Breaking news from Bucknell

Bucknell coach Pat Flannery will not be on the sidelines when the Bison host Army this evening.

Flannery has left Sojka Pavilion due to what Bucknell Sports Information Director Jon Terry called "an unknown family emergency."

Terry said no further details were available.

Assistant coach Nathan Davis will be at the helm against the Cadets, Terry said.

Further updates as they become available.

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Good golly miss Molly

Bucknell grad Molly Creamer, arguably the top women's player in Patriot League history, has signed with the Lubbock Hawks of the National Women's basketball League, a league that features a number of WNBA players. Here's an .update on Creamer from her hometown paper.

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Ask Hoop Time

You have questions, we have answers . . .

Dear Hoop Time:

Do you think Bucknell has a chance to run the table in league play?

-- AU Fan

Dear AU Fan:

Anything is possible.

But realistically, you'd have to say Bucknell running the table is not probable.

First of all, keep in mind, in the 14 seasons the league has played hoops, nobody has gone unbeaten in conference play. Not the Damon Lopez Fordham team that went 25-8 in 1990-91 -- they were 11-1 in the league. Not Bucknell's 23-6 team in 1992-93 -- they were 13-1. Not Lafayette's Stefan Ciosici-led 1999-200 team that won 24 games, or Navy's team the same year that won 23 -- they both went 11-1. Holy Cross' 2002-03 team recorded the best winning percentage in league history (.839), going 26-5, but they were only 13-1 in the league, losing to an American team that had five conference losses.

Most years this conference would be better named the Rock, Paper, Scissors League. Seven times at least two teams have tied for the regular season title. In the 1993-94 there was a four-way tie (Navy, Fordham, Colgate, HC -- all 9-5).

Most likely scenario, I think, has AU or ... you'll laugh ... Lafayette will knock someone off at their place. Although I think the race is HC-BU, with AU to show, your Eagles' ability to shoot the three will always give them a puncher's chance. They are bound to have a few red-hot nights in conference play, and if it comes against HC or BU it could be the deciding factor in deciding top seed.

There's always the injury factor to consider, too. Nobody in this league is that much stronger than the others (academies excluded) that they can lose a key guy and still expect to win most games.

AU without Ingram, HC without Lufkin (more important than Simmons because they have NO replacement), Bucknell without McNaughton ... they all quickly drop to Lehigh-Lafayette-Colgate middle of the pack level probably.

Bucknell is definitely the favorite to take the regular season. But if you are betting on a perfect league record, it best not be with the mortgage money.

Of course, as the cliche goes ... that is why they play the games. We shall
see, eh?

Dear Hoop Time:

Any comments on the game atmosphere against HC. big crowd, but students on break. any chance we can recapture the old Davis atmosphere?

I realize no one has seen much of HC so far, but how would you say their frosh stack up against ours at this point?

-- Ken Z (via the Bucknell board)

Dear Ken:

This was the biggest crowd ever for a home game at Bucknell, but it was far from the best. I have yet to see any Bucknell crowds come close to the crowds in the Patrick King, Mike Bright, Billy Courtney days.

Back in 1991-92 and 1992-93, the crowds in Davis were large and loud, the students were into it, and Charlie Woollum's up-and-down style generated a lot of excitement.

It will be interesting to see the crowd tonight for Army. This is a bad opponent, and there are no free tickets this week. The free tickets promotion filled Sojka, but not necessarily with serious basketball fans. It remains to be seen how many will come back. Also remains to be seen how excited the students will get about this team. Bucknell has always seemed a very apathetic campus when it comes to supporting its teams.

Recapturing the old Davis atmosphere will be tough. The new place is twice as big and the acoustics make it about a fourth as loud. You could make Davis roar with 1,000 fans; 2,000 almost get lost in Sojka.

As for part two of your question: that will best be answered three years from now. Right now, you'd have to give the edge to Bucknell. John Griffin and Darren Mastropaolo are certainly giving the Bison more than Tim Clifford and Pat Doherty are giving Holy Cross.

But it is not a fair comparison, because Bucknell's freshman needed to step in and play right away. Remember, this is just the second scholarship class for BU. They did not have a deep roster of upperclassmen. In fact, Chris Niesz is the only senior on the roster.

At Holy Cross, they have more scholarship kids already on board. Three seniors start; Kevin Hamilton and Kevin Hyland are juniors who contribute a lot, too. So Willard has less need to push his freshmen into action.

Remember, usually when you have freshmen playing, especially in a league like this, where you don't get any blue chips, it tells you more about the weaknesses of the rest of the roster than it does about the strengths of the freshmen.

