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Upsets, a double-overtime game, and a 60-foot buzzer-beater in CAA Championship Quarterfinals

Washington D.C.- As we get closer and closer to crowning a champion of the CAA and a team punching their ticket to the NCAA Tournament, the intensity and craziness are due to increase. On day three, we saw just that. It's not called March Madness for nothing.

Game 7: No. 1 Charleston defeats No. 8 Monmouth 83-59

The Cougars enter this game coming off an eight-day break since their final regular season game where they defeated Hofstra while Monmouth is fresh off of its win versus Campbell on Saturday. These two teams can put up points in a hurry so today’s matchup was going to come down to who’s defense stepped up and made plays. On that end, it was all Charleston.

Charleston’s Kobe Rodgers affected the game well on both ends using his speed to get downhill and attack the rim, which is how he scored the game's first four points. He would also contribute three assists and two rebounds. His biggest impact was his man-to-man defense on Monmouth’s Xander Rice. Charleston head coach Pat Kelsey had some thoughts on the defensive effort on Xander in the post-game press conference:

“Xander’s a really good player. I’m allowed to say his name now. We have this thing in scouting where you never say a guy's name, you say his number…Reyne Smith doesn’t get enough credit for his defense. He guarded him for a good chunk of the game and then Kobe Rodgers, to be honest with you, was one of the better single-defensive performances I’ve ever seen. He was locked in. There’s a little chip [on our shoulder] with our team and there’s a chip with him [Kobe Rodgers] for a bunch of reasons but that’s not for right now.”

Anytime Kobe was guarding Xander, it felt like good things happened. The Cougars held him to just 10 points on 4-12 from the field and 2-7 from deep. Charleston ended the half on a 14-10 run to give them a 44-29 lead at the break.

Charleston flexed their offensive muscles in the second half and it was needed because Monmouth cut it to a seven-point deficit with 12:30 remaining. Charleston would pull away and win 83-59, largely due to a great second half from Ben Burnham. He had 12 of his 16 points in the second half on 5-8 from the field and 2-3 from deep. Coach Kelsey had some great things to say about Burnham after the win:

“Benny [Ben Burnham] was a monster. He’s like, if you’re from the eighties, feeding a gremlin after midnight. When he starts seeing it go in and you keep feeding him, he can really, really heat up. That’s why he’s got the nickname “Benny Buckets”.
Charleston Men's Basketball player Ben Burnham shooting a jumpshot
Photo Credit: Rafael Suanes/CAA

Charleston is primed and ready to make it to consecutive NCAA Tournaments for the first time since 1998. Standing in their way is the best defense in the conference this year, the Towson Tigers. Towson has been an impressive group and if the game slows down, it falls right into how head coach Pat Skerry wants it to play out. A battle of the conference's best offense versus the best defense for a trip to the championship. Stuff you love to see.

Game 8: No. 5 Towson defeats No. 4 UNCW 66-56

This game had all the makings of an instant classic. There was no love lost after UNCW won the regular season finale at Trask Coliseum in a game that saw emotions run high with a Charles Thompson headbutt and a dunk at the end of the game by Shykeim Phillips that Towson took personally. Coach Skerry spoke post-game about what his players were saying to him before this game:

“I would prefer our guys try not to score at the end but I 100% understood what our guys were ready for coming into the game today. A couple of them said earlier today [pre-game] that they wouldn’t have cared if the game was played outside. They were just excited for the opportunity to compete against them again.”

The rubber match lived up to the hype.

In the first frame, the game immediately felt fast-paced and physical. UNCW went to a press periodically in the first ten minutes of the game that disrupted Towson and got them into their sets later in the shot clock than they would have liked. From an offensive standpoint in the first half, UNCW was carried by Trazarien White, who had 18 points on efficient splits. He was getting to the rim with ease. As for Towson, it was balanced scoring that saw seven players score but none in double-figures. They finished the half with twenty-nine points as a team and the most exciting of them all was Tyler Tejada’s three-quarter court heave to make it just a one-point deficit, 30-29.

This was the most competitive game of the tournament up until this point. Towson would go on a drought for almost five minutes around the under-sixteen media timeout. Neither team led by more than six points until Towson took control from a 9-0 run over 2:50 and led by ten with 8:46 remaining. The Seahawks showed their championship pedigree by keeping themselves poised and clawing their way back. They cut the deficit to two at the under-four timeout. The decision that changed the game for the Tigers late in the game was going to a four-guard lineup. Head coach Pat Skerry post-game did not take credit for that decision:

“Our assistants did a really good job with the scouting. They suggested going four guards late in the second half and it was the difference in the game. Certainly wasn’t something I thought of…I rely on those guys.”

Arguably the most important of those guards that gave the Tigers the biggest spark on both ends down the stretch was true freshman Mekhi Lowery. In the second half, he had four points, five rebounds, and two blocks, with the most important of those blocks coming on Trazarien White with 1:08 remaining in the game. I asked Coach Skerry about how meaningful his performance was to the team’s victory:

“He’s just a tough kid. Talented. Probably should be playing him more as you look at the stat sheet. I don’t know why the heck I haven’t been. He gave us a big boost and had a couple of really good finishes. He is going to be a great player…a difference maker tonight.”

