Must win game for Giants

Must win game for Giants

By Mike Florio

It’s a term that is far to often thrown around sports. It’s a term that some have used to describe this weeks home opener for the New York Giants.

It’s easy to understand why people are labeling this game a must win, as the Giants are coming off a very ugly man handling at the hands of the Detroit Lions. The scoreboard may have read 35-14, but the truth of the matter is, it was much ugly than that.

The Giants only had 197 total yards of offense. That is not a typo, they only had 197 total yards, with 144 of them coming through the air. The run game, which was viewed as the strength of the team, struggled against a talented Lions front seven, only rushing for 53 yards, on a terrible 2.4 yards-per-carry.

Eli Manning was constantly pressured, with what seemed like every play ending with him on his back, and disgust on his face. The O-line struggles, and lack of separation from wide receivers against a very poor Lions secondary, led to Manning having to try to do too much. Those awful decisions, led to another two interceptions.

Matt Stafford and Calvin Johnson picked the defense apart. Stafford threw for 346 yards, two touchdowns and even ran one in. The D-line were able to limit the Lions run game, holding them to only 76 yards rushing, but the running backs were a big factor in the passing game.

Despite all these reasons to panic, the season does not come down to this game. The Giants host a talented Arizona Cardinals team, that can get after the quarterback and sports one of the more dangerous secondaries in the league. That with a stout receiving corps and solid run game, and this matchup is very difficult for the Giants.

Those who say this is a must win are focusing too much on the dreadful 0-6 start that the Giants got off too last season and were unable to overcome. While it would be reassuring to see them come out and win one at home, it is not a must win game.

It is more important to see the offense progress, and the Giants simply compete.

The Giants get the Houston Texans at home in week three and hit the road for a Thursday night game against division foe, the Washington Redskins in week four. Both of those are very winnable games, and the Giants could find themselves sitting at 2-2, very much in contention in the weak NFC East.

This is a big week for the Giants, but it is not a must win game.


Chase Whitley, Brian McCann help Yanks take first game vs Royals

The Yankees finally got their offense going, sort of, scoring four runs, three coming on a bases clearing double in the third inning by Brian McCann. Brian Roberts got the scoring started with a two out RBI single in the second inning, but it was McCann’s double that gave the Yankees the cushion they needed.

“That’s a huge hit,” said Yankees manager Joe Girardi.

Those four runs were all the Yankees would need as Chase Whitley held the Royals to two runs over seven innings. Dellin Betances continued his dominance in the eighth inning and David Robertson survived a ninth inning scare for his 14th save of the year.

Chase Whitley, who got his first big league win, has been an impressive fill in for the Yankees. With CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova, and Michael Pineda all on the DL, it is up to guys like Chase Whitley to fill in and help Masahiro Tanaka and Hiroki Kuroda stabilize the rotation, especially with the offense struggling to score runs.

Whitley has never gone past the fifth inning in his previous four starts, but he went seven tonight, allowing five hits and zero walks. He admitted he was a little surprised by his outing because, “I don’t think I threw a strike out in the bullpen,” he said.

He credited his first big league win to Yankees catcher Brian McCann, “He told me a game plan before the game and we were able to execute it, just follow whatever he has in store because that guy knows everything. He does.”

Jeremy Guthrie was a tough luck loser, giving up four runs in seven innings, with three of the runs coming off the bat of Brian McCann. Guthrie hasn’t got much run support from the Royals, who have been shut out in two of his past three starts.

The Yankees thought they would get a boost to their struggling offense with the return of Carlos Beltran from the disabled list but it hasn’t happened just yet. He was 0-4 tonight with a strikeout and is 0-7 so far since coming off the disabled list.

The Yankees have won two straight games since losing four straight. The two teams go at it again tomorrow as the Yankees send David Phelps to the mound and the Royals send Danny Duffy. The Yankees trail to Blue Jays by six games in the American League East.


Nets rookie Cory Jefferson’s on the pursuit of relevancy

Nets rookie Cory Jefferson’s on the pursuit of relevancy

By Steven Simineri

Two weeks ago Brooklyn Nets rookie Cory Jefferson became famous for all the wrong reasons. During a nationally televised game against the Chicago Bulls, the young forward took a three-pointer that landed well short of the hoop and prompted TV commentators to question whether the basket had moved.

