Notes and quotes around state college basketball (yes, state teams havenâ€™t quit playing hoops, even in deference to the Saintsâ€™ storybook advance to the Super Bowl):
OLD-FASHIONED SHOOTOUT: Saturdayâ€™s Northwestern State-Nicholls State basketball contest wasnâ€™t for the faint of heart.
But Northwestern coach Mike McConathy will remember it forever, and not because he lost his 34-year-old single-game scoring record in Prather Coliseum. In fact, he didnâ€™t give that record a single thought.
What McConathy thought more about was his team winning for the first time since before Christmas, capturing the most exciting game in Louisiana so far this season by a 99-98 double-overtime count over the Colonels.
"We were down and nearly out a couple of times,â€ said McConathy after the Demons came from seven down in the final minute of regulation and from seven behind in the first overtime. "Things were tough. We shot only 50 percent on free throws. We left a lot of room for improvement, but not with our effort. It wasnâ€™t our greatest win and it wasnâ€™t our best game, but it was one of our more timely wins.â€
Northwestern had lost six straight and were looking at an 0-4 Southland Conference start, especially the way that the Colonelsâ€™ Anatoly Bose was lighting things up. The Australian product finished with an arena-record 46 points, topping McConathyâ€™s old mark of 45 while playing for La. Tech in 1976.
Nicholls led 68-61 in the final minute of regulation, but a pair of three-pointers and a steal and ensuing dunk by Will Pratt forced overtime. Devon Baker then hit a tying finger-roll at the horn â€“ one that wasnâ€™t confirmed until referee Gary Vaughn looked at a television replay â€“ to force the second period, and it was Bakerâ€™s free throw with 1.2 seconds left in the second overtime that snapped a 98-all tie.
Bose hit on 11-of-21 shots including five three-pointers and 19-of-24 free throws in his career-high effort, with his last two free throws tying the game for the final time at 98 with 15 seconds left. His desperation 80-footer after Bakerâ€™s intentional miss of a second free throw was just off line.
TY IN THE SKY: The stateâ€™s best college player you never heard of is very likely the Sun Belt Conferenceâ€™s Most Valuable Player through the first half of the league season.
Strictly by the numbers, no one can touch UL Lafayetteâ€™s Tyren Johnson, who is now showing the kind of all-court dominance that state hoop insiders predicted for him three years ago when he came out of West St. John High.
The wiry 6-foot-8 Johnson leads the Raginâ€™ Cajuns in scoring (16.1), rebounding (8.3) and blocked shots (1.6) and ranks in the leagueâ€™s top three in all three categories. He also tops the Cajuns in assists (3.2), steals (1.3), shooting percentage (52.6) and assist-turnover ratio and is in the Sun Belt top 15 in every category.
He was named the stateâ€™s Player of the Week by the LSWA in leading UL Lafayette to two Sun Belt wins, getting 21 points, nine boards and four assists against UNO last Thursday. Two nights later, he flirted with a triple-double with 19 points, nine rebounds and seven assists against Troy.
Heâ€™s the biggest reason the Cajuns have won four of their last five games â€“ all of them at home â€“ and in those four games, UL has shot a combined 50 percent from the floor.
"Everybody is buying in,â€ Johnson said. "Weâ€™ve been going at it pretty good in practice and thatâ€™s gotten us to where weâ€™re well prepared for games. Everything has fallen into place.â€
UL started off 4-10 with two of those losses coming to NAIA Mobile College and to Centenary â€“ both at home â€“ but the current streak has them at 8-11 and more importantly 5-3 in Sun Belt play. The Cajuns still havenâ€™t won on the road in league play heading into Thursdayâ€™s contest at West division leader Arkansas State, the leagueâ€™s surprise team under second-year coach and former LSU mentor John Brady.
STILL SMOKINâ€™: The stateâ€™s hottest basketball team lost for the first time in six weeks over the weekend, but La. Techâ€™s Bulldogs still managed a split on a San Jose State-Hawaii two-game WAC road trip and remain atop the league at the halfway point.
Tech improved to 6-1 in conference play with a 65-60 win at Hawaii late Saturday, coming on the heels of an 87-76 loss at San Jose on Thursday.
"We for sure didnâ€™t need to lose twice,â€ coach Kerry Rupp said of his 18-3 team after the Hawaii win. "We knew it was going to be a fight to win out there, and Iâ€™m proud of the guys for executing.â€
LSU transfer Magnum Rolle had his nine double-double of the season against Hawaii with 23 points and 17 rebounds â€“ nine of them on the offensive end.
BOTTOMING OUT: Itâ€™s been a rough season for UNO both on and off the court, but the low point of the Privateersâ€™ season might have come last Saturday.
UL Monroe slogged its way to a 48-47 win in their Sun Belt matchup, getting a free throw from Tommie Sykes with 22.7 seconds left after UNOâ€™s Jaroslav Tyrna hit a tying three-pointer 17 seconds earlier. Carl Blair missed a potential game-winning jumper just before the final horn.
"We played a lot better in the second half,â€ said UNO coach Joe Pasternack. "Unfortunately, itâ€™s not a 20-minute game.â€
Monroe won despite hitting only 27.7 percent from the field. Neither team shot over 30 percent in a first half that ended with ULM leading 21-12. Neither team reached double figures until after the halfway point of the first half.
Four times this year, UNO hasnâ€™t reached the 50-point mark, and scoring has been a struggle since leading scorer Billy Humphrey re-aggravated a knee injury. He missed his fourth straight game against ULM after flying back to his Chicago hometown for examinations of his injured knee, but Pasternack has said that he is still figuring on having Humphrey available for upcoming Sun Belt contests.
"Itâ€™s going to hurt when you lose 18 points a game,â€ he said. "But what hurts more is hereâ€™s a guy thatâ€™s got a ton of college basketball experience, and we really need that experience right now.â€
|< Prev||Next >|