Thursday, December 23, 2010

Agudio and Jenkins Reunite as Hofstra Defeats Holy Cross

In 2007, I got to see Hofstra take on Holy Cross live twice.   In the February 17th Bracketbusters game in Hempstead, Carlos Rivera hit two free throws to give the Pride an exciting 65-64 win over the Crusaders.  Holy Cross would eventually win the Patriot League Championship in the 2006-07 season and make the NCAA Tournament, where they lost to Southern Illinois in the first round.   Hofstra would be upset by George Mason in the CAA Quarterfinals and made the NIT, where they lost to DePaul in the first round.

On November 10,  2007, I drove up to Worcester, Massachusetts to see Hofstra take on Holy Cross in a return matchup of their Bracketbuster game.  It was the first game of the season for both teams and both teams were rebuilding.  The Crusaders had lost their two best players, Keith Simmons and Torey Thomas to graduation, leaving Tim Clifford as their best player.  Meanwhile, two thirds of Hofstra's great guard trifecta, Loren Stokes and Rivera had graduated, leaving Antoine Agudio as their best player.

The Crusaders would win that rematch 61-47 as Pat Doherty would have his second best night of the 2007-08 season for Holy Cross with 18 points, while Clifford only had 6 points in the game.  Meanwhile, outside of Agudio's 28 points, Hofstra struggled to find a second scoring option.   A redshirted freshman guard named Charles Jenkins scored 5 points on 1 of 7 shooting from the field in his first ever game for the Pride (though he did have 9 rebounds).

Despite the win, Holy Cross would struggle in 2007-08 .  Clifford did his best, averaging 18 points per game on 57 percent shooting from the field.  However, the rest of the team did not pick up the offensive slack as no other player averaged double digits in scoring.  The Crusaders would finish the 2007-08 season 15-14 and would lose in their first round Patriot League Tournament game to American.

In the case of the Pride, as the 2007-08 season progressed, Jenkins would become the second scoring option for the Pride as he averaged 15 points per game, shooting 47 percent from the field while averaging 4.6 rebounds per game.  Agudio was as Mike Litos called him "Antoine Agreatio", averaging nearly 23 points per game, 4 rebounds and 3 assists per game.   As dynamic a duo Agudio and Jenkins were, there was not much other help on that Pride team and they struggled to a 12-18 season and a first round loss in the CAA Tournament.

However, for Agudio and Jenkins, there was much to be proud of for this Pride duo.  Agudio would become the all time leading scorer in Pride history and was a first team All CAA Player for the second season in a row.   Meanwhile Jenkins would be the CAA Rookie of the Year, a sign of things to come for the now reigning CAA Player of the Year and the two time Haggerty Award winner.

A little more than three years later, the dynamic duo would reunite as Hofstra again faced Holy Cross for the first time since that November 2007 game. This time, the game was back at the Mack Sports Complex.    Agudio was in the crowd  (seated third row behind the team bench) to watch as Jenkins received a special basketball by Coach Mo Cassara to commemorate him scoring his 2000th point vs. Manhattan last Saturday.   Then Agudio got to watch as the Pride gave some payback to the Crusaders for that November 2007 game.

Hofstra struggled early on, as both of their starting frontcourt players, Greg Washington and David Imes, each picked up two fouls in the first six minutes of the game.  Also, Crusader guard Mike Cavataio played excellent defense on Jenkins, who could not get a shot attempt off  for the first twelve plus minutes of the game.  Holy Cross would take a 10-8 lead as Jordan Stevens assisted on two Eric Obeysekere jumpers, the second a three pointer with 11:24 left in the first half.

But the Pride would respond by going to a smaller lineup, which included one Shemiye McLendon.   McLendon would key a 16-0 run by Hofstra over the span of four plus minutes by hitting three 3 pointers in a row.  Jenkins would also finally score on a three point play, courtesy of a Cavataio foul.   Outback Brad Kelleher would cap the run with a layup to put Hofstra up to stay 24-10 with 7:10 left in the first half.

The last seven minutes of the half basically saw Hofstra hold serve.  The Pride would take a 34-22 at halftime lead as they shot 50 percent from the field, 14 of 28 including 4 of 6 from beyond the arc.  The most unusual thing was that Jenkins only took two field goal attempts in the entire first half, hitting both.  A lot of credit was due to the defense by Cavataio.  But Jenkins found other ways to contribute in the first half with three assists, three rebounds, a steal and two blocks, one of which where he swatted a layup attempt into the second row of seats behind the basket.  No truth to the rumor that Jenkins was trying to purposely knock the ball into Mr Defiantly Dutch while he was tweeting "WORCESTER BIAS" during the game.

The second half started out much like the end of the first half.  Mike Moore was fouled again on a successful three pointer.  But unlike the game vs. Manhattan, Moore couldn't convert the four point play and missed the free throw, thus Hofstra was only up 41-29 with 16:46 left in the game.  At that point, it looked like Hofstra was going to coast to a twenty point win.

But just like the game vs. Manhattan, the Pride saw their opponent make a run.   Thanks to some terrific passing by Andrew Keister and Andrew Beinart, the Crusaders went on a 9-2 mini-spurt, capped by Keister making one of two free throws to cut the Hofstra lead to 43-38 with 12:55 left.   A relatively large contingent of Holy Cross fans that made the trip started making a lot of noise as a result.

But as they did against the Jaspers, the Pride responded to the run with a three point barrage, with the barrage coming solely from the hands of Moore.    Moore would hit three 3 pointers during a 21-7 run over the span of six minutes.  With 6:43 left, the score was 64-45 Hofstra and all was left was to warm up the Crusaders bus.  The Pride would eventually win the game 71-56.

But what was really impressive about the run was that Jenkins had very little to do with it from a scoring standpoint.  Normally a one man wrecking crew in the latter twenty minutes of a game, Jenkins would only score eight points in the second half and thirteen total points on the night.  He only had seven field goal attempts, though he hit all five of his free throws.  However, the stat sheet stuffer did have six rebounds, five assists and those two blocks, including the Beach seeking guided cruise missile of a swat.

The Pride showed their balance as seven players had at least six points on the night.  Moore led the way with 15 points, including his four three point bombs.  The frontcourt duo of Washington and Imes combined for 18 points on 8 of 10 from the field.  McLendon scored all nine of his points during that span of the first half, while Kelleher added 7 points and Dwan McMillan chipped in with 6 points.    The Pride again were deadly from three, shooting 8 of 15, shot 47 percent overall from the field and were 11 of 14 from the line.

The Crusaders were held to 34.6 percent shooting from the field.  They did though have three players in double figures as Keister had 12 points along with 8 rebounds, Stevens had 11 and Devin Brown added 10 points.  The fifty six points scored by Holy Cross marked the ninth time out of eleven games on the season that Hofstra held an opponent to sixty three points or less.

It was the second game in a row where a Hofstra great took in one of Jenkins' games.  Last Saturday night, Speedy Claxton was at Draddy Gym scouting  Jenkins as he not only scored his 2000th point but then passed Claxton on the all time scoring list.   Last night, it was Agudio who was in attendance. As Agudio watched from his third row seat from behind the Hofstra bench, I wonder if he thought at all about that November 10, 2007 game where he played with Jenkins for the first time in an actual game.  Did Agudio know that his teammate would follow him as the next in a great line of Hofstra guards?

One thing is for certain.   There were two fantastic guards there last night at the Mack Sports Complex.   And they could play for my team anytime.

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