“Did the goal move? My goodness,” Bulls color commentator Stacey King said on the CSN Chicago broadcast. “Put that roll back in the oven, baby. Oh my goodness. It’s not ready to come out.”

The shot went viral instantly, topping ESPN’s infamous “Not Top 10″ plays of the week and making Jefferson the highlight of TNT commentator’s Shaquille O’Neal’s “Shaqtin’ a Fool” segment. These things happen, especially in a Nets season gone terribly wrong. But the 23-year old Jefferson quickly moved on, joking about the shot on his personal Twitter page and going on to play the best basketball of his young career.

Against the league-worst Philadelphia 76ers just two nights later, Jefferson played a season high 28 minutes, notching three blocks and showing off the athleticism that earned him a spot in this league. The following night, Jefferson made his first career start in Charlotte, hitting all five of his shots against the Hornets, adding five rebounds, two assists, and a block as the Nets cruised to a 114-87 win.

“Interesting week,” Jefferson told me in the Nets locker room about his eventful couple of days. “I tweeted later you just got to love the NBA. Like I shot the air-ball in Chicago and then next game I had a good game playing against the Sixers and then another good game in Charlotte. So in basketball you have plenty of opportunities to make up for whatever you do that’s wrong.”

Jefferson played in only 12 of the Nets’ first 23 games, and he still has a lot to work on – including his shot – but he’s given the Nets some crucial minutes and shown coach Lionel Hollins that he can help if called upon. Jefferson is an athletic freak, who is tall, long and rangy. He has a 7″0.5 wingspan and a 37.5″ max vertical, which was the highest amongst the bigs drafted, trailing only Arizona’s Aaron Gordon, the No. 4 pick overall.

However, nobody had to wait longer to hear his name called in the NBA draft than Jefferson, who sat by his phone until the Nets bought the Spurs pick and took him at No. 60, making him “Mr. Irrelevant,” the last pick.

“It was a lot of emotions going on of course. Everybody getting picked before you, just kind of wondering when you’re going to get picked,” said Jefferson, who played at the University of Baylor for five years. “I had a lot of friends that got drafted along the way and then I ended up hearing my name as the last pick, so after all that I just felt pretty good.”

He could’ve been drafted higher in the second round, as Jefferson said three NBA teams indicated they wanted to draft him earlier, but they asked him to play overseas first to get some seasoning. The Texas native didn’t want to go that route and was planning to try out with the Dallas Mavericks as a free agent before he found out he was drafted. He became the first Baylor player from a Central Texas high school chosen in the draft since the Los Angeles Clippers picked Brian

Skinner in the first round of the 1998 draft. Jefferson graduated from Killeen High School in 2009, where he led Killeen to three straight 30-win seasons and four consecutive district championships.

Cory signed a letter of intent to play at Baylor despite knowing that getting playing time right away wouldn’t be easy, as fellow big-men and future draft picks Ekpe Udoh and Quincy Acy were already entrenched in coach Scott Drew’s lineup. He played sparingly as a freshman and after redshirting the 2010–11 season, he averaged 3.6 points, 2.6 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in limited minutes. After three years in a reserve role, Jefferson’s patience finally paid off as he emerged as one of the best players in the Big 12.

As a junior, he was named to the NIT All-Tournament team after he helped Baylor win the NIT championship. He also earned Big 12 honorable mention honors at the end of the season, after averaging 13.3 points, 8.0 rebounds and 1.9 blocks in 37 games. During his senior year, he led the Bears with 13.7 points and 8.2 rebounds per game as they reached the Sweet 16. He was named to the 2014 All-Big 12 third team and the 2014 USBWA District VII Player of the Year.

After a strong training camp and Summer League appearance, where he averaged 11.2 points and 6.8 rebounds in five games, Jefferson became the third Mr. Irrelevant in four years to make the NBA following Isaiah Thomas (2011, Kings) and Robert Sacre (2012, Lakers). The probability of a Mr. Irrelevant making an NBA roster has increased exponentially since the NBA Draft went to two rounds in 1989, but teams have still found it difficult to squeeze much production from their selection.

Of the last 20 of them, half never played a minute in the NBA and just one player averaged over 7 points per game in an NBA uniform. In less than two months in the league, Jefferson, however, has already surpassed most who came before him and he’s just getting started.

“Just keep doing what got me here. Working hard and for me I like to make an impact on the defensive end,” said Jefferson, who has done all he can to shake off the unsavory label and become a useful part in Brooklyn. “Blocking shots, taking charges, going after the loose balls and rebounding. So if I’m able to keep doing that I’ll be able to stay relevant.”


