Saturday, January 2, 2010

The Mary Guts One Out, While Hofstra Lets One Slip Away

For thirty nine minutes and forty three seconds, Hofstra never trailed in their game with William and Mary (though there were several ties in the game). They played the perfect defensive game and held the highest scoring team in the CAA to 29 points under their season average. The best shooting three point FG percentage team in the CAA was held to 3 of 16 from beyond the arc.

Quinn McDowell, who scored 28 points in the Mary's win at Maryland, was held to ten points under his season average, with six points on 1 of 8 shooting from the field. Danny Summer was held eleven points under his season average, scoring two points on 1 of 7 shooting. Even David Schneider was also under his season average of 16.7 points with 12 points.

So how did Hofstra lose this game? Simple - bad clock management and game planning at the end of the game. After Greg Washington hit a jumper to put Hofstra back in front 45-43 with 2:58 left,the teams traded empty possessions. Hofstra got the ball back with 1:38 left and Hofstra does what it normally does late in the game up by a few points - have the best player run the clock down, in this case Charles Jenkins, to about 8 seconds left on the clock, then drive the lane for a shot.

Yes, that's what they normally do. They have done this when Loren Stokes was the main scorer, or Antoine Agudio or Carlos Rivera. Now they do this with Charles Jenkins.

The problem is 1) Jenkins doesn't have the pullback fadeaway jumper that Agudio or Rivera had and 2) teams have figured out this play and double team him.

So in this case Jenkins ran the clock down from 1:38 till about 8 seconds left on the clock, then tried driving the lane. The Tribe converged on him and he lost the ball. The Tribe get the ball, then an outlet pass to Danny Sumner for his only two points of the game on a layup and we're tied at 45.

I can't tell how huge of a play that was.

Now, the next Hofstra possesion after a timeout by Coach Tom Pecora, the Pride run their regular offense and Halil Kanacevic rebounds a Nathaniel Lester three point miss and hits a layup with 34 seconds left to put Hofstra back up two,47-45. Tribe coach Tony Shaver calls a timeout with 25 seconds left and sets up a play.

Now does Shaver wind down the clock and get off a last second shot for the tie? Nope. He runs his regular offense and Kendrix Brown drives off a pick, hits the layup and gets fouled with 17 seconds left. He hits the free throw and for the first time all game, William and Mary leads 48-47.

Now interestingly enough, Shaver calls timeout again here, which I thought was a mistake. After Hofstra just got stunned on this play, why give them a chance to set themselves and run a play?

Well, I think Shaver knew better than I did because he probably again gave them instructions to make sure Jenkins doesn't beat them. Sure enough, Jenkins got the ball and started winding the clock down instead of running the play. And sure enough, when Jenkins started his drive, the Tribe players converged on him, forcing him eventually to give up the ball. Halil Kanacevic was way off on a three pointer.

Now it ends rather weird here. Nathaniel Lester, who by far played the best of anybody on Hofstra with 14 points and 10 rebounds, rebounded the ball. He appeared to have got fouled before the clock expired and I thought one official called a foul. But the other official waved it off, which caused Pecora to storm after the officials and meet with them at the aisleway to the left hand side of me in the corner of the arena. Now what was strange about it was that normally, the refs exit on the other side first before the players. It was as if they just wanted to leave and not discuss the play. It was weird, but game over and the Mary wins 48-47.

My point is this. A head basketball coach once told me that you never shorten the game against an inferior opponent when you have the lead late in the game. This is exactly what Hofstra does time and time out when up with a lead late. Instead of running their normal offense up two with 1:38 to play, they wind the clock down. After the game. I could hear a lot of the fans discussing this exact point. Some times it works. Often times it doesn't.

Also what's with starting the play at 8-10 seconds? That same coach aforementioned in the previous paragraph told me that it normally takes 15 seconds to run a normal offensive set play.

And it's a shame, with Hofstra great and NBA player Speedy Claxton in attendance, the Pride had a great game plan, albeit one that Speedy probably would not like. In front of 3,132 which is great for an early January game when school is not in session, they slowed the pace down, played great defense and forced Mary to work extra hard for their shots. It takes great defense to hold the best scoring team in the CAA to 48 points.

Now, there is one other thing to note. Pecora inserted Chaz Williams back into the game during the Mary timeout. Williams is their point guard who entered the game with a 2 to 1 assist to turnover ratio. But yet, Jenkins got the ball as the clock wound down. Why bring in Williams if you are not going to give him the ball? Made no sense to me.

This is not to take any credit away from William and Mary and Coach Tony Shaver (shown here,um yelling at a ref. He later got a technical foul call). They played outstanding defense on Jenkins and held him to 13 FG attempts and 12 points, seven under his season average. They are also wonderful to watch with the basketball.

Andy Katz just put up a ESPN blog post yesterday (and yes folks, that means the Media bandwagon has jumped on board the Mary) talking about how Shaver scrapped his old offensive and defensive play system due to the personnel he had (which went 10-20 last year). He instituted a hybrid John Beilein/Herb Sendek system that is "predicated on a lot of 3s, opening the floor, a bit of backdoor cuts..." He also mixes up his defenses now.

Let me tell you, it was fun to watch, because the Mary are in constant motion and scored several easy baskets yesterday with their backdoor cuts. Offensively, it really is like watching the merging of the Princetion Offense with the Beilein offense.

Well it has worked amazingly, because now the Mary have now won ten in a row, are 10-2 overall and 2-0 in the CAA. They were the only road team to win in the CAA yesterday. They played Hofstra's style of game and gutted out a win. You can't be more impressed than that.

Still, Hofstra could have had a huge win over a red hot opponent. They played inspired defense and handled just about everything the Mary threw at them offensively. But they lost. Better clock management would have won the game.

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