Oh the weather outside was frightful, but for Hofstra fans inside, the basketball was delightful. In front of a very small group of dedicated fans who braved a blizzard outside, last night the Pride defeated the Dragons 75-64.
Tieff picked me up in the Big Red machine, aka his Dodge Durango and off we went to the game. The drive in wasn't too bad. The Southern State was in decent shape at the time. When we got to the Mack Center via the Charles Lindbergh Blvd entrance, we wondered if the game was still on. The parking lots were empty sans snow plows removing the snow. We drove around and saw that everyone was basically parked in front of the Mack Center. And we could see people inside, though there were very few.
The official game attendance lists 893. I think that was due in large part to the number of scholar athletes given special recognition at halftime for having above a 3.0 last semester (there were a lot and Tieff I believe that it doubled the attendance). Let me tell you, when Tieff and I walked in 12 minutes before the game, it seemed like there was only 100 in attendance. We ran into Dr. J there at the entrance and he gave us the scoop. Too difficult to reschedule the game, Drexel was already here and the refs had been here since 11:00 am. Thus game on. The first floor concessions stand was closed, so we had to go down to the lower level concessions stand to get our standard fare - pretzel with cheese and iced tea (Tieff had water).
The picture at the beginning shows how few people were there at the start of the game. But there was a late arriving crowd, especially the student section. And I have to give the student section a lot of credit. They made up most of the crowd and they did their best to cheer on the Pride. They also would direct a lot of comments to Drexel Coach Bruiser Flint and Bruiser would give them a lot of ammunition on the night.
And they got rewarded as Hofstra finally got its first win this season against a team in the top half of the CAA. The game started very similar, eerily in fact to Saturday's game against Northeastern. Hofstra started out on a 10-2 run as Charles Jenkins would score eight of those points (a precursor to the rest of the evening for Jenkins).
Like Northeastern did on Saturday, Drexel would comeback with a run of its own. A 9-0 Dragons run put them up 11-10. Then things got ugly. Real ugly. Over the next six minutes, the teams would combine to score ten points on 4 of 18 shooting with four turnovers. The score with less than six minutes left was 16-15 Drexel. Ugh.
But things got interesting once Chaz Williams' three pointer put Hofstra up 18-16 with 5:52 left. It was like the scoring flood gates had opened. Including the Williams three pointer, over the rest of the first half the teams combined to score as many as points as they did in 15 minutes, 31 points. After four three throws by the Dragons' Leon Spencer and Chris Fouch tied the game at 20 with 4:56 left, Hofstra would outscore Drexel 15-7 the rest of the half. Charles Jenkins would have 16 points in the half for Hofstra.
The first half ended on a very interesting play. Chaz Williams was fouled on a layup at the buzzer. Both teams ran off the court, sans Williams, who knew he was fouled. As two refs reviewed the play to see if the shot got off before the buzzer, the other ref talked to Bruiser (as pictured on the left). The two refs signaled the shot was good and gave Williams the ball to shoot the free throw. As they were doing this, Bruiser was still talking to the other referee. The other two refs ended up having to shoo Bruiser off the court so Williams could shoot the free throw. It was pretty comical.
It was late in the first half that Drexel would suffer a huge blow. Freshman guard Chris Fouch, who buried Hofstra in the first game they played with 29 points, dislocated his left shoulder on a play and had to be helped off the court. His arm was in a sling in the second half and there is no word yet on how long he is out. But suffice to say, it's not good for Drexel fans.
The second half would start right where the first half left off. Jenkins scored the first five points on a three pointer and a layup and Hofstra was up 40-27. Bruiser was very upset (ok, Bruiser was upset the entire night) and immediately called timeout. It briefly helped the Dragons as Samme Givens had a three point play to cut the lead to ten, 40-30. But Hofstra would then go on a 15-5 run to put the Pride up 55-35 with 13:31 left.
Drexel would make things interesting as they answered with a 15-4 run to make the score 59-50 with 4:49 left as the Pride went cold from the field and actually even went into a stall. But the Pride would answer with four free throws to go back up thirteen, 63-50 and Drexel would only get as close as ten the rest of the way.
It was not a pretty game by any means. Certainly not from a shooting standpoint. Drexel shot 31 percent for the game, including 1 of 9 from beyond the arc as they sorely missed the injured Fouch. Hofstra wasn't much better as the Pride shot 35 percent from the field, including 6 of 17 from beyond the arc.
