Iona 77, Rhode Island 62(story) - URI has made two straight trips to the NIT, but their 1-7 start must be reminding fans of the bleak three seasons that constituted the post-Lamar Odom era. "Murphy's Rams" just can't seem to score points or catch a break this year. In addition to losing 23 points per game to graduation and bad grades, their entire starting backcourt (and 20 ppg) had been in the infirmary until last night. Point guard Dawan "Bounce Wit' Me" Robinson and shooter Jamaal Wise returned against Iona, but Robinson reinjured his foot a minute into the game and hobbled off. Jeff Ruland's Gaels (4-5, 0-2 MAAC), who also knocked off Virginia Commonwealth last week, were led by their backcourt - Steve Burtt had 19 and Ricky Soliver added 17.
Holy Cross 82, Northeastern 76(story) - The Crusaders are as all about the 50's as hoop skirts, Buddy Holly and Princeton - but they scored 84 in last week's win against Brown, and dropped 82 here as they pulled away early against the America East's Huskies (4-5). So they're making a deal with the devil, and coach Ralph Willard knows it. "I'll tell you one thing," he told the Boston Herald. "(Today's) practice will focus totally on defensive basketball." NU's national fifth-ranked scorer and former MMBOW Jose Juan Barea was unsuccessful at shooting himself out of a slump, going 4 of 22 for 12 points.
Illinois 105, Longwood 79(story) - This game featured the greatest disparity of RPI/prestige/poll juice that we'll see this year, and I'll bet when the provisional D1 squad walked into Assembly Hall for the first time, it was just like that scene in Hoosiers when Hickory shows up for the state finals. Longwood coach Mike Gillian joked that his team would try and get the first basket and walk out of the gym, but they did themselves a lot prouder - obviously, the key number here is the "79." They never truly challenged their hosts, but Longwood was only down 73-65 before the final Illinois run. Michael Jefferson scored 30 points for the Lancers (1-14) against often-sloppy Illini D.
Slightly odd goings-on at the Florida International Holiday Tournament in Miami. Hosts Florida International, who won all of five games last year, took their sixth victory of 2004-05 with a 72-56 win over Patriot Leaguers Colgate, who shot a very not-so-minty-fresh 31%. In the other first-round/semifinal game, OhiobeatBinghamton 67-63. The losing Bearcats are in their fourth year of D1 play, have overachieved with 14 wins per season over the past two, and built a shiny new $33 million Events Center that will host the America East tournament - an event for which they will be eligible for the first time come March. But they're off to a very Rhode Island-like 1-7 start against dodgy competition.
Today marks the first day of one of the oldest preseason traditions in all the land - the annual Holiday Festival at NYC's Madison Square Garden. Columbia, St. John's, North Carolina State and Canisius will attend - while the Wolfpack will likely stomp all over everyone, I hope to chomp on some $5 popcorn and watch the Johnnies get plastered. Today's Garden Memory is brought to you by the Detroit News' Jerry Green.
Old news to the hoop geeks in the audience, but John Phillips resigned Friday as coach of Tulsa after dropping from 23 wins in 2002-03 to nine last year, and compiling a 2-5 early-season record which included a crosstown thrashing by Oral Roberts. We're not as into finger-pointing and bad-mouthing coaches as some other Internet outposts seem to be; it's just an unfortunate situation. The Golden Hurricane built a proud mid-major tradition under helmsmen Tubby Smith, Bill Self and Buzz Peterson, and seemed to bust the hell out of my Tournament bracket every year by going a round or two in. The pattern would certainly seem to indicate a recruiting dropoff, but with the number of readymade juniors out there from the juco ranks, it's difficult to consider a non-sanctioned program truly "wrecked."
Weber State, who might be able to sneak the Big Sky dance ticket out of the struggling hands of Eastern Washington, plays at Utah tonight. The Wildcats' 6'11" center Lance Allred would still be a Ute if not for "disagreements" with Rick Majerus, but Utah picked up 7'0" Australian Andrew Bogut. Should be a royal rumble.