Archive: December, 2008
It is an honor playing a small role in Philadelphia basketball most especially the Big 5. What a tradition! It pulls at and out every emotion in your body. There are no casual fans.
On Thursday, my players had the opportunity to participate and compete at the highest of levels. The game vs. Villanova wasn’t an artistic success but every player on each team put their heart and soul into the 40 minutes. A national TV audience saw, and, hopefully, understood the “Holy War.”
A special note to acknowledge the student sections at each school. The Villanova kids backed their team and stayed away from the uncalled-for insults that are masked as rooting for your team in far too many arenas. The SJU “kids,” although small in number, were heard and their support is much appreciated.
Following last night's 70-59 loss to Villanova, La Salle coach John Giannini couldn't hide his displeasure with his team's inability to pass the basketball.
It is a problem the Explorers have encountered for quite a while. One glance at their turnover totals (124) compared to assists (88) shows a glaring problem that is hurting the club. Only twice this season have the Explorers totalled more assists than turnovers. Against Connecticut they had 11 dimes against 10 TO's and they had 16 and 14 against Florida State. Oddly enough, the Explorers dropped both of those games.
Many fans commented to me last night during and after the game about La Salle's need for a point guard. Of course, Rodney Green was thrust into the position last year. Though he appears to be more of a slashing wing player, coach Giannini loves the idea of Green running the show and has often compared him to former Temple guard Mardy Collins. And to Green's credit, he has never complained about the move and has shown flashes at times that warrants his coach's praise.
Dionte Christmas had two points in Temple’s last game. And two free throws in the closing 30 minutes of the one before that. Saturday against No. 8 Tennessee, he had five at halftime, at which point the Owls led by nine. He blew up after that, finishing with 35, two off his career best, the Owls' 88-72 upset.
He went 7-for-14 from the arc, including five straight (to go with an old-school three-point play) after the Volunteers had closed to within four midway through the second half.
Did we mention there were a bunch of pro scouts in the house?
Watching the Villanova-St. Joe’s game got me excited because I could feel the energy and intensity through my television. The TV people did a great job explaining the uniqueness of the Big 5. Anyone who thinks the rivalries have diminished are off base. The players and coaches could not possibly go at it any harder.
We are obviously excited about playing Villanova Sunday for many reasons. I have often said it to our fans, but to me the Big 5 is a measuring stick and not just locally. If you win in Big 5 games, history shows you have a great chance of being a postseason team.
There is no one key to playing Villanova. You have to handle great ball pressure, you have to fight for the rebounds and loose balls and you have to defend talented players. Sunday night promises to be another hardfought game.
Just got this from the LaSalle athletic department, regarding tickets for the Villanova-LaSalle game on Sunday night at the Tom Gola Arena:
The La Salle University Department of Intercollegiate Athletics has announced that a small number of tickets will be made available to purchase individually for this Sunday’s Big 5 match-up against Villanova. The tickets, which were initially only available as part of a three-game package, can now be bought individually while supplies last.
The tickets, which were initially only available as part of a three-game package, can now be bought individually while supplies last.
...So what do we take away from No. 15 Villanova's (8-1) first loss, 67-58 to sixth-ranked Texas (7-1) on Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden?
Well, for for whatever it's worth it was about what I expected, at least in terms of point differential. At least at this point in the season. Texas is a legit threat to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament. Villanova might become one, too. Right now, they're just another team that's pretty good and figures to get better. How much better, we'll have to wait and see how things unfold. But the potential's definitely there. Texas should get better, too. It's what the better teams do. I wouldn't mind seeing these teams tangle again in a little over three months. Could be interesting. Of course they both have to get there first.
Texas figured to have the advantage inside, while Villanova figured to be stronger in the backcourt. But the Longhorns were more than able to hold their own along the perimeter. Mostly because A.J. Abrams is big-time, and also because they kept sending more than one guy at Scottie Reynolds at the other end. It's something a lot of teams did last year, and will no doubt do some more. Or until Villanova finds a way to make them pay for it. That means that Corey Fisher, in particular, can't go back to what he was, especially in these kind of spots. And once the Big East season starts, the Wildcats are going to be in these kind of spots a lot. Fisher only played 18 minutes, and contributed virtually nothing. He's still only a sophomore, so it's still a growth thing. But against lesser competition up until then, he'd shown that he had matured. This was a step back. Jay Wright said he was overly excited, being back in New York. I'll take his word for it. But it can't happen too often, because it leaves Reynolds out on an island. He only took seven shots in 37 minutes, and that's not enough. A lot of that had to do with Texas, but some of it was self-inflicted.
Any time our program can be challenged like it is going to be against Tennessee is terrific. I think when you can go to a place like Tennessee and play in that environment like we did last year, and go to a place like Kansas like we will next week is a great learning experience for our team. Then, to have those teams come back to us is tremendous.
We also greatly appreciated the opportunity to go to a place like Penn State. It is a wonderful institution and to have them come back to Temple next year will be great for our program. I hope we can continue to do that series for years to come.
There’s only one thing that matters for Villanova’s basketball team at that moment. And that’s making sure that senior forward Dwayne Anderson gets healthy and is ready to go when the Big East portion of the Wildcats’ schedule begins on Jan. 1 at Marquette. That, and making sure they don’t lose any other bodies in the meantime.
Because right now, without Anderson, they only have a seven-man rotation that includes just two big men. And no true center.
Anderson hadn’t played this year, because of a stress fracture in his left foot. But he was in uniform for Tuesday’s game at Penn, and actually played some minutes in the first half. Afterward, he was limping again. Not good. I know the doctors cleared him, and you have to start using him sometime to find out, but if I was Jay Wright I would take it very slowly. Even if means you hurt yourself for next week’s games against Texas and Saint Joseph’s. It’s probably going to be tough to beat Texas even with a semi-healthy Anderson. Why risk it, unless you’re 100 pecent sure?
So, as one e-mailer asked me, how can Temple’s football team go 4-4 in the MAC (for the second straight season), while the basketball team is already 0-2, with two games left to go?
Well, Lavoy Allen didn’t play Saturday at Buffalo, which never helps. Still, the Owls gave up 50 second-half points, and let a 12-point lead slip away. As coach Fran Dunphy pointed out afterward, that’s not good no matter who’s playing. Point well taken. Buffalo, on Thursday night, lost to visiting UConn, 66-64.
In Wednesday’s home loss to Miami, Allen played 16 minutes but was obviously not 100 percent. Even if he had been, it might not have made a difference. Miami was picked to finish second in the MAC East. Its losses were at UCLA, Pitt and Xavier. Two of them were actually close losses. For whatever it’s worth, the Owls were only favored by a field goal.
We got back on the court Monday night after nine days without a game. Cal State Northridge made the trip East to play Rider in a return game from last year’s ESPN’s BracketBusters series. A member of their staff called a few months back looking for another game while they were in the Philadelphia area. As I am sure you have heard by now, we don’t get a whole lot of home games, so we jumped at the chance to get a game in the DAC.
I figured it would be a tough game since Northridge won 20 last year and was expected to win the Big West this year, and it was. I thought our big guys did a real nice job on the glass, especially the offensive end. Kenny Tribbett, Evan Neisler and Yannick Formbor did a good job up front. Those guys may not be big-time scorers, but when they do what we ask them on the glass and on defense, we become a much better team.
Our guys struggled shooting the ball early and we missed some wide open shots, but our defense played well and led to some easy baskets and some free throw opportunities down the stretch. Anytime you can hold a team more than 20 points under their average, you know you did a pretty good job defensively.