(Jon Severe of Fordham takes a shot against Boston College – Photo by Jason Schott – NY Sports Day)
The Atlantic 10 and Atlantic Coast Conferences have made the Barclays Center home.
The A10, which boasts VCU, Saint Joseph’s, George Washington, and Dayton and New York’s own Fordham, has held is tournament in Brooklyn since March 2013, during Barclays Center’s inaugural season. They will host the tournament here in March 2016 before moving to Pittsburgh in 2017 and Washington in 2018.
The ACC is possibly the strongest conference in the country, featuring Duke, North Carolina, Syracuse, and Pitt. The conference made an agreement with Barclays Center in 2014 to host the tournament in 2017 and 2018, and then rotate with the A10 thereafter.
On Tuesday afternoon, the first-ever ACC/A10 Challenge was held at Barclays, with Saint Joseph’s and Virginia Tech in the opener, followed by Fordham and Boston College in the nightcap.
Saint Joseph’s, led by DeAndre’ Bembry and Isaiah Miles, ran out Virginia Tech 79-62. St. Joe’s improved to 9-2, while Virginia Tech fell to 8-4.
Bembry had 22 points, 18 of which came in the first half, on 9-for-19 from the field, 2-6 on threes, with seven rebounds, and two assists.
Miles had 36 points, including 25 in the second half, on 11-for-18 shooting, 3-5 on threes, and 15 rebounds.
A three by Miles gave St. Joe’s its largest lead of 20 points, 72-52, with 6:04 left in the second half.
Miles said of his performance, “I want to credit my teammates for just finding me. They found me when I was open, a lot of the pick-and-pop, so I definitely want to credit them. At first my shot wasn’t really going, so I thought that driving to the basket would help me and just fight on the offensive boards to try to get putbacks and free throws definitely helped me. Mostly just my teammates finding me on the break to get me open.”
St. Joseph’s Head Coach Phil Martelli said of the game, “This group deserves a lot of credit. This is the hardest game. I never brought it up to them, but this is the hardest game. We have five guys not going back to Philadelphia tonight, they are going with family members. Campus has been empty, but Sunday’s practice was terrific. We participated in our Christmas charity where we delivered gifts to four families. They were terrific with that, very mature. Yesterday’s practice was good and we traveled like this was a road game. This wasn’t a trip to New York, and I don’t mean that in a negative way. Now, they have three days to be sons, cousins, and brothers, and they’ve earned it. For me, this was the end of the first semester and they get an A- across the board. That was really a very, very focused effort and I’ll salute the people here. It is a Tuesday at one o’clock and there was some juice in the building. We have played flatter. We played in The Garden last year on Thanksgiving and it was flat, so thank you to all the people that were here and the noise that was made and our team played well.”
Martelli said of how they will use this game going into the A-10 season, “We don’t. Today was the day so we had to prepare to win this game. Now, we have three days off, we will practice on Saturday night, we have a game next Tuesday at home and it has always been the same for me in 21 years. Can we be better Saturday night than we were this afternoon? That’s the whole thing. We open the Atlantic 10 season, I think at Richmond, and we are going to be 10-2 or 9-3. But that day, going into that game, we have to come out of there 1-0. I’m not into coaching cliches and that kind of stuff, but we were better today than we were last game against Illinois State. We must be better on Saturday than we were today so that in March when we come back to Barclays Center, we are playing our best basketball of the year.”
Shavar Newkirk, who hails from New York City and Cardinal Hayes High School, chipped in eight points (3-9 FG, 2-5 threes), two assists and a rebound.
Virginia Tech was led by Seth Allen, who had 18 points on 7-16 shooting, 3-7 on threes, four rebounds, and an assist, but he also had five turnovers.
Zach LeDay had a double-double with 10 points (4-9 FG) and 11 rebounds.
In the nightcap, Boston College beat Fordham 64-55. This was just Fordham’s second loss of the season and their record is now 9-2, while BC improved to 6-6 on the season.
Boston College was led by Jerome Robinson, who had 19 points on 6-for-13 from the field, with six rebounds, three steals, and an assist. Eli Carter poured in 12 points on 2-for-9 shooting, 1-4 on threes, went 7-7 from the free throw line, and had five rebounds, three assists, two blocks, and two steals.
Fordham was led by Antwoine Anderson, who had 14 points (3-8 FG, 2-3 on threes, 6-8 FTs), three rebounds, two assists, and two steals. Jon Severe had 11 points (4-13 FG, 2-7 threes), two rebounds, and an assist.
The lead went back-and-forth throughout, and Boston College was in control as the game entered the final minutes.
Boston College went up 57-49 on an A.J. Turner layup with 2:52 left. Fordham responded with a quick burst, as Ryan Rhoomes made a layup, then they got a stop, and Antwoine Anderson drained a three to make it 57-54 with 2:06 left.
That was as close as Fordham would get, as they only scored one point the rest of the way, and shot 1-5 overall.
Fordham Head Coach Jeff Neubauer said of the final couple of minutes, “We really had a couple of bad possessions offensively. I think the overwhelming things that happened down the stretch were in the last six minutes of the game. Boston College was able to attack the rim and get layups. We have usually, meaning through the first 10 games, we have been a terrific charge-taking team this year. We have protected the basket very well and our basket protection in the final six to eight minutes of the game just wasn’t good. Those are the baskets I regret. I do think that our defense was good enought to win this game, but certainly I didn’t have our team prepared offensively.”
Neubauer said of the game, “First of all (Boston College Head Coach) Jim Christian does a terrific job. His team has struggled this season due to illnesses and injuries. There was no doubt that he was going to get those guys together and get them to play well and they certainly played well today. I think that (Idy) Diallo was probably key to the game. He really did a terrific job defending in the post. If you would have told me pregame that we would have had Diallo out there for 20 minutes in the post I thought we would have been able to score in there. We really struggled on the scoring side and I think Boston College’s defense is the major reason for that.”
Idy Diallo not only did a great job on defense for Boston College, but he went a perfect 4-4 from the field for eight points and he had a rebound and a steal.
Boston College Head Coach Jim Christian said of Diallo, “I thought this was the best game he’s played since he’s been here. If he keeps playing like that, stays out of foul trouble, he’ll warrant more time. I thought he came focused and ready to play. Dennis (Clifford) got in a little bit of foul trouble, but Idy impacted the game tonight and that’s not something he’s done all the time, but he’s working hard and is getting better.”
Neubauer said of how he feels about Fordham heading into A-10 conference play, “If we are going to do a cup is half-full, then definitely it’s that our defense today was good enough to win this game. I certainly take all of the blame for our offense not being very good. But defensively we are ready to compete with this level team. I have to get some things right at the offensive end.”
Christian said of Fordham, “I give them a lot of credit; obviously they press and trap the entire game. They really fly at shooters so you need to drive by. When you drive by them, you need to make the next simple play, which was the whole game plan…I thought we stepped up at the free throw line and made big plays. I thought we played with a lot of poise and that’s what you need to do against a team that plays that style and does so, so well.”
Christian said of the keys to success against Fordham’s style of play, “The main key was not to commit live-ball turnovers that they can get out on the break and finish. (Jon) Severe and all their perimeter guys are so good in the open floor, so not having live-ball turnovers was huge, and we didn’t have many. That was one part of it and really doing a great job on their ball screen late in the clock…I thought our point of ball screen defense was pretty good and pretty consistent.”