Silver lining in Lafayette's clouds, while the PL loses more ground to the Ivies

Before we get into analyzing Lafayette's tough road loss at Marist last night, we want to provide a little lesson on the difference between papers who do a good job covering hoops, and those who are mediocre at best.

In our book, the mark of good coverage is staffing the game. That means sending one of your reporters, or arranging a correspondent to file from a game on the road. Papers that rely on the reports they get from the Sports Information department just don't give fans a full and accurate idea of what happened at the game. Those reports are generally just a narrative box score, with a little play-by-play mixed in.

Sometime later in the season we might dig into that a little further. Maybe we will even give report cards to the media that cover the Patriot League. It's too soon to do that.

For now, though, here are two stories from the Lafayette-Marist game that illustrate the point.

The first comes from the Middletown N.Y. Times Herald-Record. You can pretty much tell where this is headed by the lede:
Sophomore Will Whittington scored a game-high 27 points, including 21 in the second half, to lead Marist to an 83-79 non-conference win over Lafayette last night before 2,678 fans at the McCann Center in Poughkeepsie.
Now, check out the story Roderick Boone of the Poughkeepsie Journal wrote. Boone starts out:
He scored only six points in the first half and wasn't getting many good looks.

The frustration was evident on his face, especially when he was heading into the locker room at halftime, seconds after he thought he was fouled on his team's final offensive possession.

In the second half, though, he looked more like the person who's the leading scorer on the Marist College men's basketball team. And first-year Marist coach Matt Brady couldn't have been happier.

Will Whittington pumped in 21 of his game-high point total in the second half and hit a pair of crucial free throws with 3.4 seconds left, leading the Red Foxes past Lafayette, 83-79, in a non-conference matchup before 2,678 at the McCann Center Friday night.
Both pretty much cover the same facts, but Boone's story actually tells you what happened.

Here's another piece of his story that you won't find in most SID phoned-in reports:
After falling behind by as many as four points during the beginning of the second half, Marist (4-4) regained control after a huge momentum swing. Whittington was fouled in the backcourt by Lafayette's Bilal Abdullah, who thought he had a clean steal.

The Leopards' bench jumped up almost in unison to dispute the call, and official Wally Rutecki, Jr. called a technical foul on Lafayette coach Fran O'Hanlon with 9:46 left.

Whittington knocked down the two technical free throws and both foul shots. He also hit a three-pointer 40 seconds later, swelling the Red Foxes' advantage from five to 12 all by himself.
It is worth noting that papers in the Lehigh Valley would have gotten a little more on the technical from the report filed by Lafayette's sports info folks. We don't have any idea what either paper reported. The Morning Call's Web site had nothing on the game and the Easton Express-Times' feed to PennLive appears to have been down this morning.

Meanwhile, a couple things of interest from the box score: Marist got to the foul line 28 times, Lafayette 17. But a look at the play-by-play shows eight of Marist's free throw attempts came in the final 2:20, when the Leopards, down by 8, were likely going for steals or even fouling on purpose to try to take advantage of the Red Foxes' relatively poor shooting (1-for-28) from the stripe to get some two-for-one trades to cut that gap. In other words, it looks like it was pretty evenly officiated.

Lafayette's bench made a big contribution, especially Andre Capusan, who had 15 rebounds and 13 points. The Leopards reserves scored 34 points. That is some serious bench production.

Hard to say if the Leopards' bench will keep that pace in League play, since at this point, it is hard to say who will be starting and who will be coming off the pine. If you check the 'Pards season stats, you will notice nine different players have gotten at least two starts as O'Hanlon continues to search for the right combination. Heading into last night, Lafayette used five different starting lineups in its first six games.

Interestingly, 6-8 senior center Sean Knitter, the Leopards leading scorer and the only Lafayette player averaging in double figures (11.1 ppg), has not started a single game.

Some other notes from the Marist box: After having nobody in double figures rebounding all season, Capusan and 6-6 sophomore forward Jamaal Douglas bother did it last night. Douglas had 11 boards and 12 points. Capusan and Douglas also provided the first double-doubles of the season for the 'Pards.

Bottom line, we continue to believe that Lafayette will be a factor in Patriot League play. Despite their 1-6 record, they seem to be getting a little better each time out. Add in the Fran O'Hanlon factor, and one of the toughest homecourts in the league, and we smell trouble for the teams that expect to contend for the regular season title.

Not suggesting that the young Leopards will be one of those contenders. But we will not be surprised if they are the league's spoilers both in the regular season and in tournament play. Mark our words, somebody amongst the four teams expected to battle for the title -- American, Bucknell, Holy Cross and Lehigh-- is going to overlook the 'Pards and get smacked hard in Kirby. And more than likely, it is going to cost them, at the very minimum, a home court in the first two rounds of the tournament.

Elsewhere, the Patriot League lost more ground in the season series with the Ivies withColgate's 85-82 OT loss to Harvard last night in Hamilton (box score).

The Ivies now lead the series 8-3, with 12 left to play. Since two of those involve Army, they almost seem like the Ivies have two games in hand, to borrow a hockey phrase (yes, I know it doesn't mean exactly the same thing as used here, save the e-mails). Two of the other 10 involve Princeton or Penn.

In other words, the Patriots have very little, if any, margin for error if they are to win the season series.

I thought scholarships were going to solve that.

If you are really bored, there are some blurry, out of focus pictures from the Lafayette-Marist game on the Marist Web site.

