Saturday, November 20, 2010

Defiantly Dutch Comes To Casa Del Moore for Hofstra - Western Kentucky

My plans were simple yesterday.  After work, go home sit on the couch and watch the ESPN 3 feed of Hofstra vs. Western Kentucky on my laptop.  Then later write about it.  Late yesterday afternoon, I was on my twitter account and I got this from Jerry Beach - #Hofstra Tweeps: Are you able to view on campus? Need a place to watch the game tonight since Cablevision blows.  Being the good samaritan I am, plus truly despising Cablevision and the Dolans, I immediately responded to Beach with Come over to my house. Fios baby.   I followed up with a text to my friend Jerry and he responded later with an affirmative.

I left work, raced home and helped tidy up the house a little bit with my wife who already knew I had asked Jerry over.  Being the techie I am, I grabbed a VGA cable from work and hooked up my netbook to my 40 inch LCD Samsung.  It would have been my work MACBook Pro, but I left the adapter at work (memo to self, splurge for the VGA cable and adapter for home).   Plugged in my audio jack and we were good to go for ESPN3 Moorevision at Casa Del Moore.  As much as I am usually impartial, Hofstra games are different.  Tonight, it was two Hofstra fans and as Beach puts it, rival bloggers hoping for a good game by the Pride.

Both Western Kentucky and Hofstra were smarting from double digit blowouts in the first round of the Puerto Rico Tipoff yesterday.  The Hilltoppers lost by 18 to a Minnesota Gophers team that was about to prove how good they were to North Carolina later that night.  Hofstra had been hit by a powder blue tsunami yesterday losing to the #8 Heels by 44.   So both teams were looking to right themselves and avoid the #7-#8 game vs. Nebraska,  who had lost to Davidson earlier 70-67.

At the outset, it looked like Western Kentucky was going to blow Hofstra out with 16-8 lead with 10:34 left.  Sans Charles Jenkins, the Pride couldn't hit the side of a barn in the first half as they missed on twelve of their first fourteen attempts from the field.  Four of twenty later on was an improvement for Hofstra.

Jerry joined in during a commercial break as I tweeted - Beach is here. Pizza soon to follow and perhaps followed by offense.  Immediately he was greeted by my friendly dog Twinkie and the sounds of a really bad cartoon music coming from my two sons watching a DVD in the other corner of my living room.  He can thank my father in law for that bad DVD.  I set up Mr. Defiantly Dutch with wireless access and the twitter/blog fiend was on his way.

But while we were talking about how futile the Hofstra offense was, the Pride switched from man to man to a suffocating zone.  This threw the Hilltoppers off their game and rendered star player Sergio Kerusch non existent.  Kerusch, who put 31 up on St Joseph's in the first game of the season had only two points the first 31 minutes of the game.  The zone also resulted in a lot of tipped Western Kentucky passes, resulting in a significant amount of turnovers.

As a result, Hofstra was able to work itself back into the game with a 16-3 run capped by a David Imes layup to put the Pride up 24-19 with a minute left in the half before settling for a 24-21 halftime lead.  The first half was not pretty.  The Pride only shot 29 percent while the Hilltoppers shot 34 percent.  But due to forcing numerous Western Kentucky turnovers and outrebounding the Hilltoppers on the glass, Hofstra had eight more field goal attempts and thus one more field goal.

Of course, Beach and I were noticing a few things while chowing down on pizza and being subjected to my two sons playing Monster Truck Wrestling.  First, ESPN's boxscore had Nathaniel Lester scoring two points for the Pride, which of course was wrong because Lester is out due to a quad injury.  Beach noted in one of his tweets that I replied "Did Andy Katz report that?".

Second, early in the second half, Andy Katz, who was sideline reporting for the Puerto Rico Tipoff commented for the upteenth time since he wrote this article, how much Mo Cassara and Charles Jenkins need each other.  Beach responded with a tweet " Andy Katz telling us AGAIN how Mo Cassara & Jenkins need each other. We know. We read the article.  I responded with "Andy is really a romantic at heart. Too bad this is hoops."

The second half started similar to the first.  Hofstra came out in a man to man defense and Western Kentucky quickly tied the game at 24.  Very quickly, the Pride went back to a zone and again the Hilltoppers struggled.  What also happened was that Hofstra showed some aspects of an offense without Charles Jenkins.  Jenkins only scored two of the team's first fifteen second half points as Shemiye McLendon scored six of those points along with a Mike Moore free throw to put Hofstra up 39-32 with 8:52 left.

As a happy Jerry Beach and I watched on, Jenkins started to take over.  He scored six of Hofstra's points in a mini 9-2 spurt that put the Pride up fourteen, 48-34 with 5:18 left.   Hofstra had frustrated Western Kentucky with its zone and now was putting up points.  It looked like the end was in site for the Hilltoppers.  But the Pride had left a little glimmer of light  for Western Kentucky by missing three free throws during this time, which was a microcosm of their day at the charity stripe.  The points that were left off the board would come back to haunt the Pride.

The Hilltoppers desperately turned to a full court press and it started taking it's toll.  With Hofstra still up thirteen, 52-39 with 3:50 left, Western Kentucky made its charge, as they finally starting hitting shots.   Pettigrew hit a layup to cut it to eleven.  A McLendon turnover resulted in a Kerusch three point play and the lead was down to eight.  Another McLendon turnover resulted in a Juan Pattillo dunk and the lead was now six, 52-46.  The scary thing was that Western Kentucky had scored seven points in only 43 seconds.

It was during this time that the blood pressure for both Beach and I went up astronomically.  Both of us were watching the game with a sense of impending dread, though we both tried to talk ourselves out of it saying Hofstra would pull this out.  It's like seeing the train coming, but you are in too much shock to pull yourself out of the way.

