ATB: Charles Jenkins Shows His Pride From Deep…

Posted by rtmsf on February 16th, 2011

The Lede.  It’s not that often that we lead with a relative unknown on a weeknight, but it’s also not often that a single player rips off 25- and 30-footers to keep his team alive and win the game at the buzzer.  America, meet Charles Jenkins.  If you knew him, great; if you don’t, take a moment.  He’s one of the best mid-major players in America and could probably give the Jimmer and others a run for their money if he got the chance.

Meet Mr. Jenkins (Newsday/J. McIsaac)

Your Watercooler MomentCharles Jenkins, Hero of Men.  It’s one thing to hit a buzzer-beater to tie a game to send it to overtime, but it’s quite another to do it again to win the game a few minutes later.  The video below is entitled “Charles being Charles,” and if you’ve never seen the 6’3 senior guard from Queens play, you’re in for a treat.  The reigning Colonial POY with the ungodly ability to make just about everything he throws at the basket — 53% FG, 43% 3FG, 83% FT — knocked out 28/4 assts tonight against William & Mary, including two long threes as the horn went off to ultimately give his team a top-four seed in the upcoming CAA Tournament.  In the first case, W&M held a three-point lead when Jenkins received the inbounds pass with 6.6 seconds left, begging the question as to why they didn’t foul him rather than let him get off the tying 24-footer.  The Tribe didn’t have that option in overtime, as Jenkins took ball upcourt with 4.5 seconds remaining and the game tied, but maybe they could have employed a little better pressure to keep him from receiving the pass… or at least a double-team on the catch?  William & Mary didn’t, so Jenkins found space on the left side about thirty feet away, and he drilled it, winning the game for his Pride.  Along with Morehead State’s Kenneth Faried, Charleston’s Andrew Goudelock and Cleveland State’s Norris Cole, Jenkins is one of the best players in America most of us have never seen play — but let’s hope that he and the others will be able to find their way into March Madness so that they all can entertain us on the game’s greatest stage.  In the meantime, this mini-compilation of tonight’s highlights will have to do…

Tonight’s Quick Hits

  • Butler’s Surge.  The defending national runners-up won their fifth game in a row tonight over Green Bay to move to 11-5 in the Horizon League, showing some of the resolve that we expected all season from a Brad Stevens team featuring a couple of studs in Matt Howard and Shelvin Mack.  Mack and Howard combined for 35/10/7 assts this evening, giving the Bulldogs a fighting chance to once again win the regular season title in the Horizon League and guarantee home court during the conference tourney.  Butler only has two games remaining (both winnable), but league leader Valpo has four games remaining and Cleveland State three — if Butler can get into one of the top two slots, we think it’s likely they’ll figure a way to get back to the NCAAs in an otherwise trying season.
  • The Johnnies.  We have to hand it to Steve Lavin’s coaching performance this season.  He’s managed to take a group of talented, experienced kids who had underachieved throughout their careers and turn them into a group that is finally and inexorably playing to its potential.  With three wins in the last six days, including another nice 80-68 win at Marquette this evening, SJU is approaching its first NCAA Tournament bid in nearly a decade.  The Red Storm do not excel at anything other than forcing turnovers (18 tonight for Marquette), but they hustle, claw and defend with a ruffian’s mentality befitting their NYC attitude.  Good for them.
  • Remember These Guys? Speaking of surges, George Mason hasn’t lost a game in over five weeks and Jim Larranaga is starting to talk about his team’s abilities in much the same way that he did back in 2006 on the way to the Final Four.  Tonight his Patriots crushed VCU in Richmond, 71-51, behind five players in double figures, excellent team defense (no Ram starter approached double figures) and a strong willingness to share the ball among teammates (17 assists).  With tonight’s win, Mason takes a two-game lead over ODU, Hofstra and the Rams with two games left to play — folks in the northern Virginia area are starting to get excited again, and the scary thing is that this year’s version might even be better than that of a half-decade ago.
  • Harrison Barnes’ Comfort Zone.  He was only 7-20 from the field against Wake Forest tonight in a ho-hum win for the Heels, but in UNC’s last eight games (where their only loss was at Cameron Indoor Stadium), the ballyhooed freshman is averaging 18/5 and shooting 48% from the field, beyond his season averages of 14/5 and 41%.  The key stat is that he’s become much better at finding his shots as the season has progressed (see chart courtesy of StatSheet below).  With his progression and the insertion of Kendall Marshall into the starting lineup, UNC has become a much better team.

…and Misses.

