Tag:Long Island
Posted on: March 18, 2011 8:41 am
Edited on: March 18, 2011 10:51 am

Charlotte pod ready to shift to on-court drama

Kyrie Irving looks ready to go in Charlotte

Posted by Eric Angevine

Sometimes, a prevailing attitude or emotion becomes most notable by its absence.

That's what happened this morning when I got on an elevator at the Charlotte Marriott with a couple who were conspicuously not dressed in team gear. When they began to speak to one another in German, I had an epiphany: these people had no idea what was going on here.

They don't care that Kyrie Irving is ready to play today. A discussion of Bruce Pearl's job status would likely elicit a shrug, or a puzzled smile. Their brackets aren't busted.

They were perfectly nice people, but I couldn't wait to get out of the elevator bubble and back with my people. The low-key Michiganders searching for coffee and wondering if the 1-3-1 trap can contain Scotty Hopson. The burly men in red and black Georgia golf visors. Heck, even the purple-clad people of Washington, who allegedly find me less than personable after I chose the Huskies as a possible 2nd-round upset victim a few days ago.

This pod, perhaps more than any other, has been full of off-court drama. Pearl getting a vote of no-confidence from his AD right before his first game of the tournament. Coach K springing Kyrie Irving's availability after weeks of rehab on us after we already filled out our brackets. Those are all great stories, and they've kept us occupied while we wait, but today, for a few hours, we'll shift our focus from the big picture to the small. We'll parse out who's feeling it according to our own lights. Fans of the Hampton Pirates and Long Island Blackbirds will leap, fist-pump, gyrate and pray that their teams will make history in dramatic fashion.

Thursday showed us what the rest of this month will be like. Enough waiting. We're ready.

Photo: US Presswire

More NCAA tournament coverage
Posted on: March 10, 2011 7:05 am

The Morning Drive: Big East steals the show

Posted by Jeff Borzello

As we get closer and closer to Selection Sunday, players are starting to realize that the next game could be their last. As a result, we’re seeing more and more big-time performances in conference tournament games, as well as hard-fought finishes. It’s perfect for fans. Follow me for all conference tourney updates on Twitter: @jeffborzello

Conference Tournament Updates:

Big East: The quarterfinals of the Big East were jam-packed, to say the least. Matt Norlander penned stories on Georgetown’s poor effort against Connecticut; the debacle that was the St. John’s – Rutgers ending; and Marquette locking up a bid against West Virginia. In the other quarterfinal, Cincinnati hammered South Florida, 87-61. Top performers: Yancy Gates, Cincinnati (25 points, four rebounds); Kemba Walker, Connecticut (28 points, six rebounds); Junior Cadougan, Marquette (15 points, five assists)

Big 12: Check out the tourney update for first-round summaries and second-round preview capsules.

Conference-USA: The first round of the C-USA featured three double-digits wins and a one-point squeaker. UCF finally ended its three-month freefall by losing to East Carolina by 15, while Southern Miss kept its hopes alive with a 63-47 win over Tulane. Marshall advanced with a 97-87 win over Houston, and Rice held on to beat SMU by one. Top performers: Arsalan Kazemi, Rice (24 points, 13 rebounds; Damier Pitts, Marshall (28 points, 10 assists)

MEAC: In the lone first-round game on Wednesday, Norfolk State handled Howawrd with ease, 68-53. In the quarterfinals, top-seeded Bethune-Cookman beat South Carolina State by 16, while No. 2 Hampton dominated Maryland-Eastern Shore, 77-55. Top performers: Darrion Pellum, Hampton (23 points, seven rebounds); Kyle O’Quinn, Norfolk State (25 points, 12 rebounds)

Mountain West: TCU won the right to face BYU in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament, defeating Wyoming, 70-61. Going into the game, the ninth-seeded Horned Frogs had lost 13 in a row. Ironically, their last win was over this same Cowboys team. Top performer: Hank Thorns, TCU (16 points, nine assists)

