Geoff Burke-US PRESSWIRE
With an eight-game schedule, the Colonial Athletic Association wasted no time presenting mid-major heads with drama, last-second shots and a plethora of story lines to follow in the coming weeks.
While the NCAA allowance for Shaquille Stokes to play for Hofstra this year was a temporary morale boost for the Pride, the reality of their season is that they lost a ton of talent. It showed Friday night, as the polarizing CAA team dropped a brutal season opener to the Monmouth Hawks.
The Pride saw their offense shoot a measly 29.2 percent from the field and rack up just 10 assists in a poor example of what head coach Mo Cassara hopes to see from the Pride this year.
Monmouth, on the other hand, had a fantastic night offensively, although only time will show whether that was a product of a successful offensive attack or porous defense on behalf of the (severely damaged) Pride. The Hawks shot 50.0 percent from the field and hit 12 of 13 free throws. Sophomore guard Andrew Nicholas dropped 28 points, a jarring improvement from his 8.8 per game average last year.
In a statement game to prove the CAA preseason selection committee wrong, Northeastern's Joel Smith (my CAA No. 7) put up an impressive 20 point, five rebound, five assist performance to lead all scorers in the Huskies nail biter against Boston University.
After a lackluster first half, Northeastern closed the gap against their fellow Bostonians, pulling ahead on a Reggie Spencer layup with 1:30 remaining.
With nine seconds remaining, BU took the lead by two on a Travis Robinson free throw. But a miss on the second gave Northeastern a chance to push the ball up the court for the final shot. Marco Banegas-Flores found fellow sophomore guard Demetrius Pollard, who converted his only successful field goal of the game, the game-winning 3-pointer to give the Huskies a dramatic 65-64 victory.
Frantz Massenat and Damion Lee failed to produce, but senior sixth-man Chris Fouch picked up the offensive slack, notching six 3-pointers and ending the night with 24 points to keep the Dragons in the game as the mistakes piled up.
The mental miscues just did them in. After Massenat double-dribbled on Drexel's last possession of regulation, guard Derrick Thomas accidentally committed an intentional foul with 17 seconds left in overtime and the game tied, sending the Golden Flashes to the line to sink the eventual game-winning free throws.
Kent State's Chris Evans had an impressively efficient shooting game (63.6%) while compiling 21 points and nine ebounds to lead the Golden Flashes to the improbable upset victory.
For the first time in program history, George Mason defeated Virginia, led by potential breakout star Sherrod Wright (my CAA No. 10). Despite a dismal night from the free throw line, Wright led the Patriots with an overall efficient night from the field and 15 points. He will continue to be leaned on as the season progresses.
It was fellow junior Byron Allen clinching the game however. With the game tied at 57 and 1:02 remaining, Allen knocked down a back-breaking 3-pointer, a shot that proved too much for the Cavaliers to overcome.
He then proceeded to make two free throws with two seconds left to create a four-point cushion. That was a big win for the Patriots after this week's suspensions of sophomores Erik Copes and Vaughn Gray.
The systematic Mike Krzyzewski clearly has yet another contender in this year's edition of the Duke Blue Devils. The kings of the ACC turned in an impressive workmanlike effort against the overmatched Georgia State Panthers, beating them soundly, but not embarrassingly, 74-55.
Duke's Mason Plumlee turned in a fabulous 19 point, 14 rebound, and four block, performance, making his presence felt all over the court. The three cornerstones of Duke's upcoming season (Plumlee, Seth Curry, and Tyler Thornton) put up a combined 47 points and Curry and Thornton combined for six 3-pointers on 46.2% shooting.
Georgia State's Devonta White and R.J. Hunter combined for 33 points, but were clearly working on their own in a game that saw the rest of their team go 9-for-27 from the field.
Despite having every chance to out duel Holy Cross, the Old Dominion Monarchs were unable and unwilling to put the Crusaders away. It came back to bite them in the end as Holy Cross' Cullen Hamilton made the game-winning free throw with nine seconds remaining.
Old Dominion held a 13-rebound advantage over the Crusaders, and shot nearly 10 percent better but their 17 turnovers led to an unnecessarily close game, not helped by a disappointing 50 percent shooting effort at the free throw line.
The Monarchs had a chance to get one last shot off after Hamilton missed his second free throw. But staying true to the night's theme, they were unable to even attempt a shot before time expired, capping off a night in which only one Old Dominion player eclipsed double digits.
Sticking to their disappointing ways from last year's staggering 1-31 season, the Towson Tigers marched into Charleston, S.C., and quickly found themselves down to the Charleston Cougars by seven before the first timeout.
At halftime the game was unquestionably out of hand with the Cougars sporting a 40-14 lead, and the second half was simply a formality as Charleston coasted to a 75-58 victory.
The Tigers didn't necessarily do anything wrong (although the 36.8% field goal percentage could certainly use improvement); the story of the game was Charleston shooting lights out from the field. Four of the five starting Cougars finished with double-digits, and the fifth, sophomore center Adjehi Baru, scored nine.
In a curious twist, Towson forward Marcus Damas (who averaged 12.4 points per game last year, warranting his No. 9 rating on my CAA Top 10) attempted only two shots from the field in 24 minutes. It will be interesting to see what happens in the coming games with Towson's offense, because Damas certainly needs to be more involved (or involved at all).
In a declarative first game as a member of the William & Mary Tribe, Georgia-transfer Marcus Thornton put up 24 points on 6 of 9 3-point shooting and with an impressive 64.9 percent overall shooting efficiency. Thornton's performance was key for William & Mary's demonstrative, 18-point victory over the Hampton Pirates.
Hampton shot a dismal 31.7 percent from the field, and after keeping it respectably close in the first half, their shooting woes proved to be too much to overcome. The night included a 12.5 percent 3-point shooting.
William & Mary did a great job of sharing the ball too. The Tribe compiled 20 assists on the evening.