I like what I saw of Holy Cross' freshman big guy, Tim Clifford. I was surprised he didn't get more minutes against Bucknell. He didn't show a lot of polish offensively, but he pushed Chris McNaughton off the blocks nicely and held his own on the boards. He is probably as strong already as any big man in the league and has a lot of upside.

I did not see enough of the guard, Pat Doherty, to form an opinion.

Two other factors that might give Bucknell's freshman class the edge in the long run are the Bison's other two freshmen. The Thomas kid has not seen much action, but he is supposed to be a pretty athletic player who has a lot of upside. Morrison is 6-7, can play both forward positions, and is said to have a nice touch on his shot, with 3-point range. He also has decent genes -- his dad played at Drexel and his uncle is Sixers coach Jim O'Brien.

To tie your two questions together, it is probably worth noting that what you gave up in atmosphere when you left Davis for Sojka, you probably more than made up for in being able to recruit better players. Along with the rest of the facilities added when they built the new arena, Sojka made Bucknell a much more attractive place to recruits

Flannery will tell you having a practice facility with more than two usable baskets has helped a little, too.

Send your questions and comments to:
(If you forget the underscore between hoop and time, we won't get it)

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He said, we said

Some times you read a quote and you just want to say, "Hey, but ..." And sometimes you are so hurting for fresh content for a morning update, that you'll try almost anything.

When those two situations coincide, they come together like vodka and olives for a little feature we are calling "He said, we said."

We begin down in the Lehigh Valley, where according to one column we read, a guy who was desperate enough for his 15 minutes of pseudo fame that he came to the game sans shirt, with an E painted on his chest (presumably along with five other local cable-celeb wannabes known a L, H, I, G and E's other brother H).

According to the reports, the guy was holding a sign that said:
Pedro says: Lehigh is Lafayette's Daddy.
Given the fact that the whole "Yankees are my daddy" thing flew out of the ballpark when Johnny Damon's grand salami did the same in Game 7, we have to wonder what E was thinking.

Especially since Lafayette holds a 132-69 edge in the series between the two rivals. Sorta makes us wonder if E's daddy is also his uncle.

Then there was Lehigh guard Joe Knight.

After Lehigh's sophomore center Jason Mgebroff scored 13 points and grabbed 7 rebounds against Lafayette, Knight was positively gushing:
"He was spectacular. If he plays like that he's capable of putting up 15 (points) and 10 (rebounds) every night."
Actually, according to the box score, if he plays like that he is capable of 13 points and 7 rebounds. And besides, the problem is, Mgebroff does not play like that every night. That is why he is only averaging 3.9 rebounds and 8.7 points per game.

Up on the tundra in Hamilton, Colgate coach Emmett Davis was not to thrilled with the officiating in the Raiders loss to Bucknell:
"We outrebounded them (29-25) and we were playing zone defense and they still took more free throws," Davis said. "They were more aggressive than they were in the first half (when Colgate failed to get to the foul line even once), but (the fouls) didn't change that much in the second half, either."
Quit your whining Emmett. Almost half your points came on threes. You jacked up 26 of them (making 11). When is the last you saw a jump-shooting team get to the line as often as one who has an inside attack? Colgate's slight rebounding edge came at the offensive end, which is not uncommon when you shoot a lot of threes, which are likely to result in longer caroms that are chased down by perimeter guys, not yanked down in a box-out battle under the tin.

Go strong or go home 'Gate.

Annapolis is our favorite places to visit in the league. The climate is better than in Hamilton, and so are the bars (just ask Matt over at the Patriot League blog if you don't believe me).

That doesn't mean we won't have fun with first-year Navy coach Billy Lange, who said after losing to American Wednesday:
"This team is improving."
Well maybe Billy, but in the midst of a four game losing streak, part of a stretch where you lost 8 of 9, could you be getting worse? Especially since one of the 8 losses came at home against a D-3 team that wouldn't be one game over .500 if not for your gracious hospitality.

Billy also said:
"We executed the game plan, we just chose not to make our shots."
We confess; we are a little confused how you can execute the game plan and choose to not make shots at the same time. We always just took it for granted that making shots would be a part of any game plan, thus failing to do so, by choice or otherwise, would seem to us to, by default, to mean you failed to execute the game plan. Heck, had we known not making shots could be a part of the game plan, we would have been much better at coaching 13-year-old girls last summer.

Ralph Willard on Holy Cross' outstanding sixth-man, Keith Simmons:
"Keith could obviously be a starter. But he's such an unselfish player. At the beginning of the season, he said 'This is the seniors' year.' He's been great for us."
Does anybody seriously think that if Ralph thought the Crusaders were a better team with Simmons starting, he would worry about what Simmons feels about the seniors? It's not like Simmons is giving up his playing time so Michael Smiley or Dan Brault get off the bench more.

