Monday, February 14, 2011

ATM: Some Cases For Late-Game Defense

Welcome back to ATM, otherwise known as "Around The MAAC," and this version takes a look at more crazy occurances in the wild and crazy world of recent conference games.

Sunday's games gave some insight to the question of whether it's best to have possession at the end of a close game, or to be on the defensive and attempting to hold a lead.

The two closest games on Monday provided evidence for the defense:

- Siena trailed by 14 points with 2:23 remaining when a furious rally got it back to within 82-81 at Manhattan with 22 seconds remaining.

At that point, the Jaspers' Demetrius Jemison missed two free throws and the Saints' O.D. Anosike grabbed the rebound but had it quickly stolen away by Mohamed Koita. Kidani Brutus then made two free throws to make it a 3-point game.

And, Siena still had more chances. Its Jon Breeden missed a drive off the glass, but the ball went out of bounds off Manhattan. The Saints' final gasp was a 3-point attempt by Ryan Rossiter from the corner that bounced off the top of the backboard. Anosike got the rebound and put up a jumper from the baseline that fell short as the buzzer sounded and Manhattan held on for its third conference victory of the season.

- Meanwhile, Saint Peter's failed to convert its last-second opportunity to pull out a win when Nick Leon’s shot as time expired in overtime fell short Fairfield held on for a 70-69 over the Peacocks in Jersey City, N.J.

Saint Peter's did make shots at the end of regulation to rally from a 59-55 deficit with under a minute left. Forward Steve Samuels converted for the Peacocks with 55 seconds remaining. And, then, after a Fairfield turnover, senior guard Wesley Jenkins tied it with a driving layup with 18 seconds remaining.

Fairfield missed a shot to win the game in regulation, offering a little more support for the defense in this debate.

The Stags held a 70-67 lead in the closing seconds of overtime before Leon sank two foul shots with seven seconds remaining. Jenkins then stole the in-bounds pss to give Saint Peter's a final shot, but Leon's shot at the buzzer failed to fall.

The victory pushed Fairfield's conference record to 13-2 with three games remaining, ensuring it of no worse than a tie for a regular-season championship. Its closest rivals, Saint Peter's, Rider and Iona, all have five losses.

Elsewhere .... sometimes the Keepin' Track of the MAAC blog inflicts its "Sports Illustrated"-type jinx on those it highlights, and sometimes it doesn't.

In a recent blog, we reminded league coaches not to overlook Niagara's senior guard Anthony Nelson for first-team all-league honors. Nelson not only leads the country in steals, but entered Sunday's game at Rider as the conference's No. 4 scorer, the No. 3 assist man and with double the steals' total of any other MAAC player.

And, then, a day after that blog item appeared Nelson threw up probably the all-time clunker of his career, going 1-for-9 from the field, 0-for-4 from 3-plint range and 4-for-8 from the foul line for just six points in 40 minutes in a 61-50 loss to the Broncs. Nelson also had five turnovers in the contest.

One game, though, shouldn't matter. Unless Nelson falls flat in Niagara's final three contests his season's performance to date are still worthy of first-team post-season honors.

And, he wasn't alone in his woes in that game. The Purple Eagles, just two days after a optimism-inspiring upset at Loyola, shot 0-for-17 from 3-point range in the loss to Rider.

But ... maybe the jinx isn't in effect after all. In a recent item prophesizing future success for a young, but talented Manhattan team your blogger cited Jaspers' sophomore George Beamon as a major point producer and a potential future conference scoring leader.

Beamon, a 6-foot-4 sophomore swing man, made this blogger look good on that opinion by putting up a career game on Sunday, scoring 35 points against Siena. Beamon made 12-of-19 shots from the floor (1-for-2 from 3-point territory) and all 10 of his free throws.

Sunday's effort pushed his season's socring average from 14.9 to 15.7 and into fourth place among the conference's individual scoring leaders.

Beamon's work was the second-highest single-game scoring total by a conference player this season. Only Mike Glover's 39 points in a game against Canisius earlier this season has been higher.

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