Sunday, November 18, 2012

Hofstra Wins A Crazy Game Over Marshall

Hofstra 103, Marshall 100, 2OT
I thoroughly enjoyed the insanity of this game. DeAndre Kane certainly is one story from this game, after finishing with 33 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. And while he didn't get the triple double in regulation, he did get close (he had 27 points, 9 rebounds and 8 assists after regulation). But what became the main story of this game was that the refs called the game tight, creating tons of foul trouble even before we got into the extra periods. 69 fouls were called, leading to 99 free throw attempts. Five players fouled out and seven more finished with four fouls. One of the more amusing parts of this game came in the latter part of the second overtime period when all five of Marshall's players on the floor had four fouls and they knew they would need to foul intentionally. So they substituted in one player on each defensive possession to foul, and then brought back the all-four-fouls lineup for offense.

I was impressed with Marshall in this game, despite the loss. Being on the road, the foul trouble was worse for them. They never led in regulation, but fought back down the stretch and sent the game to overtime on a clutch Elijah Pittman three-pointer. And I also thought this Marshall team looked awfully talented. DeAndre Kane and Dennis Tinnon are givens, but Elijah Pittman was great in this game, and they have so much depth and options. They have shooters, they have rebounders, and creators. They're off to a tough 2-3 start to the season, but all three losses have been close and against likely RPI Top 100 opponents. These sorts of results are not conducive to making a run at an at-large bid, but they could prove to be a tough beat in conference play. While Memphis is obviously the heavy favorite in Conference USA, Marshall looks to me to be the second best team in the conference. And they have the athleticism and talent to have a shot to take out Memphis in the C-USA tournament, should it come down to that.

This is a very nice win for a Hofstra team that has had a mixed start to the season, to say the least. They lost to Monmouth and got destroyed by Purdue, but also upset South Dakota State and now Marshall. It's hard to know quite what to make of them. Their next game will be on Wednesday at Manhattan. Marshall will head home to play Nevada next Saturday.

Akron 85, Penn State 60
Penn State isn't particularly good this season, so it's not a huge surprise that they lost to Akron. I was surprised just how badly they lost, though. Zeke Marshall destroyed the Penn State front court, on both sides of the floor (17 points, 7 rebounds and 6 blocks). The key stat for me from this game is that Akron hit 59.4% of their two-point attempts, while Penn State hit 38.2% of theirs. Akron got better shots all day.

Penn State did knock off Providence, but that doesn't appear to be a particularly impressive win this season. They play hard, and so they'll be feisty at home, but they just don't have enough talent to make the NCAA Tournament this season. They have a difficult home game coming up on Friday, against Bucknell.

Most people joined me in picking Ohio as the preseason MAC favorite. And Ohio certainly hasn't done anything to dissuade me from that projection. But Akron has played very well, too. They've lost two games, but both came in overtime, and one of those was to Oklahoma State. In my opinion, Akron is Ohio's top challenger in the MAC.

Tennessee 83, UMass 69
Tennessee has their problems, particularly on offense. But one thing that they haven't lacked for years has been athleticism. The scouting report on UMass is pretty obvious - I've already written about it multiple times this season - their entire offense runs through Chaz Williams. So Tennessee set their athletes out to slow him down, and for the most part they did. He had 16 points, but on 15 shots. He also had eight assists, but it wasn't enough. Jesse Morgan is the only other guy I saw on UMass who can really create his own shot. On offense, Tennessee got a huge performance out of Jarnell Stokes, who finished with 24 points (on 7-for-12 shooting) and 12 rebounds.

This has been a reasonable start to the season for Tennessee. They've beaten the teams they're supposed to beat. And against decent competition (Oklahoma State and UMass) they split. They will have plenty of chances to collect quality wins before SEC play begins, with Georgetown, Xavier, Virginia, Wichita State and Memphis all ahead. Their next game, though, will be against Oakland, on November 26th.

UMass is now 2-2 to start the season, though all four games were against teams with a decent-to-excellent shot of finishing in the RPI Top 100. They will get plenty of chances for quality wins in Atlantic Ten play this season, so it's not like they can't afford a few losses here or there. Their next game will be at Siena on November 28th.

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