Besides, two of the three starting guards for Holy Cross are underclassmen. Simmons comes off the bench because Willard thinks his team is better when he does that. Deference to the seniors has nothing to do with it. Ralph would dress and start team manager Chelsea Severson if he thought it would get the 'Saders a win.

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Held over by popular demand

NOTE: We posted this one late yesterday afternoon, so we thought we'd keep it around today for those who might have missed it.

Game 31 of Kyle Whelliston's 100-game project over at was game 201 of the Lafayette-Lehigh basketball rivalry. Patriot League fans, no matter your team, will want to read this one.

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Wednesday night results

Last updated at 3:14 p.m.

Lehigh 63, Lafayette 57: In a back and forth affair with four ties and eight lead changes, Lehigh's defense carried the day in the end.

From Corky Blake's story in the Express-Times:
Lehigh held the Leopards to zero points over the final 5:05 of the first half. Then, when they were trailing 53-49 with 6:07 to go, Billy Taylor's crew handcuffed Lafayette and threw away the key.
In his story in the Morning Call, Andre Williams also focused on Lehigh's defense. But near the end he slipped in a golden nugget of information:
A telling statistic was Lehigh's 43-30 advantage in rebounds, led by Earl Nurse with eight and Mgebroff with seven. Lehigh also held a 10-0 advantage in second-chance points, a factor that contributed largely to the Hawks overtaking the Leopards.
Box Score | Lehigh Recap

Bucknell 71, Colgate 69: This is a perfect example of how the three-pointer gives every team a shooters shot of pulling an upset. Colgate hit 11 treys in the game, isx in the second half after Bucknell had pulled out to a 21-point lead. Fortunately for the Bison, the Raiders were 0-for-5 outside the arc in the last two minutes after a Kyle Roemer trey has cut the Bison lead to 2.
AP Story | Bucknell recap| Box Score

UPDATE: Colgate always lists the Utica paper as one of its media outlets. But after checking it often early in the season and finding no coverage of the Raiders, we had quit even looking. Lucky for us, Bucknell SID (and former Hoop Time correspondent back in the print days) Jon Terry knew they were at the game last night. Jon found the story and sent us this link.

Bucknell women 67, Colgate 65: We don't usually cover the women here, simply because stories from the ladies' games are hard to find outside of the school's official sites. But since A) We get a lot of Bucknell alums visiting here, B) Nobody bothered going to Hamilton to cover the men's game, C) We have three daughters who are huge Bucknell women's fans (two have attended Kathy Fedorjaka's camp and the third swears she is going to lie about her age so she can go this summer) and they always yell at me about not including the girls' games, here is a link to Tom Housenick's story on the Bison's upset of the preseason conference favorites.

This might also be a good place to sneak in an official Hoop Time congratulations to Kathy's husband, our old noon-ball buddy Frank Fedorjaka, on being named BU's next men's lacrosse coach.

Holy Cross 66, Army 29: The story in the Times Herald- Record is barely longer than a brief. But the first two paragraphs tell you all you need to know about the state of West Point hoops:
Army coach Jim Crews busted out of Christl Arena faster than some fans after the Black Knights' 66-29 Patriot League loss to Holy Cross last night.

As the last Holy Cross players entered the locker room following the game, Crews, wearing a long blue jacket, shuttled by, making a bee-line to a door that led to the parking lot and his personal parking space.
According to the TH-R, Crews didn't even stick around for his postgame radio interview.

Is it any wonder Crews was upset. Holy Cross broke open an already not close game with a 40-point second half. Army scored 15 points in the first half, and couldn't do better in the second even with all the garbage time.

Ralph Willard had to be happy with the defense. According to the story in the Telegram-Gazette (no link, it's a subscription site):
Holy Cross outscored Army, 40-14, in the second half as the Crusaders limited the Black Knights to four field goals and 17 percent shooting . . .

. . . Holy Cross blocked eight Army shots and limited the Black Knights to 19 percent shooting for the night
Justin Rodriguez, in another story in the TH-R, was impressed by Holy Cross's Keith Simmons, who hails from nearby Kingston, N.Y.:
He's the ultimate sixth man, maybe the best in the Patriot League, always providing Holy Cross with a spark off the bench.

"No question, Keith could be the best (sixth man) in the league,' said Holy Cross coach Ralph Willard after the Crusaders defeated Army 66-29. Simmons scored 18 points, including 13 in the second half. He played 27 minutes, shooting 8-of-10 from the field."
AP Story | Box Score

American 66, Navy 60: According to the Washington Post:
Navy's chances for a victory were undone by poor shooting: 22 of 73 (28 percent), including 8 of 29 three-pointers (32 percent).
It was 29-28 at the half and Navy actually led 38-36 with just under 15 minutes to go. Then AU went on a 19-7 run to take control.