Johan Santana making MLB comeback to continue legacy.

Johan Santana making MLB comeback to continue legacy.

By Tanya Mercado

It took over 50 years for the New York Mets to make a special history that other teams have made at least two or more times in one year. It was a moment which appeared set to happen decades ago, but continued to appear as the one moment this organization would never see. Fans would hold their breaths every time it looked as if it would happen on their watch. Fans would pray. Fans would stay quiet. Teammates would ignore this one player throughout the entire game. One broadcaster would get tongue lashed by the fans every time he would bring it up when it seemed it was going to happen.

Enter the one man who brought what was considered the most elusive accomplishment to Flushing: Johan Santana. Here is a man who was given $137 million to pitch for the New York Mets. He was to be their ace. He would be a mentor to all who came after him. This pitcher was talented. Everything was put on the table for him. Many would say he was not worth the money he was given.

I ask you this: What price would you put on a no-hitter?

For years the Mets fan base was tortured with near misses for a no-hitter. Many thought it would never happen in their lifetime. Yet one lefty from Venezuela got the job done. It was his shining moment. It was his biggest contribution to the New York Mets and their fans.

Yes, he was brought here to help bring a championship to Flushing. How many games did you watch him pitch? How many games did you see him lose by one run because the team had the weakest offense? In 2008 the team ranked eighth in offense. That was the only strong offensive years during Santana’s tenure as a New York Met. In 2009, 2010 and 2012, they were ranked 25, 24, and 25 respectively. Poor choice of words. I should probably use the term, “disgustingly”. A pitcher can be a winner only if his offense will allow him to be. A pitcher can be a winner only if his offense will allow him to be. He could have been a bigger contributor if he had not been hampered by a tear in the anterior capsule of his left shoulder causing him to miss all of 2011. Then he suffered a re-tear of the same capsule just before the start of the 2013 season.

Now Santana is trying to make his comeback in winter league ball. He makes his debut Tuesday. Scouts will come out to watch him pitch from several teams. The Mets should in no way be interested in him. They have a set rotation. With that said, wish him all the best. Despite what you might see in his win percentage with the New York Mets, he was the ace the team needed. He was also the guy that gave you that elusive moment in Mets history.

Comment: and also follow @CitiField of Dreams

Saint Joe’s wins a classic A-10 Championship

Saint Joe’s wins a classic A-10 Championship

By Jason Schott – @JESchott19

The Saint Louis Hawks upset the VCU Rams 65-61 in the Atlantic 10 Championship game on Sunday at Barclays Center.

This is Saint Joseph’s third Atlantic 10 title, with the other two coming in 1986 and 1997, and are now 3-3 all-time in title game appearances, with their last one coming in 2008. Saint Joe’s also won two Middle Atlantic titles and one East Coast title. They are now 37-29 all-time in 31 appearances in the A-10 Championship, and have mad it every year since joining the conference in 1982-83. Their 37 tournament wins is second to Temple’s 53.

St. Joseph’s Head coach Phil Martelli is now 25-17 all-time in A-10 Championship games, the most among active A-10 coaches and second most all-time.

Saint Joe’s started this one out strong and held a 28-24 lead at halftime. In the first half, it was apparent that VCU was not pressing as much as in the first half of their prior two games. When I asked VCU Coach Shaka Smart about this, he said they only press off a basket, and since they only had 24 points and 11 first half baskets, that limited the press.

In the second half, VCU found their rhythm, led by Rob Brandenburg, who hit threes to tie the game at 35 and 40, and Treveon Graham hit a three to give VCU the lead at 43-40 with 12:38 left.

VCU had the lead or the game was tied until a Langston Galloway three-pointer with 2:28 left gave Saint Joseph’s a 57-54 lead. Galloway gave Saint Joe’s what turned into a insurmountable lead at 61-55 with a couple of free throws with 54 seconds left.

Saint Joseph’s was led by Atlantic 10 Tournament MVP Halil Kanacevic, who hails from Staten Island. Kanacevic had 11 points and 14 rebounds, and it was his sixth double-double of the season. He set an Atlantic 10 Tournament record with 43 in the series.

