Three Up, Three Down in the Big EastPosted by George Hershey on January 27th, 2014
Every Big East team played on Saturday. Some had impressive outing, while others fell flat and disappointed. Here we highlight some of the positives and negatives from the weekend’s action with Three Up, Three Down.
- Providence’s Supporting Cast. Coming into the season the emphasis was placed on senior scoring machine Bryce Cotton. In the non-conference slate, the team fared well but started with a poor 0-2 mark in conference play with a bad home loss to Seton Hall and a blowout defeat to Villanova. In those early losses, players like LaDontae Henton, Kadeem Batts, Tyler Harris and Josh Fortune had rough performances. They turned the ball over too much — 15 from the starters vs. Villanova — played poor defense, and failed to make the key plays that win games. More recently, Providence has been on a roll and these players are the primary reason for the difference. In the Friars’ win on Saturday against Xavier, four starters had at least 10 points with Henton dropping 23, Harris and Batts scoring 12 each, and Fortune hitting a key three as he was fouled to stymie a Xavier run. Carson Desrosiers was also very impressive on the defensive end, with six blocks against the Musketeers. Providence has now won five in a row to move to 5-2 in league play, good for third place in the conference standings.
- Marquette’s Offense. Marquette’s offense looked much better this week in two overtime games. They continue to struggle shooting the ball, but the insertion of Steve Taylor Jr. and John Dawson, as well as better post entry passing, saw the team score 80 and 94 points in back-to-back contests. Even in a loss on Saturday to Villanova, there were some positive signs. Davante Gardner was given the ball as much as possible, and he came through, scoring 29 points on 9-of-16 shooting. Todd Mayo scored 10 straight at one point, as he got to the rim, hit a falling three, and made three clutch free throws to send the game to overtime with five seconds left. Jamil Wilson played smarter as he took better shots and even handed out seven assists. If the Golden Eagles can keep scoring more than a point per possession, they will have a strong chance against the top teams in the league.
- Ryan Arcidiacono. Arcidiacono experienced a slow start to the season, but if Saturday’s game against Marquette is any indication, the rest of the country better watch out. He finished with 20 points, 11 assists, and zero turnovers in the road victory. He took over the game in overtime by driving the lane repeatedly, either dishing off for an easy basket or finishing on his own. He also hit two big threes when Marquette was inching closer and made 5-of-6 key free throws in the final minute of regulation. Even more impressive than his stats was the way he broke down the Marquette defense and made plays that led to baskets.
- Georgetown’s Scoring: With Joshua Smith and Jabril Trawick out of the lineup, it was obvious that the Hoyas would suffer by missing two of their frontcourt starters. Markel Starks and D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera have become volume shooters, and although they have been playing great lately, they cannot win games on their own. Teams have responded by guarding the pair tightly on the perimeter in an effort to keep them out of the paint. Georgetown fails to get consistently good looks as a result, and the two guards can only make so many contested jumpers. With no help on the horizon and Villanova and Michigan State the next two games, the Hoyas are in full panic mode right now.
- Xavier’s Defense: Head coach Chris Mack went off after Saturday’s loss at Providence, angry about his team’s lack of defense. “It was not who we’ve been, but it’s been who we’ve been lately. And it needs to change. Nobody is going to compete for a Big East championship or an NCAA Tournament berth and all the things that we have outlined for our program this year if we’re playing games in the 80s and 90s.” Providence made several nice plays down the stretch, but Xavier cannot let a team that only plays seven players run them up and down the court for 40 minutes. Xavier has played well of late, but Mack knows that his team’s third-worst defensive efficiency and league-worst three-point defense (43.2%) will not result in wins against quality competition.
- DePaul’s Starters: On Saturday it was announced that senior Cleveland Melvin would not be playing due to a violation of team rules. Billy Garrett Jr. and Charles McKinney were already out with injuries, and Tommy Hamilton IV was limited himself. Head coach Oliver Purnell called out his seniors for a lack of leadership as both Melvin and Brandon Young were held out of games by Purnell this past week. This DePaul team has played better than expected, with two conference wins against six losses, but few teams can deal with senior leaders who miss time because they are regularly in the doghouse. As Mark Jackson would say, “You’re better than that!”