Navy coach Billy Lange told Kent Baker in the Baltimore Sun:
"If a couple of those threes go down, we're probably sitting here a lot happier."
Of course most coaches could say that after almost any loss.
AP Story | Box Score

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Not just weird, but wonderful too

Many thanks, we think, to Chad Orzel's Uncertain Principles blog for including us in his roundup of hoops blogs. According to Chad:
. . . the Web contains many weird and wonderful things. Such as Hoop Time v3.0, a blog devoted to Patriot League basketball.
"Weird and wonderful" eh?

Where should we send the check?

By the way, Chad ranks Kyle's Mid-Majority site No.1. That's OK with us. Folks around the Patriot League get all excited just to be listed in the "others receiving votes."

Thanks Chad.

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Wednesday games

Patriot League scoreboards
ESPN | CBS Sportsline | | Yahoo!

Lafayette at Lehigh, 8 p.m.: The game of the night is the 201st meeting between these two neighbors from the Lehigh Valley. The big question: will anybody watch. Andre Williams of the Morning Call suggests the schedule makers should have set this one for later in the rotation when the students from the two schools would be back from break.

The bigger question: Which Lehigh team will show up. The one that beat American on the road Saturday, or the one that lost at home to Columbia and Cornell earlier this season.
Lafayette game notes | Lehigh game notes (pdf) | USA Today matchup

Holy Cross at Army, 7 p.m.: Holy Cross should not lose to Army, no matter where the game is played. Then again, they should not have lost to the Cadets in 1997, 1999, 2000, 2001 or 2002; but they did each year--at Army. The lone road win over Army in that stretch for HC was by a single point (71-70) in 1998.

The Crusaders have won at West Point the last two seasons, seemingly breaking that bad habit. Still, as those five losses show, you cannot overlook anybody, especially on the road. Not even Army.
HC game notes (pdf) | Army game notes (pdf) | USA Today matchup | Gametracker | HC Radio

American at Navy, 7 p.m.: Quick, name the team with the Patriot League's worst defense? You guessed Navy didn't you? Now, name the team with the league's highest-scoring offense? Nope, not American. That is Navy, too.

Nonetheless, the shorthanded Midshipmen don't seem to be a match for the Eagles in a shootout, and they certainly don't play the kind of defense that has caused AU problems in recent games.
AU game notes (none posted as of this morning) | Navy game notes | USA Today matchup | Navy Radio

Bucknell at Colgate, 7 p.m.: A win would give Bucknell an 8-game win streak, matching its longest win streak in Pat Flannery's 11 seasons as coach of his alma mater. Only 18 Division I teams currently have win streaks of seven or more games.

The big question here is can this young Bucknell team avoid the letdown trap after three big wins in a row.
Bucknell game notes | Colgate game notes (pdf) | USA Today matchup | Gametracker | Bucknell radio | Colgate radio

BRACKETOLOGY: Joe Lunardi of is predicting Bucknell as a No. 13 seed, to meet UConn in Tuscon the first round of the Albuquerque regional

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More bad news for Navy

Already scuffling with a 4-9 record and a three-game losing streak in a season that has included a loss to a D-3 tea, the Mids now must do without their leading scorer and rebounder, 6-8 Laramie Mergerson, who is expected to miss at least three weeks with a broken hand. According to the story in the Annapolis Capital the injury further decimates the Navy frontcourt, which was already missing five players due to injuries or suspension ("Carlton Baldwin, the team's leading scorer and rebounder last season is suspended indefinitely for violating academy policy.")

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Upon further review

In a post yesterday we said that Lehigh's Joe Kight is the closest player in the league to joining the 1,000-points club.

We found that nugget of information in the league's official weekly report.

This is going to shock you: the league report is wrong.

Credit a faithful reader with an assist for noting in an e-mail:
Hey Chris, I saw from yours and the Patriot League's
sites that say Joe Knight (Lehigh) is the only player
in the league closest to 1,000 points.

In the famous words of Lee Corso, "Not so fast my

Bettencourt had 930 career points going into the Holy
Cross Game (177 this year)...add in his 17 and that
gives him 957 career and 194 this year (confirmed
looking at the statistics from BU's offical site)

If my math serves me correctly he only needs 43 points
to eclipse the 1,000 point plateau...less than the 82
Knight needs.

I know..I'm nit-picking a bit...trying to give the man
his due "respect".