Kanacevic was asked if he said anything to motivate his team in the second half and he said, “Nothing. I had a time where I was frustrated and my emotions almost got the best of me and these guys did a great job just keeping me in it. So it’s not always me. We’ve got a very good group of personalities here and he (Martelli) does a great job managing these personalities. I’m the one that’s emotional, he’s a little quiet, helps me a lot. They are my sound boward. Sometimes I don’t say the right things and they help me a lot, so give credit to all these guys.

Also for St. Joe’s, Langston Galloway had 19 points on 5-for-11 shooting, 4 rebounds, and an assist. DeAndre Bembry had 13 points, 8 assists, and 4 rebounds, and Ronald Roberts had a double double with 15 points on a perfect 6-for-6 from the field, and 11 rebounds. Saint Joe’s got all 65 points from their starters.

VCU was led by Rob Brandenberg with 18 points (7-15 FG, 3-7 on 3-pt) and 4 rebounds. Treveon Graham had 15 points on a disappointing 4-for-12 from the field. As a team, VCU shot just 36.9 percent for the game, making 24 of 65 shot attempts.

VCU Coach Shaka Smart said of the loss, “It’s difficlut. It’s a close loss in a conference championship you want to win. It’s not really any more difficult because of what happened last year (losing in the A-10 Championship Game to St. Louis). It’s just you want to win this year in the present moment. Thirteen teams came up here to win, just two of them were left today at 1:00. We felt like we had a really good opportunity to be the team that won it, but St. Joe’s obviously had something to say about that and they played better than us.”

Alderson: Pitching is solid, but offense is still offensive to fans

Alderson: Pitching is solid, but offense is still offensive to fans

By Tanya Mercado: www.citifield of

A time limit was given to Sandy Alderson, general manager of the New York Mets. Some said two years. Others said three. However, in the event that he faltered in any way, he was going to be on the outs with the fan base.

The fans decided they were not going to stand by and watch their team be ripped apart by cheap owners and a cheap GM. It just was not going to happen on their watch. They have been waiting since 2006 to make it back into the playoffs. Two collapses later and a moneyball philosophy that just did not seem to be working, the fans had enough.

So the protests began. Billboards being paid for to get the Wilsons to sell. A waste of money, I assure you. No man who has been named the Finance Committee Chairman for major league baseball is going to be outed from his own club. Say what you will, you are not going to get anywhere with that, but go ahead and feel free to waste your money.

Alderson came here specifically to get a ball club to the playoffs on a tight budget. It has yet to happen. There has been no playoff berth since 2006. Yes there has been moments when he has teased the fans into thinking there was a chance in hell. There were times when the team appeared to be on the right path before the All-Star break, but Alderson failed in his role. When a bat was needed to push the team ahead, he faltered and sat down. His response was no player was worth the arms in the farm system.

Agree or disagree all you want. I am among the few that do not believe in giving away a farm system that appears to be lucrative. Sure some have said they have arms aplenty. They could spare one or two prospects for a bat, right? Wrong! Pitchers are a hot commodity. They are also fragile creatures. They go down one, two, three. Teams have lost chances for the playoffs by a couple of games because their pitchers could not stay healthy down the stretch. The New York Mets have definitely lost pitchers over the years. The most devastating blow being Matt Harvey.

Are the fans in the right to be mad at a general manager who has yet to get a team into the playoffs? It all depends. What has he done to deserve any type of praise? Sure former general manager, Omar Minaya, had a hand in what is happening in Flushing now with Harvey and Jacob deGrom. There are others. I just figure I give you the names that have had a major impact with the fans. Say what you will about Minaya, he did right when it mattered, like the draft. These are not Alderson’s guys. They are Minaya’s. I’ll give you Zack Wheeler, Noah Syndergaard and Travis d’Arnaud for the current GM.

Not all of the pitchers above. There is a reason for that. Pitchers get old. Despite pitch counts, they get hurt. Their arms are only going to keep them going for so long. Pitchers are throwing harder and attempting to go deeper into a game. Nobody can fault them for that. However, it does put them more at risk for an injury. Would you risk having back-up plan after back-up plan? The Mets lost the 2000 World Series because a pitcher could not get the job done. Thank you, Armando Benitez. I almost broke my television set because of your lack of ability.

