Sunday, February 21, 2010

Mirror Images Meet at the Mack as Hofstra Defeats Rider in Overtime

Click here for my Bracketbuster weekend review.

Two teams separated by birth faced each other in a non-televised Bracketbuster game yesterday at the Mack Center. Both teams came into the game with a 15-13 overall record and an 8-8 conference record. Both teams had a dominant First Team Conference player - the Broncs' Ryan Thompson and the Pride's Charles Jenkins.

And finally, thanks to the Hofstra Basketball Historian, Jerry Beach (and yes, Jerry, that should be your title), the teams came into the game with the all time series tied at seventeen games.

So while we all try to figure out if Rider is really a dutch school, the Pride hosted the Broncs to see who would take the all time lead in the series (at least for one season, since the Bracketbusters agreement results in the teams facing each other the next season on the other team's home court). And of course, the two similar teams would end up playing overtime.

It didn't seem that way when the game first started as Hofstra jumped out to a 13-4 lead thanks to two three pointers by Jenkins. But as only a good doppelganger would do, Rider came back with 13-2 run of their own, with Ryan Thompson only scoring two of those points, to lead 17-15 with 11:24 left in the first half.

The teams would trade the lead several times over the next six minutes and the game would be tied at 29 with 5:13 left. However, the Pride would go on a 15-6 run to end the half as Jenkins, Greg Washington and Cornelius Vines would each end the half with 10 points a piece. Thompson would keep his team in the game with 13 first half points, which was only a sampler of what lied ahead the rest of the game.

Washington in particular played a terrific first half with six rebounds and four blocks to go with his 10 points. But his play couldn't be described by the stats. He hustled his six foot 10 frame all over the place, tipping balls out on missed shots, hustling for loose balls and Washington seemed to be everywhere.

So as the teams entered second half play with Hofstra up 44-35, you had a feeling the question of when, not how the Broncs would comeback on their doppelganger twin Pride. After the first six plus minutes, the Pride still led comfortably 53-42. But the strange fact was that none of the Pride's first half double digit scorers had a point yet in the second half. And Rider, led by none other than Thompson, seized upon that fact and started chipping at the lead.

Jenkins would finally score his first basket of the second half to put the Pride back up by nine, 61-52 with 8:22 left. But neither Vines nor Washington had scored a second half point yet and the lack of balanced scoring started affecting the Pride. Again, the Broncs led by Thompson came back and a 12-5 Rider spurt cut the lead to two, 68-66 with 3:38 left. The Broncs would actually take the lead 69-68 on a Jhamar Youngblood layup with 2:50 left.

The teams would change leads over the next minute and the Pride would take the lead on a layup by who else, Jenkins, 73-71 with 1:30 left. Jenkins had 15 second half points. Hofstra's lead would be 75-71 on two Nathaniel Lester foul shots. But Rider's scoring machine, Thompson would hit two of his own free throws to make the score 75-73 with 57 seconds left.

But with 57 seconds left instead of trying for a two for one, the Pride, as they are warranted to do, ran the clock down and turned the ball over with no time left on the shot clock. Sigh. The Broncs called a timeout and setup a play. Thompson, who had 20 second half points, got the ball of the inbounds play and the rest of Rider cleared out for him. Thompson drove the lane and immediately kicked it to the open Novar Gadson for an easy two. Hofstra had a chance to win but again Hofstra ran the clock down and Jenkins missed a shot and we were on to overtime tied at 75.

In overtime, it was the Jenkins and Lester show for the Pride as the two would score all but three of Hofstra's over time points. A jumper by Lester put the Pride up for good 79-77 with 3:23 left. The Pride would extend the lead to six, 87-81, on two Jenkins foul shots with 46 seconds left. But again, the doppelganger Broncs wouldn't go away and a Justin Robinson jumper cut the lead to one, 88-86 with 15 seconds left. But four free throws by Chaz Williams and Lester put the game away and the Pride came away with a 92-89 win.

So while Beach ponders whether the doppelgangers should become permanently reunited in the MAAC (and he's not the first to say that. My friend Bob Sugar has been saying that for years), the fans got treated to awesome performances by Jenkins and Thompson. The junior Jenkins had 31 points. But it wasn't just Jenkins for Hofstra. Again, Washington had a terrific game with 12 points, 11 rebounds and 8 blocks. Lester came out of his season long fog with 14 points and 9 rebounds. And Chaz Williams added 12 points, 9 rebounds and 5 assists.

The 6 foot 6 senior Thompson, whose brother is former Rider star and current NBA star Jason Thompson, had 38 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists. Thompson had the crowd a buzz during and after the game. He has a NBA type physique and he can drive the lane, hit the three, rebound and dishes the ball really well. He is certainly coming to a NBA training camp near you this summer.

The Pride now winners of seven of their last eight games travel to Northeastern before finishing their regular season at home vs. Georgia State. Rider has two home games vs. Siena and Canisius to end the regular season. Both teams play their conference tournaments the weekend of March 5-8. Only fitting for two teams separated at birth.

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