Tuesday, November 17, 2009

MAAC Teams, Ubiles Show Early Form

A 6 a.m. tip-off? If his team would always play as well as its 58-34 victory over Monmouth Tuesday morning, Saint Peter's coach John Dunne would likely welcome many more early morning games.

Even if there was one complaint.

"I had every alarm clock in the house set for 3 a.m.," said Dunne. "My wife wasn't too happy."

Most others were, though. Dunne was surely happy with his team's effort, and Saint Peter's officials had to be overjoyed about the national exposure received from being in the first live college game ever televised by ESPN in the 6 a.m. time slot. A nice and enthusiastic turnout of 1,246 at the Yanitelli Center wasn't bad either.

It was a very good morning for the Peacocks, but what else would you expect from a team that includes a Bacon as one of its top players.

That would be Ryan Bacon, the 6-7 junior forward who had seven points, nine rebounds and three blocked shots in the game. Junior guard Wesley Jenkins had 10 points and eight rebounds, and freshmen Darius Conley and Steven Samuels added nine points each.

Saint Peter's defense held Monmouth to 10-of-47 shooting from the floor (21 percent). It looked someone on the Monmouth side forgot to bring the coffee.

These tired eyes did watch a good portion of the telecast, and the Peacocks did indeed look very good.

Saint Peter's already had a strong nucleus of juniors Bacon, Jenkins and guard Nick Leon. The addition of new starters Conley, a powerful inside presence; and junior college transfer 6-6 Jeron Belin, a slashing forward, make the team even better.

Considering Monday's work, as well as a two-point loss to Seton Hall on a buzzer-beating 30-footer in its opener, your blogger firmly believes Saint Peter's is one of the four best teams in the league, and, if all goes well, could be even better than that.

Niagara also seemed to like the taste of orange juice as a pre-game beverage of choice. The Purple Eagles, in the 8 a.m. contest of ESPN's college hoops' 24-hour marathon coverage Tuesday, earned a 76-69 victory over Drexel.

Senior forward Bilal Benn had 19 points and 14 rebounds and junior guard Rob Garrison chipped in with 20 points and six rebounds for the winners.

Senior standout guard Tyrone Lewis, who is recovering from an ankle injury, did not play in the contest.

In Albany, N.Y., Siena had the latest game of three involving conference teams on the ESPN marathon event, a noon start. But, it looked like the Saints were the last team to get the day's wake-up call.

After scoring the game's first basket, Siena fell behind 20-6 with 8:19 left in the first half and didn't get another lead until Alex Franklin's layup at 15:39 of the second half.

The Saints never trailed again, had a 10-point, 55-45, lead with 44 seconds remaining and, then, cruised in.

Northeastern, with four of its five starters back from last season's 19-13 team, were content to play a deliberate style nad sprint back on defense to slow Siena's fast break.

If nothing else, it was a national showcase for the Saints' 6-foot-6 forward Edwin Ubiles who made his first statement about his candidacy for the conference's Player of the Year award.

Ubiles had 26 points (11-of-19 shooting), eight rebounds, three assists and four steals.

"I felt he was the guy we could go to today," said Saints' coach Fran McCaffery. "There was one point where we gave (point guard) Ronald Moore a rest, and we let Edwin move to the point.

"So, he got just about all our points, he guarded their best player (Northeastern guard Matt Janning, who scored 14 points) and, then, we asked him to bring the ball down court. And, Edwin was like `So what?' "

The three early day victories pushed the MAAC's record in non-conference play at that point to 11-4 thus far this season.

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