Monday, January 17, 2011

ATM: Happenings Around the Conference

How about a new blog feature ... or at least, a new name for a semi-regular compilation of interesting notes from conference basketball happenings.

Call it "ATM."

No, it's not your handy automatic teller machine that dispenses money.

It's better this ATM dispenses information. It's an acronym for "Around The MAAC."

So, around the MAAC of late ...

- The last women's team to win the conference's post-season tournament and a trip to the NCAA's before Marist's recent run of five straight trips to the national tournament?

It was Canisius in the 2004-05 season.

The next team to get there other than Marist? It might be Canisius again.

Almost assuredly not this season, but the Golden Griffins aren't that far away. Your blogger was on hand to see the Canisius women end Siena's six-game winning streak Sunday in Buffalo and got a look at what is one of the better freshmen groups that has come into the league in some time.

All four of the Canisius freshmen ... 6-foot-4 forwards Jamie Ruttle and Jen Lennox, 6-1 forward Courtney VandeBovenkamp and 5-9 guard Jen Morabito ... have won a MAAC Rookie of the Week award so far this season. In all, the Griff freshmen have claimed that honor seven times thus far.

VandeBovenkamp won the award for the second time this past week, bolstered by an 8-point, 14-rebound, 4-assist performance Sunday against Siena. Morabito averages just under 10 points per game and is the highest-scoring freshman in the conference thus far. Ruttle averages 8.4 points and 4.2 rebounds and Lennox averages 5.0 points and 4.2 rebounds.

"Their statistics are better than other freshmen because we've had to use them," admitted Canisius coach Terry Zeh. "But they're getting valuable experience with all the playing time. The experience is enabling them to learn things I couldn't teach them otherwise."

The Griffs have only one senior in their playing group ... solid, heady guard Micayla Drysdale. But two other key backcourt performers, point guard Ashley Durham and off-guard Steph McDonald, are both in starting roles.

It means six of the team's top seven players will be together not only for this season, but the next two after this one. It should be enjoyable to watch the Griffs grow in maturity and develop as a team over that time.

And, it's not hard to envision Canisius developing enough to challenge the Marist league superiority in the very near future. In the meantime the Griffs are likely to cause opponents problems on any given day much like they did Sunday in their upset victory over Siena.

- Tough weekend for the Niagara women this past Friday and Sunday, having to play the last two MAAC teams without a league loss to that point. First Siena won by 40 points (77-37) on Friday against the Purple Eagles. Then Marist came to Lewiston on Sunday and delivered a more-lopsided decision 95-48.

The 95 points by Marist was the most by a MAAC team this season, and the most by a MAAC team in any game since the Red Foxes scored 98 on Jan. 9, 2009, also against Niagara.

On Sunday 12 of Marist's 14 players scored and no Red Fox was on the court for more than 20 minutes. Erica Allenspach led the way with 14 points in 20 minutes, while Corielle Yard had 13 points in 16 minutes.

It was the 11th straight victory overall for Marist, now 6-0 in conference play and the last remaining MAAC unbeaten team.

However, it's easy to see that a very young Niagara team also has a bright future, much like Canisius, in the not-so-distant future. For now the Purple Eagles' struggles are coming as sophomore point guard Kayla Stroman last season's Rookie of the Year in the MAAC has missed nine straight games recovering from a knee injury.

- The Iona men were alone in first place entering tonight's games (Monday night) with a 6-1 record although preseason favorite Fairfield could move into a first-place tie with a victory at Rider.

Iona got league victory no. 6, a 79-41 decision over Marist despite getting just six points from the MAAC's leading scorer, forward Mike Glover; and six points from its No. 2 scorer point guard Scott Machado who chipped in with eight assists.

The Gaels though appear to have found another offensive option. Freshman guard Sean Armand had 22 points against Marist in 20 minutes, including hitting 6-of-8 from three-point territory. Armand also had 17 points in 15 minutes in the Gaels' previous contest, a 100-95 overtime victory over Rider.

- Saint Peter's senior guard and preseason first-team all-conference selection Wesley Jenkins came back in a big way after missing time when he tweaked a knee injury he has been dealing with this season.

Jenkins had a career-high 31 points including 21 on seven 3-pointers in his team's 77-57 victory over Niagara on Saturday. He not only went 7-for-9 from beyond the stripe but was a perfect 10-for-10 from the foul line. Jenkins was the MAAC's Player of the Week for this past week.

1 comment:

Mulldog said...

Jenkins also hit a three-quarter shot at the buzzer to end the first half. Was listening to the radio feed, Niagara had no answer for him. He basically took Pete's from an early 8 point deficit and put them way ahead.

If Armand is the real deal that is very scary. I hope he is because I truly feel Iona is the latest in dangerous MAAC teams come tourney time.