Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Tonight's the night (to win the ECC)!

The champagne is on ice at the Beach household as we prepare to celebrate an ECC championship!

How well are things going for the Flying Dutchmen? So well that Chaz Williams won the CAA Rookie of the Week last week despite earning a tongue-lashing from his head coach Saturday night.

Williams had seven points, seven assists, two steals and just two turnovers in the Dutchmen’s 87-70 win over UNC Wilmington, but was just 2-of-13 from the field, picked up four fouls and just two rebounds and seemed to annoy Tom Pecora when he hoisted a 3-pointer with time still remaining on the shot clock in the final minute (urge to make a snarky comment rising…rising…).

“Everyone for the most part played well, except Chaz,” Pecora said afterward. “He didn’t have a good game. Sometimes you forget you’re still playing with a freshmen point guard. It’s a process, and to still be able to win by whatever we won by on the road and your point guard doesn’t have a great game speaks volumes.”

The Saturday performance was a rare blemish for Williams, who wasted little time this season in becoming the point guard the Dutchmen have lacked since the graduation of Carlos Rivera in 2007. Williams won the Rookie of the Week (his second such honor in three weeks) on the strength of a brilliant performance against Drexel Wednesday, when he almost recorded the first triple-double in school history (20 points, nine assists, eight rebounds) in leading the Dutchmen to a 75-64 upset win over the Dragons.

Williams’ track record—he is averaging more than 11 points per game and shooting better than 50 percent from 3-point land in CAA play and hasn’t had more turnovers than assists in a game since Jan. 9—suggests he’ll get back on track tonight, when the Dutchmen will attempt to clinch the mythical ECC championship (oh, and also improve to .500 in conference) against Delaware.

The Dutchmen won’t need a perfect effort against the reeling Blue Hens, who are alone in last place in the CAA, but their performance tonight will tell a lot about how far this team has progressed over the last three weeks. Back-to-back road games with a stop back at campus are a challenge regardless of the opponents. To perform as well tonight as the Dutchmen did Saturday would be another sign they are primed to at least make some noise in the CAA Tournament in two-and-a-half weeks.

In addition, tonight presents the Dutchmen with the chance to gain a huge psychological boost by evening their conference record after a 2-7 start. Since the CAA expanded in 2001-02, no team has ever climbed from 2-7 to .500.

A resurgent February is nothing new for the Dutchmen, who are 41-12 in regular season games played after Feb. 1 since the 2003-04 campaign, and continuing that trend the rest of this month is a major source of—wait for it!!—pride for Pecora.

“That’s huge—very, very important to me,” Pecora said. “I kid around and say that it’s because they stop listening to me and that’s why they win. But I’m very impressed with the fact that they’re doing it and hopefully it continues. I don’t want to lose another game this month.”

No idea if perfection awaits for the Dutchmen, but they should remain on that track tonight. I’ve been projecting nail-biters all month and a close game has yet to materialize, so I think I’ll go ahead and hex everything by predicting a double-digit win tonight.

I’ve been projecting nail-biters all month and a close game has yet to materialize. So I’ll go ahead and hex tonight by calling for a double-digit win by the Dutchmen. Expect a three-star worthy outing from Williams as well as another impressive performance from Greg Washington, who had a breakout game at Delaware 368 days ago and was on his way to one of his best games ever Saturday before he got into foul trouble.

Delaware supposedly offers free live video (love those Blue Hens!) so check out the feed here and follow along as always on Twitter. And if Hofstra wins, meet me at the Student Center for a night of rioting up and down Hempstead Turnpike in celebration of the ECC championship!

Email Jerry at defiantlydutch@yahoo.com or follow Defiantly Dutch at http://twitter.com/defiantlydutch.

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