In the David Mack Center last night, sitting at my usual seat in Section 111, Row D, I can tell that I am going to see a lot of high scoring games this season. Hofstra held off Fairfield late for an 84-80 win. Charles Jenkins had a career high 37 points on 12 of 17 shooting and 9 of 9 from the free throw line.
The game was very close throughout with no team having a lead larger than 6 points. The Stags' gameplan was very simple in the first half. Work the ball inside to senior Anthony Johnson and exploit the Pride's foul prone forwards, Greg Washington and Miklos Szabo. It worked. Johnson had a double double in the first half - 16 points and 10 rebounds as the Pride had no answer for him. Szabo tried to front him. The Stags guards lobbed it over him. Szabo tried to play behind him. Uh uh. Johnson was able to hit shots over him. Johnson was 7 of 10 from the floor in the first half.
If it wasn't Johnson dominating inside, it was freshman guard Derek Needham showing off his three point ability with 11 first half points. The Stags shot 16 of 29 from the field in the first half. What kept Hofstra in the game was the Stags missed several open threes (2 of 11 from three in the first half - both coming from Needham) and were brutal from the line (8 of 18 from the charity stripe in the first half).
Thanks to the Stags inability to hit an open three or a free throw, the Pride were fortunate to be only down two 42-40. What also helped Hofstra is their offense. The Pride was 14 of 25 from the field in the first half and were 9 of 13 from the line. Jenkins had 12 points and Nathaniel Lester had 10 points. The Pride also did a good job of holding onto the ball with only four first half turnovers.
The second half again was a close half. There were two major differences though that eventually enabled the Pride to win. First, the Stags inexplicably went away from Johnson. As I noted in one of my live postings last night, Anthony Johnson only had two points in the first sixteen and a half minutes of the second half. Right after I posted that comment, they went to Johnson who hit a layup (which resulted in my friends Tieff and Mal calling me a jinx). Johnson would only have six points in the second half on six field goal attempts.
The other difference was Charles Jenkins. As I have noted here previously, Jenkins is a second half monster. Last night was no different. Jenkins had 26 second half points on 8 of 11 shooting and 7 of 7 from the line. Fairfield had no answer for Jenkins.
Jenkins has always been a scoring machine. At 6 foot 3, 220 pounds, Jenkins is built like a Miami Hurricane free safety. He can handle physical contact, is incredibly quick, has excellent body control and knows how to twist in the lane for his signature layups. What has enabled Jenkins to elevate his game this season is his ability now to consistently hit the outside shot. Jenkins was 5 of 7 from beyond the arc last night and is amazingly shooting 48 percent from three for the season (and 48 percent overall from the field).
Those numbers from three most likely will not last, but this forces opposing players to guard Jenkins more closely which allows Jenkins to use his speed to blow by them for potentially easy layups. Jenkins is on Fran Fraschilla's list of "Players and Coaches You Don't Know but Need to Find Out About" list. However, I instead would have put Jenkins on the top ten mid major players list in that same article.
Jenkins got help last night from Nathaniel Lester who had 18 points. Fordham stayed in the game in the second half thanks to Needham's 15 points and 26 overal, and Yusef Hawkins 13 points, 22 overall. The Stags (4-2) have a very nice trio of players and if they can hit their outside shots, they will be a very difficult team to beat in the MAAC ( I consider them the third best team behind Siena and Niagara).
The Pride need to keep Greg Washington and Miklos Szabo from getting into foul trouble. Again they were easily outrebounded last night 35-24 and again an opposing big man, in this case Johnson, dominated offensively in the paint. They will have difficulty against CAA teams with good frontcourts (hello Old Dominion).
However, they move the ball around so much better than last season and that's due in large part to point guard Chaz Williams who has an assist to turnover ratio of nearly 3 to 1. Hofstra needs to start Williams and play Cornelius Vines off the bench. You can see how much better the Hofstra offense flows when Williams is in the game. And now with Lester being the second scorer, averaging 12.7 points per game, Vines is less needed for scoring.