Or better yet (shameless plug warning), why not do some Christmas shopping over at You'll make people you love very happy and help support Hoop Time at the same time.

How's that for a double-double, eh?

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This should solve everything (trying not to laugh)

Ran across this article in the Syracuse Post-Standard this morning: Boeheim to work with group out to improve game's image

Boeheim is going to be a part of something dubbed the "College Basketball Partnership."

According to the story:
Among the issues that the group hopes to address are graduation rates, recruiting scandals and coaches' conduct.
Ah, good intentions. But look at the guest list:
Among those expected to attend are NCAA president Myles Brand, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany, Oklahoma coach Kelvin Sampson and former Big East commissioner Dave Gavitt.
Now we are not saying any of those guys are part of the problem. But we sure don't see the ACC, Big East, Big Ten or Big 12, or any of the Big Money types, as part of the solution.

This strikes me as window dressing. A nice PR initiative to make it look like everyone is concerned.

It's sort of like tinkering with the BCS formula again, instead of starting I-A football playoffs.

This hoops initiative would seem a lot more earnest if they invited some people from a league like the Patriot. After all, it would seem the league with the NCAA's highest graduation rates might just have some insight into how to make it work.

Of course we all know the formula the Patriot would suggest. It would start with only letting kids into school that actually are coming to be students.

I am the first one to criticize the league for being clueless when it comes to marketing and promotions. But give them credit for the more important things, like recruiting quality kids and actually giving them an education.

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We smell a rat

Coaches always say there are no moral victories.

What I want to know: Are there immoral ones?

If so, does Boston College's 63-60 overtime win over Holy Cross fall into that category?

I am convinced there are such games. I know it for a fact. And I suspect this was one of them.

We're not talking immoral in a Howard Stern sense, or in a Boston College betting scandal way. We're not saying the players or coaches did anything wrong.

The ones we are wondering about are the officials.

Too many times I have watched refs call a game as though they knew who was supposed to win.

Too many times the fouls are lopsided because the guys in stripes come in with the predetermined opinion that the team from the small conference can't possibly actually be playing as physical as the big boys unless they are fouling.

Maybe immoral is the wrong choice or words. It might not be as blatant or conscious as that word might imply. More likely it is a subtle influence, one a ref could deny while attached to a lie detector without ever moving the needle.

It happens nonetheless.

I'm not saying that is what happened to Holy Cross last night. I was not there, it was not on TV. Maybe the Crusaders really did hack away against the Eagles. Maybe they really were fouling while BC was just "playing physical." Maybe Saddam really did have weapons of mass destruction.

Like I said, I have nothing but circumstantial evidence to support my suspicion. And it I just that: a suspicion, not an accusation.

I look at the reports I can find on the Crusaders loss, and I see the pattern. I look at the stories I can find from people who were at the game, and I can't come up with a witness.

That doesn't mean it didn't happen. This country has a long tradition of witnesses to crimes being afraid to come forward to speak the truth. If you think the same doesn't hold true amongst sports writers, you are kidding yourself.

For some reason, in this country, the mainstream media is loath to criticize the officiating of a game unless there is that one blatant missed call that can be verified by the instant replays. Even then, they only write about it if it is the one play that changes the game.

It's worth noting, by the way, that is not the way it is everywhere. An old friend (and star of the legendary but now defunct Hoop Time 3-on-3 team) Dave Angstadt (father of Brown women's player Stefanie) spent over 10 years playing in Europe. His scrapbooks are full of boxscores from sports publications over there that include referee evaluations. They give them rankings similar to a film critics' "stars" or a restaurant critics' "forks" and include comments. They are not afraid to flat out call someone a homer if that is what they see.

Our system of fining coaches for commenting on the officiating also stifles criticism of the stripes. Coaches are hesitant to say anything on the record. Outside of the postgame press conference, though, they will tell you exactly what I am saying. Too often the officials call games like they have a preconceived idea of which is the better team.

Here's as close as I could come to evidence of this happening last night from the stories in the papers today.
"The Eagles ruled from the foul line, holding a 30-15 edge in free throws made, and that made the difference."
That came, by the way, from Michael O'Connor's column in the Boston Herald.

Actually, O'Connor got that wrong. If you look at the box score, you will see that those numbers actually represent how many foul shots each team took, not converted. BC was 22-for-30 from the line; HC 7-of-15.

One could argue, I suppose, that if HC had shot foul shots even reasonably well they would have won in regulation. The Crusaders shot below 50 percent (5-of-13) from the line in regulation.

That might be so, but it does not deny the fact that Holy Cross got called for 50-percent more fouls than BC (24 to 16) and BC got to shoot twice as many free throws. This despite the fact, that by every account, the Crusaders outplayed the Eagles in every facet of the game other than free throw shooting.

The AP story read like this:
"The Boston College Eagles needed Steve Hailey's improbable basket to help them win on a night when they were outscrapped and outhustled.
Michael Vega in the Boston Globe said:
"Statistically speaking, the Eagles had no right winning this one"
Mike Shalin of the Boston Herald put it this way:
"BC coach Al Skinner looked at the stat sheet after the game and saw his team was outrebounded (41-39, 19-9 on the offensive boards), outhustled (Holy Cross had 13 steals) and also lost the turnover battle (BC had 18, the Crusaders only 12). But the Eagles, who host Boston University tomorrow night, are 6-0 and Holy Cross fell to 4-3."
Was the officiating solely responsible for HC's loss. Heck no.

