Sunday, January 16, 2011

On the Rebound, Old Dominion Defeats Hofstra

I had been thinking about this game for a week ever since Hofstra defeated Northeastern the Saturday before yesterday.  Even though there was the trap game for Hofstra with Towson, which turned out not to be a trap game, the game against Old Dominion was a statement game.  The first place Pride, having won ten straight regular season conference games dating to last season, were playing the defending CAA champ Monarchs, the team picked by EVERYONE to repeat as champs.  If Hofstra could defeat Old Dominion yesterday and along with its favorable schedule over the next three games, it would put the Pride in a terrific position to at least get one of the four first round byes in the conference tournament.

Then came the nationally televised Thursday night game between ODU and Drexel on the U.  In the first half, the Monarchs looked like the best team in the CAA, dominating the Dragons for the first twenty minutes.  The second twenty minutes were perhaps the Monarchs' worst of the season as Drexel used a 21-3 run to defeat Old Dominion 62-57.   

Thus the Monarchs came into the game yesterday two games behind the Pride in the standings.  A loss to Hofstra would make it three games, plus the Pride would have the tiebreaker, since the teams only face each other once this season.  To me, this had to be a desperate situation for ODU.  A team considered by many as a serious at large contender could not afford to be .500 in conference after six games.  Though a couple of friends of mine disagreed with me on this, I knew better.  ODU absolutely now had to win this game.

With those scenarios in place and a crowd of 2572 on hand (it seemed like more than that), the Pride and Monarchs tipped off the CAA game of the week.   At the outset, Hofstra stormed out of the gate, playing strong defense and showing good ball movement.   Greg Washington had a block party, as he rejected four shots within the first two minutes.   Meanwhile, Charles Jenkins,  Mike Moore and Shemiye McLendon helped lead the Pride out to a 12-0 lead in the first six minutes  The Monarchs came out as flat as they did in the second half vs Drexel as they missed their first ten shots of the game.

ODU finally got on the scoreboard with six straight points as Keyon Carter's layup cut the deficit to 12-6 with 12:33 left.  However Hofstra responded as Jenkins and Stephen Nwaukoni scored all the points in an 8-2 Pride spurt to make the score 20-8 with ten minutes left in the first half.   At this time, Hofstra was 8 of 15 from the field while ODU was 3 of 16 from the field.

But there were storm clouds building for the Pride.  Washington already had two fouls by this time and was on the bench.  Then at the nine minute mark, Jenkins picked up his second foul.  Once he headed to the bench so did the Hofstra offense.   The Pride would only hit three of their remaining seventeen shots for the rest of the half. 

Meanwhile ODU finally shook off their hangover.   And they did it the Monarchs way - Ground and Pound.   Down 20-10,  Kent Bazemore missed two free throws but Keyon Carter grabbed an offensive rebound and Darius James buried a three pointer.  From there, the Monarchs dominated the boards and gashed the Pride defense with inside offense.   Combine that with ODU clamping down on Hofstra's offense and you had a 19-5 ODU run, culminating with a Bazemore three to put the Monarchs up 27-25 with 90 seconds left in the half.

Hofstra's offense had gone stagnant as the Monarchs clamped down on Jenkins drives, often double teaming him.   Jenkins would find an open man but the Pride just couldn't hit the open outside shots.  A perfect example was the end of the half.  With a chance to tie or take the lead, Jenkins dribbled the ball at the top of the key.  When Jenkins made his drive and the ODU defense converged, Jenkins wisely dished off to an open Brad Kelleher in the corner,  But Kelleher's shot missed and ODU went up at the half 29-27.  

The Monarchs dominated the boards on the first half, outrebounding the Pride 28-13.  But the great equalizer was turnovers.  Hofstra had only two while Old Dominion had nine.   Thus why it was a two point game at the half. 

The start of second half saw ODU and Hofstra trade baskets as ODU kept a two point lead 34-32 after a Jenkins layup.  The Monarchs then went on an 8-1 spurt as Hassell, Ben Finney and Carter dominated the inside play and ODU was up 42-33 with 15:22 left.   The sluggish pace favored the Monarchs, and it looked like Old Dominion was going to pound Hofstra off their own court.

But the Pride would respond with a 11-4 run of their own as they picked up the pace over the next three and half minutes.  Moore's layup cut the deficit to 46-44 with 11:57 left.   Hofstra got the ball back with a chance to tie or take the lead.  But Moore would miss a shot and ODU would extend the lead back to six, 50-44, as Cooper and Hassell scored inside.

Jenkins, aka "The Takeover", "The Man" or "The Force of Nature" depending on your preference of nicknames, then took matters into his own hands.  On two consecutive possessions, he would be fouled and he hit all four free throws to make the score 50-48 with 8:14 left.  The pace however had slowed due to the second half foul fest for ODU.  The Monarchs had nine fouls in the first eleven minutes of the second half, as the CAA officiating crew decided to make up for the large differential in fouls that favored ODU in the first half.

While during a timeout late in the game, the Hofstra sound system played "Number One" from the Real Genius soundtrack to try to get the Hofstra crowd to show they are number one in the CAA in crowd noise.  But I was more focused on the fact that every time Hofstra got close, Old Dominion responded by working it inside to Hassell.  After a Ben Finney three for ODU and a David Imes two for Hofstra, Hassell hit two layups to extend the Monarchs' lead to 57-50 with 5:56 left.   The lead was still seven, 59-52 with 4:45 left.  It seemed that when Washington picked up his third foul in the first half he became tentative the rest of the game on the defensive end.  And Hassell took advantage of that. 

Hofstra tried desperately to get back in the game by driving to the basket.   Moore would hit four free throws to cut the lead 60-56 with 2:43 left.   Needing a defensive stand, the Pride forced the Monarchs to work the shot clock down to one second,  But Bazemore buried an NBA three with Jenkins in his face to put ODU up 63-56.   Bazemore then stole a pass intended for Jenkins and a Finney layup was the dagger as the Monarchs went up 65-56.   ODU would eventually win 75-64.  

Hassell and Bazemore each had 18 points shooting a combined 14 of 27 from the field as the Monarchs shot 45 percent from the field overall.  Hassell also had 13 rebounds as ODU dominated the glass 52-28, which included 18 offensive rebounds.   Ben Finney nearly had a triple double with nine points, nine rebounds and eight assists.

For Hofstra, Jenkins and Moore each had 19 points.  But combined they only shot 12 of 30, including Jenkins limited to 6 of 16 from the field.  Jenkins had entered the game just shooting under 50 percent from three, 34 of 69.  But yesterday, Jenkins was 0 of 4.  Jenkins did have six assists. The team as a whole only shot 37 percent from the field, which included an unseemly  5 of 20 from beyond the arc.   

With the win, ODU is now 4-2 in conference, only one game out of first place, and the talk about their declining at large bid hopes should cease for now.  But they now have to face another team Wednesday that's tied for first place in the CAA, James Madison at the Ted.   At 5-1 in conference now, Hofstra must regroup for their next home game on Wednesday, against UNCW who just lost to James Madison last night. 

Oh and if you are wondering about the team that knocked Old Dominion Thursday night.  Well Drexel went to Williamsburg last night and played a William and Mary team that hadn't won all season in conference...till last night.  The Tribe stunned the Dragons 80-66.   That's just life in the CAA.  Crazy as always. 

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