JERSEY CITY, N.J. – Sometimes, we all just need a break, don’t we? College basketball teams have been going since late September, and with Christmas fast approaching, almost everyone appeared in need of some time off Wednesday afternoon at the Yanitelli Center. Saint Peter’s and St. Francis Brooklyn had plenty of will, and eventually it will go down as a solid 56-45 win for the Peacocks, who will resume MAAC play next week at 2-0, but it was far from pretty.
To be fair, when we talk about taking a little break, we’re talking about everybody. It was not the best of days for the officials. This is the time of year where it will become difficult to continue with the freedom of movement initiative as the game was marred with interesting calls, numerous lengthy reviews, and technical fouls. Neither John Dunne nor Glenn Braica are among the more demonstrative coaches around (although Dunne does have his moments, it’s usually not directed at the officials).
Braica does not like to put players with two first-half fouls back in the game, but after all five of his people that could remotely be considered post players all picked up two fouls, he yelled to no one in particular, “Hey, how many fouls are we going to call. I’ve got no players left over here!” Eventually, the normally mild-mannered Braica got a technical foul and nearly got ejected when Antonio Jenifer was assessed one minutes later. In the end, it was a frustrating day for the Terriers (4-8), who had been playing much better on the offensive end, but was held to 0.67 points per possession, with Chris Hooper and Amdy Fall only able to play 36 minutes combined due to foul trouble.
The Terriers did use a 12-0 run to tie the game midway through the second half, but just could not be consistent enough offensively to get over the top.
You know who else needs a break? Yours truly. I’m not sure my concentration and focus was at 100 percent during this one, either, so I hope to come back refreshed after a couple of days off, too.
We were able to learn a few things from Jersey City, however:
- Saint Peter’s thrives off its defense
You’ll always get the argument that good offense is more aesthetically pleasing than great defense, but the Peacocks will likely have to make things a little ugly to continue to thrive in the MAAC. They were helped tremendously by the St. Francis foul trouble, but that might be part of how they succeed, Siena was called for 29 fouls when the Peacocks beat them 72-68 at the Yanitelli Center in what would have to be considered a mild upset.
Quadir Welton is a massive post presence, especially by MAAC standards, and Trevis Wyche is a very good on-ball defender to lead the way. Statistically, Saint Peter’s is just average thus far (136th in efficiency), but that might be partly of result of playing some good offensive teams like Lafayette and George Washington, as well as just having a really bad day at Fairleigh Dickinson. In its two MAAC wins, Saint Peter’s (4-6) has allowed 0.91 and 0.92 points per possession, respectively, and that’s probably how they’ll get it done the rest of the season. They haven’t had a winning conference record since winning the MAAC Tournament in 2010-11, so if that’s what it takes, they’ll do it.
2) The Peacocks would like to have more offense, though
Unfortunately, Saint Peter’s is putting a lot of offensive pressure on freshman Antwon Portley, who was an amazing find out of Texas, but he’s probably not at a point right now where he can carry a team by himself. Portley was only 2-7 (1-4 from three) on Wednesday, and is down to 39.8% shooting (and 33.3% from behind the arc) on the season. Wyche in his junior year has started to show signs of an improved outside shot, going 4-5 from three (and scoring 26 points) against George Washington last week, but we does not have a three in seven of Saint Peter’s 10 games this season (including Wednesday).
Chazz Patterson scored 17 points against Siena, but is still adjusting to his new increased role, he has never averaged more than 15 minutes per game in his college career. He attempted only two shots in 33 minutes Wednesday and three in 30 minutes in Saint Peter’s previous game against GW. The only other shooter on the roster is freshman Cameron Jones, with 44 of his 50 field goal attempts coming from outside the arc (shooting a solid 38.6%), but he is still adjusting to the speed of the game at this level on the defensive end and got only nine minutes Wednesday.
Dunne would also like his post players to be a little better offensively as well. Welton passed out of a few 1-on-1 opportunities in the post (even with Fall and Hooper were on the bench), finished 5-13 from the field, and is shooting just 44.0% from the field on the season. Rodney Hawkins and Elias Desport ring a little more diversity to the post position, but they are averaging just six and four points per game currently.
If others can help relieve some of the pressure on Portley, he is capable of putting up big numbers, even against MAAC opponents.
3) Hard to make much out of St. Francis Wednesday
I guess it was a look at its depth or lack thereof, as Fall and Hooper spent the last 14 minutes of the first half on the bench. What might be a bit disturbing to Braica is that the Terriers were poor in a couple of areas where they’ve been much better of late: they turned the ball over 21 times (31.3%) and got only seven offensive rebounds (21.9%), although much of the latter has to do with the foul trouble as well.
Yunus Hopkinson continues to struggle a bit with his increased role, he was scoreless on 0-5 shooting. Tyreek Jewell has stepped up his game lately and had seven rebounds Wednesday, but desperately needs a shooter. Dagur Jonsson is probably going to have to be that guy, he was 2-4 from three and hit a big one in transition in the first half.
Again, this game was a mess because of the foul issues, but the Terriers shot 37.8 eFG% and are currently 325th nationally in that category (43.5%). As much as three-point shooting is an issue (296th), the two-point shooting is worse (323rd, 42.2%). Considering that Chris Hooper is shooting 62.3% on a decent amount of attempts (77), that means the rest of the team is struggling mightily heading into NEC play.
“We’ve got to score better,” Braica told A Daly Dose of Hoops. “We can’t turn the ball over 21 times and we can’t shoot 50 percent from the foul line. We just can’t do those things. I feel like we’re all over the place, like we play good sometimes and we don’t sometimes. We’ve got to be much more consistent, much more mentally tough.”