We already mentioned how the Crusaders' foul shooting left them down. And only a fool would fail to mention Holy Cross' 4:26 scoreless stretch late in regulation after they battled back to take a 51-48 lead.

Ralph Willard pointed to another problem when he talked to Jennifer Toland of the Worcester Telegram-Gazette (no link because they require a subscription):
"Coming down the stretch, we had to throw the ball inside and we didn’t do that. Kevin Hyland was 5 of 7, Nate was starting to score and we didn’t make the plays we said we were going to make in the last six minutes of the game. It’s mind-boggling we didn’t throw the ball inside."
Toland, though, also mentioned:
Holy Cross scored 34 points in the paint.
Go ahead, call me a conspiracy theorist. Tell me I should be wearing a tin-foil hat.

All I know is that I have watched a ton of basketball over the years, and it is not often that the team that is dominating inside is the one doing the preponderance of the fouling.

I'm not saying Holy Cross got robbed. But that doesn't mean it didn't happen.


Army 75, SUNY Maritime 59 -- (box score) I love this line from the wrap on
"The Black Knights improve to 2-6 . . ."
As they say in the chat rooms: ROTFLMFAO.

Improved? A win over a winless D-3 team in a game that was actually tied with 4:25 to play in the first half. The fact that anybody could refer to that as "improved" tells you just how horrible the Cadets are.

On tap:

Two games tonight, two more tomorrow on a light schedule as finals loom. Colgate plays host to Harvard and Lafayette visits Marist.

The most interesting matchup of the weekend comes Saturday afternoon in our nation's capital, when Ohio U. visits American. O.U. is coming in off its first loss, an 83-74 setback Tuesday night at St. Francis (Pa.). AU holds a win over that same St. Francis team. But that was at home, and anybody who has ever been to Loretto can tell you, it's a whole different ballgame when you are in the Maurice Stokes center. Look up "homered" in the dictionary and it says: See St. Francis (Pa.) basketball.

Saturday night, Stony Brook will try to improve to 3-0 against Patriot League teams and to claim at least a share of the Commander in Chief's trophy (they already beat Army) when the Sea Wolves visit Navy.

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Be careful what you wish for

There's a fairly vocal contingent of Holy Cross fans who have it in their heads that the Crusaders are too good for the Patriot League.

Not just this season, though they are not shy about complaining that the rest of the league's out of conference struggles are going to hurt their seeding come March.

The fact that conference play has not yet begun, and the fact that Holy Cross is not even picked to win the league, does not deter them a bit.

Even if Holy Cross actually sucked (and we are not saying they do, but we've been around the Patriot League long enough to remember the Bill Raynor era and we've read about the lean years in the 1980s before HC joined the league), those fans would still insist the grass would be the 16th green at Augusta if only the Crusaders played in a league of fellow Catholic schools like Georgetown, St. John's and Boston College.

Sure, the argument can be made that HC's administration dropped the ball when they passed up on a chance to join the Big East. Then again, there is no guarantee that moving to a higher profile league would make things better in Worcester.

No need to rehash what happened to Fordham when it jumped to the Atlantic Ten in search for hoops nirvana. We covered that in detail on Monday.

Instead, we will point to the fortunes of tonight's opponent, Boston College. Sure the Eagles have been pretty decent the past few seasons. But it was not that long ago that they were among the dregs of the Big East. Between the 1989-90 season and the 1999-00 campaign, BC suffered through six losing seasons and two others in which they failed to get above .500 in conference play.

As I pointed out the other day over on the Holy Cross hoops board:
. . . the Crusaders have a rich history ... 11 NCAA Tournament appearances. But four of those came courtesy of playing in the much-maligned Patriot League. Five were before 1960. The other two were in 1977 and 1980.

During the MAAC years, if my research is correct, HC made one post-season appearance, a 1990 NIT bid.
Yeah, we know all about Bob Cousy. Christy Mathewson went to Bucknell, but nobody is suggesting the Bison should play baseball in the National League.

It might also be worth mentioning that Boston College didn't exactly find the Big East to be the be all and end all Holy Cross fans seem to think it is.

Which brings us to tonight's matchup.

Michael O'Connor of the Boston Herald says BC coach Al Skinner is giving HC some respect. Sure coaches almost always say the right things about oponents, but in this case Skinner, with good reason, sounds genuine:
"As far as this particular game goes, it's clear they've always been a very good opponent who can play physical and be aggressive,'' he said.

"Remember, we lost to them a couple of years ago and they came in here last year and played us very well (a 64-51 BC win). This is a very important game for them, to establish themselves early, but it is just as important for us to continue what we're doing."
Ralph Willard says the Crusaders have their work cut out for them against Boston College:
"(BC) is a Top 25 caliber team that returns 4 starters from a team that won 24 games last year. They have good balance between the front and backcourt and play excellent defense , switching between man and a 3-2 matchup with some 1-2-1-1 three quarter court pressure sprinkled in. They have one of the most difficult people in the country to guard in Craig Smith and are very well coached by Al Skinner."
CBS Sportsline's scouting report on the BC says:
"The Eagles have been playing great thus far, particularly on offense."
Mike Shalin of the Boston Herald is predicting BC could be 11-0 when it opens Big East play. Shalin gives the 'Saders no respect:
"The Eagles' upcoming opponents don't figure to help them move up the lists, but they likely won't knock Al Skinner's team from the unbeaten ranks, either. BC hosts Holy Cross Thursday and Boston University Saturday before Yale (Dec. 19), Duquesne (Dec. 22) and always formidable Kent State (Dec. 29) round out the month. BC visits UMass on Jan. 2 and visits Hartford three nights later to battle the Huskies, probably for the last time."
At any rate, this is a chance for the Holy Cross fans to see what life is like on the other side of the fence.

