BIG EAST WEEKLY BASKETBALL REPORT

PantherDigest.com Senior Writer Bob Freschi reports on Big East Conference Basketball. His "Big East Conference Weekly Basketball Report" provides an excellent preview on the upcoming games of the week. Look for this column to become a regular feature.

BIG EAST CONFERENCE WEEKLY BASKETBALL REPORT

MONDAY, JANUARY 30, 2006

Here's a recap of the games played by Big East Conference teams for the week ending Sunday, January 29th:

MONDAY

#12 Pittsburgh rebounded from their first defeat of the season to top Syracuse 80-67. Senior SG Carl Krauser scored a career-high 32 points for the Panthers (16-1, 5-1). Krauser shot 8-13 from the field and hit 13 of 14 free throws. The Panthers led 39-31 at the half, but the Orange (15-5, 3-3) closed to within four at 58-54 on a basket by freshman guard Eric Devendorf with 8:30 to play. However, that's as close as Syracuse got as Pittsburgh methodically pulled away. Sophomore PG Ronald Ramon and sophomore reserve SF Keith Benjamin both added 11 points. Senior SG Gerry MacNamara and Devendorf each tallied 18 points for the Orange. However McNamara's recent shooting slump continued as he was only 8-24 from the field. The loss was Syracuse's 3rd in a row, all to top 12 teams.

TUESDAY

#6 Villanova edged South Florida in Tampa 49-46. The Wildcats (14-2, 5-1) played without their 2nd leading scorer, senior guard Allan Ray who was out with an injury. As you might imagine from the final score, both teams' shooting was horrid. The Wildcats were 16-54 (29.6%) while the Bulls were even worse at 14-48 (29.2%). USF (6-13, 0-6) took a surprising 21-18 lead at intermission, and extended their lead to 45-38 with less than six minutes left. However, senior guard Randy Foye rallied Villanova, scoring 19 of his game-high 24 points in the final twenty minutes. Foye keyed a 10-0 Wildcat run that put them ahead to stay. The Bulls final three possessions ended with a turnover and two missed three point attempts. Foye was the only Villanova player in double figures. For USF, senior forward Melvin Buckley had 12 points and 9 rebounds and senior SG James Holmes added 11 points.

In a thriller in South Bend, #21 Georgetown nipped Notre Dame 85-82 in double overtime. The Hoyas (13-4, 4-2) never trailed and looked to have the game in hand with a 69-65 lead in the final seconds. However, senior PF Brandon Bowman inexplicably fouled junior SG Colin Falls as he launched a desperation three point shot with just 1.8 seconds left. The shot went in, and Falls converted the free throw to send the game to overtime. With the score knotted at 76, Notre Dame missed an opportunity to win at the end of the first overtime as senior PG Chris Quinn's jumper rimmed out at the buzzer. In the 2nd overtime with Georgetown ahead 80-79, senior SG Darrel Owens hit a clutch 3 pointer to ice the win. Five Hoyas were in double figures, led by sophomore center Roy Hibbert and Owens each with 18 points. Hibbert also had a game-high 13 rebounds. For the Irish (10-7, 1-5), Quinn tallied a game-high 26 points and 10 assists.

WEDNESDAY

#1 Connecticut pulled away in the 2nd half to defeat St. John's 66-50. The Huskies (17-1, 5-1) only led 31-30 at the half. They extended their margin to 48-44 when a scuffle erupted between Red Storm junior PF Aaron Spears and UConn freshman PF Jeff Adrien. Both players were ejected and subsequently suspended for their teams' next game. That seemed to awaken the Huskies, as they then went on a 15-4 tear to ice the victory. Sophomore SF Rudy Gay led UConn with 20 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 blocks. The only other Husky in double figures was reserve SG Rashad Anderson with 12. For St. John's (10-7, 3-3), sophomore SG Eugene Lawrence tallied 17 points along with 7 rebounds and junior PG Darryl Hill added 13 points. UConn's bench outscored the Red Storm's by a 26-6 margin.

In a game played in neutral Charleston, Marshall (8-10) shocked #9 West Virginia 58-52. It was the first win for the Thundering Herd over a Top 10 team since 1971 (St. John's). It also snapped the Mountaineers' 12 game winning streak. Marshall led 47-40 with 4:26 left, but a 7-0 West Virginia run tied the game with 2:08 remaining. A jumper by senior center Mark Patton followed by a threez pointer from junior SG Tre Whitted put Marshall ahead to stay. Patton finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Sophomore guard Joe Miles added 13 points and Whitted 12. For the Mountaineers, senior center Kevin Pittsnogle tallied a game-high 20 points. Seniors Mike Gansey and Joe Herber both had 10. WVU had their second consecutive poor shooting game, hitting just 18 of 52 (34.6%).

