AROUND THE CITY:
PLAYING LIGHTS OUT
Temple was tied with Xavier, 5-5, at the Liacouras Center.
Seven minutes later, it was 21-5 and over. Want to understand what Temple hoops is about these days? Replay those 7 minutes a few times. The game can't be played much better. Temple won, 85-72. Once the first-half blitz subsided with Temple leading, 47-27, Xavier (16-9, 7-4 Atlantic 10) actually played pretty well. But the point had been made by the Owls (19-5, 8-2). Temple has now won eight straight.
RAMONE ON FIRE
Ramone Moore keeps topping himself. He was brilliant against "X" with 30 points on just 16 shots. He was 9-for-16, 5-for-8 from the arc and 7-for-9 from the foul line. He is playing with great confidence. When he gets set on his shot, he really looks like he can't miss. There can't be many in America playing any better. In his last five games, he has scored 21, 25, 22, 25 and 30.
Khalif Wyatt (18 points) even made one shot after hopping down the court on a sore foot. He is a first-team All-Big 5 lock. Big man Micheal Eric (11 points, 16 rebounds) looks like he is all the way back from his injury.
An ESPN2 audience saw a really good team playing in front of a really hyped crowd (9,370). The game was on opposite a more competitive game between No. 1 Kentucky and Vanderbilt on ESPN, but anybody who took the time must have been really impressed by the Owls, who should be zooming up the NCAA selection committee's seeding chart.
First-place Temple has a half-game lead on Saint Louis (with a game in hand and the tiebreaker due to a head-to-head win) and at least 1 1/2 games on the rest of the league as we head down the stretch.
MAKE SHOTS, WIN GAMES
Drexel has now won 13 straight and 19 of 20 after its 78-67 win over Hofstra at the DAC. The Dragons (21-5, 13-2 Colonial) got great shooting performances from Chris Fouch (25 points, 8-for-10 overall and 6-for-7 from the arc) and Frantz Massenat (20 points, 8-for-9). The team shot 28-for-47 (59.6 percent), 10-for-17 (58.8 percent) from the arc and 12-for-13 (92.3 percent) from the foul line.
Hofstra (8-19, 2-13) shot just 32.8 percent. So why was this at all close? Drexel had 18 turnovers.
After a home CAA game tomorrow against William & Mary, the Dragons will get ready for Saturday morning's Bracket Buster game at Cleveland State on ESPNU. This looked a lot more promising for Drexel's NCAA resumé until Cleveland State lost to Valparaiso and Butler last week.
MOST BIZARRE GAME
After going all-in for Friday's loss to Harvard, it was no shock that Penn did not have much at the start the next night against Dartmouth at the Palestra. Still, this game looked over when the Quakers took a 45-30 lead with 14 minutes left over a team that had not won an Ivy game So, how was it tied in the final seconds? Who knows?
THE STAYING-ALIVE SHOT
Zack Rosen did not shoot well over the weekend, but when he absolutely had to make a shot to keep Penn's season alive, he buried a very long three with 3 seconds left to give the Quakers (13,11, 5-2 Ivy) a 58-55 win over Dartmouth (4-20, 0-8). At this stage of the season, style points are not as relevant as wins. But Penn will have to play much better to take advantage of the second chance they now have.
THE HARVARD STORY
When the Crimson left the Palestra Friday night, it had complete control of the Ivy race. Now, it doesn't.
Princeton torched Harvard's vaunted defense down the stretch, the Tigers getting what they wanted when they wanted it, and got the upset, 70-62. The Tigers were 15-for-24 (62.5 percent) in the second half and pulled away late.
Tigers star Ian Hummer was 0-for-11 Friday against Dartmouth. He was brilliant against Harvard with 20 points, nine rebounds and six assists.
By the way, the last 24 times Harvard has come to Jadwin Gym, the result has been the same - a Princeton win.
WHAT IT MEANS
Harvard is now 8-1 in the league, followed by Yale (6-2) and Penn (5-2). Since Harvard beat both of its closest pursuers on their home courts, it still has to be the solid favorite to win it. But there are no givens now as the back end of the Ivy season begins.