Elsewhere tonight:

Army takes on the mighty whatever-they-are-calleds of SUNY Maritime. We'd love to tell you more about Maritime, but the athletics page of its Web site has been down the past two days and Army hasn't even bothered to post game notes. We assume this game was scheduled to give the Cadets a second chance at avoiding a winless season in case they had been upset by Polytechnic.

We don't feel too bad. USA Today couldn't find out anything about Maritime either.

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Dark clouds in AU's silver lining

American improved to 4-2 last night, topping Towson 75-64 for its first road win.

Compared with some of the league's recent out of conference results, this is certainly a positive. Then again, wins over teams like Towson are not going to do a whole lot to boost the Patriot's RPI.

About the game: Give Towson credit. The shut down Andre Ingram (box score). Give AU credit. Other guys stepped up. As Kevin Van Valkenburg points out in theBaltimore Sun:
"Ingram had little success against the Tigers, shooting just 3-for-12 and scoring only nine points, but teammates Jason Thomas and Patrick Okpwae more than made up for it. Thomas scored a career-high 26 points (to go with 12 rebounds) and Okpwae added a career-high 16, and each player missed only one of the nine shots he took.

'The guys we wanted to stop, we stopped,' Kennedy said. 'The other two guys ended up getting 42 points against us, which killed us.'"
We're not sure what it is going to take for the Washington papers to take notice of AU. Thought maybe the win over Vermont would open some eyes inside the Beltway. But the Washington Post seems to be doing its best to transform its sports section in the image of its national rival, the New York Times. The Post continues to cover the D.C. area's mid-majors by sending one writer to one local game, then tacking on a paragraph or two about the rest of the games on the end of its "local colleges" wrap.

When the league moved its tournament to that horse barn in Maryland a few years ago, one of the arguments they made was that it would be the only D-I tournament in the D.C. area so it would get a lot of attention.

In the real world, tournament coverage was usually buried on page 8 of the Post's Sunday sports section, behind obvious stuff like Maryland and Georgetown, and less obvious, like sailboat racing, ice skating, dog shows and skeeball.

Toss in the arena's remote location, which was nowhere near as close to D.C. or Baltimore as it looks on this map, and you had a recipe for failure, or at least for a lack of success. Locals didn't come out, save the few American fans still in town over spring break. The hotels were miles from the arena, with no nearby watering holes or restaurants. In short, there was zero, zip, nada tournament atmosphere.

Instead of finding a central location in a mid-major town where the thing might succeed (like the Farm Show Arena in Harrisburg, the Sovereign Center in Reading, Pa., the Wachovia Arena in Wilkes-Barre, to name a few), we have this new split setup, which reeks of Division 3 and will dilute the media coverage even more. And that is not even mentioning what it will do to the women's tournament.

But we digress, this is not supposed to be a "the Patriot League can be clueless" rant. There's plenty of time for that later. This is supposed to be a breakdown of the AU-Towson game.

Not at all sure you can properly analyze a game you don't see. No, strike that, actually I am absolutely sure that you can't. Not properly, anyhow. But this being the internet, where anything is supposed to be possible, we will take a whack at it anyhow.

I'm still trying to figure out just how good American is this season. The Vermont win was semi-impressive, but it came at home, as did three of AU's four wins thus far. Towson (2-6) is not exactly a significant notch on AU's belt. The Tigers have split a pair with 2-5 Morgan State and the only other win came over2-3 Norfolk State.

There are a couple of stats from the Eagles win that should be worrisome to AU fans, though. The AU bench was outscored 21-8 by Towson and the Tigers had a 14-4 edge in second chance points. The second chance points can be explained away. Towson missed a ton of shots, 21 in the first half alone. AU only missed 22 the whole game. In other words, Towson had a lot more chances for offensive boards and putbacks.

The bench points, though, are a sign of possible problems down the road. Thomas played all 40 minutes and the four guys who got off the bench for AU combined for only 33 minutes of playing time. Only Raimondas Petrauskas had a significant line in the box score, with 4 of the 8 bench points and all 3 of the bench's rebounds. And he pretty much negated his contribution with 3 turnovers.

That has been a trend. AU's bench has been outscored in five of its six games. Take away the Niagara game, where the reserves scored 33 points, and American's bench is averaging only 9 ppg.

Late in the season, when the starters begin to get worn down from all the minutes they are playing, this could be a problem for the Eagles.

Only time will tell.

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What a difference a half makes

If you'd never seen Chris McNaughton play prior to last night, at halftime of Bucknell’s 60-45 win over Robert Morris, you’d have been scratching your head in bewilderment.

How in the world could that kid be an all-league pick, you’d have wondered. Hell, he couldn't even make a layup.

If you'd only watched the second half of that same game, though, you'd have an entirely different take. All-league? Only all-league? Not All-America, or at least All-Mid-Major?

McNaughton was beyond bad in the first half, going just 1-for-5 from the field, even though none of his shots came from outside of five feet from the hoop. It was hard to believe this was the guy who sits atop Bucknell's all-time field goal percentage list.

"Shooting layups should be easy. I guess there are some days they don't go in," said the 6-11 sophomore after the game. "Abe Badmus had five assists (box score). He could have had 10."

