Sunday, February 5, 2012

Recent MAAC Happenings Qualify as "Super"

Today is February 5, otherwise known throughout the land as "Super Bowl Sunday."

Around the MAAC, though, some very "Super" results have taken place in recent days. Here are some ...


The last conference team to defeat the dynastic Marist women's team was Manhattan on Feb. 28, 2010. Since then the Red Foxes won three MAAC tournament games that season, ran up a perfect 18-0 mark in regular-season play in 2010-11 and followed up with three more tournament victories and, then, opened this year with a 10-0 league record.

It added up to 34 straight, within one of the conference's all-time best string of success only to the Red Foxes' own 35 in a row (from late in the 2006-07 season through nearly midway through the 2008-09 season).

But the recent streak came to an end against the same program that last beat Marist ... Manhattan in a game Saturday night at Draddy Gymnasium's on the Jaspers' Riverdale, N.Y., campus.

It happened on a night when Kelsey Beynnon, a starting forward averaging 7.2 points per game, had to sit out due to a foot injury.

Beynnon was replaced in the opening lineup by 6-1 Kristina Danella, who had nearly half of the team's points in the contest. Danella, a transfer from UMass, had her best game to date with 21 points and 12 rebounds in what turned out to be a 48-44 Manhattan victory.

The point total was the second-lowest by Marist this season (it scored 36 in a loss to Boston University), but good defense is nothing new to Manhattan. The Jaspers allow just 54.3 points per game, 32nd-best nationally.

Marist led 44-40 late in the game, but didn't score in the final 3:27. Manhattan's 6-1 senior post player Lindsey Loutsenhizer led the winners with 17 points and 12 rebounds.


Siena's junior forward O.D. Anosike had his 17-game streak of double-doubles come to an end Friday night in a 63-58 home-court loss against Saint Peter's.

Anosike completed the rebounding end with 13, but fell a single point short of the double-double, missing the opportunity to continue the streak by going 1-for-4 at the foul line.

The double-double string is believed to be the second-longest in MAAC history, as well as the second-longest in all of Division I basketball over the last 15 year. Both those milestones are held by former Fairfield standout Darren Phillip, who had 19 in a row in the 1999-00 season.

Not surprising that Saint Peter's, despite its struggles (4-8 in MAAC play, 5-18 overall) after losing four starters from last season's conference representative to the NCAA tournament, would be the team that would stop the streak.

A year ago the Peacocks were one of the best teams nationally defensively, allowing opponents to shoot just .376 percent on field goals (second-best defense in Division I) and score just 60.9 points (12th best).

This year isn't quite as good as Saint Peter's allows 68.3 points per game and opponents to shoot at a .405 percent clip.

But against Siena, John Dunne's team looked like its old self on the defensive end, battling with and bruising Siena for every spot on the court, and denying Anosike his usual set-up spot on the blocks.

The 6-foot-7, 235-pound Darius Conley of Saint Peter's was more than a physical match-up for Anosike on this night, using his strength and bulk to push the Siena player several feet outside his comfort zone on offense. And, then, once Anosike received a pass, Conley got help to ensure Anosike didn't have driving room to the basket.

"We forced him (Anosike) to catch the ball three feet outside the lane rather than with a foot in the post like he usually does," said Dunne. "We got him to take a couple of jump hooks a little outside his range and we were fortunate that they didn't go in.. We concentrated on stopping him ... we didn't want him to hurt us.

"The key for us is that we played with a lot of confidence. We stressed that we needed to compete for the full 40 minutes, something we hadn't always done this year, and we did that."


One of the closest late-season races for the men's regular-season title had been that way, in no small part, due to Manhattan's upset victory over Manhattan on Jan. 12. It meant that entering Saturday's games three teams -- Iona, Manhattan and Loyola -- all shared a tie for the conference lead with 10-2 records.

Iona got some revenge, and sole possession of first place for now, Saturday night with an 85-73 victory over the Jaspers in Manhattan's sold-out Draddy Gymnasium.

Iona is now 11-2 in MAAC play while Manhattan fell to 10-3. Loyola, which did not play on Saturday, is a half-game behind the Gaels with a 10-2.

Iona's "Big Three" of Mike Glover, Scott Machado and Momo Jones combined for 55 points, and the Gaels' defense shut down Manhattan's George Beamon in the second half to secure the win.

Beamon had 19 of his game-high 26 points at halftime, but struggled to find open shots after the intermission.

"They were all over me," said Beamon, a junior, who went over the 1,000-point plateau for his career, after the game. "They got out in their transition on offense, and that's their game. It's hard to beat them like that."

What did knocking off Manhattan mean to Iona?

"It meant the world," Iona's Jones told New York Daily News sportswriter Sean Brennan after the game. "We want to come into every game and try to make a statement. The last time they beat us at our home, so we wanted to get some payback.

Iona coach Tim Cluess claims there had been almost no mention of the previous loss to Manhattan until after his team's Thursdaynight victory over Canisius.

"Right in the locker room after (Thursday's game), it became, `OK guys, now it's our time to go back and tamke something that we feel was stolen from us, but we kind of gave away at the same time," Cluess said. "So, we wanted to go back and show we're not that team."

Cluess agreed that this season's reemergence of Manhattan will make for some classic battles between the two proximitous programs, much like Saturday's game at Draddy Gym.

"He's done a terrific job there," said Cluess, about Manhattan coach Steve Masiello. "He has re-energized the program there, and I think this is a great rivalry that has been going on for ever. This game was a great environment for both teams to be part of. This is what New York basketball is supposed to be about."

If there is to be a third meeting of the two programs this year, it would come in the MAAC's post-season tournament.

"I definitely want to see them again," said Beamon.

But, a cooler head prevailed as Masiello jumped into the conversation, laughing.

"I don't (want to see Iona again)," said Masiello. "I've had enough."

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