Friday, January 28, 2011

VCU Defeats Hofstra and Takes Sole Possession of First in the CAA

After Monday night's thrilling overtime game between James Madison and Hofstra, my good friend Tony, aka Tieff, tried to convince me to take a road trip down to Richmond to see Hofstra play VCU for first place in the CAA.  When I told him that I had too many obligations on my calendar, he wittily replied "You should only have three characters on your calendar - V...C...U."   The Wednesday night snowstorm that hit the Northeast and dumped over a foot of snow on Long Island made that idea moot.

Due to the snowstorm, it was another day off for the kids from school and another day off from work for me as it took me nearly three hours to shovel all the snow to clear the driveway, sidewalks and the cars.  Thus there would be no road trip and I would have to settle for my older son's drawing (shown at the top) and watching the game on ESPNU.

Hofstra was traveling to their house of horrors, the Siegel Center, where the Pride was 0-7 all time vs. the Rams.  Not only were they winless at Siegel, but their average margin of loss in those games was 11 points.  Also, with kudos to Mike Litos, Hofstra was facing a VCU team with the fourth longest home winning streak in the country, 20.  It was a big mountain for the Pride to climb.

The game started out, as the WWL announcers put it, "a track meet."  Before you blinked it was, 14-10 VCU not even six minutes into the game.  Then the Rams' Jamie Skeen and the Pride's Charles Jenkins decided to play each other.   Over the next eight minutes, Skeen and Jenkins would each score thirteen points, including two three pointers by each player.   In front of nine NBA scouts (another Litos' nugget), Jenkins' second three made the score VCU 33 Hofstra 28 with 6:00 minutes left in the first half.

Then, the only other Pride player providing offense, Greg Washington, who had nine points in the half, picked up his third foul with 5:45 remaining in the half.   When Washington went to the bench, VCU went on the attack.  The Rams would flood the Pride with a 13-1 run in just two and half minutes.  The Rams lead was now seventeen, 46-29.  Hofstra would enter halftime down 48-33.

In the second half, three times Hofstra got the VCU lead down to thirteen, the last being 63-50 with 12:22 left.  But the Rams would not let the Pride get any closer, nor as Brian Mull correctly noted in a Tweet, did they allow Jenkins to drive the lane in the second half.    In fact, Jenkins did not have a second half point until he hit a jumper with (though he had two assists during this time) with 11:32 left in the game to make the score 66-52.

After that Jenkins layup, VCU put the game away with an 11-3 spurt that put VCU up 77-55 with 6:55 left.   Jenkins would hit his last basket to get the lead down to twenty.  And later, Jenkins' last point, a free throw was the last point scored in the game, an impressive 82-67 win for the Rams.

VCU had terrific balance on the evening as four players scored in double figures.  Skeen had a very good night with 18 points in only 21 minutes of action, due to spraining his knee in the second half.  Bradford Burgess had a double double, scoring 15 points, including 9 of 10 from the line and pulling down 14 rebounds.  Ed Nixon added 14 points and Juvonte Reddic added 13.  Most importantly, the Rams were 21 of 25 from the line.

Meanwhile, Hofstra had a nice one two punch with Jenkins (8 of 17) and Washington (7 of 11) combining for 36 points on 15 of 28 shooting.  But the rest of Hofstra shot only 11 of 29.   Hofstra's  David Imes and Mike Moore, who normally average 22 points per game combined,  only scored nine points combined on 4 of 9 shooting.   Moore and Jenkins, the first and third best free throw shooters in the CAA were a combined 2 of 3 from the line (Hofstra, the best FT shooting team in the CAA shot 10 of 14 overall).

VCU now is 9-1, alone in first in the CAA.  Their next contest is another home game vs. UNCW tomorrow.  Hofstra is now tied with George Mason for second in conference at 8-2.  They also have a home game vs. Drexel tomorrow. Hofstra fans should see Charles Jenkins break Antoine Agudio's Hofstra all time points record tomorrow, as he only needs 16 points to pass Agudio.

If you are wondering if yesterday's 15 point win by VCU was the largest ever at home vs. Hofstra, the answer is that it was the second largest.  The largest came in the 2005-06 season, yes the season where Hofstra was snubbed out of the NCAA Tournament.   The Rams won 87-64 at Siegel Center.  

But there is hope Pride fans.  Hofstra won the rematch in the quarterfinals of the CAA Tournament that season, 72-66.  But before there can be a rematch, both teams need to take care of business in the last eight games of the regular season.  You can never look too far ahead in the CAA.

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