McNaughton was not the only one to struggle in the first half. Badmus and reserve forward Donald Brown were also 1-for-5 and Kevin Bettencourt, the Bison's leading scorer, was wearing an 0-for-3 donut at the intermission. Collectively Bucknell shot 8-for-29 (27.6 percent) in the first 20 minutes.

The Bison still managed to hold the lead at the break, 20-19, thanks to a combination of man and matchup 2-3 zone that Robert Morris (2-5) never seemed to figure out. Only the long range bombing of Maurice Carter, who hit three treys in the first half, kept the Colonials in the game. Carter had 11 points in the first half. Forward Chaz McCrommon, who was 3-for-9 from the floor in the first half, was the only other player with a field goal in the opening 20 minutes for RMU, which shot 7-for-24 (29.2 percent) before the intermission.

Robert Morris never did get its offense on track; Bucknell did. Thanks, in no small part, to McNaughton. The German import missed his first try of the second half, a layup with about 17 minutes left to play. But he grabbed his own rebound and put it back. He missed only one more shot the rest of the way. Two minutes later, McNaughton came down the middle of the lane, the trailer on a 3-on-1 break, took a feed from Charles Lee and slammed it home, tying the score at 28-28.

Mark Anderson scored at the other end to put Robert Morris back on top briefly. But less than a minute later John Griffin hit a 3-pointer for Bucknell and the Bison were off an running. Back-toback threes by Bettencourt stretched the Bison lead to 37-30. Then McNaughton took over, scoring Bucknell's next 11 points as they built a comfortable 17 point lead and coasted home.

"Every time he caught the ball down low, something good was happening," said Bucknell coach Pat Flannery.

"My teammates trusted me and kept throwing me the ball," added McNaughton, who finished with 19 points to lead all scorers.

It helped that Anderson, who was matched up with McNaughton on defense, got into foul trouble. The senior from Topeka, Kan., who gave up five inches in the matchup, picked up his fourth personal with 12:32 to play, leaving him all but helpless against McNaughton. Especially when Griffin and Bettencourt's quick barrage of 3-pointers forced the Colonials to extend their perimeter defense, taking away their ability to double down on McNaughton.

"When they hit the threes, we had to come out a little more and it opened things up," RMU coach Mark Schmidt said.

Pairing McNaughton with 6-8 freshman Darren Mastropaolo, who entered the game about the same time Bucknell began the decisive run, also helped. Mastropaolo, who looked comfortable both posting up and facing the basket, helped exacerbate the matchup problems for Colonials, who had one player over 6-6. Mastropaolo, who sat the entire first half, had four rebounds and dished three assists in his eight-minute second half stint.

"Darren restored some order and gave Chris McNaughton some room to roam a little bit," Flannery said.

The win sends Bucknell into its finals break with a 5-4 record and a two-game win streak.

Flannery said the break comes at a good time for his tired ballclub, which has played nine games already. No Division I team in the nation has played more.

The break will give McNaughton, whose nagging ankle injury has been a well-kept secret, a chance to heal fully. McNaughton sprained the ankle in the preseason and practiced only once prior to the season-opener against Princeton, Flannery said.

Badmus missed two games early because of a hip flexor problem that also can use a break and 6-7 sophomore John Clark has been playing on a bad foot.

"Physically (Clark) is a wreck," said Flannery.

Bucknell won't return to action until Dec. 18, when they travel to Ithaca to face Cornell.

BISON CHIPS: Robert Morris' only player taller than 6-6 is 6-8 freshman Beau Gibb . . . No word on whether the Oxford, Miss. Native is related to the Brothers Gibb . . . Gibb, a skinny, baby-faced kid whose long white soccer socks met his shorts somewhere just below his knees, contributed nothing to the RMU effort in 11 minutes of action, unless you count his two personals and one turnover . . . Gibb did inspire some of the most creative heckling heard from Bucknell fans in a long time, though … among the barbs: Hey No. 12, what merit badge are you working on … Hey No. 12, I’ll take you to an R-rated movie … and Hey No. 12, who is your date for the prom …Bucknell is now 2-0 in games in which junior bench jockey Holland Mack has at least one rebound … Mack’s rebound of a missed free throw by Anderson with 20 seconds to go was his second carom of the season . . . Bucknell is now 6-1 all-time in games in which Mack has grabbed a board ... Bettencourt joined McNaughton in double figures with 10 . . . Charles Lee had a team-high 8 rebounds . . . Bucknell owned the glass, piling up a 44-30 rebounding edge . . . McCrommon lef the Colonials with 15 points . . . Anderson had a double-double with 10 points and 10 boards . . . Carter finished with 13 points, just two in the second half.

Other views:

Tom Housenick of the Daily Item saw things similarly. And credit Tom with a celebrity sighting.
Skip Prosser, coach at Wake Forest and father of Bucknell assistant Mark Prosser, was in attendance. The older Prosser also had Schmidt on his staff while at Xavier.
We've mentioned before the good job Tom does with college hoops. Last night he did double duty, covering the Bucknell women's win over Buffalo in the first game of a doubleheader in Sojka Pavilion. Lucky for Tom, the Patriot won't play doubleheaders this season, so he won't have to that too often (unlucky for me since it will mean only geting paid for one game when I freelance Holy Cross games for The Telegram). He also is one of the few individuals who actually returns a pen when he borrows one.

