Saturday, December 11, 2010

Hofstra Rallies to Beat Binghamton, Or How Charles Jenkins Overheated My Computer

After a very busy day at work on Wednesday, I picked up my younger son Jonathan from day care and got home.  Fed the dog, fed the younger son and we watched TV together till my wife got home with our older son Matthew   Then, I got a call from work on an issue and after giving some advice on the issue, I hung up the phone.  I told my wife what a crazy day it was at work and what the issue was on the phone.  Then I told her my plan to deal with the stress of the day and retreated with my laptop upstairs to my bedroom.

My plan was simple - Pay the one time fee of five dollars for the video feed of Hofstra vs. Binghamton.   It wasn't quite my CAA trifecta of a week ago, but the Pride and Bearcats would have my undivided attention.  The best stress reliever I know is college basketball.

In 2004, Tieff and I went to the Vestal Events Center in Binghamton to watch Hofstra defeat Binghamton 76-63.   The arena was basically new six years ago and we were quite impressed with the Bearcats home arena. But we wondered why build a new arena since Binghamton was barely now a Division I school in athletics, and it certainly had never been a basketball power.  And our thoughts seemed justified, when it wasn't even half full the night we were there.    

Well, Binghamton decided a couple of years after that they needed to justify the building of the thirty three million dollar Vestal Center.  And Lois DeFleur, the Binghamton University President empowered former AD Joel Thirer to hire Kevin Broadus to bring the Bearcats to the NCAA Tournament.  And sure enough, Broadus did just that as Binghamton won the America East Championship in 2008-09.   No doubt DeFleur and Thirer were thrilled that a sold out crowd saw the Bearcats defeat UMBC.

But as I noted in an article in October of 2009,  a NY Times article noted that Broadus recruited players with shady pasts, which infuriated a lot of his fellow America East coaches.   And when one of Broadus' players, Emanuel Mayben, got arrested for cocaine possession and distribution, the whole program started to unravel.   Six players including Mayben were released from the team.  Broadus was then found to have violated several rules due to improper recruiting.  Thirer resigned, Broadus was put on indefinite reassignment and eventually was gone from Binghamton.  Finally, DeFleur resigned her post this summer.

As a result, a team that won the America East two seasons ago has taken several steps back.  Interim coach Mark Macon took over the leftovers of that ravaged team and limped to a 13-18 record last season.  This season, Binghamton won their first game over Colgate then proceeded to lose their next five games by a combined total of 117 points.

This was the Hofstra's first trip back to the Events Center since 2004.  The Pride had held their last six opponents to 62 points or less, while Binghamton had only averaged 45 points in their last five games.  And to top all of that, Kyle Whelliston wrote a Midmajority article on Binghamton last week, noting that "The 2010-11 Bearcats are, quite simply, one of the worst and most inept Division I basketball teams I have ever seen."  Thus you had the makings of what seemed to be a relatively easy Pride win.  However, the adage "But that's why they play the game" never had more truth to it than Wednesday night.

Right off the bat, the Bearcats hit four of their first five shots and  jumped out to a 9-6 lead with 16:20 left in the first half.   The Binghamton announcers noted that Macon had been working on a Princeton style offense in practice and implemented for this game. Surprise!  The Pride could not handle the Bearcats' cuts and Hofstra  immediately switched to a zone.

However, the suddenly red hot Bearcat offense was able to adjust and find the holes in the Pride zone.  Jimmy Gray hit a jumper at the top of the key.  Then after Mike Moore hit a jumper to put Hofstra up one, Gray followed it up with a three pointer to put Binghamton up two, 19-17 with 12:18 left.  After a Greer Wright layup made it 21-17, the Bearcats would continue to zone bust by hitting four consecutive threes to put Binghamton up 33-26 before Charles Jenkins' layup closed the gap to 33-28 at the half.

I had been tweeting updates of the game on Wednesday night @gmoore21566 and I noted that "If you are a #hofstra fan, considering #binghamton is 7 of 14 from 3 & Jenkins has only 7 pts, u have to b happy down only 5."   And a lot of that had to do with Mike Moore, in the middle of his biggest game of the year, scoring 15 points in the first half to keep the Pride in the game.  So you had to figure that Jenkins would get hot and that Binghamton would cool down from the perimeter.