Of course right about now, Bucknell math profs are reading that and praying the guy is a fan, not an alum. 930+17=947, not 957. (make that an assist and a turnover)

Nonetheless, it still puts Bettencourt 29 points ahead of Knight.

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Under the radar

Talk about a scratch-your-head-and-say-who? moment. We were surfing around looking for some Patriot League news when we stumbled across this headlineBrault knows his role at Holy Cross with a link to a story in the Portsmouth N.H. paper.

Don't feel bad if you don't recognize that name. Even if you are a Holy Cross diehard. We covered the Crusaders six games last season and one so far this year, and we had to pull out the media guide to figure out who Brault was. Brault's profile explained why we were unfamiliar with the 6-1 senior guard from York, Maine. A walk-on who spent two years on Holy Cross's jayvee team before getting a varsity uni last season as a junior, Brault played four games last season, getting a total of three minutes of playing time. Since only one of those games, at Navy, was one we covered, it is probably understandable how we failed ro remember him. It's nice to see his hometwon paper didn't make the same mistake.

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Hot and Cold Eagles down Yale

If we have learned anything about American so far, it is the fact that when their shots are falling, they are pretty darned good.

Last night in New Haven, the Eagles shots were falling. At least in the first half.

From the New Haven Register (user name: hooptime, password: hooptime will get you in):
American, one of the top 20 teams in Division I in 3-point percentage (41 percent), made three 3-pointers in the first 2:12 and led 11-3 just 3 minutes into the game.
According to the Register, and Yale coach James Jones (who is related to Columbia's coach Jones but is not related to American's coach Jeff Jones), Yale contributed to the Eagles cause by playing poorly the first 20 minutes.:
Yale (4-8), which had won two straight and played well in four straight, was woeful for the first 20 minutes, and American couldn’t miss, making 54.6 percent of its attempts to build a 47-25 halftime lead.

"I’m upset with our effort and our intensity for the entire 20 minutes to start the basketball game. There is no reason they should have wide-open looks to start a basketball game," Jones said.
What we have also learned about American is when the shots are not dropping, when folks get a hand in the jump-shooters faces, they have looked very ordinary.

Like in the second half last night, when they nearly squandered that 22-point halftime lead.

After their scorching first half, the Eagles shot 5-for-20 from the field in the second half, 0-for-5 from three-point range. For good measure, they turned the ball over 11 times, after only giving it up 4 times in the first half. Luckily for AU, nobody can get a hand in your face at the foul line. The Eagles were 12-for-15 there in the second half, including 6-for-6 in the final 30 seconds..
AU Game recap | Box Score|Yale Photo Gallery

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News and notes (it's official)

A few tidbits from Monday's weekly hoops report (pdf) from the home office in the little town of Bethlehem.


Bettencourt earns Player of the Week honors after leading Bucknell to a 59-43 win over Holy Cross in the Bison’s only game last week,which also represented the PL opener for both schools. In a game televised nationally by College Sports TV, the junior guard from Peabody, Mass., scored a team-high 17 points, including 3-of-5 shooting from 3-point range and a perfect 8-of-8 from the foul line. He also tallied a career-best six steals as part of BU’s dominant defensive effort. Bettencourt, who was third in the nation in free throw percentage in the latest NCAA rankings, is the player of the week for the second time this season. Bucknell has won seven in a row.


For the second consecutive week and the third time overall in 2004-05, Abdullah is the Patriot League’s Rookie of the Week. The freshman guard from Anchorage, Alaska averaged 11.5 points, 3.0 rebounds and 1.5 steals during a 1-1 week for the Leopards that included a 90-80 win over Navy at Kirby Sports Center in the Patriot
League opener for both schools. Abdullah scored 15 points, pulled down five rebounds, dished out three assists and had three steals in the victory over the Midshipmen. For the season, he is second on the team in scoring with 9.8 points per game, and leads the club with 39 total assists

  • Joe Knight, who leads Lehigh in minutes played, steals and assists, is the closest player in the League to 1,000 career points. He needs just 82 more to reach the milestone.

  • American has now lost their last four against the Lehigh Mountain Hawks.

  • Army ranks third in the nation in free throw percentage at 79.0 percent. Against Colgate, Army connected on 11-of-13 free throws, or 84.6 percent. Away from the line, though, Army’s offense registered just 35.8 percent field goal accuracy against the Raiders.

  • Holy Cross' Kevin Hamilton ranks 22nd in the country with 2.8 steals per
    game. He is also the Crusaders’ leading scorer at 13.8 points per game.

  • Lehigh improved to 3-0 in League openers and 3-0 in League
    road openers under Billy Taylor with a 56-53 win at American.

