Sunday, December 12, 2010

Jenkins Is Not Enough as FAU Holds Off Hofstra on Brad Kelleher Is Free To Play Day

Do you know this man?  He was a highly thought of JUCO player from Midland, Texas by way of Australia.   A supposed three point specialist/point guard who Tom Pecora thought would play 35 minutes a game for him last season for Hofstra.  Then somehow, the No Clue At All thought a registration form was a contract.  And Outback Brad became Out of Action Brad as the NCAA ruled him ineligible for the 2009-10 season.

Hofstra appealed and Kelleher would be eligible for the 2010-11 season...after sitting out eight games.  When Hofstra asked if they could count the exhibition games as one of the eight he could sit out, the NCAA, conveniently forgetting they allowed that for John Wall, said no.  Finally, on December 11, 2010, it was "Brad Kelleher Is Free to Play Day".

The Pride were taking on the Owls of Florida Atlantic, coached by Mike Jarvis, who when last seen in New York, was hightailing it out of town after running St John's into the ground.  Coming into the game, the Owls had won two games in a row, an impressive road win at Mississippi State and an equally impressive home win over South Florida.  So beating Florida Atlantic would be a difficult task for Hofstra.

But the Pride came out from the start seemingly up to the task.  Three Charles Jenkins three pointers combined with six Greg Washington points would put Hofstra up 17-10 with thirteen minutes left in the first half.  After a Mike Moore three pointer, the Hofstra lead was still seven, 22-15 with 11:09 remaining in the first half.

At this point of the game, the Pride had been shooting 9 of 14 from the field and it was a good thing they were, because the Owls were shooting 7 of 11.  The Pride had the lead due to both their hot shooting and forcing four Owls turnovers in those first nine minutes.

Not too long after a Shavar Richardson three cut the Hofstra lead to 22-18, the crowd of 2,514 all got to see a first.  Brad Kelleher entered a Hofstra basketball game that counted for the first time in his career.  He was inserted as the point guard replacing Dwan McMillan and made an immediate impact.  On a steal by Jenkins, Jenkins passed the ball to Kelleher, who drove down the lane and basically bull rushed Richardson, forcing the foul.  Kelleher hit both free throws and the lead was 24-18.

However, during this time, Hofstra went cold from the field while Florida Atlantic continued its hot shooting.  The Pride would not score a field goal over a span of eight and half minutes, scoring all their points on free throws during the frigid stretch.  While the giant Charles Jenkins head was watching in the Lions Den, two Charles Jenkins free throws would put Hofstra up five, 26-21 with 5:58 left in the first half.

Then came the Owls run.  Over the last nearly six minutes of the first half, FAU would outscore Hofstra 18-4.   A Greg Gantt three point play, followed by a couple of dunks off offensive rebounds, then topped with a Gantt two point jumper and a Brett Royster layup put Florida Atlantic up 31-26, a lead they would never relinquish.

After David Imes finally broke Hofstra's field goal drought with a layup to cut the lead to 31-28 with 2:39 left in the half, FAU responded again.  Two Alex Tucker free throws, a Raymond Taylor three and another three by Gantt sandwiched two free throws by Jenkins to give the Owls a 39-30 lead at the half.

When you took a look at the halftime stats, Jenkins had 15 at the half for the Pride, but Gantt led eight Owls scorers with 12 points.   The Pride, who had started out 9 of 14 from the field, only hit one field goal over the last nine minutes of the first half to shoot 10 of 24 from the field.  Meanwhile, the Owls were 16 of 28 from the field and were outrebounding the Pride 17-9.

These stats might explain why the Pride were so late out of the locker room before the start of the second half.  Probably Coach Mo Cassara was heavily preaching to his team to play better defense in the second half.   It would be the only way that Hofstra could get back in the game.  Well that and Mr. Jenkins.

