Well, I just got finished watching a truly, truly, truly ugly performance by the Pride against George Mason on an ESPNU nationally televised game. It was so bad, I was on the phone with my friend Tony Terentieff for the last eight minutes of the game. We were often laughing hysterically as we described the action we were watching. It was so bad it was that funny. Mason won the game 78-54 but it wasn't even that close as the Patriots were up by as many as 34 in the game.
The Patriots never trailed in this game. It was never even tied. It was 10-2 Patriots before you blinked. Then 20-8. The closest the game got was 30-20. Then the Patriots went on a 9-1 run to make it 39-21 at the half. I had texted my friend Mal Galletta before the game and said "Watch for Ryan Pearson. He's a stud". Sure enough Pearson had nine points at the half.
The combination of Pearson, Darryl Monroe and Michael Morrison had 21 of the 39 Patriots points. Compare that with the six points that Hofstra got from its frontcourt in the first half. There's the difference. George Mason made a concerted effort to look inside. Hofstra did not. In fact, they didn't look inside at all for the first three and half minutes.
The Patriots started the second half on a 12-5 run to make it 51-26 with 15:27 left. The Pride would cut it to 18, 53-35 with 13:25 left. That's as close as they would come. Mason would then outscore Hofstra 22-6 over the next nine minutes to make it 75-41 with four minutes. The Patriots shot 49 percent for the game and were 24 of 31 from the line. Pearson and John Vaughan each had 16 points. Darryl Monroe added 10 (I still think the Patriots don't work it inside enough to Monroe, who was 4 of 5 from the field).
It was during that 22-6 run that Tieff and I started dissecting every Hofstra offensive possession. We called every three point clank by Cornelius Vines and Tony Dennison, even saying "Clank" seconds before the ball clanked off the rim. Dennison was just chucking up shots left and right. Charles Jenkins, the second leading scorer in the CAA was forcing the action too, missing shots, causing turnovers, even committing stupid fouls. Vines (5 of 15), Jenkins (4 of 15, and Dennison (2 of 19..TWO OF NINETEEN) combined to shoot 11 for 49. The team as a whole shot 28 percent.
Therein lies the problem. First, I have never ever ever seen a team that has such a blatant disregard for an inside game such as Hofstra. It has been like this for the past three seasons (they had at least balance in 2005-06 with Adrian Uter and Auremius Kieza). The Pride offense is truly a guard oriented offense. And that works for the most part if you have talented guards like Loren Stokes, Antoine Agudio, and Carlos Rivera like they did from 2004-05 through 2006-07, when the Pride made three consecutive NIT appearances. Hell even the combination of Agudio and Jenkins last year was a serious offensive threat.
The problem is this season, outside of Charles Jenkins, who has struggled mightily the second part of this season, the rest of their guards aren't very good. But have they tried to look inside? With really the lone exception a game against Towson early in the season (their best offensive game by the way, a 90-79 win), the answer is a resounding no. The Pride's true frontcourt players had twelve field goal attempts tonight. Twelve out of sixty six. Do the math. That's less than 20 percent (compare that with Mason whose frontcourt had 20 of the 51 FG attempts the Patriots had, making 13 of them). The team shoots 38 percent overall, which if it wasn't for Drexel, would be dead last in the CAA. When your guards take on average 80 perecent of the shots and shoot less than 25 percent, perhaps it's time for a change.
The Pride guards didn't look inside much at all. When they did, they seemed either disinterested in passing the ball in, or simply incapable of doing so. They continued to chuck up three pointers, or drive in the lane out of control and shoot off balance shots. This simply comes down to lack of preparation, lack of adjustments and simply lack of good coaching.
My friend Tieff had the line of the night. When the ESPNU analyst, a former coach at Furman and VMI, noted that despite Hofstra's bad play "Pecora continues to coach". Tieff responded "I wish he would stop!" It was the laugh out loud line of the night. And why it was so dead on funny is because it was true. This was a game Hofstra desperately needed to try to stay in contention for fourth place and the final first round bye spot in the CAA tournament. And to give an all around horrible effort from this team on national TV speaks volumes for the players and the coaching staff tonight.
I don't want to shortchange George Mason (16-6, 9-3 CAA). They are a very good team. They played smart, aggressive and they have tons of talent, including three extremely talented freshman in Pearson, Michael Morrison and Andre Cornelius. If they continue to develop over the next seven games, they can win the CAA tournament.
But the result was mainly in part due to truly bad play by Hofstra. My friend Mal texted me towards the end stating "How did they (Hofstra) get into a televised Bracketbuster game?" If I was Bruiser Flint, coach of the Drexel Dragons, a team that is in fourth place in the CAA and swept the now seventh place Pride during the season, I would be asking the same thing. Right now, the Pride are not worthy of it. And unless they make a conscientious effort to develop an inside game, it is only going to get worse. And it won't be so laughable.