Saturday, February 5, 2011

Five Things Hofstra Must Do To Get Rolling Again

On January 27, Hofstra was 8-1, 14-6 overall and tied for first in the CAA.  They had just won their third straight conference game, an exciting 92-90 overtime win over James Madison at the Mack Center.  They were playing VCU at Siegel Center for first place in the Colonial.   The Pride were on a roll.

Just one week later, the Pride are reeling, losers of three straight.  Hofstra now is in fourth place in the CAA, one game in front of James Madison and Drexel for the last first round bye spot in the CAA Tournament.   Hofstra has the tiebreaker on JMU and has split with Drexel.  But depending on the tiebreaker scenarios, they could lose out to Drexel if the teams are tied for fourth.

Hofstra has a relatively easy schedule remaining as none of their conference opponents are above .500 in the CAA.   But they need to play better to avoid a stumble.   So what can the Pride do to get back on track?  Here's five things they must to do finish in the top four in the CAA.

1) Rebound -  The Pride have really struggled on the boards recently.  In their last three games, Hofstra has been outrebounded on average 44-28.  In the game against Drexel, the Pride were outrebounded 20-5 on the offensive glass.   Since Hofstra really only uses three legitimate forwards in their regular rotation, they must have everyone crash the boards.

For a while, they were doing exactly that.  Prior to the three game losing streak, Mike Moore had averaged seven rebounds per game over his last five games, four of which were wins.  During the three game losing streak, Moore has not even averaged three rebounds per game.  And it's not just Moore.  The only statistic that Charles Jenkins has dropped in from a season ago is rebounds (4.5 last season, 3.7 this season).  And David Imes has not even averaged four rebounds per game over his last four games despite averaging 26 minutes in those games.  

The team as a whole must crash the boards, especially on the defensive end, where opponent's offensive rebounds are killing the Pride.  In the loss vs. Drexel. the Dragons 20-5 margin on the offensive glass led to Drexel getting twenty second chance points to Hofstra's seven.  Drexel only won by five points.   Fix the rebounding problem and that's half the battle right there.

2) The Two B's, Balance and Ball Movement -   When Hofstra went out to their 8-1 conference start, in their eight conference wins the Pride had at least three players scoring in double figures.  In their three straight conference losses, only two players scored in double figures (that was the case for the other conference loss to ODU as well).  In two games, Drexel and George Mason, it was Jenkins and Moore.  In the loss to VCU, it was Jenkins and Greg Washington.

Hofstra must have balance to be successful.  When the Pride have three or more players score in double figures, their record is 12-1 overall and 8-0 in the CAA.  When two or less score in double figures, Hofstra is 2-8 overall and 0-4 in the CAA.

And the Pride must look inside and have the frontcourt do their part.  First, Greg Washington must get out of his funk.  He has been scoreless the last two games.  In his three previous games, Washington was averaging 13 points.  David Imes is shooting 50 percent from the field on the season.  But Imes has scored a combined total of 23 points in his last four games.

When Hofstra was successful during their 8-1 start, it was due to often impressive ball movement.  Especially in the games at Drexel and at home vs. George Mason.  It looked as if neither team could stop Hofstra on the offensive end.  I remember watching the Towson feed and how the Tiger announcers were so impressed at how the Pride moved the ball around against the Tigers zone defense.   Lately though it looks like they are letting the offense running through Jenkins and standing around too much.  The ball movement needs to return.

3) Get To the Line - Hofstra leads the CAA in Free Throw Shooting Percentage at 77.2 percent, which is very impressive.  The problem is that the Pride in 23 games only have 435 free throw attempts, which is eighth in the CAA.  And Charles Jenkins accounts for 161 of those attempts.   Compare that with James Madison who leads the CAA with 542 attempts in 24 games.  Hofstra averages about 19 FT attempts per game compared to JMU's nearly 23 FT attempts per game.

The problem is Hofstra shoots too many jumpers and three pointers.  The best example is Mike Moore who has 124 three point attempts but only 83 free throw attempts.  Moore is a decent three point shooter at 37 percent (14 in the CAA), but he is first in the CAA in Free throw percentage at 89 percent.   And having seen enough of his games, I know Moore is very capable of driving to the basket.   So if you combine more drives by Moore with more emphasis on frontcourt scoring, the Pride should get to the basket more, which should only benefit the best FT shooting team in the CAA.

4) Guard the Three Better - Hofstra is tenth in the CAA in three point FG percentage defense at 37.6 percent of threes allowed.  In their last four games, Hofstra has allowed opponents to shoot 28 of 66 from beyond the arc, which is a 42.4 percent clip.   That's not going to fly with Northeastern coming to town today.  During the Huskies four game winning streak, they have shot 24 of 46 from three point range (52 percent).  The Pride need to start guarding the three better, especially today.

5) Dig Deep -  And I mean "dig deep" in two ways.  First, they need to step up their intensity now over the last six games.  A first round bye spot is in their own hands if they win their last six games.  It's a goal they need to focus on each game.

Second, when I say dig deep, I am saying that Coach Mo Cassara should not be afraid to go to every player on his bench.  If he is not getting good rebounding, bring in the seldom used Paul Bilbo and Roland Brown to give them a few minutes.  Bilbo was especially huge late in the first half of their win at Drexel providing good defense and a sweet little hook.    Plus with the long CAA season, working more players into the rotation will help keep Washington, Imes and Stephen Nwaukoni fresh.

If Hofstra can work on these five things, then over the next seven games (six in conference and BracketBuster vs. Wright State), then they will successfully return to the slogan that Hofstra has been using lately on Facebook, which is a play off a certain SEC team's slogan.  

Roll Pride.

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