Towson Men's Basketball player Mekhi Lowery dunking
Photo Credit: Rafael Suanes/CAA

Towson plays Charleston in the semi-finals and has their work cut out for them. Coach Skerry called the upcoming matchup a “David versus Goliath” type of game and hopes the Towson fans can come and support and be metaphorical “slingshots” to assist in the battle against Charleston.

Game 9: No. 7 Stony Brook defeats No. 2 Drexel 91-88 (2OT)

Drexel has been a dominant force in conference play all year and earned its place as the two-seed in this tournament. Four of their five conference losses came against teams that finished in the top five in the conference. This means they lost tough games but were able to capitalize on handling the lower-seeded teams in the regular season. This was a team that was poised to be playing on Tuesday for a chance at an NCAA Tournament berth but as head coach Zach Spiker said after the loss to Stony Brook:

“We’ve had a group that has worked with Tuesday [the championship] night in mind, not Sunday [the quarterfinals].”

We got a glimpse into the possibility that Stony Brook could pull off the upset just a few weeks ago when these two teams met in Philadelphia and Drexel escaped with a four-point victory. However, it was not without a grueling fight that took ten additional minutes of play to see Stony Brook come out victorious. The story of this game in the first half was how quickly the two teams went from starting the game off strong scoring the ball efficiently to they could not buy a bucket by the end of the half. Some of that you can contribute to the presence of three-time conference defensive player of the year Amari Williams on the floor. However, that would quickly change in the second half.

Amari Williams was injured in a collision that appeared to be his upper leg or hamstring area. He was subbed out with 17:04 left in the game and would not return until 6:17 remaining after a trip to the locker room and multiple minutes on the stationary bike. Drexel did a great job keeping the lead larger than four points for Williams’ absence largely due to Luke House catching fire from deep. He had sixteen second-half points including 6-8 from the field and 3-4 from deep. In the final 6:17 of the game, Stony Brook attacked the injured Amari Williams on offense and the game changed completely.

In March, guard play is where games are won but this one was won because of a big man, and his name is Chris Maidoh. When asked what went right at the end of the second half and in the first overtime, this was Chris’s response:

“Just being aggressive. That’s what I had to do from the jump. We didn’t want our season to end and we had to keep fighting. I didn’t want my season to end.”
Stony Brook Men's Basketball player Chris Maidoh clapping
Photo Credit: Rafael Suanes/CAA

Stony Brook head coach Geno Ford subbed Chris Maidoh in with 1:33 remaining in regulation and had him attack the three-time conference defensive player of the year Amari Williams. Maidoh immediately scored on back-to-back plays including a ferocious dunk on Williams. I asked Coach Ford about that decision:

“The dunk was unbelievable. We couldn’t score inside against them. We threw it inside and had a hard time so what we were trying to do was get Williams away from the basket. Fitz [Kenan Kitzmorris] made some jumpers in there too. He was clogging everything up and we were having a difficult time scoring in the paint and when we got him [Amari Williams] away, Fitz made an enormous three.”

This Stony Brook team has all the momentum a team could ask for but you have to imagine they will be exhausted when they take on Hofstra. The biggest battle in the history of the rivalry between Hofstra and Stony Brook takes place for a spot to make the conference championship. Long Island basketball supremacy is also on the line.

Game 10: No. 3 Hofstra defeats No. 6 Delaware 73-58

After Delaware dismantled Hampton in the second round, a veteran-ridden Hofstra team, led by the conference's leading scorer Tyler Thomas (22.2 per game), was awaiting them.

Early on in the first half, Delaware was executing great rim defense on Tyler Thomas's drives. In the first frame, he went 2-6 from the field. This allowed the Pride to get the ball in their other playmaker's hands and the first half it was Jaquan Carlos who stepped up. He would finish the first half with twelve points, four rebounds, and two assists and was able to dictate the pace of the game, which played right in Hofstra’s favor.

Hofstra Men's Basketball player Jaquan Carlos shooting a jumpshot
Photo Credit: Rafael Suanes/CAA

The Pride headed into the break leading 35-29.

Hofstra head coach Speedy Claxton made it clear in the post-game press conference that defense was the most important contribution to his team's victory over Delaware. While it was apparent early on that the Pride were disrupting the Blue Hen’s offense, the second half is where Hofstra clamped down. The Pride finished the second half with four steals and one block. Two of those steals came from Darlinstone Dubar, who also exploded for a team-leading fifteen points in the second half. The Blue Hens could never go on a run to get the game back to within single digits almost the entire second half, which speaks volumes to the Hofstra defense.

After their 73-58 victory in the quarterfinals, Hofstra has its eyes on a championship and NCAA Tournament berth. The Stony Brook Seawolves stand in their way and Coach Claxton understands it won’t be easy:

“We have our work cut out for us. After two close games in the regular season [versus Stony Brook]. We know what’s coming for us.

I am all finished with my coverage of the CAA this season and I want to say how incredibly grateful I am for everyone involved in this conference, the teams and players, and you the reader or follower for the support of my work. It has been an incredible year where I was able to watch all fourteen teams compete and I can't speak enough about how competitive and talented this league is. My colleague at House of College Hoops, Zach Penrice, has you covered for the semifinals and the championship on Monday and Tuesday, starting with his preview which you can read here. Give him a follow on X (@Zach_DMVSports) to keep up with the rest of this tournament.

See you next season!


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