Chris Brady of the Lewisburg Daily Journal and Jake Felix of the Williamsport Sun-Gazette were also on hand. The Journal doesn't update its Web site until later in the day, but Brady is a good guy, so check for his story here. Jake is, by all accounts, a decent chap as well. But until the Sun-Gazette pays me for the PL Tournament stories I did for them last March, we won't even think about giving them a link.

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Crusaders carry the flag on otherwise dismal night

While Lehigh and Lafayette were busy becoming the first Patriot League teams to lose to an Ivy that didn't start with a "P", Holy Cross defended the league's honor with a 53-39 win over PL expats Fordham.

Fans have asked Holy Cross coach Ralph Willard why the Crusaders don’t press more. Willard says because he prefers to focus on tough half-court defense. Given Willard’s track record at HC, it’s hard to imagine anyone second-guessing his defensive strategy. Not that he needed to, but last night in the Bronx the Crusaders bolstered Willard’s argument, limited Fordham to 31 percent shooting from the field.

Dave Curtis of theNew York Post needs no convincing:
"The Rams wilted against Holy Cross' 2-3 matchup zone, which had placed in the top 10 in the NCAA in field goal percentage defense three of the last four seasons."
Fordham's 39 points were its lowest at home since 1997. The Rams had only 14 field goals all night. They turned it over 25 times.

Despite HC's defense, this was still a one-point game with 5:43 to play. Then the Crusaders went on an 11-0 walk to put it away. Hard to call it a run; Nine of the 11 points came at the foul line. The lone field goal in that stretch was a Nate Lufkin layup that resulted in a three-point play when he was fouled and knocked down the free throw.

Perhaps the only thing lamer than Fordham's offense is New York Times sports. Looking for coverage of the Holy Cross-Fordham game, we found women’s world cup skiing, the Lisbon Marathon,cross-country skiingand Italian soccer, but no Fordham hoops. No Columbia at Lehigh hoops, either. Maybe if they played in the South American nation of Colombia The Times would notice.

You have to think Willard and Bucknell coach Pat Flannery found Lehigh's 75-61 loss to Columbia (box score) encouraging.

Not because the Mountain Hawks lost. Any team with hopes of winning the Patriot wants the rest of the league to win when they play out of conference to boost the Patriot's RPI and help their chances of avoiding the dreaded 16 seed come March.

But HC and Bucknell are arguably two of the better half-court teams in the league, and as Billy Taylor told Corky Blake of the Easton Express-Times, against Columbia,:
"(Lehigh) struggled on the offensive end, executing plays and our halfcourt sets. We had trouble figuring out what a good shot was . . .
Corky pointed out that the loss ended not one, but two streaks for Lehigh:
Columbia's 75-61 victory over the Mountain Hawks halted their 16-game winning streak in Stabler Arena. The Lions also became the first Ivy League team to win at Stabler in six tries against a Billy Taylor-coached Lehigh club.
We told you last week that home win streak was not all that impressive. But we certainly didn't expect it to end at the hands of an Ivy League team.

Neither did Andre Williams of The Morning Call:
"Returning home figured to help Lehigh (3-4) cure its woes against the Ivy League Lions (4-1), who the Hawks had beaten the last two seasons. But the Hawks came out missing shots from all over and getting beat badly in transition to fall behind 14-0 just four minutes into the game."
From the sound of Williams' story, Lehigh is a team in disarray.
"Fatigued and perhaps frustrated, Lehigh made no more runs. Sophomore guard Jose Olivero (six points), a Patriot League all-rookie member last season, was 0-for-7 from the field; Jason Mgebroff (eight points), a 6-10 sophomore center, barely got off his feet and was slow defending; and Earl Nurse, a starting forward, took only one shot.

Then, there was Kyle Neptune, the Hawks' versatile 6-4 sophomore swingman, who relegated to the role of a cheerleader because Taylor benched him for personal reasons.

. . . The Hawks were just as abysmal on defense . . ."
A week ago Lehigh looked like a team poised to challenge for the league crown. Now they look like a team happy to be headed to a nine-day break for finals.

Lafayette's 75-72 loss at Cornell (box score) didn't help the league's RPI any either. But it certainly was not the embarrasment that Lehigh's home loss was. The young Leopards came within a Bilal Abdullah three-pointer of sending the game to overtime.

From the Ithaca Journal:
"Cornell turned the ball over just six times, only once in the first half, and shot 47 percent from the field. The good shooting night almost went to waste as Lafayette (1-5) rallied from a 14-point deficit to make the game close."
The Patriot League is now 3-6 against the Ivies (we incorrectly said yesterday they were 4-4 heading into last night's game). We understand losses to Princeton and Penn. But to Columbia? At home? Lafayette at least has the "no scholarships' excuse.

Elsewhere in the Patriot League:

Belmont 91, Navy 66 -- (box score) Belmont used an 11-0 run to pull away in the second half. The Bruinsshot 57.6 percent for the game and made 12-of-21 3-pointers.

Albany 73, Army 46 -- (boxscore) As Mark Singelais of the Albany Times-Union pointed out, with Albany on a two-game losing streak:
"It was a good time to have Army on the schedule"
Singelais said Army "looked bad even by the low standards at Army, which hasn't had a winning season since the 1984-85 campaign."

Cheer up Lehigh fans, the Cadets come to town in 51 days.

On tap tonight: Robert Morris at Bucknell

Read more!

A tale of two teams

For folks that have followed Patriot League hoops since its inception in 1990, tonight's Holy Cross at Fordham matchup holds special interest.