Marquette won their third straight game, 62-47 over DePaul. Sophomore SF Dan Fitzgerald had a career-high 18 points for the Golden Eagles (15-5, 5-2). Marquette's freshman backcourt also contributed to the victory. PG Dominic James had 12 points and 7 assists while SG Jerel McNeal added 11 points and 7 rebounds. The Blue Demons (8-10, 1-6) suffered their 5th consecutive loss. Sophomore PG Draelon Burns was the only player in double figures with 16 points. DePaul's leading scorer, junior SG Sammy Mejia, injured an ankle late in the 1st half and missed the remainder of the game. Both teams combined to shoot only 9 free throws. Marquette converted 3 of 4 while DePaul was a perfect 5-5.

Providence upset Rutgers in Piscataway 79-69. The Friars (9-8, 2-4) were on fire all game, connecting on 27-45 shots (60%). Senior PG Donnie McGrath led the way for Providence with 23 points. Reserve junior forward Herbert Hill added 19 points and 10 rebounds. The Scarlet Knights (12-7, 2-4) suffered their 3rd consecutive defeat. Junior SG Quincy Douby tallied 18 points, but connected on only 5-20 shots. Freshman PF J.R. Inman added 13 points.

THURSDAY

No games

FRIDAY

No games

SATURDAY

#1 Conecticut traveled to Providence and came away with a 76-62 win. The Huskies (18-1, 6-1) dominated inside, outrebounding the Friars by a 52-34 margin including 21 offensive boards. UConn led 37-29 at intermission, but Providence closed to within five at 50-45 before a 7-0 Husky run clinched their 7th straight win. Senior center Hilton Armstrong led the way for UConn with 16 points and 12 rebounds. Senior reserves Rashad Anderson (15 points) and Denham Brown (10 points) helped give the Huskies a huge 34-6 margin in bench scoring. For the Friars (9-9, 2-5) senior PG Donnie McGrath tallied a game-high 18 points and sophomore center Randall Hanke added 16.

In South Bend, #6 Villanova (15-2, 6-1) handed Notre Dame another heartbreaking loss 72-70. 6'1" sophomore guard Kyle Lowry tipped in a missed Randy Foye lay-up with 1.7 seconds left for the win. The Irish (10-8, 1-6) tied the game seconds before on a put-back by senior center Torin Francis. The Wildcats appeared to be totally in control with a 59-42 lead midway through the 2nd half, but Notre Dame staged a furious rally to surge ahead 66-63. Senior guard Allan Ray returned after missing Vilanova's previous game with an injury to score a game-high 23 points. Junior guard Mike Nardi added 22 points and Foye had 18. For the Irish, senior PG Chris Quinn tallied 18 points along with 9 rebounds and 8 assists. Junior SG Russell Carter added 14 points.

#12 Pittsburgh overcame another slow start to get past Marquette 77-71. The Panthers (17-1, 6-1) trailed 19-7 and ended the half behind 40-33. A shoulder injury to Golden Eagles' freshman PG Dominic James with 13:16 left appeared to put their offense out of synch, and the Panthers took advantage. Senior SG Carl Krauser gave them the lead at 49-47 with a 3 pointer followed by a steal and lay-up. However, Marquette (15-6, 5-3) responded to retake the lead 56-54 on a lay-up by freshman SG Jerel McNeal. James returned to the game, but clearly was still in pain. The Panthers took the lead for good at 61-58 on a 3 pointer by reserve junior SG Antonio Graves. That started a 10-0 run to ice the victory. Graves had a game-high 19 points. Krauser added 16 points and 6 assists and junior center Aaron Gray finished with 13 points and 20 rebounds, tying the Pitt team record. For the Golden Eagles, James led the way with 16 points and 6 rebounds. Sophomore reserve PF Ryan Amoroso added 14 points. Pitt dominated the glass, outrebounding Marquette 45-30.

#21 Georgetown (14-4, 5-2) drubbed Cincinnati 76-57. The Hoyas jumped out to a 36-20 lead at intermission and coasted the rest of the way. Sophomore forward Jeff Green led a balanced Georgetown attack with 20 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists. Senior PF Brandon Bowman added 12 points. The Bearcats (14-7, 3-4) were held to 35% shooting (21-60). Their leading scorer was senior SF James White with 22 points. Senior PF Eric Hicks added 13.

Rutgers ended their three game losing streak with a 65-56 upset win over #25 Louisville. With the game tied at 56, The Scarlet Knights (13-7, 3-4) scored the final nine points of the game. Rutgers jumped out to an early 16 point advantage and lead 39-28 at the half. However, they opened the 2nd half hitting just 3 of 20 shots, allowing the Cardinals (14-6, 2-5) back into the game. Junior SG Quincy Douby led the Scarlet Knights with 19 points and 7 rebounds. Freshman PF J.R. Inman added 13 points and seldom-used sophomore PF Ollie Bailey came through with 12 points including six in the final minutes. Senior PG Taquan Dean returned to the starting lineup and paced Louisville with 13 points. Sophomore center David Padgett and freshman forward Terrence Williams each added 12.