HAWKS DEFEND HOMECOURT
December was a very pretty month for Saint Joseph's. It has been much more of a grind in 2012, but the Hawks are grinding hard. They held Massachusetts to 24-for-71 (33.8 percent) shooting in a 73-62 win at Hagan Arena. St. Joe's backcourt of Tay Jones and Langston Galloway combined for 32 points. And that master of the strange stat line, Halil Kanacevic, had six points, 15 rebounds, six assists, two steals and two blocks.
The Hawks (16-10, 6-5 A-10) broke the game open with 14 consecutive second-half points. UMass (18-7, 7-4) had no answer.
After the wins over Creighton and Villanova, there probably were some Hawks fans that started to dream. The reality is that this team has a few flaws and no seniors. Given what went down the last two seasons, 16 wins in mid-February is a pretty good deal.
GOING THE WRONG WAY
La Salle was picked 13th in the preseason so the Explorers have exceeded all expectations. Still, it was hard to see this three-game losing streak coming. La Salle has now lost on a neutral court (against St. Joe's at the Palestra), at Richmond and now, for the first time all season, at Tom Gola Arena, to Saint Louis, 59-51.
It was 47-47 with 5 minutes left, but Saint Louis, which had a great few days in the city after winning at Hawk Hill on Wednesday, finished the game strongly.
La Salle (17-9, 6-5 A-10) had as many turnovers (20) as baskets. Hard to believe, but none of La Salle's four guards scored double figures. Jerrell Wright had 18 points and nine rebounds.
Saint Louis (20-5, 8-3) has made a lot of teams look bad this season. La Salle just happens to be the latest. The back end of La Salle's league schedule always looked more difficult, but, given the scramble in this league, you can't stay in a funk for long. Or you can go from first place to a road first-round conference tournament game.
ACROSS THE COUNTRY:
Syracuse's Scoop Jardine (Neumann-Goretti) had a season-best 21 points in the win over UConn. He was 8-for-9 with six assists and one turnover.
STRANGE TRIPLE DOUBLE
Ohio State's Jared Sullinger had 17 points, 16 rebounds and 10 turnovers in loss to Michigan State.
HARD TO IMAGINE
Towson killed James Madison on the boards, 49-19, and lost, 58-56. How is that possible? Well, it is Towson, which has made losing into an art form (1-26 overall). And there was this. Towson shot 16-for-58 (27.6 percent). JMU was 10-for-22 from the arc.
JERARDI'S TOP 15:
1. Kentucky (25-1): Anthony Davis (15 points, eight rebounds, seven blocks) remains in the wrong league. Playing in front of a wild home crowd, Vanderbilt made a big run at the Cats, but missed its last nine shots and lost, 69-63.
2. Syracuse (25-1): UConn was only down by two points with 6 minutes left until Scoop Jardine hit a pair of threes and 'Cuse was off to an 85-67 win.
3. Missouri (23-2): Tigers shot 14-for-28 from the arc and buried Baylor, 72-57.
4. Kansas (20-5): Bigs Thomas Robinson and Jeff Withey combined for 42 points and 34 rebounds in 81-66 win over Oklahoma State. Cowboys shot 32.7 percent.
5. Duke (21-4): Plumlee brothers combined for 29 points and 32 rebounds in 73-55 win over Maryland.
6. North Carolina (21-4): Recovered from giveaway against Duke to beat Virginia, 70-52. Killed Cavs on glass, 52-32.
7. Michigan State (20-5): Held Ohio State 29 points below its average in 58-48 win in Columbus.
8. Ohio State (21-4): Had one fewer field goal (14) than turnovers (15) and shot just 26.4 percent in loss to Spartans.
9. UNLV (22-4): Beat San Diego State, 65-63, in Mountain West showdown. Mike Moser had 19 points and nine rebounds for Rebels.
10. Baylor (21-4): Bears are 21-0 against teams not named Kansas or Missouri.
11. Temple (19-5): How many teams are playing better than the Owls these days? Routed Xavier, 85-72.
12. Wichita State (22-4): Went to Creighton, shot 58.2 percent before 18,735 and won, 89-68.
13. Murray State (24-1): Finally lost, on Thursday to Tennessee State, before beating Austin Peay, 82-63. Great Bracket Busters game with St. Mary's on Saturday.
14. Louisville (20-5): Came from seven down with 5 minutes left to win, 77-74, at West Virginia. Rather big home game with Syracuse tonight. Have beaten Orange six straight.
15. Bristol High (15-7): Won four games last season. Can another state championship (who in town will ever forget 1975?) be far behind?