For basically the better part of two months, I have been talking about the "Haves" and "Have Nots" in the CAA. In fact, that was the title of my mideason review of the CAA. The "Haves" were the top six teams in the CAA that were all over .500 and the "Have Nots" were the bottom six that were under .500. The "Have Nots" at one time only had won five games as a whole vs. the haves.
I also had my Midseason CAA Awards in that same article. I named Hofstra my "Most Disappointing Team." And they had won the award hands down. They started the overall season 7-3 and showed a lot of promise. Then the Pride lost nine of their next eleven games and stood at 2-7 in the CAA at the halfway point of the season.
There was hope though, and I even named them runnerup to VCU as "Team Most Likely to Improve Second Half." This was due in large part to a much softer schedule than the brutal first half schedule the Pride had - where Hofstra played seven games against teams above .500 and lost all seven.
Well a funny thing happened, Hofstra would win six of their next seven games in conference (and seven out of eight overall including the Bracketbuster win over Rider) to reach .500 at 8-8. As Mr. Beach so aptly put it, the Pride were "in uncharted territory" as far as a CAA team ever digging out of a five games below .500 hole. Now only one of these conference wins came against an above .500 CAA Team - a 75-64 win over Drexel. And Hofstra's one second half loss was at home, a twenty point drubbing to first place Northeastern 75-55.
So the Pride stood at 8-8 last night again facing CAA co-leader Northeastern at Matthews Arena in Boston on ESPNU. Prime time. 9:00 PM. A chance to go above .500 and lay claim to no longer being a "Have Not" but a "Have" in the CAA. And yes Mr. Beach, I have Verizon FIOS, so I was able to watch the game from the comfort of my own bedroom. That's because the kids have control of the "Big TV", the 40 inch HD in the living room, till they go to sleep.
My friend Mal texted me last night, asking me the prediction of this game. I said, and I quote "It's either a Northeastern crushing or a Hofstra win. Nothing between." And history is on my side as far as Hofstra- Northeastern at Matthews Arena. Below is the last four games Hofstra and Northeastern have played at Matthews since Northeastern joined the CAA.
January 21, 2006 - Northeastern 89, Hofstra 73
January 13, 2007 - Northeastern 84, Hofstra 74
January 26, 2008 - Hofstra 70, Northeastern 65
January 5, 2009 - Northeastern 73, Hofstra 50
In the three losses, the average margin of Northeastern's victory was 16 points. I find it ironic that Hofstra's only win at Northeastern in those four games came was with its weakest team in the past four seasons, the 2007-08 team that went 12-18.
I even told my friend Mal, please forgive me Jerry, that I was leaning to the crushing. Reason being, I couldn't see the Huskies losing on "Senior Night" with four of their best players graduating (Matt Janning, Manny Adako, Nkem Ojougboh and Baptiste Bataille). Plus Northeastern was coming off the very tough loss at home to Louisiana Tech. The Huskies were up by eight in the second half with five minutes left before eventually losing the game to the Bulldogs. So I thought Northeastern would be primed to want to beat Hofstra into submission.
But that's why they play the game. The first half started off with both teams struggling to score. After three minutes, the game was tied at four. As the half progressed, as a result of good defense, both teams were turning the ball over a lot. Northeastern went out to a 15-9 lead on a layup by Nkem Ojougboh with nine and a half minutes left.
It was the first of a few times in the first half where it looked like Northeastern was going to go out to a big lead. But Hofstra would answer each and every time. In this case, it was Halil Kanacevic with a layup to cut the lead to 15-11. It was the beginning of a mini 8-1 spurt capped by a Cornelius Vines three to put the Pride up 17-16.
The Pride mini spurt was the beginning of a huge scoring run for both teams. The teams would combined to score double the number of points over the last nine and half a minutes than they did over the first eleven and a half minutes. At the end of the first half, Northeastern shot 50 percent while Hofstra shot 46 percent.
The scoring leaders for both teams were not the usual suspects. Due to Greg Washington picking up two quick fouls early in the first half, Kanacevic played most of the half and was simply terrific with 10 points. He showed an array of post moves. Ojougboh matched Kanacevic with 10 and Adako had 8 points.
What was unusual was the leading scorers for both teams were kept under wraps. Despite five assists, Charles Jenkins had more turnovers, six, then points, five at the half. Meanwhile Janning and Chaisson Allen combined for only eight points on nine field goal attempts.
Tieff called me at halftime and we were reviewing the first half on the phone. We were impressed with Kanacevic and Vines. We were surprised on how Allen was kept in check, but we thought that might change. Finally, we agreed that Hofstra had to be happy to be only down two points with Jenkins having such a bad first half.
Which leads us into the second half, which started like the first half. It took a minute and a half before the first basket was scored, courtesy of a Miklos Szabo layup. The game would be tied at four different times over the first six minutes of the second half. Hofstra would take its first lead of the second half, 45-43 on a Greg Washington with 14:11 left in the game.
Hofstra then started pulling ahead as Jenkins was a second half offensive force. If it wasn't Jenkins assisting on a play or grabbing one of his eight rebounds, it was him nailing a three to give the Pride a 56-49 lead with 9:27 left. While Jenkins showed why he was named preseason co-CAA player of the year, Hofstra clamped down on Northeastern's offense. The Huskies could only manage four field goals in the first twelve minutes.
Yet Northeastern would not go away on Senior Night. Allen hit a layup and hit the foul shot for a three point play to cut the Hofstra lead to 58-55 with 7:57 left. A Vines three put the Pride back up six, 61-55. But again, the Huskies rallied with a 6-0 run again capped by a short Allen jumper, while he was fouled, that tied the game. But he missed the free throw and the Huskies would score only one point the rest of the way.
Jenkins immediately hit a jumper that would be the game winner to put Hofstra up 63-61 with 2:58 left. Jenkins would score eight of the last thirteen points the Pride would score. Hofstra had its best win of the season, defeating Northeastern 73-62. In the second half, Jenkins scored 15 points, which was as many as Allen and Janning had combined. Kanacevic added a double double with 16 points and 11 rebounds. Vines and Chaz Williams each had 12 as they combined to shoot 5 for 10 from beyond the arc.
The Pride completely shut down the Huskies in the second half, limiting them to 7 of 28 shooting from the field. Janning and Adako combined to shoot 6 of 24 from the field. Allen was held to nine field goal attempts and only had two field goal attempts from beyond the arc, missing both.
With the win, Hofstra is 9-8 in conference, 17-13 overall and has an excellent chance of finishing above .500 for the regular season in the CAA with a home game vs Georgia State on Saturday. Northeastern now is a game behind ODU for first place in the CAA. The Huskies travel to Fairfax to face George Mason on Saturday while ODU is home to VCU.
And if Northeastern finishes second in the CAA, they face the strong possibility that their quarterfinal opponent very well could be the team that just beat them. - seventh seeded Hofstra. The CAA just got a whole lot more interesting.