Thursday, January 6, 2011
Hofstra Takes Sole Possession of First in CAA By Defeating George Mason
The two teams have a recent history with each other, which really all starts with the 2005-06 season. CAA fans, especially the Hofstra faithful know all too well that the Patriots were chosen ahead of the Pride for the NCAA Tournament, despite Hofstra winning both games against Mason that season, including the CAA Tournament Semifinals. It just so also happens that CAA Semifinal game is known for the incident where out of frustration, Tony Skinn punched Loren Stokes in an oh so private area. It resulted in Skinn being suspended for the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
The history between the two teams has resulted in some bad blood among the fans. Using his terminology, my "rival blogger", Mr. Defiantly Dutch, Jerry Beach has made no secret of his animosity towards the Green and Gold. And likewise, on the CAAZone Board, Mason fans have made no secret of their dislike for Hofstra and Defiantly Dutch. So on a cold night early in the New Year, you had the makings of an all out war in Hempstead.
But someone in the Hofstra Athletic Department was paying attention to this matter, because when I walked into the arena carrying my dinner of a pretzel and a large iced tea, I immediately saw a large contingent in the Hofstra student section. Hofstra had invited the Freeport High School Marching Band and Cheerleaders to the game, complete with their Red Devil Mascot. They filled up just about all the student section underneath the basket to my right (in regards to where my season ticket seat is located). In fact, they filled it so well, that the loyal Lions Den student section members who did attend had to sit at the other end of the court behind the basket. This resulted in my "rival blogger" having to stand up most of the game while doing his tweeting.
For some reason, Mason switched from their man to man defense to a zone as well and Hofstra, second in the CAA in three point FG percentage, took advantage. Over a five minute span, the Pride buried four from beyond the arc, including Mike Moore's three pointer which tied the game at 30 all with 5:11 in the first half. Isaiah Tate would put Mason back up 33-30 with a three pointer. But Hofstra would outscore Mason 9-2 the rest of the half, which ended on Brad Kelleher's three pointer at the buzzer. The Pride entered the locker room up 39-35 at the half.
But as I noted to Mal later after the game, the two key statistics that are often indicators of good teams are assist to turnover ratio and turnover margin. If you can possess the ball well, you will be successful. And so far this season, Hofstra is second in the CAA in turnover margin and third in assist to turnover ratio. And at halftime, Hofstra only had three turnovers and those three came in the last three and half minutes in the first half. Now normally, Mason is good with the ball as well as they entered the game first in the CAA in assist to turnover ratio and third in turnover margin. However, in the first half, the Patriots had eight turnovers and Hofstra had five steals. This resulted in both teams having an equal number of FG attempts, 28, despite the huge difference in rebounds.
Now CAA conference games are generally known for their physical play and this was no exception. There was a lot of bumping, hacking, jersey pulling and hell even a hip check by Mason's Luke Hancock on a layup drive by Jenkins. Patriots starting forward Mike Morrison had two fouls in the first five minutes of the game, sat the rest of the first half and only played 13 minutes the entire game. Washington had his usual four fouls with 17 minutes left in the second half but somehow managed not to foul out. However, Hofstra's David Imes, who did play good defense all night and had eight rebounds, would eventually foul of the game.
But more importantly, the last five minutes of the game became FoulFest (though not quite as bad as Monday's Drexel-Hofstra game). Mason would commit nine fouls during this time. Unfortunately for the Green and Gold fans, Hofstra entered the game second in the CAA in free throw shooting at 72.4 percent and they would improve on that percentage in this game. The Pride would score 15 of their last 17 points on free throws and the game mercifully ended with Hofstra winning convincingly 87-74.
The win by Hofstra combined with Georgia State losing on a buzzer beater at UNC Wilmington gave the Pride sole possession of first place in the CAA. That made the win over their rival even more sweeter, especially for our aforementioned Flying Dutchmen blogger. Mr. Beach has a little less than a month to talk up the win before the February 2nd rematch at the Patriot Center.
The win by Hofstra also made the rest of the 2377 in attendance, sans the Mason fans, very happy. In fact one Hofstra Lion's Den fan gave coach Mo Cassara a huge hug as he went over to thank the fans behind the basket near the Hofstra bench after the game. I am sure Coach Cassara didn't mind at all. A week ago, after a twenty five point loss at Iona, a good number of people didn't think the Pride would be in this position. What a difference a week and two big conference wins makes.