Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Hofstra Outlasts James Madison in Another OT Classic

On February 9 2005,  I was at the Mack Center when Hofstra outlasted James Madison in three overtimes 95-88.   It was one of the wildest games I ever witnessed.    The win put Hofstra over .500 in conference for the first time in nearly a month that season.  It was also a very important win for the Pride as it was the springboard to a seven game win streak, which included a quarterfinal win over Drexel in the CAA Tournament.  You could also say that the triple overtime win also helped to lead them to a NIT bid in that 2004-05 season, their first of three NIT bids in a row.

The circumstances were somewhat different Monday night at the Mack Center.  Hofstra came into the game tied for first place in the CAA at 7-1.   JMU was tied for fourth in the conference at 5-3 (in 2004-05, Madison was 3-15 in conference).  Both teams wanted to the end the first half of the conference season with a much needed win.   And the 2,324 in attendance, many of which was comprised by a lively Lions Den student section, were about to see another overtime game.  This was going to be a heavyweight championship fight and AC-DC's Highway to Hell, played right before tipoff, was going to be the perfect lead-in.  

Hofstra came out of the corner with a 13-5 lead as the Pride used good ball movement to score their points.  Five of the first six Hofstra baskets came as the result of assists.  Then the next four Hofstra baskets were the result of Charles Jenkins.  Jenkins scored two baskets and assisted on two others as the Pride held a 22-16 lead with 9:45.

But like a good prizefight, James Madison withstood Hofstra's blows and came back firing haymakers, in the form of a 15-0 run over the span of five minutes.  And it was a one two punch, Humpty Hitchens and Denzel Bowles delivering the haymakers.  Hitchens buried two threes while Bowles had seven points in the span.  The score was 31-22 JMU with 4:22 left in the half.

The Dukes would extend the lead to thirteen, 41-28 at the half.   Bowles (15 points) and Julius Wells (14 points) outscored Hofstra at the half.  The difference in the first half was Madison abusing Hofstra's zone defense with 6 of 11 shooting from beyond the arc.  Meanwhile, Hofstra was 2 of 11 from three at the half.

The second half saw Hofstra switch to a man to man defense.  And while it was successful in stopping the three (Madison would not hit a three pointer in the second half),  Bowles and Rayshawn Goins went to work inside for the Dukes.    Bowles and Goins were responsible for the first nine points scored by JMU in the second half as the lead was now fourteen, 50-36 with 16:11 left.  Goins repeatedly got offensive rebounds and putbacks for Madison as Hofstra had no answer for the 6 foot 6 275 pound mound of rebound.

But somehow, the Pride withstood the body blows by Bowles and Goins, and responded with a 13-2 run in not even four minutes.  This was due to Hofstra finally starting to hit open threes.  Jenkins and Shemiye McLendon hit back to back three jabs to make the score 52-49 with 11:22 left.

But again, Madison responded with a right cross, a 6-0 spurt to make the score 58-49.  The lead would actually swell to eleven, 69-58 with 6:34 left.  The Dukes were doing it at the line as they hit 9 of 10 free throws over one stretch during the second half.   It looked like Hofstra was teetering on the ropes and all that was left was one hook to the head by Madison to knock the Pride out.

But the Pride channeled Rocky Balboa, bounced off the ropes and hit JMU with shots to the ribs.   Brad Kelleher scored five points in a row (a three pointer and two free throws).   Then Jenkins and McLendon both buried threes and suddenly a 11-2 Hofstra spurt made the score 71-69 JMU with 3:33 left.  Matt Brady called timeout and the Mack Center was rocking, Giant Charles Jenkins paper head and all.

For the next couple of minutes,  the pattern was Madison would hit foul shots, Hofstra would hit then hit a basket.  JMU's next seven points would come all on free throws.   After a Brad Kelleher layup cut the Dukes lead to one, 78-77, Devon Moore got fouled with 33 seconds left.   JMU's Moore would hit the first free throw.  But on the second attempt, Madison's Andrey Semenov inexplicably stepped in the lane before Moore shot the free throw.  The free throw was waved off and Hofstra had a chance to tie.