In the league's early years, both teams were powers. Fueled in part by scholarship players who were grandfathered in when the two teams joined the then non-scholarship league, they won the first three championships in league history and shared the regular season title with Navy and Colgate in the league's fourth campaign.

Things got a little tougher once the scholarship cupboards were bare. Even though both teams remained competitive in the league, they began to find it harder to compete outside the conference.

In 1995, Fordham waved a white flag in the non-scholarship experiment, bolting the Patriot League for the supposedly greener pastures of the Atlantic 10. They left because alums and boosters wanted scholarships to raise the level of the program. There were similar sentiments at the time in Worcester. But Holy Cross stayed in the Patriot, which eventually opted to allow scholarships, in no small part to keep the Crusaders in the fold.

It seems pretty obvious who made the better decision. Holy Cross has been to the NCAA Tournament three of the past four years, building a Princeton-esque image with its close calls against some of the game’s biggest powers.

Meanwhile, Fordham has been nothing short of horrible. In nine seasons since leaving the Patriot, the Rams have not had a winning season, averaging 20 losses a season while going 70-180 in that span (this season’s 2-2 start not included). Included in that record is a 4-4 mark against Holy Cross, though the Crusaders have won the last four in a row.

Which brings us to tonight. We realize that you can easily get burned playing the comparative scores game, but from the results against the two team’s once common for, Boston College, HC would appear to have an edge. Fordham got thumped 66-51 by the Terriers while the Crusaders posted a 10-point win at BU in its season opener.

By the way, is one of the rare games nowadays that you can listen to on the Web without having to pay.

Meanwhile, the PL’s two Lehigh Valley teams will look to give the league an advantage over the Ivies when Lafayette visits Cornell and Columbia heads to Lehigh. The Patriot-Ivy series is currently tied at 4-4, which actually means the Ivies have the edge, since two of the remaining 15 games after tonight between the two leagues involve Army.

Lafayette has won six of the last seven it has played against Cornell. The lone Leopards loss in that span was in Ithaca two years ago. The two teams have virtually identical records: Lafayette is 1-4, Cornell 2-4 with one win over D-3 Ithaca. Cornell only won that game, at home, by two points. Add in the fact that Cornell lost its only other home game this season, and that Lafayette’s only win came on the road, and you have to figure Lafayette’s youngsters have a decent chance.

Columbia is 3-1, though its wins are hardly what you would call impressive. Before the Mountain Hawks laid an egg at Stony Brook over the weekend, this one looked like a gimme for Lehigh. Stony Brook, by the way, is the only common opponent the two have faced. The Sea Wolves won at Columbia by four.

Stony Brook is coached by Nick Macarchuk, the guy who led Fordham to Patriot League titles the first two seasons of the league’s existence. The guy is still having success against the Patriot. Stony Brook also has a win over Army this season and will look for a sweep of Patriot foes when it travels to Navy Saturday.

Since taking Stony Brook to D-I in the 1999-2000 season, Macarchuk is 8-7 against his old buddies in the Patriot, four of the losses coming in the Sea Wolves first two D-I seasons.

Other games tonight:

Navy at Belmont -- No, this has nothing to do with horse racing. That is the Belmont Stakes, this is Belmont University, home of the Bears. We can’t believe you didn’t know that. Sure the school is a relatively obscure Christian college of about 4,000 students in that den of iniquity that is Nashville. But you are supposed to be a hoops fan. The Bears went 21-9 last season, earning an NIT bid.

Check out the matchup, then listen to the free Webcast.

Albany at Army -- One common foe: Sacred Heart. Albany beat the Pioneers by 18on the road; Army lost to Sacred Heart by 15 at home. They might be called the Great Danes, but Albany is no underdog in this one.

Read more!

Recommended reading

Kyle Whelliston's quest for 100 games got a boost Saturday when he was handed a free ticket for the Big 5 Challenge tripleheader at the Palestra.

While I was in Reading, Christmas shopping with the wife and kids, Kyle watched as Penn trounced LaSalle, Temple edged Villanova, and a St. Joe's loss to Drexel that drove him to write to the Hawk. Not a Hawk, like Phil Martelli or one of the players. The Hawk.

We were headed to a HS girls' game in Oley and got sidetracked by some great bargains at the VF Outlets. The team we were going to see only scored 33 points and lost. Best to get the shopping out of the way without having to miss any important games, I suppose.

But I digress. This is not a post about shopping, or Sweet Street's sublime Dulce le Leche Cheesecake, which they sell for a buck-and-a-quarter a slice in the outlet's food court, making it almost as good a bargain as Kyle's tickets.

No, this post is about Kyles's Palestra trilogy.

I never read Carlos Castaneda, and I didn't bother following Kyle's link to try to fully understand what he was talking about when he started his story about the Penn-LaSalle game with this reference:
"Carlos Castaneda's primary life mantra, "fly past the eagle and be free," probably wouldn't go over too well in Philadelphia, a town stuck in a perpetual heartbreak cycle with its football team. But he was still a pretty neat guy."
I did get it, though, when he said of the free ticket he was handed when he was about to walk away:
"I had been "miracled in," just like that time during the summer I followed the Grateful Dead around the Midwest."
And I definitely enjoyed reading about the rest of his afternoon.

His 100-game quest has all the makings of a long, strange trip. You can follow it all season at his Mid-Majority site.

Read more!

Yo AU fans, get a grip

American beat a decent Vermont team at home Saturday and the students responded by coming within an overturned cop car of an NCAA Championship celebration.

