Saturday, February 6, 2010

A Huskie Size Win for Northeastern

Sometimes the weather is a metaphor for life and even for college basketball. Today, nor'easter type winds were blowing outside of the Mack Center. Inside the Mack Center, a huge second half Nor'easter wind blew out Hofstra today as the Huskies defeated the Pride 75-55.

When the game first started, it looked like Hofstra was going to blow out Northeastern. The Pride was energized from the start and jumped out to 15-2 lead with 15: 06 left. Miklos Szabo, Greg Washington and Charles Jenkins combined to score all 15 points as Szabo and Washington dominated the glass in the first five minutes.

But basketball is often a game of runs and Northeastern was going to show the first of several runs it had on the day. The Huskies behind the combination of Matt Janning, Nkem Ojougboh and Baptiste Bataille, went on a 16-0 run in the span of not even four minutes to take an 18-15 lead with 10:41 left in the half. Hofstra would return fire and go back up 23-20. Northeastern would come back and go ahead 30-28. Hofstra would score the next four points and go ahead 32-30 with 1:12 left in the first half.

Off a miss by the Huskies' Manny Adako, the Pride would get the ball back with 49 seconds left in the half. Then came a play that Hofstra fans have seen so often during the Tom Pecora tenure that often results in complete frustration for those Pride diehards. Pecora instructs Chaz Williams to run down the clock by dribbling at half court, then start a play with ten seconds left on the shot clock.

Here's what I don't understand. The Huskies are going to get the ball back with 14 seconds left in the half anyway, which is plenty of time to run a play. Why not instruct Chaz to run your normal offense to get a good shot? No. As noted, Williams starts the play with 10 seconds left, struggles to drive down the lane, loses the ball and Northeastern gets the ball back with 15 seconds left on the clock. Luckily for the Pride, Janning misses a shot and Hofstra is up at the half 32-30.

The point of the matter is the fans in the stands started grumbling about having seen this play before. And they have, as recently as the win over Wilmington, Pecora did the same play at the end of the first half. The difference was Hofstra was up 28 points at the time. Here, Hofstra was only up two. As I have said many times on this site, the clock is not your friend, points are your friend. The object in basketball is to score more points than your opponent. It was a wasted opportunity by Hofstra to go up by more than two at the half.

Still the first half was very entertaining. The Pride moved the ball around very well and got their bigs involved. Szabo had 9 points as did Jenkins and the Pride outhustled the Huskies off the glass, outrebounding Northeastern 30-12. Janning was playing well for Northeastern as he led all scorers at the half with 10. However, Hofstra did a terrific job on the rest of the Huskies as they held Chaisson Allen and Manny Adako to a combined five points on 1 of 12 shooting.

The second half though was a different story. A much different story. The Huskies jumped right out to a 40-33 lead with 16:40 left as Allen woke up from his hibernation with five quick points. And it didn't get any better from there for Hofstra. Northeastern would then extend the lead to 55-40 with only 5:30 left as Adako scored eight points during that span.

Meanwhile for the first fourteen and a half minutes of the second half, Hofstra scored eight points. How does a team that scored 15 points in the span of not even five minutes to start the game score only eight in a span of fourteen and a half minutes? Well, first give the Huskies defense credit as they took Charles Jenkins completely out of the game. During that span Jenkins had only four field goal attempts (and hit one of them) and Jenkins would end up scoring only five points in the second half. Also during that time, Northeastern forced six turnovers and the Pride missed on their first eleven shots from the field. Hofstra would only shoot 7 of 28 in the second half.

Meanwhile, talk about a tale of two halves. The Huskies shot a scorching 57 percent in the second half as Adako and Allen combined for 25 points on 11 of 14 shooting. Northeastern also was 19 of 24 from the charity stripe in the second half and 28 of 35 on the game (Hofstra was only 7 of 8 from the line). The Huskies were up by as many as 23 in the second half. For Hofstra, Jenkins led the way with 14 points but on only 3 of 11 shooting from the field. Cornelius "One and Done" Vines had 11 points and Szabo had 10 points, but only one point in the second half. The Pride had an ugly 19 turnovers in the game.

By the way, Vines got the nickname "One and Done" from Tieff and me tonight due to the fact that he often hits his first three point attempt but then misses the rest of his three point attempts. Sure enough, he hit his first today and then missed on the next four. And the Nathaniel Lester Witness Protection program continued today as he had zero points and four fouls in nine minutes. He looks completely lost out there.

I was very impressed with Northeastern. Janning was very solid and Adako had a strong second half. But Allen in particular, showed me a lot. Normally known as a three point threat, he only attempted three shots in the game from beyond the arc. He consistently drove by Williams in the second half for layups and made some nice passes. Northeastern in general moves the ball around very well and they only had eight turnovers on the game. The Huskies may be the best team I have seen in the CAA all season.

With the win, Northeastern moved to 11-2 in the CAA and took over sole possession of first place in the conference. That was due to both Drexel beating George Mason at the DAC and Old Dominion losing once again to VCU at the Siegel Center. With the win by the Dragons and Rams respectively, the race for the four first round bye spots has tightened up even further. As noted, Northeastern leads at 11-2. George Mason and Old Dominion are tied for second at 10-3. Drexel and VCU are tied for fourth at 9-4 and William Mary, with their win over Georgia State tonight is in sixth at 8-5.

As for Hofstra, thanks to Georgia State losing, they are still in sole possession of seventh at 5-8. Hofstra is now 0-8 on the year vs. the top six teams in the CAA (0-1 vs. Northeastern, 0-2 vs. George Mason, 0-2 vs. ODU, 0-1 vs. Drexel and 0-2 vs. W&M). Further proof of the haves and have nots in the CAA this season. The Pride have only two chances remaining to beat a top six team with a home game vs. Drexel next Wednesday and a game later in the season at Northeastern. But they need to play a whole lot better than today, otherwise it's going to be a very quick CAA Tournament for the Pride.

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