    Read more!
  • Poll watching

    Bucknell moves up two spots to No. 22 in this week'sMid-Major Top 25 poll. In the AP Poll, the Bison somehow lost three votes by beating Holy Cross. Go figure.

    My guess is that says more about how Pittsburgh's stock fell after also losing to Georgetown.

    The Bison did, however, manage to still get one vote. That is one more than they got in the USA Today-ESPN poll.

    Thanks, John.

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    (not so) Big Monday

    One game tonight, with Yale looking to clinch the Ivy-Patriot series for the Ivy Leaguers when they host American. Beware the schedule on the Patriot League's official site, which claims a 2 p.m. start.

    A month ago AU looked like it was ready to battle for the Patriot League title. With a five-game win streak that included a win over Vermont, the Eagles were on a roll. Since beating Ohio U. on Dec. 11, though, American has dropped four of its last five.

    To be fair, two of those losses were on the road at Maryland and Missouri. But two of them were at home against LaSalle and Lehigh. Under any criteria, those are bad losses.

    Now the Eagles go on the road to meet Yale, the "unofficial basketball king of Southern Connecticut." Yale's 4-7 record is deceptive. As the Boston Herald points out, the Bulldogs' losses include "UMass, Patriot League power Bucknell (in overtime), UNC Charlotte, and Boston College (in double OT)." The Herald forgot to mention Wake Forest and Niagara (at Niagara).
    Yale game notes | USA Today Matchup | Gametracker

    More AU news below

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    Cheer up purple people

    Holy Cross fans can take heart from the predicitions posted at

    Historially, David Mihm has been over 98 percent accurate projecting the teams in the 64-team field and has predicted over 84 percent of their seedings within one line of their actual seed.

    Of course those numbers are based on his pre-Selection Sunday final picks, not his picks in January. And his prediction of Holy Cross representing the Patriot League as a No. 14 seed was made before Saturday's loss at Bucknell.

    Then again, that does not mean it will turn out wrong.

    Read more!

    Down in the valley

    Corky Blake says forget about the non-con struggles of Lehigh and Lafayette. Saturday's wins show they were ready for league play.

    We will remind Corky that Lehigh beat an AU team struggling to live up to the early hype and Lafayette beat a team that has lost to a D-3.

    The neighbors meet Wednesday in a game that will probably tell us more about where Lafayette is at this point than it will about Lehigh. But in all reality, the jury will be out on both these teams until the end of the month, when they both face Bucknell and Holy Cross on successive weekends.

    We do, by the way, continue to agree with Fran O'Hanlon's take on his Leopards. O'Hanlon told Corky:
    "We're better now than we were in December, and we'll be better in February than we are in January."
    DEPARTMENT OF NO DEFENSE: From Andre Williams' hoops column in today's Morning Call:
    A stale offense was the main reason the Midshipmen compiled a 23-63 record the last three seasons, but they now lead the Patriot League in scoring at 70.4 points per game.

    That's a drastic improvement from the next-to-last 56.2 points they averaged while going just 2-12 in league play last season. The problem is Navy surrenders a league-high 77.6 points per game, seven more points than it allowed last season.
    Sometimes we get the feeling there is no need for us to comment further.

    This is one of those times.

    Read more!

    teAm lithUania

    Jeff JonesJeff Jones
    Player Profile
    Head Coach

    5th Season

    Alma Mater:
    University of Virginia '82

    Over at the Patriot League Hoops Blog, ole Matt already has a crush on Paulius Joneliunas, the University of South Carolina kid who is transferring to American. Matt gets excited thinking about having a 6-11 guy to counter Chris McNaughton and the 7-footer Lehigh is bringing in next year. (OK, maybe just to counter McNaughton). Joneliunas not only speaks four languages (not usually an important hoops credential, but AU's roster looks like the UN. Even if he is a stiff, he can be the team's interpreter), but "He will also be the biggest player on the court for the Eagles," Matt points out.

    Here at Hoop Time, we're going to take a wait and see approach. There are some things in the story in The State about his decision to switch schools that somehow seem to have activated our Neil Fingleton detectors.

    Yoni, at the College Basketball Blog, picked up on this paragraph:
    Joneliunas' decision means a player has left USC?s roster before completing his eligibility in each of the last four seasons. Issa Konare and Greg Taylor transferred following the 2002 season, Marcus Morrison transferred in spring 2003, and Jarod Gerald left for academic reasons following the fall semester last season.
    Yoni wonder if this trend says something about Dave Odom's people skills.

    We think it might say more about the Gamecock's recruiters ability to judge players. Or maybe Joneliunas was one of those "you can't teach 'em to be 6-11" projects who never came to fruition. An old story from the Roanoke paper, written when he was being recruited, says not:
    Division I offers aren't based on statistics or size alone.

