Ivy League.  The Bears are a poor offensive squad, ranking toward the bottom in offensive rating, no doubt hurt by a subpar 40.6 FG% on the season.

Pennsylvania won the first meeting between these teams last month in a rout, 71-48.  Penn’s Miles Cartwright scored a career-high 28 points in that game, shooting 5-6 from behind the arc.  His efforts on the offensive end combined with an ice-cold shooting night from the Bears (who went 29.8% from the field and 2-18 3PT), were more than enough for a Quakers’ victory that evening.

Penn should aspire to finish .500 in conference play, which would mean winning 2 of its final three games.  With a tough game against conference leader Princeton set for the season finale, a win here is almost essential to the reach that goal.  If Cartwright can approach his excellent performance from the earlier contest and Freshman Tony Hicks can continue his emergence of late, I like the Quakers’ chances here to pull of a mild upset.

Sixers @ Heat Game Preview (3/8/13)

Super Sweet 16 Pick Candles (13 pc.)

Miami’s winning streak has reached a sweet 16 games.

When the Sixers take on the Miami Heat Friday night, fans will be treated to seeing a former first overall pick suit up.  The national high school player of the year, he has gone on to play in the league for over ten years since telling his future team “I promise if you draft me, you’ll never regret it.”  I’m talking, of course, about Kwame Brown.  You need a lot things to break your way to succeed as a franchise in the NBA and one of those things is being bad at the right time.  Brown was the consensus best high school player in his class leading up to the 2001 draft.  Two years later, the first overall pick in the 2003 draft granted you another high school star, only this one would go on to be the best player of his generation.

It’s no secret that LeBron James is in the midst of a historic stretch of basketball.  His streak of of six straight 30-point, 60% shooting games was all over the sports world last month.  James’ current PER of 31.40 would rank as the 7th highest season in NBA history, and he’s accumulating those stats playing alongside another future hall-of-famer and another all-star player.  After LeBron hit his first game-winning basket of the season Wednesday night against Orlando, the Miami Heat stretched their winning streak to an extraordinary 16 games.  To put that in perspective, the Heat have won more games since last losing than the Charlotte Bobcats have won all season.

Besides the outstanding play of James, Miami has been receiving incredible play from Dwyane Wade, the type of production that would be getting MVP consideration if the engravers of the Maurice Podoloff Trophy hadn’t already started the ‘L, E, B,’.  Wade is 4th in the league in PER and over the last 10 games, has averaged 24.4 points on 57.8% shooting, 6.0 rebounds, 5.9 assists, and 2.2 steals.  With two players competing at such elite levels and different role players stepping up every night, what’s hard to believe is that the Heat ever come close to losing.

In the Sixers’ initial game against Miami two weeks ago, the team competed hard but were overwhelmed by the amount of talent the Heat brought to the table.  LeBron James recorded a triple-double and Wade dropped 33 points on a remarkable 14-18 shooting.  The Sixers actually shot the ball fairly well, going 44.9% from the field and 11-28 from downtown.  Philadelphia will have to maintain that level of offensive production while greatly improving their defense if they’re going to stay close with the world champions.

Keys to the Game:

  • Get back on defense.  The Heat are at their best in transition, when players are throwing up half-court alley-oops to James or Wade.  Those plays get the South Beach crowd into the game, help the Miami players find a rhythm, deflate the opposition.  Prevent them at all costs.
  • Goad LeBron into taking outside shots.  James has improved his outside shooting tremendously this season but it’s still your best option as a defense.  41.0% and 42.0% LeBron is 2nd in the league (min. 100 attempts) at 75.5% from within 5 feet of the basket, behind former Sixer Andre Iguodala.  He’s shooting a very respectable 41.7% from 10 to 19 feet but you have to live with that, because if he gets to the basket consistently, it’s game over.
  • Attack the interior of the Miami defense.  If the Heat have a weakness, it’s their lack of size and interior defense with Chris Bosh starting at center.  Unfortunately, low post scoring is not the Sixers’ strong suit; Thad Young will have to do some damage down there as will Moultrie on his dives to the bucket when he’s out there.

Prediction:

LeBron and Wade have a minimum of three combined SportsCenter highlights, Sixers fans are treated to a lot of Moultrie, Wilkins, and the bench brigade in the fourth quarter, and Miami extends its winning streak to 17 games in a rout.

