February 11, 2013

Monday Midfielder: Colgate-Bryant Features First Big Shot Clock Play

by Corey McLaughlin | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

Colgate had to rush a shot at the end of the fourth quarter after Raiders coach Mike Murphy called timeout with a stall warning on. The play led to Bryant tying the game with eight seconds left in regulation.
© Bill Danielewski

In the best Division I men's lacrosse game of the weekend, and one that might hold up as one of the best this year, Colgate defeated Bryant 14-13 in overtime Sunday on Jimmy Ryan's fourth goal on a cold, February afternoon in Rhode Island.

The game showed NEC favorite Bryant, ranked 20th in the preseason by Lacrosse Magazine, has staying power and Colgate is big-game ready.

But the way by which the teams reached overtime might have left the biggest takeaway for the rest of 2013.

Uncertainty had been a theme of the preseason, and not just with prognosticating what teams might be in store for a good year. There also are new questions centered on the myriad of rules changes implemented by the NCAA rules committee this offseason.

Sunday's late-game sequence showed what the college lacrosse world could expect this year — no one-goal lead in the final minutes will ever be safe — and raised some concerns with the mechanics of the shot clock countdown itself.

Colgate led 13-12 with less than a minute left in regulation and, with the ball in its possession, a stall warning and 30-second shot clock was put on by the officials. Raiders coach Mike Murphy called timeout with 55 seconds left, according the game clock on the field. Under the new rules, if an offenisve team calls timeout with more than 10 seconds remaining in the 30-second count, the shot clock will be moved to 10 seconds on the restart, putting the team that called timeout in a tough position.

Out of the timeout, Peter Baum tried to find open space and Colgate took a high and wide shot with 41 seconds appearing on the game clock. According to that timing, Colgate should have not been allowed to take a shot when it did. The Raiders apparently had extra four seconds to shoot. These types of discrepancies should be expected without a visible shot clock in place on the field. Good thing Baum misfired, and the fact that the shot went off at all had no direct influence on the outcome.

Bryant got the ball back anyway, and this did have a direct influence on the outcome. Sophomore midfielder Brian Schlansker scored on the other end with eight seconds left to send the game to overtime.

Gone are the days when a defense had to send multiple defenders at a ball-carrier in the box to try to get the ball back with a stall warning on. The clock did its job Sunday, sort of.

Johns Hopkins opens it up

Johns Hopkins, captain John Ranagan included, took 58 shots Friday night against Siena, most from a Blue Jays team since 2004.
© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

Both Johns Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala and Siena coach John Svec sat down for post-game press conferences Friday night inside a meeting room at the Blue Jays' fancy lacrosse-only complex and wondered aloud the same thing: When was the last time Johns Hopkins took 58 shots in a game?

Both needed to be reminded. It was 2004, against Albany, when the Blue Jays took 61.

"Was I the head coach here?" Pietramala joked with a reporter who relayed the information.

"You know I was at that game, right?" said Svec, who was an Albany assistant from 2001 to 2008.

The memory may have been forgotten, but the point was made: The Blue Jays have loosened up. Friday's season-opening 15-6 win over Siena is the first example.

Part of it is because of the new NCAA rules that encourage a quicker pace. Part of it is the way the Blue Jays exited the postseason last year with a 11-5 loss in the quarterfinals against Maryland, the second straight year Johns Hopkins' season ended in that round.

"If you continue to do what you've done, you shouldn't expect any results to be different," Pietramala said. "For two years, we've had great regular seasons and we've come up short in the end... The rules helped us a little bit, but I also think the Maryland game helped us. The plan over the summer defensively was we were going to play faster, extend a little bit more and, in doing so, try to push transition.

"Then, instead of having to play faster defensively, the NCAA decided to put a shot clock in. Teams can't hold the ball for an extended period of time. We made a commitment to try to play faster, put the ball in play faster, which I thought we did today. I thought we played faster from defense to offense... It's been a philosophical change. We've conditioned more than we've ever had."

For one game, the pace of play seemed crisp and fast even on a chilly, wet night at Homewood Field in Baltimore. Siena goalie Matt Sharp, making his first start, finished with 20 saves, and plenty of other goalies may put up career bests this season.

Denver sophomore Ryan LaPlante made a career-high 18 saves in a win Saturday against Duke. Five other goalies made at least 17 saves this weekend in losing efforts. The save totals resemble more of a Major League Lacrosse stat sheet, where high double-digits are common, than Division I.

"Love it, love it," Svec said when asked for his thoughts on the new rules. "The single biggest impact the rules have made, besides getting everyone confused, is no horns. I think it's great. It might take a little bit of the in-game coaching away, but it puts the onus on the athletes. Tonight you saw some very good athletes on both sides."

The 15 Division I men's games this weekend averaged 77.66 shots, with six games featuring more than 80 between the two teams. Sunday's Colgate-Bryant game had the most (96), with Colgate taking the most of any team this weekend (59). Navy took 58 shots in a blowout win over VMI, and Penn State took 57 shots in a five-goal win at Michigan.

But there also were three teams that won by taking no more than 38 shots, including Bucknell, which beat Delaware by taking 30, the same number as the Blue Hens.

It's hard to make a sweeping declaration about the new rules off one weekend in February, but at the very least, all the discussion this offseason about speeding up the game has encouraged one of the game's most prominent programs to get in the fast lane.

"Very happy with the number of shots we took," Pietramala said. "We're trying to play faster. I thought that was obvious tonight."

Program Debuts

The USC women made the highest-profile program debut of the weekend, bringing powerhouse Northwestern and UMass to Los Angeles for a multi-game weekend.

Northwestern beat UMass 16-4 and USC 18-5, and UMass beat USC 18-9. An announced crowd of 2,890 was present at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on a clear, 62-degree evening for USC's first-ever game against the Wildcats.

In other Division I women's debuts, Winthrop lost to Navy 23-4, Stetson fell to Liberty 16-3, and Kennesaw State lost to Vanderbilt 22-3.

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