Here is the what I am trying to say. Do the Mets need a bat? Yes! There is no denying it. They need that one guy who can get the job done. You can say all you want that David Wright and Curtis Granderson are going to get the job done. They’ll have a turnaround season. Go ahead and believe that! I’m not putting all of my eggs in those baskets. The pitching looks solid. The offense looks shaky. Yet I am not willing to give up any arms for a bat. Arms are too much of a necessity. Too many are going down getting Tommy John surgery. It’s becoming the norm. Offense had to be taken care via free agency or in the minors. While names are being thrown around, none are just yet ready to come up. The top names invited to camp are Brandon Nimmo, Gavin Cecchini and Kevin Plawecki. 

These are the guys who are giving some fans hope for a much brighter offense. Now the only question remaining is: How long do the fans have to wait.


Big East Baseball Championship has local flair

By Jason Schott – @JESchott19

The Seton Hall Pirates beat local rival St. John’s in a classic pitchers’ duel and the Creighton Blue Jays blew out Xavier to open the Big East Baseball Championship at MCU Park in Coney Island on Thursday night. This is the first time since 2007 that the Big East has held their baseball tournament in Brooklyn.

PREVOST OUTDUELS LOMANGINO: Josh Prevost went the distance for a complete game shutout to lead Seton Hall to a 1-0 win over St. John’s. Prevost allowed no runs on 4 hits, with 7 strikeouts and just 1 walk on an economical 100 pitches.

Prevost retired the first ten batters he faced, with the first hit coming from Jarred Mederos with one out in the fourth inning.

James Lomangino, who beat Prevost a week ago, was up to the task, and battled until the eighth inning. Lomangino went 7 1/3 innings, and allowed just 4 hits, struck out 7, and walked 3. They were nearly identical numbers to Prevost, except the pitch count, which got up to 122, which forced his exit from the game.

The only run of the game came in the second inning when Seton Hall shortstop D.J. Ruhlman doubled, and two batters later, was driven in by a double from Chris Selden. On if he thought that run would hold up, Selden said, “I was hoping not, but once we got along there, it just seemed like Lomangino was settling in and getting guys on his offspeed pitch…We had a couple of other opportunities where we didn’t execute with guys at third base. I would never think that that’s gonna be the only run of the game.”

Lomangino left with one out in the eighth, and he said of being pulled in a pitchers’ duel, “Coach tried to take me out in the seventh, but I wanted to go back out and give the team a chance to hang around, maybe break through. It was tough coming out, but they let me know I only had one batter left, so I knew I was coming out after that batter.”

Lomangino’s 122 pitches was the most he threw all year, and Blankmeyer said, “I was standing in the dugout and said, ‘no more than 120 for this guy.’ He’ll pitch forever, but he’s got a career after this. Winning is not that important to me – he would have kept on pitching, that’s the way the kid is.”

Thomas Hackimer came in for Lomangino, and got Seton Hall third baseman Kyle Grimm to ground out. Seton Hall first baseman Sal Annunziata then lined one up the middle, which St. John’s shortstop Bret Dennis did a nice job of tracking down, but he made a wild throw, which allowed Annunziata to reach. Dennis was charged with an error, which was a bit harsh considering the job he did just getting to the ball and that he had to rush the throw. If it were Derek Jeter, I doubt it would have been charged an error.

D.J. Ruhlman singled up the middle, but Tyler Boyd grounded to third baseman Robbie Knightes, who stepped on the bag to force out Annunziata.

Prevost retired St. John’s on five pitches in the bottom of the eighth. Seton Hall got two runners on again in the ninth, as Chris Selden singled to center, and with two outs, Derek Jenkins worked out a walk. St. John’s pitcher Joey Graziano entered the game at this point and tried the oldest trick in the book, fake the pick-off throw to third and turn to first, and it worked. Graziano looked like he was going to get Selden, who was leaning off third, but instead went to first and got Jenkins, who was already halfway to second, out in a rundown to end the inning.

On if Jenkins was given the ‘green light’ to steal second base, Seton Hall Head Coach Rob Sheppard said, “He was running, we were trying to get him going a little bit. We were going to try to use it as a first and third to get Chris (Selden) to sneak in there (home), but they executed well and got the out before the run scored.”

Prevost came out for the bottom of the ninth and walked Alex Caruso on five pitches to open the inning. At this point, Seton Hall Associate Head Coach Phil Cundari went to the mound to talk to Prevost, who said of their conversation, “He said, ‘Get that smirk off your face, that wasn’t a strike, and just keep battling,’ and be aggressive like you had been all game.”