Pac-10: Overshadowed by the Big East and Big 12 tourneys, the Pac-10 had some excitement. Oregon State held off a rally from Stanford in the final 30 seconds to win their first tournament game since 2006, while Oregon knocked down 11 3-pointers to beat Arizona State, 76-69. Top performers: E.J. Singler, Oregon (22 points, five rebounds); Jared Cunningham, Oregon (24 points); Jeremy Green (25 points)

Southland: In the most wide-open league in the country, it came as no surprise that three games were decided by seven points or fewer. No. 1 seed McNeese State defeated Nicholls State by seven, but second-seeded Northwestern State wasn’t so lucky. Texas-San Antonio’s Jeromie Hill had a dunk with two seconds left to give UTSA a 97-96 win over the Demons. Sam Houston State handled Stephen F. Austin by 16, while fourth-seeded Texas State came back to beat Southeastern Louisiana, 72-68. Top performers: Devin Gibson, Texas-San Antonio (28 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists); Anatoly Bose, Nicholls State (25 points, nine rebounds); Ryan White, Texas State (26 points)

SWAC: The top two seeds in the SWAC advanced, as regular-season champ Texas Southern came back to beat Arkansas-Pine Bluff, 50-45, while No. 2 Jackson State beat Prairie View by 12. Top performer: Travele Jones, Texas Southern (19 points, nine rebounds)

WAC: There were two first-round games played in Las Vegas on Wednesday. No. 8 San Jose State upset No. 5 Hawaii when Adrian Oliver nailed a pull-up jumper with five seconds left to give the Spartans a 75-74 win. No. 6 Nevada held on in the final minute to beat Fresno State, 90-80. Top performers: Malik Story, Nevada (34 points, six 3-pointers); Greg Smith, Fresno State (14 points, 20 rebounds); Adrian Oliver, San Jose State (29 points, seven rebounds)

Punching Tickets

Big Sky: Northern Colorado used a late 13-3 run to pull away from Montana down the stretch and advance to the NCAA tournament. The second-seeded Grizzlies had three players foul out, while Northern Colorado got 27 points from Devon Beitzel, including a clutch 3-pointer to put the Bears up seven in the final minute.

Northeast: Jamal Olasewere had 31 points and 11 rebounds to lead top-seeded Long Island to its first NCAA tournament since 1997, knocking off Robert Morris in overtime, 85-82. RMU used a 10-2 run late in regulation to force overtime, but it could not get similar heroics in the extra session. Russell Johnson had a chance to tie the game at the buzzer for the Colonials, but it fell short.

Photo: US Presswire

More College Basketball coverage
Posted on: March 7, 2011 3:15 pm
Edited on: March 7, 2011 8:48 pm

NEC title-game preview: LIU hosts Robert Morris

Somewhat remarkably, 18-13 Robert Morris is back in the NEC title game for the third straight year and staring a third consecutive NCAA tournament trip right in the face.

And like last season, the Colonials are going to have to win their game on the road. If RMU is able to win, it's going to signal something significant, because the Northeast Conference hasn't sent the same team to the NCAA tournament three times in a row in more than two decades.

In fact, prior to last season's back-to-back job by RMU, the NEC hadn't seen the same champion in consecutive years since Rider did it in 1994. Normally, this is a carousel of competitors that gets sent off for slaughter in the Big Bracket.

Robert Morris changed that last year with its second straight automatic bid and its scare of No. 2 Villanova in the first round.

Two things make Robert Morris' run noteworthy. One, it has done this without the coach it had the past two years, Mike Rice, who is now at Rutgers; and more importantly, Karon Abraham isn't on the floor, facilitating this. The Colonials' shifty point guard has been sidelined the past few weeks because of an Achilles tear. Yet here's RMU, back again. And it has good reason to feel it can beat 26-5, top-seeded Long Island on the road Wednesday night at 7 p.m.: it did once already this year, back on Dec. 2.

Having said all that, Long Island should be considered the favorite. We've told you about Julian Boyd and his comeback story. Really, his redemption speaks to the team's overarching culmination of a successful season, as this group anticipated playing at home for the NEC title a year ago. The Blackbirds are chasing after their first NCAA tournament appearance in 14 years. Boyd, C.J. Garner and Kyle Johnson will be only part of the 10-man rotation RMU has to deal with.