The Burlington Free Press missed the party. They were busy whining about how AU "roughed up Taylor Coppenrath in the post..."

But what we found more interesting than the box score, was how the Washington Post described what happened after the game:
"The postgame handshakes following American's 67-64 victory over Vermont yesterday at Bender Arena took a little longer than usual. Some of American's players were delayed by a celebration at mid-court with students who had rushed the floor.

Nearly 30 minutes after the game ended, some fans remained and cheered the players again as they left the locker room"
Our pal Matt over at the Patriot Hoops Blog was all excited, too. But he's an AU guy, so that's to be expected I guess.

We were less impressed.

Sure Vermont got some early season hype in USA Today, SI and ESPN The Magazine. That likely accounts for the Catamounts' 18 votes in the AP Poll. Most of those voters are beat writers who follow one team. They might get to see some of the big boys on TV, but I promise you all they know about a team like UVM is what they read.

Take a closer look at Vermont. They came into the AU game with a 2-1 mark. Granted the loss was a 7-point road loss at No. 2 Kansas. But that was the season opener for the Jayhawks, so we're not sure how much you can read into that. Remember last year Bucknell put a similar scare into then-No.3 Michigan.

Vermont's other wins: By 20 at home over a Marist team that lost by 27 at Holy Cross and by 23 at home over a 2-3 Iona team.

Don't get me wrong, we have the utmost respect for Tom Brennan. He's a fine coach and an even better quote. And Coppenrath is probably legit. We haven't seen him play, but our friends at College Hoops Net named him last season's unsung player of the year and plenty of other folks are singing his praises.

Regardless, Vermont is still an America East team, a conference ranked just slightly higher than the Patriot League. Celebrate a win at home over a decent team. Sure. But for 30 minutes after the game? C'mon. As Bill Walsh used to say, "Act like you've been here before."

Amidst all the Coppenrath hype, we can't help but ask: Where have you gone Eddie Benton?

Read more!

Elsewhere in the Patriot League

Louisville 98, Lafayette 57 -- Not that anybody seriously expected an upset. But often the better teams in the Patriot (we consider Fran O'Hanlon's team in that category no matter their early season record) will hang with the big boys for a while before being worn down.

That didn't happen in Lou-a-vul, though, as Brian Bennet .points out in the Louisville Courier-Journal, this one was over early:
"The starters took all of the suspense out of the game in the opening minutes. Francisco Garcia, Dean and Larry O'Bannon hit back-to-back-to-back three-pointers in the first 1:09 for a 9-0 lead. The Leopards (1-4) missed their first nine shots and didn't make one until nearly six minutes into the game"
The fast start gave Rick Pitino a chance to experiment, says the Lexington Herald-Leader :
"It was good for us,' Pitino said. 'We got to work against a 1-3-1 (zone defense); we got to work on our zone offense, which was very effective. We overmatched them, but it was still good to get some different combinations out there."
Here's the Lafayette-Louisville box.

Other games:

Minnesota 72, Holy Cross 56 -- (box score) The Crusaders experienced a similar run at Minnesota, though according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune it came a little later in the game:
". . . a 17-0 Gophers run midway through the first half. That spurt, in which Holy Cross was held scoreless for more than seven minutes, enabled the Gophers to open a double-digit lead that was never truly challenged the rest of the way."
Bucknell 73, Yale 65 (OT) -- (box score) Charles Lee had 18 rebounds and 22 points, including a 3-pointer with 17 seconds left to force overtime, for the Bison, who overcame a 6-point deficit in the final minute of regulation. Bucknell is now 10-1 in OT games in 11 years under Pat Flannery. The win evens the Patriot League's record against Ivies at 4-4. Here's a link to the New Haven Register's story. You will need a user name and pasword to see the whole story. You might try hooptime and hooptime (hint, hint *LMAO*)

Syracuse 68, Colgate 55 -- (box score) This is what we mean when we talk about Patriot teams hanging tough before getting worn down. Colgate was tied with No. Syracuse with 10 minutes to go before the Orange pulled away.

This is also what we mean when we talk about a paper and its Web site doing a great job covering college hoops. Mad props to our old friends at and the Syracuse Post-Standard for their three-story package with all the frills.

Stony Brook 56, Lehigh 49 -- (box score) Lehigh went Lehigh went 18:37 without a field goal in losing on the road. As Tom Roack of Newsday points out:
"That's almost an entire half of play without a layup, a jumper, a putback, even a lucky chuck."
Ohio 90, Navy 55 -- (box score) How easy was the win for OU? The Annapolis Capital said:
"Ohio turned 32 Navy turnovers into 33 points and never trailed in the game. The Bobcats played 13 players, each for at least nine minutes."
St Francis (N.Y) 78, Army 64 -- (box score)Army continues to drag the conference's RPI down. The Cadets have yet to beat a D-I team.

Read more!
Saturday, December 11, 2004
Silver lining in Lafayette's clouds, while the PL loses more ground to the Ivies

This should solve everything (trying not to laugh)
Friday, December 10, 2004
We smell a rat
Thursday, December 09, 2004
Be careful what you wish for

Dark clouds in AU's silver lining
Wednesday, December 08, 2004
What a difference a half makes
Tuesday, December 07, 2004
Crusaders carry the flag on otherwise dismal night
Monday, December 06, 2004
A tale of two teams

Recommended reading
Sunday, December 05, 2004
Yo AU fans, get a grip

Elsewhere in the Patriot League

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