Well you would only be half right.  The Bearcats picked up right where they left off as Wright buried another three to put Binghamton up eight, 36-28.   They would extend the lead to ten 47-37 on a Moussa Camara three pointer with fifteen minutes left in the second half.   Just think, Binghamton had already scored more points in twenty five minutes of this game than they averaged in their last five games.   And the Bearcats weren't done yet.

Binghamton extended their lead to 56-44 with 10:44 left.   The Pride seemingly had no answers for stopping the once inept Bearcat offense.  At one point, the Bearcats were 12 of 19 from beyond the arc.  And Wright was just killing the Pride, whether it was a long three or taking his man in the lane and hitting a layup or a short jumper.  What had been probably thought as an easy road win looked to be a long bus trip back to Hempstead for the Pride.

But Hofstra has the ultimate equalizer.  The two time Haggerty Award winner for best NYC metro player and the reigning CAA Player of the Year, Charles Jenkins.  And Jenkins has always been known for heating up in the second half.  And on Wednesday night, he didn't just heat up.  He became nuclear.

With the Pride down 59-52 with 8:32 left, Jenkins took over.  He would score 17 points in the span of five and a half minutes, culminating his scalding streak with a three pointer to put the Pride up one 71-70 with three minutes left in the game.  It was during this time that I noticed my MacBook Pro laptop starting to overheat.   I actually lifted my laptop off the bed to try and cool it off.  But I knew what was happening and was only delaying the inevitable.

Binghamton would regain the lead as Mr. Everything, Greer Wright, hit one of two free throws, then assisted on a Chretien Lukusa layup.  Wright, easily the Bearcats' best player, had a monster game on Wednesday night.   The six foot seven forward had 28 points, including four threes, seven assists and five rebounds.  Hofstra had no answer to stopping Wright until the end of the game.  The answer - foul him.

It turned out that Wright had one hole in his game, which ultimately cost the Bearcats the win in regulation - free throw shooting.  Down the stretch, Wright would miss four of his six free throw attempts, perhaps due to him being dogged tired from being Mr. Everything.   His last two missed free throws after Jenkins fouled him enabled Jenkins to hit a layup to tie the game at 75 on a layup with six seconds left and forced overtime.  It was Jenkins 30th and 31st points of the second half.

It was during this time that my laptop finally gave out from the heat caused by Jenkins scorching second half streak.  I had to race down to the entertainment room and watch the end of the second half and the overtime on my desktop.  My laptop would cool off, but not Hofstra.

In the overtime, Binghamton briefly went out to a lead, but Hofstra took the lead for good on a Mike Moore layup.  Jenkins's layup gave him 40 points on the night and a 80-77 lead for the Pride.  Moore would add five more points and with an exhausted Wright on the bench, Hofstra would survive the Events Center with an 89-85 overtime win.

Moore finally was Robin to Jenkins' Batman with his best game of the season, 28 points including 5 of 9 from beyond the arc and added 8 rebounds.  Jenkins and Moore combined to shoot 23 of 39 from the field while the rest of the team only shot 8 of 24.   Binghamton would end up shooting 12 of 29 from three, but only shot 10 of 20 from the line, which included Wright's ugly 6 of 14 from the charity stripe.  Gray added 18 for the Bearcats.

Binghamton's next game is today at an equally struggling Manhattan team, so there is hope for the new and improved Bearcats offense.  Meanwhile, Hofstra hosts Florida Atlantic as they welcome Brad Kelleher, freed from his NCAA gulag, in his first game as a member of the Pride.   And I will be there providing updates today on the game via my Twitter feed @gmoore21566.

As for my laptop.  Well it recovered from "The Charles Jenkins Experience".  But if it could talk, it would probably ask that I refrain from streaming any game video feeds involving Jenkins and the Pride.  However, I can't make that promise, so perhaps the next game I will watch on my desktop.

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