The next 16 seconds were basically a free for all.  The Pride tried to setup a play for Jenkins but JMU denied Jenkins the ball,  Then when it seemed like McLendon was on the verge of being out of control with the ball, Hitchens fouled him.  That was Hitchens' fifth foul.  McLendon then calmly drilled both free throws and the game was tied at 79 with 17 seconds left.  With the entire crowd on its feet, Devon Moore ran the clock down then tried to drive the lane.  But Yves Jules, who had entered the game on defense (good coaching at the end of the game by Hofstra's Mo Cassara), stole the ball from Moore and the game went into overtime.

The Hofstra PA system appropriately played "Don't Stop Believing" before the tipoff at overtime.   And certainly Jenkins didn't stop believing as he scored the first six points for Hofstra in the extra period.  After two Mike Moore free throws put Hofstra up seven, 90-83 with 2:05 left, it looked like Madison was going to lose by TKO.   But Wells hit the Dukes' first three pointer since the first half and Madison was down four.  Then after Jenkins missed a sure layup, a stunned crowd watched as Bowles hit a layup and drew the fifth foul on Washington.  He hit the free throw and suddenly it was 90-89 with 53 seconds left.  McLendon would miss a three and JMU had the ball with 25 seconds left as Matt Brady called a timeout to setup the play.

Everyone thought Bowles would get the ball.  Certainly Cassara did as he inserted Stephen Nwaukoni to guard Bowles.   But on the inbounds, Semenov got the ball at the top of the key and inexplicably, Semenov drove the lane.  But thanks to once again the defense by Jules, Semenov's layup attempt was way off.  And guess who got the rebound.  Yup, the just inserted Nwaukoni with 3.9 seconds left.  He was fouled and he headed to the line.

Tieff stood next to me worried about these two free throws.  And rightfully so, since Nwaukoni was only a 55 percent foul shooter.  But Nwaukoni calmly buried both and the lead was three.  Cassara called timeout and Tieff was yelling out "Foul them, foul them".   Cassara decided not to guard Goins who was inbounding the ball.  Goins hit Wells with a pass just past center court.  And sure enough, McLendon fouled him before he could get a foul shot off.   Wells would hit the first free throw, then purposely miss the second.  Who got the rebound?  Who else but the best player in the CAA, Jenkins, and the clock ran out.  Hofstra held on for an absolutely amazing 92-90 win as the Hofstra players celebrated with the Lions Den fans after the buzzer sounded

The game was televised on ESPN Regional.  And those 2374 at the game and those who watched on TV or on ESPN3 were treated to a 35 point 5 assists, 3 blocks and 2 steals performance by the Force of Nature, Jenkins who shot 11 of 19 from the field and 11 of 13 from the line.    But the man the scouts came to see also had help.  Before he fouled out, Washington had 13 points, 11 rebounds and 5 blocks.  Moore was the usual wingman with 14 points and 7 rebounds.  McLendon also had 14 points and Kelleher added 10.  Also, the best free throw shooting team in the CAA was 21 of 23 from the line.

As for Madison, Bowles was dominant with 27 points and 10 rebounds.  Wells added 23 points on 5 of 9 shooting from beyond the arc.  Devon Moore nearly had a triple double with 13 points, 8 assists and 8 rebounds.  Goins had a double double with 11 points and 10 rebounds while Semenov had 10 points.

Hofstra sent their home crowd happily to their cars and their dorms knowing the team was now 8-1 in conference, 14-6 overall.  More importantly, the Pride have a three game lead on James Madison, now 5-4 in conference, tied for fifth with Drexel and Delaware.  And now the Pride also have the tiebreaker on the Dukes.  Hofstra now plays VCU for first place overall Thursday on ESPNU.  Meanwhile JMU has a home game vs. Drexel on Wednesday night.

After the game, Tieff and I met up with Jerry Beach and his better half Michelle.  We talked briefly about how great the game was and Beach, being his usual crazy self wanted a group hug to celebrate the game.  And yeah, we indulged him.   You couldn't help but be happy after seeing your team rally from fifteen points down (score was once 45-30 in the second half) to force overtime, then hold on for dear life in the extra session.

As Tieff said as we headed to our cars, it was a tournament quality game.  It really felt like a classic heavyweight championship fight.   And Hofstra won on points.

No comments:

Post a Comment