    "This guy would be a basketball player even if he wasn't 6-10," Wall (his prep school coach) said. "Somebody got him at an early age and taught him about footwork. This kid is not as athletic as some big men, but he's very skilled. He can square up to the basket and shoot it. He can pass. You don't see that with American players, as was evident in the World Championships. The foreign players are generally more fundamentally sound."
    You might notice Joneliunas shrunk and inch in that story. He is 6-10 in the more recent story in The State, too, not that an inch is a big deal at that altitude.

    Also seemingly in a near-constant state of change is Joneliunas's weight. The high school story says 258. His his player profile page on the South Carolina site says 240. We say look at the picture in that profile. Look closely at the cheeks and the neck. Is that the look of a big, strong, low-post banger; or another long skinny three-point shooter from eastern Europe who gets pushed around in the paint?

    Here's another clue: Scroll down from that picture. Read the profile:
    ... Framework has been a challenge, yet he has worked extremely hard at it ... Shoots the ball well facing the basket and is more comfortable inside with the defenders around ...Working to become a better one-on-one defender, a better rebounder, and a more responsible ball-handler
    But wait, it's not all bad:
    Wing-span of 81 inches
    Like they say, you can't teach that.

    Not to pile it on, but it also says in the State:
    Joneliunas’ lack of quickness prevented him from challenging for more playing time.
    By the way, American currently has two Lithuanians (note: Correction, they have three. Credit Matt with the assist) on the roster, though one, senior Raimondas Petrauskas, will graduate before Joneliuna suits up in the 2006=2007 season.

    In the past, the Lithuanian National Team has enjoyed the patronage of the Grateful Dead, even sporting tie-dyed uniforms for the Olympic Games.

    Maybe in the next Olympiad, they could just wear their AU unis.

    By the way, American announced Sunday a fourth signing. This time it is a 6-5 kid from DeMatha, Jordan Nichols.

    Wonder if Nichols plans to study International Relations.

    Read more!

    They're calling it Bison Mania

    Last updated: 9:19 a.m.

    Subplots and sidebars from Bucknell's 59-43 win over Holy Cross Saturday ...

    NOTE: Our Bucknell-Holy Cross game stories were posted Saturday evening. You can scroll down for them, or jump there with a click of your mouse.

    ON THE BANDWAGON: Bucknell's status as media darlings was further enhanced Saturday by the presence of a couple papers that are infrequent visitors, at best, to the Patriot League overall, let alone to Lewisburg.

    Bonnie DeSimone was there stringing for the New York Times and filed this nice piece about the Bison's emergence.

    Also visiting Sojka for the first time this season was David Jones, of The (Harrisburg) Patriot-News. Dave doesn't cover Bucknell regularly. He spends most of his time chronicling the struggles of Penn State or watching Big 5 ball in Philly.

    But he is not unfamiliar with the Bison, or Bucknell coach Pat Flannery. His Bison Mania story helps explain how the Bucknell phenomenon has come to be.

    FLU FACTOR: A flu bug hit Bucknell during the week. Charles Lee, Chris Niesz and Kevin Bettencourt each missed a couple days practice during the week.

    The rest of the team was treated given some sort of medicine (it was not clear if it was actually the flu vaccine) and Flannery says the doctor tells him if there are no new outbreaks by early in the week, the rest of the team should be in the clear.

    The Bison were worried beforehand about how long and hard those three would be able to go. Against a physical team like Holy Cross, there were concerns they might run out of gas in the second half.

    Lee went 34 minutes, finishing with 12 points and a team-high 7 rebounds. Bettencourt had 17 points and played 37 minutes.

    Niesz, though, played only five minutes, well below his average of 15.

    That really didn't hurt the Bison, though. If there is one spot where they have the depth to withstand illness or injury, it is at the four, where Flannery rotates what he calls his "three-headed monster" of starter John Clark, Niesz and sophomore athletic 6-6 Donald Brown.

    Brown doesn't score a lot of points. He averages 3.5 a game and was right there with four Saturday. But the former starter plays well off the bench. A strong rebounder and tenacious defender, he might even be the most talented of the three.

    Brown drove the nail in for Bucknell in the second half. In a one minute stretch, Brown plucked a blocked Charles lee layup attempt out of the air and put it back for Bucknell's third field goal of the half.

    That, by the way, came with just 5:26 to go, after a nine-and-a-half minute stretch in which Bucknell went without a field goal. During that stretch, Bucknell's lead shrank from 11 to 1, then grew back to 9 on Brown's shot.