On if he was considering pulling him, Head Coach Rob Sheppard said, “Coach Cundari was the one who went out there and made sure he was focused, but no, pitch count, he had 83 pitches going into the ninth inning and he’s been efficient all year, and he’s our guy, and he’s competing, so there was no chance.”

Prevost stayed in and got Jarred Mederos to ground out. Lefthanded hitter Troy Dixon came in to pinch-hit for Robert Wayman, and he hit one up the middle, and beat out a throw from Seton Hall second baseman Chris Chiaradio to make it first and third for St. John’s. Prevost then struck out Matt Harris and got Bret Dennis to fly to center field to end it.

On his mindset in the ninth, Prevost said, “Just trying to throw some strikes, hope my defense makes some plays for me, and they did.” On if he was too amped in the ninth trying to close it out, Prevost said, “I was just trying to aim the ball instead of attacking like I had been all game. Caruso’s a good leadoff hitter, didn’t want to leave anything over the plate, so I got too picky. I can’t take it back, he had a good at-bat, I just battled after that.”

On if that ninth inning was agonizing, Sheppard said, “It’s baseball, and Josh likes to keep it interesting. We had all the confidence in the world that Josh was going to do the job, and our defense played really well tonight, and as always, Josh wasefficient and attacked the zone. He was aggressive.”

On playing a 1-0 game, Sheppard said, “We scratched out a run early, we were able to execute, and both pitchers threw well. Josh did a really good job, their staff did a nice job as well. This is clean baseball, this is not guerrilla ball, as everybody wants to bring the old bats back and juice up the ball. To me, this is more exciting than seeing guys just dip and jack. It’s a little tough on your stomach, but it’s good baseball.”

St. John’s Head Coach Ed Blankmeyer said, “It was a great college baseball game by two great pitchers tonight. I think James on our end just made maybe one bad pitch, bulldoged his way out of a couple innings, kept us right there, and the Prevost kid just pitched well. We were chasing sliders, we just couldn’t stay off it, got to give him credit. We had a couple opportunities, just couldn’t get the hit.”

“That’s the way baseball is, this guy (Lomangino) deserved it as well as the other guy (Prevost) did. The difference in the ballgame was they ran his pitch count up, and we didn’t run the other guy’s pitch count up. We did that last week against him, we got him out. We gave him some difficult innings, but he didn’t really have a difficult inning the whole night,” said Blankmeyer.

CREIGHTON OUTSLUGS XAVIER: The Creighton Blue Jays blew out the Xavier Musketeers 9-2 in the opening game of the doubleheader.

What started out as a well-pitched game between Xavier’s Scott Klever and Creighton’s Matt Warren turned into a slugfest in the fifth inning.

In the bottom of the fifth, Creighton leadoff hitter, left fielder Brad McKewon got a two-run double followed by a sacrifice fly from Ryan Fitzgerald to score McKewon to make it 3-0. A few batters later, Reagan Fowler got an RBI single to make it 4-0 Creighton.

After Xavier got two in the top of the sixth, Creighton started a two-out rally in the bottom half of the inning. It started when the ninth-place hitter Cody Kottich walked, followed by a McKewon single and Fitzgerald walk to load the bases. Jake Peter then laced a triple into the left field corner to clear the bases and make it 7-2 Creighton. Mike Gerber was up next and he hit a towering fly ball to right field that went into the bleachers for a home run to open up a 9-2 lead for Creighton.

FRIDAY DOUBLEHEADER: The Big East Baseball Championship continues Friday with St. John’s against Xavier at 4:00 followed by Seton Hall against Creighton. The next game is on Saturday at 3:00 pm, followed by the championship game on Sunday at 1:00 pm.

A-10 VCU smacks Spiders in VA battle

A-10 VCU smacks Spiders in VA battle

By Jason Schott – @JESchott19

In the Atlantic 10 Tournament Quarterfinals on Friday night at Barclays Center, the second-seeded VCU Rams beat their fellow Virginia rival, the #7 Richmond Spiders, 71-53.

VCU dominated this one from the start, with an 8-1 lead after the first four minutes. The Rams built that lead to 16 points, at 31-15 on a Treveon Graham three-pointer with 4:42 left in the first half. They maintained that lead the rest of the way and took a 38-22 lead into halftime.

VCU led by as many as 24 in the second half, on a Melvin Johnson three that made it 71-47 with just 1:48 left in the game.

Known for their HAVOC defense, VCU held Richmond to just 34 percent shooting, or a putrid 17-for-50 from the field.