SUNDAY

At Madison Square Garden, #9 West Virginia bounced back from their loss to Marshall by defeating St. John's 66-61. The Mountaineers (15-4, 6-0) led 36-25 at intermission and extended their lead to 18 points. They still led by 13 with just over three minutes remaining before the Red Storm (10-8, 3-4) suddenly caught fire and closed to within two points at 62-60. Senior SF Mike Gansey, who missed two free throws with 27 seconds left, redeemed himself by connecting on his next four attempts to put the game away. It was WVU's' fifth consecutive win over St. John's. Senior center Kevin Pittsnogle tallied a game-high 19 points and added 8 rebounds. Gansey had 15 points. The Red Storm were shorthanded, with junior PF Aaron Spears sitting out a one game suspension and reserve forward Ryan Williams sidelined with an injury. Junior center Lamont Hamilton scored 18 points along with a game-high 11 rebounds and junior PG Darryl Hill chipped in with 17.

Seton Hall came up with their 2nd big road win of the week over a ranked team, topping #25 Syracuse 68-61. The Pirates (12-6, 3-3) trailed 32-28 at intermission, but sophomore SG Jamar Nutter sparked a 2nd half rally, scoring 17 of his game-high 19 points. Nutter broke a 59 all tie with a 3 pointer with 1:55 remaining. Senior PG Donald Copeland followed with another trey. The Orange (15-6, 3-4) tried to respond but senior SG Gerry McNamara missed two 3 point attempts and junior SF Demetris Nichols failed on another. Copeland had 18 points and senior center Kelly Whitney added 14 along with 9 rebounds. McNamara led the Orange with 15 points, but connected on just 5-17 shots. Nichols and junior PF Terrence Roberts each added 12 points. The game was hardly a basketball clinic. Seton Hall won despite 24 turnovers. Syracuse connected on just 5 of 27 three point shots. They also missed 8 lay-ups and converted only 6-12 free throws. The loss was the 4th in a row for the Orange, only the third time that's occurred in Jim Boeheim's career.

BIG EAST NEWS & NOTES

Rumors persist that Wake Forest coach Skip Prosser is headed for Cincinnati after this season. Prosser coached at Xavier for 15 years and his wife is a native of the Queen City. Another factor is that the Demon Deacons will lose four of their top players to graduation. Meanwhile, Cincinnati's streak of 14 consecutive trips to the NCAA Tournament is in serious jeopardy.

Seton Hall coach Louis Orr at least temporarily cooled off rumors of his demise by winning on the road against two ranked teams. At least one key Pirate verbal, guard Malcolm Grant, has reopened his recruiting. Grant reportedly will only sign with Seton Hall if Orr is retained.

DePaul coach Jerry Wainwright wasted little time in letting his players know who's in charge. He suspended three key players for violations of team rules. Freshman forward Wilson Chandler sat out two games and freshmen guard Jabari Currie and sophomore center Wesley Green one each. The Blue Demons' leading scorer, junior SG Sammy Mejia, injured an ankle in their last game against Marquette and his status is unknown. Still I have no doubt that Wainwright, a Chicago native, will get his team on track.

Is there any team more snake-bit than Notre Dame? The Irish are 1-6 in the Big East, with the six losses by a combined 22 points including two in double-overtime. Things don't get much easier for Bray's boys, as they must travel to both West Virginia and Louisville this week.

The "Game of the Week" is on Tuesday, with Pittsburgh visiting Connecticut. The Panthers are 0-12 all-time against #1 teams.

Big East Power Poll:

1. Connecticut – The current #1 team has the best 1 through 10 talent in the country.

2. West Virginia – Have to give the Mountaineers the edge over Villanova since they defeated them on the road.

3. Villanova – Wildcats barely survived road contests against USF and Notre Dame last week.

4. Pittsburgh – The Panthers will be severely tested this week with trips to UConn and Georgetown.

5. Georgetown – Flying a bit under the radar, but the Hoyas are playing extremely well of late.

6. Marquette – Capable of upsetting anyone, right Mr. Calhoun?

This Week's Schedule:

MONDAY

Louisville @ Villanova

TUESDAY

South Florida @ Cincinnati, Pittsburgh @ Connecticut, Georgetown @ DePaul,

WEDNESDAY

St. John's @ Marquette, Notre Dame @ West Virginia, Seton Hall @ Providence

THURSDAY

No games

FRIDAY

Depaul @ South Florida

SATURDAY

Cincinnati @ West Virginia, Connecticut @ Indiana, Marquette @ Villanova, Notre Dame @ Louisville, St. John's @ Providence

SUNDAY

Pittsburgh @ Georgetown, Rutgers @ Seton Hall


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