This would explain the ton of rebounds in the game as Hofstra outrebounded Drexel 53-46. There were also a lot of fouls. How many? Well both teams made 25 free throws from the charity stripe (Drexel 25 of 36 , Hofstra 25 of 38).
There were bright sides to the game. For Hofstra, Charles Jenkins rebounded from a poor performance against Northeastern. After the game against the Huskies, Tom Pecora challenged Jenkins to take 20 plus shots. Jenkins responded to the challenge by taking 26 field goal attempts, hitting eleven, including four three pointers. Jenkins would have 32 points on the night.
Chaz Williams played Robin to Jenkins' Batman by scoring 20 points, adding 8 rebounds and dishing out 9 assists (with only one turnover).
For Drexel, Jamie Harris had 19 points and Samme Givens had a double double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Now when you have a small crowd at a game like this you can hear everything. Several years ago, when the Montreal Expos were still the Expos (and not yet the Nationals) and were playing in Olympic Stadium, the roof collapsed in the stadium towards the end of the season. The Expos had to play all their remaining home games on the road.
Well, they ended up having to play a series at Shea Stadium against the Mets, who were horrible at the time. Since the series was last minute, there was basically just walk up tickets sales. Tieff, Tony Bozzella and I went to the game and we had seats behind home plate. There had to be 1,000 people in the stands at most. You could hear everything. And every player could hear every comment the fans yelled out (even us).
Well, that's what it was like last night. And you also heard every comment either Bruiser Flint or Tom Pecora yelled out. Let's just say a lot can not be repeated in front of children. But it gets better. A fan sitting three rows in front of us got on one of the officials after he called an offensive foul on Nathaniel Lester (and correctly so, Lester elbowed the Drexel player in the face as he drove to the basket). In fact you can see the official here, his back is facing the camera.
Well, I did say you could hear everything. And after a couple of seconds of hearing it from the fan, he turns around and says to the fan "Did you see him hit the guy in the face?"
I was sitting with Tieff, as well as my long time friend and former boss, Howard Graves, who was sitting two rows behind me with his wife Nora. We all looked at each other in complete disbelief. As you may or may not know, it is not common place for officials to interact with fans, certainly not upset fans. For some reason, probably because I figured he could hear me too, I yelled back to the official "You are supposed to ignore the fans!"
But the reason to go to the game last night was Bruiser Flint. Over the years, the Hofstra student section has generally chanted the "Sit Down and Shut Up" or a variation of it to generally one man. Bruiser Flint. Always animated. Always amusing. Flint could by yelling at one of his players to "Go cover the __in ball" during the inbounds play, or being completely frustrated at one of his players for not playing defense. Then there is Bruiser working the officials all night long. Or there is the classic Bruiser stomp/fist pump when his team doesn't execute a play. And of course there was the aforementioned play at the end of the first half.
Tieff is always amazed at how Bruiser gets away with the way he talks to officials at times. But to this writer, Bruiser is one of the most interesting coaches there is. He is simply fun to watch. And when you have two teams struggling to hit a basket like last night, Coach Flint is a welcome distraction. There were several points during the game last night where I was trying to catch him in a very animated moment with my camera. In fact, he is probably responsible for my batteries running out at the end of the game last night.
But try as Bruiser did, he couldn't coach his team to a victory. Jenkins and Williams were too much for the Dragons. Hofstra got its first win against a top six team in the CAA (the Pride were 0-8 prior to the win). The Pride are now firmly entrenched in seventh place with a 6-8 record, two games better than eighth place Georgia State.
Drexel is now 8-5 in the CAA and has fallen into a three way tie for fourth place with VCU and William and Mary. Right now, if the season ended today, the Tribe would finish fourth based on a 3-1 record vs. the Dragons and the Rams. The Rams would be fifth because their record is 1-2 vs the Dragons and the Tribe. The Dragons would be sixth due their 1-3 record against the Rams and the Tribe. However VCU still has a home game vs. Drexel and that game may have huge tiebreaker implications.
As Tieff and I left the arena, we came smack out into perhaps the worst part of yesterday's snowstorm. The arena outside walkway which was clear when we went in, was now covered with several inches of snow two plus hours later. Cars got stuck trying to get out of their parking space. The roads that had been halfway decent two hours prior were now dangerous to drive. In fact, we passed a car that got stuck in an embankment on Hempstead Turnpike east by the Coliseum.
It was a rough ride home. But the ride didn't seem to bother us. For when you get to see a home win, especially one over a pretty good team plus the entertaining Bruiser Flint, even the worst snowstorms seem like flurries.