Briante Weber led VCU with 18 points on 8-for-10 shooting. Treveon Graham had 14 points and 6 rebonuds, and Melvin Johnson had 13 points.

VCU Head Coach Shaka Smart said of the win, “Our guys played with energy and focus tonight, hadn’t played for six days. Our guys hadn’t had that much time to prepare for a game. That’s hugely terrific, in terms of providing them with a sense of purpose and understanding what’s next. Obviously, moving forward, we won’t have that type of prep time, but nobody else will either. These two guys (Briante Weber and Melvin Johnson, in press conference with him) played really well tonight. Bri gave us a terrific lift early on offensively, put the ball in the basket a lot, which we’ll take whenever we can get it. I thought that gave us momentum early and we were able to get defensive stops to extend the lead. Melvin made some big shots.”

Briante Weber said of the rivalry between VCU and Richmond, “It’s a crosstown rivalry, and we’re probably six miles apart. Any time you can beat a team three times, it doesn’t matter who it is, that’s big, and any time it can be your rival, it just gives it more reverence.”

Melvin Johnson said of the VCU crowd present at Barclays Center, “Last year, we were surprised with it, since it was our first tournament here, how many fans came out to support us. This year, we knew what to expect, and they surprised us again because it was more than I thought. Playing in front of our crowd is just like playing at home.”

Weber said of the crowd, “We are fortunate to have great fan support. We have won 50 straight at home, and they brought the show on the road for us. It felt like a home game.”

In the afternoon quarterfinal games, #9 Saint Bonaventure upset top-seeded Saint Louis and 71-68 and #4 Saint Joseph’s beat #5 Dayton 70-67. In the second game of the night session, #3 George Washington beat #6 UMass 85-77.

Saturday at the A-10 Tournament Semifinals: Saint Joseph’s will play Saint Bonaventure at 1:30 and VCU will play George Washington at 4:00 pm

Jerome Jordan’s unusual journey to Brooklyn

Jerome Jordan’s unusual journey to Brooklyn

By Steven Simineri

Not every kid growing up in Jamaica dreams of becoming the next Patrick Ewing. In fact, since Ewing was drafted with the first overall pick of the 1985 draft by the New York Knicks, just four players born on the island have went on to play in the Association. While the number may seem low, it doesn’t come as a surprise to Brooklyn Nets big man Jerome Jordan, the most recent player to come from the Caribbean country.

“It wasn’t the most popular sport in Jamaica growing up,” said the Kingston, Jamaica, native Jordan, who didn’t start playing basketball until he was 16 years old. “Soccer, football, cricket and track and field are the more predominant sports there. I always liked basketball and watched it on T.V… As I got older and grew taller I decided to give it a try.”

Just a year after giving basketball a try, Stephen Johnston, a former Jamaican national team captain, found a spot for Jordan at Redemption Christian Academy in Troy, New York, which he attended with his sister, Jheanelle. But after one semester, their father, Bryan, withdrew the both of them and they returned to Kingston, a city with just two hardwood courts.

“First time kind of being away from family, learning basketball from kind of an AAU standpoint, a little bit more like high school,” Jordan told me in front of his locker at Barclays Center. “That’s where everything kind of started in terms of where I am now.”

Just over two months ago the 28-year old Jordan signed with the Nets, but it has been quite the odyssey for him to Brooklyn. After graduating from Jamaica College, he enrolled at Florida Air Academy in Melbourne, Florida. He was ruled ineligible to play in 2005-06 due to an academic transfer rule, but while work working out with the team he caught the eye of Doug Wojcik, the head coach at the University of Tulsa.

Despite still being a raw product, Jordan signed a National Letter of Intent to play for the Golden Hurricanes and he made an immediate impact. As a sophomore, he was named to the Conference USA All-Defensive team and All-Tournament team. He also led Wojcik’s team to the 2008 CBI championship and was named the tournament MVP. In his junior season, Jordan was named to the All-Conference USA first team after he earned Player of the Week honors four times and he was named to the All-Defensive team for the second straight year.

As a senior he was named to the All-Conference USA second team and NABC Division I All-District 11 first team. He finished his career as the only player in Conference USA history to record at least 800 rebounds and 300 blocks, while setting the school and conference record for blocked shots with 333 rejections.