Daily Cup of City 6 (3/7/13)

City 6 Cup 2

Yesterday’s Action

Needing another marquee win on its tournament resume, Villanova put forth its most dominating effort this season in easily dispatching Georgetown, 67-57.  JayVaughn Pinkston took charge for the Wildcats with a game-high 20 points, in addition to a career-high 5 steals.  Villanova recorded 15 steals overall on its way to forcing an uncharacteristic 22 turnovers from the Hoyas.  The turnover situation was the second biggest factor in the Wildcats’ victory, the first being the huge disparity in trips to the free throw line.  Coming into the game ranked second nationally in both free throws made and attempted per game, Villanova more than topped its usual totals, going 30-42 from the line compared to a meager 4-8 for Georgetown.  If Villanova keeps handily winning two of the four factors to success in turnovers and free throw rate, they’ll continue to knock off the titans of the Big East in next week’s conference tournament.

In a potential let-down game before a huge regular season finale against nationally-ranked VCU Sunday, Temple maintained its focus in easily dispatching Fordham, 74-55.  The Owls put forth an outstanding defensive effort, holding the Rams to just 17 points in the first half and 34.4% shooting for the game.  With just two regular season games remaining in his collegiate career, Khalif Wyatt did something he had never before accomplished: recording his first career double-double with 19 points and 11 rebounds.  Temple actually had a poor performance from the outside, missing 12 of 14 from behind the arc, but smartly adjusted their attack and focusing on attacking the basket.  The team as whole shot 22-29 from the charity stripe, with Wyatt leading the way with a perfect 10 for 10.  With last night’s business taking care of, the Owls can turn their attention to VCU, where a win would cement their tournament spot in the eyes of the selection committee.

In the last week of the regular season, St. Joseph’s played one of its finest games, securing its largest margin of victory this season in an 81-44 win over the Rhode Island Rams.  Rhode Island more than lived up to its reputation as a poor shooting team, shooting 29.0% from the field, including an almost comical 1-20 from downtown.  Ronald Roberts, Jr. led the way for the Hawks with a double-double effort of 13 points and 11 rebounds.  The win secures a spot for Saint Joseph’s in the Atlantic 10 tournament field.  They will wrap up the regular season Saturday at Charlotte before heading to the Barclay Center for the first round next Thursday.

La Salle completed a season sweep of George Washington Wednesday night, cruising to an 84-70 victory.  The Explorers shot exceptionally well in all aspects of the game, going 60.9% from the field, 12-22 on three-pointers, and 16-18 from the charity stripe.  Senior Ramon Galloway dropped a game-high 29 points including a 4 for 7 effort from behind the arc.  La Salle overcame another strong effort from the Colonials’ Isaiah Armwood, who recorded a team-high 18 points and 10 rebounds.  The win clinches a first round bye in the Atlantic 10 tournament for the Explorers, who close out the regular season Saturday at conference leader Saint Louis.

Sixers Remain Cold in Hotlanta

There’s no end in sight to Philadelphia’s losing ways.

Even if the Sixers were playing in top form, Wednesday night’s contest in Atlanta would have been a tough game to come away from with a victory.  Having to hit the road on the tail end of a back-to-back and their fourth game in five nights, this was one of those games teams will chalk up as a schedule loss at the beginning of the season.  When tough circumstances meet a Sixers team with their season circling the drain, the result is a 107-96 defeat that wasn’t even as close as that score indicates.

As you might have expected, Al Horford put forth a dominating performance for Atlanta, with a strong all-around game of 21 points, 12 rebounds, and 6 assists.  However, the most disappointing aspect of tonight’s loss was Jrue Holiday, Royal Ivey and the rest of the Sixers backcourt allowing Jeff Teague to go off for a game-high 27 points and 11 assists.  This season has been a career year for Teague but he’s by no means an elite point guard; this is the type of match-up Holiday needs to win if the Sixers are going to win any amount of games down the stretch.

With the starters on dead legs at the end of this grueling run of games, a couple members of the Sixers bench stepped up with solid performances.  Damien Wilkins scored a team and season-high 21 points on 8-11 shooting.  Wilkins was hitting his outside shots tonight for a change; if he could do so more often, he would be a valuable member of the rotation as he always brings defense and energy to the table.  Dorell Wright also performed admirably in defeat, nearly recording a double-double with 20 points and 9 rebounds.  I wish one of the Sixers’ beat reporters would get to the bottom of why Wright landed in Doug Collins’ doghouse for such a long stretch in the middle of the season.  Wright brings solid outside shooting and defensive effort to a Sixers line-up with those two characteristics in short supply.

The loss marked the third straight for Philadelphia and 10th defeat in their past 11 contests.  Unfortunately, the road will not get any easier for the Sixers as they travel to Miami to take on the world-champion Heat Friday night.  I would love to say the Sixers have something in reserve to call upon and pull off a monumental upset, but that would be a lie.