Jenkins came out and scored the first eight points for the Pride as the one man force of nature tried to bring his team back.  However, the Owls were still up nine, 47-38 with 14:45 left as Taylor buried another set-shot looking three.  Jenkins and Dwan McMillan would score the Pride's next eight points and cut the lead to five 51-46 with ten minutes left.

The Pride would whittle away at the Owls lead as a Mike Moore three cut the deficit to 53-49.   A Jenkins three point play cut the deficit to one, 55-54.  But again, FAU would respond as a Gantt three with one second left on the shot clock, put the Owls up 58-54.  Jenkins would then hit one of two free throws, then follow with a layup to cut the lead back to one, 58-57 with 3:26 left.

The Pride then held the Owls on their next possession and had a chance to take the lead.  Yves Jules had an open look for a three but missed.  Taylor responded for FAU by burying another three, his fourth on the day and the lead was back to four 61-57 with 1:55 left.   Washington finally scored his first points since 16:17 of the first half and the lead was back to two, 61-59 with 90 seconds left in the game.

FAU's Taylor missed a shot, probably because it wasn't a three point attempt, and Hofstra had a chance to tie or, with a three, take the lead.  And everyone in the building knew who the ball was going to.  Jenkins got the ball, drove the lane and put up a layup attempt with his left hand.  The layup missed, and while Jenkins may have been fouled, no foul was called.  Kore White got the rebound for FAU.

The Owls had the ball with 53 seconds left.  There were two choices in strategy here.  Hofstra could play defense and get the ball back with no less than 18 seconds left.  However they could be down two still or if the Owls made a basket, the deficit could be four or even five.    Or the Pride could foul and make it come down to the Owls making free throws on several one and one attempts.    We quickly would find out the decision.

With one foul to give, Dwan McMillan fouled Taylor with 45 seconds left.  The Owls called timeout to set their play, but immediately Jules fouled Taylor to put him at the line.  Taylor hit two free throws to put the Owls up 63-59 with 42 seconds left. 

Then FAU implemented a defense to deny Jenkins the ball the rest of the game.  As a result, McMillan attempted a three pointer that missed and FAU got the rebound and the Pride immediately fouled.  After Tucker missed the front end of a one and one free throw attempt,  the Pride again couldn't get the ball to Jenkins and Moore took a three pointer where from my vantage point he was definitely fouled.  But again, there was no foul.  The result was an air ball that again FAU rebounded.  Again, the Owls missed the front end of a one and one, and again it was McMillan who missed another three.  And again the Owls rebounded and ran out the clock, winning the game 63-59.  Jenkins did not attempt a shot over the last 50 seconds of the game.

The Pride played better defense in the second half, limiting the Owls to 24 points, but the nine point halftime deficit was too large a whole to dig out from.  Jenkins, aka The Force of Nature, had 32 points on 9 of 14 from the field, including several drives that had Owls' players just shrugging their shoulders as they had often no way of stopping him.  Jenkins was also 11 of 12 from the line. Jenkins is now shooting a ridiculous 58.8 percent from the field including 47.5 percent from three, while averaging over 25 points per game

But the Owls had better balance overall as they had three players in double figures.  Gantt had 17, Taylor had 14 on 4 of 5 shooting from beyond the arc and Tucker added 10.  They also dominated the boards, outrebounding Hofstra 30-21.  The Pride had no other scorers in double figures and Moore, who had 28 vs. Binghamton, only had 8 points on 3 of 11 shooting from the field.

And as for our recently freed hero, Kelleher?  Well he played seven minutes, going 0 of 2 from the field, including a three pointer that rimmed out.  He did hit his two free throws for 2 points.  I wished that he was out there during the end, because I thought the Pride needed a three point shooter out on the court.  Though he looked fine in his seven minutes of playing the point, there was no doubt he was probably rusty from lack of real game action (thanks No Clue At All!).  But there are at least 21 games left on the schedule (3 non conference, 17 CAA and at least the first round of the CAA Tournament).  Plenty of time for Outback Brad to become a hero to the Pride faithful.

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