    Brown made two possessions later, after Bucknell got a pair of stops when first Brown made a steal and then Brown blocked a Torey Thomas layup.

    When Bucknell came back up the floor Brown drove the lane and ended Nate Lufkin's afternoon when the Holy Cross center tried to draw a charge and picked up his fifth foul instead.

    Brown hit both free throws to put Bucknell's lead back in double digits.

    Facing a 48-37 deficit, with Lufkin sitting at the far end of the bench, the proverbial wind gushed out of the Crusaders sails.

    MC-OTT-(then)-ON: Bucknell's All-League center Chris McNaughton struggled offensively in the first half. Even with Lufkin playing only five minutes in the half due to foul trouble, McNaughton was scoreless at the intermission and had only taken two shots.

    Part of that was because Holy Cross freshman Tim Clifford gave Willard nine strong minutes off the bench in the first half. Clifford was no offensive threat. But the 6-10, 265-pounder managed to frustrate McNaughton, doing a nice job of pushing McNaughton off the blocks. (Mysteriously, Clifford only played two garbage time minutes in the second half)

    A bigger factor was Holy Cross' help defense. Every time the ball went in to McNaughton, somebody came with the double.

    "That's the Patriot League for you," said McNaughton. "It's not Pitt anymore. It's not the Big East where they let me play.

    They just played one-on-one on me. I mean, they've got some strong kids, but they don't double-team me. Here ... the team defense is more focused. They like to double-team on me. I didn't really respond to it as I maybe could have."

    In the second half, McNaughton was more assertive, beginning with a dunk for the first points of the half. McNaughton finished with 9 points, most coming from the foul line, where he was 5-for-8.

    "I thought he adjusted to it in the second half," said Flannery. "He decided he was going to be a factor and the second half, he was a factor."

    TEA LEAVES: Before anybody reads too much into this game, keep in mind Bucknell won the first meeting of the two last season, at home by 10, then got it handed to them in Worcester in the second half of the season.

    In the game preview package, we talked about looking at those box scores from last year. One thing we noticed, the team that got to the foul line the most won each time. We didn't mention it then because it is not an unusual occurrence.

    We mention it now as a reminder more of the difference in officiating at home and on the road. Last year in Lewisburg, Bucknell shot 35 foul shots to 21 for HC. IN Worcester the difference was 40-27 with the Crusaders on top.

    Willard wasn't griping about the officials in this game (who were bad pretty much both ways) when he said it. But the comment he made when asked about Bucknell's feat of beating both St. Joe's and Pitt in their buildings illustrates what we are saying.

    "Let's be honest about it," Willard said. "I've been at both levels and we all know that when you go on the road -- Bucknell got a decent whistle (in the Pitt game) -- but the close calls the end of the game don't go your way. That's just a flat out truth. And they fought through that and won the game."

    Willard said that says a lot about the psyche of this Bucknell team.

    "To me, that shows where they are mentally as a basketball team," Willard said. "They're in a very good spot right now, mentally."

    THE ART OF WAR: Nobody was expecting a Picasso and nobody was letdown. The game was exactly what everyone expected between two defense minded teams.

    "It was a war out there with the kids. It was a tough game to officiate; a tough game to play, " Flannery said. "Both teams are very good defensive teams. We both know each other very well. We take away a lot of stuff from each other."

    These two were meeting for the seventh time in less than three seasons, having met twice in the regular season, and in the playoffs as well each of the last two seasons.

    "These are halfcourt games," said Bettencourt. "It wasn't going to be an up-and-down pretty game. You know that going against Holy Cross."

    How ugly did it get: Both teams had more turnovers (19 each) than field goals (14 each).

    "We played each other six times over the last two years. We know what to expect," Bettencourt said. "They sometimes know where you are going before you do."

    Read more!

    Other games . . .

    Last updated: 8:38 a.m.

    From around the league:

    The surprise game of the afternoon had to be Lehigh's 56-53 win at American. Ingram 5-for-13, Thomas 1-for-5, 21 AU turnovers while shooting only 34 percent from the field.

    Matt over at the Patriot League Hoops Blog called it the ugliest game he has ever seen.
    Box Score | Express-Times Game Story | AP Wrap

    LAFAYETTE 90, NAVY 80: Good to see somebody played some offense on a day when nobody else scored more than 60 points in the league.

    Is it just me, or are others tired of that worthless NCAA J.J. Jumper mascot?
    Box Score | Express-Times game story | Morning Call game story | AP Wrap

    COLGATE 60, ARMY 56: Trailing by two, Army's Cory Sinning missed a layup with 51 seconds left. It is hard work being as bad as Army.
    Box Score | AP Wrap

    Read more!
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