A Jenkins steal resulted in two McLendon free throws and the lead was back to eight, 54-46 with 2:53 left.   But after Kerusch hit another layup to put it back to six, McMillan only hit one of two free throws and the lead was seven, 55-48 with 2:20 left.  Hofstra and Western Kentucky traded two points each and the Pride was still up seven 57-50 with 1:45 left.  A Jenkins jumper was sandwiched between two Kahlil McDonald  three pointers and the lead was down to 59-56 with one minute left.

Dwan McMillan would turn the ball over but the Hilltoppers couldn't capitalize as Greg Washington grabbed the rebound of a missed layup by Juan Pattillo.  Jenkins would get fouled and with 40 seconds left had the chance to put the Pride up by five.  But Jenkins missed one of two free throws and the Pride were up only four.  Immediately, Caden Dickerson buried a three for Western Kentucky and the lead was only one, 60-59 with 35 seconds left.

All Hofstra had to do was inbound the ball and get the ball to midcourt and get fouled.  But McMillan couldn't accomplish that and within one second, Brandon Peters stole the ball from McMillan and hit a layup.  The comeback was complete and the Hilltoppers were up one, 61-60 with 29 seconds left.  Beach and I were beside ourselves.

But Hofstra had the last shot (or so it seemed) and the ball.  Mo Cassara quickly called a 30 second timeout. The plan was simple.  Get the ball to Jenkins.    Well the plan worked, and Jenkins drove the lane.  But two Western Kentucky players converged, so Jenkins kicked the ball out to an open Mike Moore in the corner.  Moore's jumper hit off the top of the rim and Pattillo grabbed the rebound and immediately was fouled.  Pattillo hit one of the two free throws and down to 62-60, Hofstra still had a chance to at least tie.

The Pride got the ball to midcourt and called timeout with three plus seconds to go.  But with Jenkins covered, the ball went to McLendon who took the last shot, but it too missed.  Western Kentucky got a huge comeback win, 62-60, outscoring the Pride 23-8 in the final 3:50 of the game.  Pattillo had a double double for the Hilltoppers with 17 points and 10 rebounds.  Steffphon Pettigrew had 12 points and Kerusch finished with 9.  The Hilltoppers had 13 more field goal attempts in the second half than the Pride.

As for Hofstra, they actually shot 57 percent for the second half,. 12 of 21 from the field.  Unfortunately they had 14 of their 19 turnovers in the second half which led to the additional scoring opportunities for Western Kentucky.   Jenkins had 27 points on 10 of 15 shooting from the field.  Moore added 15 points and 11 rebounds.  McClendon added 10 points for the Pride.   The trio combined for 52 of the 62 points while the rest of the team shot just 3 of 15 from the field.

The thing that hurt the most though was the charity stripe. The Pride had double the number of free throw attempts that the Hilltoppers had - twenty five to twelve.  But Hofstra only made thirteen of those attempts.  What also didn't help is that Hofstra only had nine assists and nineteen turnovers.  When Dwan McMillan has kids and tells them about his college basketball exploits, he really might want to skip this game from the storytelling.  McMillan had seven turnovers, two of them crucial down the stretch, was 2 of 8 from the field and 1 of 4 from the line.

Post game, Beach and I were almost at a lost words.  We felt numb.  As Beach had another piece of pizza and made best friends with my dog Twinkie by giving her the pizza crust, we tried to figure out when was the last time the Pride/Dutchmen had suffered such a bad loss.

Beach has his own terrific take on what happened yesterday and here it is in his words.  However, I would never use chloroform on him.  But I am old school.  If I wanted to take him out, I would have been like Colonel Mustard and taken him out with the lead pipe in the conservatory.

Jerry believes this loss was tougher than the one I pointed out, a February 8, 2007 loss to Drexel in overtime. I disagree.  This was only the third game of the season and it was a non-conference game to boot.  The game in 2007 had serious repercussions for the Pride.  The Pride blew a fourteen point second half lead when they lost that game.  As a result of the loss, the Pride would finish third in the CAA in 2006-07 at 14-4.  Had they held onto the lead and won the game, the Pride would have finished tied for second in the CAA with ODU and would have had the tiebreaker on the Monarchs since Hofstra beat VCU in their lone matchup of the season.  Instead, Hofstra got the third seed and ended up being upset by Mason in the CAA Quarters in 2007, the other most demoralizing loss since yesterday's game.

Yes, it was a really bad loss. Mindnumbing in many ways.  But as crushing as the two mentioned above?  No, because it was not a conference game, nor was it the end of the CAA Tournament.   I was furious after the 2007 Drexel loss and devastated after the loss to Mason in the 2007 CAA quarters after the Pride had defeated them at the Patriot Center earlier in February 2007.

There were positives from yesterday's game.  Moore has become the second option and McLendon looks to be a terrific sixth man.  Jenkins is in great form.  The Pride played terrific defense for 36 plus minutes.  They shot well in the second half and they rebounded from a beatdown loss to NC with a very inspired effort. The minuses are no frontcourt scoring, a serious need to improve their free throw shooting and they need to handle a full court press better.

But they outplayed Western Kentucky, a team picked by College Basketball Prospectus to win the Sun Belt, for 36 minutes.  There are things to build on.  How they handle themselves tomorrow against Nebraska after a bad loss like this will say a lot about this team.

As Beach left, he graciously thanked my wife and I for having him over.  He survived my kids, Monster Truck Wrestling and a friendly but mooching dog.  We talked for a little bit outside and then we said we would see each other next Friday when Hofstra hosts Wagner.  Then I walked back inside and thought "maybe I should have used chloroform and taken over his blog and Twitter account".   For me,  Moody Blues sure beats hair metal.

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