AROUND THE CITY
The Drexel deal
Playing without leading scorer Frank Elegar (one-game suspension because he hit Delaware's Sam McMahon with an elbow the previous Saturday), the Dragons did much good against Colonial leader Virginia Commonwealth at the DAC. But they could not stop VCU down the stretch and lost, 75-68.
Drexel (15-5, 7-3 CAA) still has an NCAA Tournament resume, but its margin for error is shrinking. VCU (18-3, 10-0) is 9-1 on the road and its three losses (Xavier, Toledo, Appalachian State) are by a combined seven points.
At this moment, Drexel's NCAA non-conference resume is stronger than the CAA's George Mason was when it got an at-large berth last year. Still, it is hard to put all of it into context because you don't know how Drexel is going to finish or what the at-large pool will look like on Selection Sunday. Meanwhile, Drexel should win as many games as possible and/or win the CAA Tournament.
Going for a grand
Drexel point guard Bashir Mason got his 1,000th point. With two steals, he will become just the second Dragon to get 1,000 points, 400 assists and 200 steals, joining the wonderful Michael Anderson.
What happened to all those points?
When Notre Dame played at Villanova Jan. 17, the teams combined for 189 points in Villanova's 15-point win. They lost 60 points on the way to Indiana and ND won at home, 66-63.
The Wildcats (14-6, 3-4 Big East) shot 57 percent in the win and 33.3 percent (20 of 60) in the loss. Notre Dame (17-4, 5-3) trailed by seven with barely 7 minutes left, but made most of the significant plays down the stretch.
'Nova's Scottie Reynolds (19 points, eight assists) has been on a great roll but proved he's human with a late turnover. Curtis Sumpter had a chance to tie it, but missed an open three in the final seconds. Ryan Ayers (Germantown Academy) scored five straight points to bring the Irish from a 60-57 deficit to a 62-60 lead with 1:39 to play.
Alive in the Big 5
The City Series title is down to Saint Joseph's and Villanova. After the Hawks beat Penn, 84-74, at a sold-out Palestra, St. Joe's (12-8, 2-0 Big 5) and Villanova (3-0) are the only teams without two Big 5 losses.
St. Joe's is 14-4 in Big 5 games dating back to the 2002-03 season. Villanova has won 10 consecutive Big 5 games. The Holy War is Feb. 6 at Villanova.
The Hawks story
St. Joe's shot 53.4 percent against Penn. Junior swingman Pat Calathes had 23 points, 10 rebounds and six assists. It was his second consecutive career high in points after getting 21 at George Washington on Wednesday. In the two games, he shot 13-for-20 from the field, 5-for-8 from the arc and 13-for-13 from the foul line. He has made 21 straight free throws.
Phil Martelli is now 234-133 on Hawk Hill, tying him with Jack Ramsay (234-72) for the second most wins at St. Joe's. Bill Ferguson, who coached from 1928 to '53, has the school record of 309.
The Ivy story
Penn (11-7, 2-2 Big 5) is finished with non-conference games. The Quakers (2-0 in the Ivy) could take complete control of the race if they win at Brown and Yale this weekend. Cornell and Yale each are 3-1, every other team has at least two losses.
All those turnovers
Somewhere, John Chaney is wincing. Temple and Duquesne combined for 54 turnovers in the Dukes' 96-92 win in Pittsburgh. The teams did combine to shoot nearly 54 percent from the field.
Temple (7-12, 1-5 A-10) led 68-56 with 12 minutes left, but could not keep up the pace against the Dukes all-out press. The Owls (28 turnovers) have lost eight of nine and find themselves fighting to stay out of the conference basement. Teams finishing 13th and 14th do not make the trip to Atlantic City for the conference tournament.
The Owls gave up a 19-point lead in Wednesday's loss to Penn at the Palestra. They have some really good players, including Dionte Christmas (30 points) and Mark Tyndale (27 points). They simply do not have enough of them. Thus, it is difficult to sustain their game for 40 minutes.
Duquesne (7-11, 3-4) may be the season's most amazing story. The Dukes were 3-24 last season, and five players were shot before this season. And they just started pressing for 40 minutes last week.
Fordham can't lose
Fordham had lost 34 consecutive games in Philadelphia until beating Temple in Chaney's final home game last season. After winning at La Salle, 62-54, the Rams, who beat Penn in December, have won three straight in the city.
La Salle (9-12, 2-5 A-10) shot just 33.3 percent but hung around because it crushed the Rams on the glass, 46-26. La Salle's leading scorer, Darnell Harris, was just 1-for-8 before leaving with an ankle injury in the second half.
Fordham (12-7, 5-2) didn't dazzle on offense, but made just enough shots at the right time to get itself to 3-0 against the Big 5 this season. The Rams beat St. Joe's in New York on Jan. 17.
ACROSS THE COUNTRY
Pittsburgh, which is at the Wachovia Center tonight to play Villanova, gave a near-perfect demonstration of what it does best against St. John's. The Panthers had 23 assists on 31 field goals and committed just seven turnovers while allowing the Red Storm to make just 17 field goals and fouling so little that St. John's shot only eight free throws.
Home sweet home
Air Force has won 27 straight at home. BYU has now won 27 straight at home after beating Air Force.
A very sharp observer told me not to be overly concerned if Air Force loses a few in the Mountain West, saying those teams are very familiar with the Falcons' unusual style. When they get into the NCAA, he said, they would be a very tough out.
Arizona had never lost a home game by more than 12 points in Lute Olson's tenure until North Carolina got the Wildcats by 28. Arizona has only lost one game anywhere by more than 28 under Olson. 'Zona was 1-for-23 from the arc against UNC and had as many turnovers (20) as field goals.
Shoot 'em up
Oregon and Washington State combined to shoot 23-for-54 from the arc.
UConn to NIT?
Connecticut is 13-0 against teams without much pedigree and 0-7 against those teams with reasonable pedigrees. The Huskies lost, 84-72, to Providence in Hartford. The Friars scored the first 16 points of the second half, shot 63 percent in the half, and outscored UConn, 50-27, in the final 20 minutes.
As good as UConn has been in recent seasons, even it has not been able to overcome losing four first-round draft choices. And it is getting late enough that you wonder if the Huskies will be able to do it this season. *
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