In the 2010 NBA draft Jordan, who earned the nicknamed, “Jamaican Hurricane,” was selected by the Milwaukee Bucks with the 44th pick of the second round, but his rights were immediately traded to the New York Knicks for cash. However, former team President Donnie Walsh decided not to sign him, wanting him to develop in Serbia.

“Being away from family so you have to be tough and strong minded to some extent,” the 7-foot Jamaican told me about adjusting to life overseas. “Learn new languages and cultures and being mentally tough for the most part.”

After spending time for KK Hemofarm in Serbia, Jordan signed with BC Krka of Slovenia before returning to the U.S. once the NBA lockout was over. In the lockout shortened 2011-12 campaign, Jordan appeared in 21 games for the Knicks and he couldn’t have been in a better situation

“It was great. I have a lot of family here, so New York is pretty much like a second home to me,” said Jordan, who has family in the Bronx, Brooklyn and New Jersey. “We had a lot of great players on that team, a great coaching staff and it was just great playing in the Garden.”

That summer he was traded, along with Toney Douglas, Josh Harrellson and two future second-round draft picks, to the Houston Rockets in exchange for Marcus Camby. A week later he was waived, but he received an invite to the Memphis Grizzlies training camp, where he was the final cut by coach Lionel Hollins, who of course is now the man in charge for Brooklyn.

During the 2012-13 season, Jordan split time in the D-League between the Reno Bighorns and Los Angeles D-Fenders, where he was named to the All-NBA D-League Third Team. In the spring he headed back abroad, joining the Talk ‘N Text Tropang Texters as an import for the 2013 Commissioner’s Cup in the Philippines.

Last July, he joined the Indiana Pacers for the Orlando Summer League and the Knicks for the Las Vegas Summer League. After not finding a job he signed with Virtus Bologna of Italy for the 2013–14 season. This summer Jordan came back to the States, joining the Lakers for another stint in the summer league and determined to find his way back into the league.

In September, Nets general manager Billy King came calling with an invite to training camp and when Brook Lopez went down with a sprained right foot in a pre-season game against the Kings in China, Jordan got his chance. In the team’s second and last game in Shanghai, he scored seven points, pulled in seven rebounds and blocked a shot in only 15 minutes, helping ensure that coach Hollins wouldn’t cut him a second time.

“I always envisioned myself here sooner or later. Thankfully it was sooner,” said Jordan, about making the Nets after globetrotting his way around the world. “But all those places helped bring me to who I am today. So I’m glad for the journey and experiences and just enjoying the moment.”

After being a long-shot to make the roster, Jordan has seemingly overtaken sophomore Mason Plumlee as the team’s backup center over the weekend. He has been solid whenever he’s been on the court, as he was Saturday when he put up five points and five rebounds in 13 minutes. This may only be for the short-term, but Jordan is just grateful to have found a home in Brooklyn.


Beckham returns for Giants and it opens up their middle

Beckham returns for Giants and it opens up their middle

By Michael Florio

“With the 12th pick in the 2014 NFL draft, the New York Giants select…. Odell Beckham Jr., wide receiver, LSU.”

Whether fans agree with the pick or not, they certainly expected more production than they have received so far. Still, fans should be excited to see his debut this weekend against the Falcons.

The 6’0” wide out obtains the size and speed that will allow Eli Manning to take a shot down field and stretch the defense. Not only could a connection on one of these shots lead to a quick score, it will make the defense respect the pass game, and could open up the middle for Rashaad Jennings.

The Giants have done a nice job in the passing attack without Beckham, mainly with Victor Cruz, Larry Donnell and Rueben Randle, but none are the deep threat that Beckham is.

The addition of Beckham also allows Victor Cruz to return to the slot (he did see time there with Preston Parker on the outside), where he thrives. The Giants weapons were beginning to click in the past two games, and Beckham will be just one more force that opposing defenses will have to keep an eye on, which will not allow them to focus on shutting down one weapon in Cruz or Jennings.

Beckham’s size will also allow him to be a dependant red zone threat, that rookie Corey Washington could not become (but do they need one with Larry Donnell?). With his size, speed and game changing ability on the deep ball that he displayed in college, Beckham has the potential to pace the Giants receiving core in touchdowns, despite missing four games.

This may be lofty expectations out of a rookie wide out, but the Giants wouldn’t have spent the 12 overall pick on him if they didn’t believe in him.If fans aren’t sure what a big, speedy SEC wide receiver is capable doing in the league, make sure to keep an eye on Julio Jones this weekend.

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