It was an exciting first night of basketball across the Atlantic 10, and while some games more than others had us holding our breath, the league came out of Tuesday night at a solid 7-2. Barring one disaster game, the conference held its own and some big nights from teams predicted to finish in the middle of the pack. Here are the biggest winners and losers from last night.
My favorite performance of the night was Duquesne who looked to be in big trouble early but bounced back with a monstrous second half. The Dukes scored 57 second half points behind a big opening night from Sincere Carry (23 points) and transfer Baylee Steele (19 points). Despite some early mistakes, Dambrot’s group only turned the ball over 8 times compared to Princeton’s 17. Defense should be a focal point for the Dukes this year, and it was second to none after halftime. The Tigers only got 25 points in the second half and shot less than 32% from three in the game overall.
Saint Louis’ Offense
The big question for Saint Louis this season was “who’s going to score the basketball?” Travis Ford’s club answered that question on Tuesday night with “a lot of guys.” The Billikens ran away from Florida Gulf Coast from the tip, scoring 89 points, more than they scored in any contest last season. Freshmen Gibson Jimerson and Yuri Collins were hitting their threes, a great sign for Saint Louis. Juniors Hasahn French and Jordan Goodwin scored 20 and 18 respectively and are obviously going to be this team’s focal points moving forward. I’m bullish on SLU after an impressive opening night performance.
Atlantic 10 Big Men
Marcus Santos-Silva, Cyril Langevine, and Chuba Ohams all had monster games, especially on the glass. Silva scored 21 points and grabbed 18 boards for the Rams en route to a 72-58 win over St. Francis PA. Cyril Langevine had 16 points and 15 rebounds for Rhode Island as they took care of business against Long Island. Finally, Fordham fans can thank Chuba Ohams for a big second half spurt, as the junior scored 19 and grabbed 13 boards. The Atlantic 10 is known for some ferocious big men, and these three proved that to be the case in the early going. Credit the men down low for picking up the victories.
Saint Joseph’s and Massachusetts looked to be in trouble as the former had basically a 6 man rotation on Tuesday night while the latter didn’t have Sy Chatman due to personal reasons. Neither team faltered though, and the Hawks and Minutemen picked up solid wins to move to 1-0. The Hawks battled for 40 minutes with Bradley, a team that made the Big Dance last season and gave Michigan St. a run for its money in the opening round. Ryan Daly, a guy that might take 20 shots a game, scored 26 points and is currently leading the Atlantic 10 in scoring. The Minutemen got a great performance from freshman T.J. Weeks and got a lot of great contributions from their freshman class in a 79-64 win over UMass Lowell.
There’s no shying away from this one. St. Bonaventure had the worst performance by far on Tuesday night. The Bonnies were competitive throughout a good portion of their opener against Ohio, but once Osun Osunniyi left for the locker room with an injury, things started to slip away. Dominick Welch was just 1/8 from three while Kyle Lofton was 3/11 from the floor. The good news for the Bonnies is that they’ve lost their last 3 home openers, and the last 2 seasons ended up being above average. However, the next few games on their schedule are going to be a real challenge. First up, St. Bonaventure will need a bounce back win at home against a very good Vermont team on Friday.
George Mason in Regulation
The Patriots needed 5 extra minutes to take care of a bad Navy team on Tuesday night, but if you only look at the final score, you may think it was an easy game for them. Mason was lights out in overtime, but regulation was a different story as the Patriots shooting really struggled without Justin Kier. Mason also got out-rebounded 44-36 by a team that’s not very tall. Crashing the glass is going to need to be a point of focus moving forward. The games are only going to get more difficult than Navy. On a positive note, freshman Xavier Johnson had a nice start to his career with a team-high 15 points.