  • Microcosm of Michigan State’s Season.  With 5:53 remaining in a close game with Ohio State holding a five-point lead, Michigan State’s Garrick Sherman drove baseline and left his feet under the basket.  Finding nobody to pass to, he simply jettisoned the ball out to halfcourt in the hopes a teammate might grab it.  Alas, the pass was well beyond the grasp of a Spartan as it sailed into the backcourt.  If you froze that moment in time (screenshot, anyone?), you’d notice that two MSU players stood and watched the ball as it went over the heads, while Ohio State’s Aaron Craft conversely put his dome down and began sprinting after it.  A microcosm of the season: OSU hustling its way to a dream season and #1 seed; Michigan State frozen in cement and sinking fast.  Craft retrieved the ball and ultimately laid it in, and-1, for his only bucket of the night, giving OSU an eight-point lead and effectively salting the game away.  Sparty is going to make for one heck of an interesting NCAA profile in a few weeks — they’ve got enough talent to beat anyone on a given night, but this is a fundamentally broken team, and this play exhibited the worst attribute of that.
  • ESPN SkyCam.  In a week already filled with odd (innovative?) broadcasting ideas, the idea of showing vast swaths of the Kentucky-Mississippi State game using an aerial view directly over the action should have remained the province of the coaching staff reviewing its plays in the film room.  A view of it can be located here, and our suggestion is that ESPN should chalk this one up as a “gave it a shot” gimmick and move on to the next ill-conceived idea.  Frankly, out of what we’ve seen so far this week — the picture-in-picture of the coaches; the physically separated broadcast team; the horrid timeout interviews — this may have been the best one.  Coming later this week: a camera within the basketball itself, and benches stacked on top of each other Quiz Bowl style.

Tweet of the Night.  This response by Andy Bottoms is in reference to a conversation about Big East COY.  Well played, sir.

RTC Live.  Only a couple of games tonight, but both were a little better than expected.

Kentucky 85, Mississippi State 79.  In the locker room after the game, I asked Kentucky point guard Brandon Knight what he felt he still needed to improve upon in terms of becoming the floor leader John Calipari wants him to be, since we’re moving into the autumn of this season. He told me, “I can always improve as far as running this team, mostly in terms of communicating with my teammates on offense and especially defense, but yeah, I can always get better at just taking charge of the team with both words and actions.” Remember that last part. Mississippi State started off hot tonight and even owned a 40-39 halftime lead, with Jalen Steele (17 pts) hitting five threes, Ravern Johnson (21/5) adding four of his own, and Dee Bost (16/3/4 asst) drilling three and propelling the Bulldogs to a 54.5% shooting night from beyond the arc. Kentucky appeared a step slow for most of the game and looked like a team that assumed they’d coast over an unranked opponent. Calipari remarked on this in the post-game, saying his team “had no fire or fight.” Sensing this, with about 15 minutes left, he decided to separate the men from the boys and see who wanted to actually be on the floor…by firing up the full court press. This accomplished two things: it forced Kentucky to apply some tighter defense on those Mississippi State shooters, and it made Renardo Sidney (11/8) play at a pace he wanted no part of. Sidney looked completely tanked after playing short stretches of consecutive minutes and the press effectively removed him from the floor. The increased defensive effort was led by Knight (24/3/7 asst), who forced a flurry of turnovers that led to easy transition buckets for the Wildcats, providing them with a gap large enough to weather a late sloppiness that let MSU back in it in the last couple of minutes. Knight woke up when Calipari unleashed the press, as if he suddenly realized he should be aggressive in getting to the hoop, playing up on his man, and spurring on his teammates — in other words, taking charge and leading his team — with words as well as actions.

Villanova 60, Seton Hall 57.  Villanova beat Seton Hall 70-67 in the 100th meeting of the two programs Tuesday night in the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ. With 0:13 on the clock and down two, 59-57, Seton Hall wing Jeremy Hazell had the ball in the paint and was locked in for a path to the basket. The guard turned and shot, the ball careening off the rim and over to Villanova power forward Antonio Pena who closed his arms around it and waited for either a foul or the final buzzer. It was a foul, given by Eniel Polynice, and the teams walked back up the court for another round of free throws. The senior forward made one of two, pushing the Wildcat’s lead out to three, and with the clock inside of 10 seconds, Villanova Coach Jay Wright confessed he considered fouling to defuse the threat of a three point bucket. “It’s not what we did in practice, I did not want to undercut what we do in practice…” he confessed, so the Wildcats played straight up defense and let Hazell, Seton Hall’s latest 2,000 point scorer, take his last shot. It missed and Dominic Cheek gathered the rebound to end the game, 60-57, in favor of the visitors. Villanova Coach Jay Wright called it “an ugly game…the Pittsburgh game was very ugly, this was another ugly game,” and while most in the room understood the coach was making a reference to poor shot conversion as neither team shot 50% from the field, he may well have meant it was the third consecutive game in which the team with the ball at the end had a chance to tie or win. Twice that team was not Villanova, and twice Villanova came out on the short end of the score.  Villanova shot 47.8% from the floor, hitting 20-41 attempts, while Seton Hall struggled, hitting just 19-58 attempts for a 32.3% conversion rate. Villanova may have out rebounded Seton Hall 37-25, but the Wildcats gave any advantage back by turning the ball over 22 times, nearly 35% of Villanova’s possessions ended without a shot taken. Jeremy Hazell led all scorers with 25 points, while freshman guard James Bell paced Villanova with 21 points on 7-9 shooting and a perfect 3-3 from the line. “We stopped Fisher and Pena” said Seton Hall Coach Kevin Willard, “but everyone on that team can shoot.” Pena recorded his fourth double-double of the season, scoring 10 points while grabbing 11 rebounds. Corey Fisher scored 12 points on 4-4 shooting from the field and 3-3 from the line. Coach Wright suggested senior guard Corey Stokes, the Wildcats second leading scorer, sidelined with turf toe, would be rested for up to two weeks.

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