Velton Jones and Russell Johnson have stepped up in a big way since Abraham went down. They'll both need monster games to get the Colonials a win.

How they got here: No. 3 Robert Morris defeated No. 6 Wager (78-74) and No. 2 Quinnipiac (64-62); No. 1 Long Island defeated No. 8 St. Francies (90-75) and No. 4 Central Connecticut State (69-67).

Should be an exciting one, and I'm hoping to hop the Subway and get from Manhattan to Brooklyn so I can write on this, then jet back over to Madison Square Garden by 10 p.m. to catch the last game of Wednesday night's Big East quadruple-header.

Posted by Matt Norlander

Photo: AP

More College Basketball coverage
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: February 9, 2011 10:55 am
Edited on: February 9, 2011 11:08 am

Long Island thriving thanks to player's comeback

Posted by Matt Norlander

NEW YORK — A year after being demolished by attrition, Long Island University is thriving because of its health and depth. It’s an ironic turn of events for head coach Jim Ferry.

The Blackbirds have quite the carousel this year, which wasn’t the case at all in 2009-10, when LIU finished with a 14-17 record. While the team doesn’t claim to have a centerpiece for this unexpected season, one that has the 18-5 Blackbirds atop the Northeast Conference with a 10-2 record, there is little denying Julian Boyd’s return has been a huge catalyst.

In a fairly critical Feb. 5 game against league contender Quinnipiac, Boyd (above) is yanked from the court less than four minutes in — not for poor performance, but for health precautions. It’s another typical game for the Blackbirds, one that sees five players in double figures. Boyd will finish the game with a team-high 16 points and 12 rebounds, his third double-double in four games. Boyd leads the NEC in rebounding (8.7 grabs per game). He’s coming off a career-best 34-point, 16-rebound game at Fairleigh Dickinson on Jan. 27.

But he can’t stay on the floor for more than six consecutive minutes. Few rarely do for Ferry this year, but Boyd’s reason is different.

In July of 2009, Boyd was shooting in a gym in his hometown, San Antonio, when he started to endure cramps in his calves. He ignored it at first, but soon enough his entire body began cramping, his arms, back, and scariest of all, through his chest. Boyd was taken to the hospital — with the initial fear that his kidneys had failed — but when all the tests and physicals, the EKGs and MRIs, were through, doctors discovered the blood flow to his heart wasn’t normal.

Boyd was diagnosed with noncompaction cardiomyopathy. His heart was too big and it wasn't taking on normal blood flow. The ailment caused Boyd to sit out all of last season. Danny O'Connor, the team’s trainer of 14 years, hadn’t heard of this kind of diagnosis in all his years on the job, even though heart conditions were something LIU had dealt with in the past.

“I did a ton of research,” O’Connor said. “Usually it’s found in someone who’s middle-aged. And it’s a fairly new diagnosis. Noncompaction cardiomyopathy wasn’t found until the early-to-mid ‘80s.”

Boyd felt frustration, of course, but now admits all that time watching the game from a different perspective helped him grow as a player.

“After every test he wanted an answer,” Ferry (left) said.

Ferry, who went to Keene State a little more than 20 years ago, had a teammate of his, Johnny Jennings, die of a heart attack a year after they graduated. The news was entirely too close to home.

“When he died … it was devastating,” Ferry said. “But now there’s more research, more technology and we know more about it. So when this happened to Julian … we said no. Here’s a kid that felt really, really healthy. You look at his body; I always say he built like Superman. He could run all day and is never tired. He was like, ‘I’m fine. I can play.’ But I had to explain to him, ‘No, you’re not. There’s something going on that we have to figure out.’ And I didn’t want to put his picture up in my office.”

Jennings’ picture is somberly displayed in Ferry’s office to this day.

“Originally his doctors in Texas wanted to be a defibrillator in — and that could’ve ended his career right there — so we were suggested to get a second opinion,” O’Connor said.

The opinion was he needed to step away from the game for nearly a year, alter his eating habits and simply take three kinds of pills/vitamins to get his heart back to normal. Boyd, who turned 21 on Feb. 2, takes three kinds of pills every morning and has his diet overseen by those around him.

“His heart functions normal, but he’s still on medication,” O’Connor said. “We do a lot of maintenance. During the game we want him to eat a lot of carbohydrates — oatmeals and pastas — to give him energy.”

Boyd gets his electrolytes in many forms, from pills to Gatorade, putting them into his body every 20 minutes during games. He can be squishing raisins in his mouth (the magnesium helps reduce cramping) while he roots on his Blackbird teammates, a cooling towel draped over his shoulders and back as though he’s this team’s James Brown. In many ways, he can be defined as such.

The 14-or-so minutes per game on the bench Boyd sits aren’t so much a problem this year for LIU. The Blackbirds get to seek their first NCAA tournament berth in 14 years, and just the fourth appearance in the Big Dance in program history, because few teams have the rotation the Blackbirds do, so few can score like them. Long Island averages 81.9 points per game (ninth-best, nationally, and tops in the NEC), and four players average double-figures. Three more are chipping in between 7.3 and 9.8 points per game. Boyd leads the team with 12.3 points per game, which only ranks as 20th-best in the NEC.

“Last season it just felt like we were all missing something,” Hicks said.

Listed at 6-7 and 240 pounds, Boyd’s game has expanded immensely. He’s now a more reliable deep shooter (Boyd is shooting an effective field goal percentage of 54) and can push a fast break.

“To be quite honest, he responded a lot quicker than I thought he was going to,” Ferry said. “I thought it was going to take until January.”

This, combined with the frontcourt play of teammates Kenny Onyechi, who’s also 6-7 and is a shot-blocker than Boyd, and Jamal Olasewere, another 6-7 sophomore, has turned LIU into a scouting nightmare for lesser-bodied NEC opponents.

What a turnaround. The team had no depth last year, played a horde of freshman, and still managed to make the NEC semifinals, where it lost to Quinnipiac.

“Last year we were supposed to be very, very good,” Ferry said. “But we had a senior star who went pro to support his family. Then we had a point guard who was going to start for us, and his mother came down with cancer, so he had to leave the program. We had three starters that left the team in August, September. We had a hard time regrouping from that.”

This year, once Boyd got back into form — which coaches and players said took all of two games — the team was off and running, literally.

“Early in the season we were just rolling teams, beating them by 30 and 40. We kept asking coach, ‘Are we really this good?” Hicks said. “Then we slipped up a couple times, took a couple of teams lightly that we shouldn’t have. If it comes up that we end up winning this whole thing, then I guess the losses were worth it, to make us wake up and not take anyone lightly.”

What other teams can boast about this sort of distribution: seven Blackbirds have led the team in scoring in a game this year, and 11 of the 13 players that have played this season have scored double-figures at least once. Ferry gets seven players at least 20 minutes per game, yet no one averages more than 25.1, the leader being Hicks. And here’s a stat every coach can love: LIU leads the country in free throws (706) and free-throw attempts per game (30.7).

Records are falling left and right, the most proud perhaps being the 10 road wins in a season. The previous record of eight was set in 1996-97, the last time the Blackbirds went to the NCAA tournament.

“Julian is just that type of person that adapts,” Hicks, a 6-1 senior guard, said. “He didn’t try to do too much, just worked himself back in rhythm. It didn’t make for us to jell together — we jell off the court, which helps us as well. There’s no one who anyone doesn’t like. We’re always all together all the time.”

With 3:47 remaining in the Quinnipiac game, Boyd shows why he won the Northeast Conference Rookie of the Year award two seasons ago. He receives the ball from atop the key and calmly cashes home a 3 with a hand desperately reaching out to act as a distraction. It doesn’t, and with the bucket, Boyd gives LIU a 74-67 lead. That 3-point shot is a new weapon for Boyd this year, one reason why he’s entrenched in talks about winning the Player of the Year in the conference.

And a big reason why Long Island could be dancing again next month, the first time in 14 years.

Photos courtesy Long Island University athletics

Category: NCAAB
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