Kyle was kind enough to publish the article.
In the article, I not only wrote about the game itself but how "many of your thoughts, concerns, and hopes often lie with your team’s schedule and play." And thus was the case with me. I thought about the possibilities of Hofstra having a first round by in the CAA Tournament, how the win put the Pride three games up on the Dukes with the tiebreaker. Could Hofstra finally win at VCU? For the first time since that 06-07 season, I thought Hofstra had a legitimate chance to make the NCAA Tournament and I was consumed about the Pride's chances in the CAA Tournament.
Entering the nationally televised game on Thursday January 27, Hofstra was 0-7 vs VCU at the Siegel Center. The Pride and the Rams came out early on and played "a track meet" as the ESPN announcers noted. VCU's Jamie Skeen and Hofstra's Charles Jenkins were putting on an offensive clinic. But the Rams would go on a late 13-1 run and turned a close game into a 46-29 lead. The Pride never recovered and suffered their eighth straight loss at the Siegel Center, losing 82-67. VCU now had sole possession of first place in the CAA and Hofstra fell into a tie for second with George Mason.
As for the game itself, Drexel dominated the boards against Hofstra, outrebounding them 47-24. Still the game was close for the most part. The highlight for the Pride came with 10:15 left. Jenkins hit two free throws to cut the Dragons' lead to 47-45. With the two free throws, Jenkins was now the all time leading scorer in Hofstra Men's Basketball history, passing Antoine Agudio. Unfortunately, the record came in a losing cause as Drexel held off Hofstra 65-60. The Pride had now lost two in a row in conference and were now technically fourth in conference as they were tied with ODU but the Monarchs had the tie breaker.
Hofstra now had to face George Mason at the Patriot Center. Since their back to back losses to the Pride and the Monarchs, the Patriots had won seven straight and were in second place in the CAA, a game back of VCU. Mason jumped out immediately on Hofstra, going out to a 49-34 halftime lead. The Patriots never let up and won handily 87-68. The Pride had now lost three straight games and stood in fourth place at 8-4 in the CAA.
For the second time in the 2010-11 season, Hofstra faced adversity. With six games left and the team with a shorter bench due to an eye socket injury to once starting point guard Dwan McMillan, the team needed to refocus and get back to their new slogan - "Roll Pride". And the Pride did exactly that - roll.
But Jenkins' teammates picked him up. Hofstra went on a 9-0 spurt with Jenkins on the sideline to cut the lead to three. Northeastern extended the lead back to seven, 75-68 with 3:52 left. But the Pride shutout the Huskies the rest of the way and using a 10-0 game ending run to win the game. Shemiye McLendon hit several huge free throws down the stretch to lift the Pride to a stirring 78-75 comeback win. The Pride had stopped the bleeding by getting back to balanced scoring. Hofstra was now 13-1 when three or more players scored in double figures.
Twenty seven scouts attended the Pride-Panthers game to see Jenkins. And he didn't disappoint. Jenkins had one point for each of those scouts with one left over for good measure. He shot 10 of 15 from the field, 3 of 4 from beyond the arc, along with 5 rebounds and 4 steals. Hofstra led by as many as eighteen in the second before eventually winning 79-68. Three other players scored in double figures for Hofstra with Brad Kelleher getting 10 points and 8 assists. Hofstra had now won two in a row and had a two game lead on Drexel and James Madison for the fourth and final first round bye spot in the CAA Tournament.
It's barbecue and basketball when going to Delaware. So after dealing with pothole crews on the Belt, moronic ticket booth agents at the Bob Carpenter Center and a ticket printing company that can't spell Hofstra correctly, I got the barbecue I so crave and proceeded to watch the Blue Hens take on the Flying Dutchmen.
As for the game, Hofstra came out and looked like they were going to handle the Hens rather easily. The Pride, er Flying Dutchmen were up thirteen in the second half, 43-30. After Delaware cut the lead to 47-42, again Hofstra extended the lead to eleven 53-42 with 5:42 left. But the Blue Hens again rallied, cutting the lead to two 57-55 with 48 seconds left. But Jenkins hit four free throws down the stretch and the Pride, er Flying Dutchmen escaped with the 61-58 victory, their third in a row. The only way to celebrate the end of a good road victory was a large chocolate truffle blizzard at a nearby Dairy Queen.
The game started out with the Pride jumping out to a 15-3 lead as Mike Moore nailed three 3 pointers. But just when you thought that Hofstra was going to blow William and Mary right out of the Mack Arena, the Tribe responded. Boy did they ever respond, as they went out on a 36-11 run over the next 17 minutes of the game. W&M was up 39-26 due in large part to one Quinn McDowell who had 11 of those 36 points.
burying a 35 footer at the buzzer as Hofstra stunned William and Mary 81-78. Jenkins buzzer beaters went viral and his game winning shot was the #2 highlight on ESPN Sportscenter that night.
Though the Wright State fans were very friendly and hospitable with me, unfortunately the Nutter and Wright State weren't very hospitable to Hofstra. The Raiders jumped on the Pride early and led 17-9. The Pride rallied to get the score within 19-15 but could not get any closer. Wright State did a terrific job of playing the passing lanes and double teamed and triple teamed Jenkins. Vaughn Duggins, a former UNCW recruit until Brad Brownell left the Seahawks for Wright State, led all scorers with a career high 31 points in a convincing 82-56 win for the Raiders.
as they eventually beat the Seahawks 71-64. Imes had a terrific game with 12 points and 17 rebounds, his sixth double double of the year. Greg Washington added 7 points, 7 rebounds 3 blocks and 2 steals while staying out of foul trouble. With three games left in conference, Hofstra was 13-4 in conference and with a win vs. Delaware, they could finish no lower than third in the CAA.
The Pride would defeat the Blue Hens 79-60 and finish the CAA regular season with a 14-4 record, their best since the 2006-07 season. Hofstra headed to Richmond winners of six in a row in conference.
In fact, Jenkins was so important to his team, he finished sixth in John Hollinger's College Basketball Player Efficiency Ratings. As a result of Jenkins' terrific senior season, there was talk of him being a first round draft pick. All that was missing for Jenkins was a NCAA berth, something he wanted so badly.
When you have balanced scoring, the ability to possess and pass the ball, good free throw shooting and the best player in the conference, chances were that Hofstra was good in close games. And sure enough, entering the CAA Tournament, the Pride's record in games decided by seven points or less was 9-3. Hofstra would be a tough out in Richmond.
William and Mary started the game out with a 9-0 run on Hofstra. But the Pride responded with an 11-0 run of their own. The Tribe would respond with an 8-2 spurt and went up six, 23-17. But Hofstra would score eight of the last twelve points in the first half and would only be down 27-25. Jenkins only had five points at the half and you knew that wouldn't last.
Meanwhile, Cassara made his third best coaching move of the season. He had his team take McDowell out of the game and force the other Tribe players to beat them. Hofstra hounded McDowell all night and limited to just six points on just 2 of 6 shooting from the field. The Pride dominated the last 20 minutes of the game and won handily 72-56. Hofstra forced 15 W&M turnovers while only committing two turnovers themselves (while dishing out 12 assists). The Pride again had four scorers in double figures with Kelleher, Moore and Imes each having 10 or more points.
Hofstra now faced ODU in the semifinals as all top four teams made the third day of the CAA Tournament. After watching #4 seed VCU soundly upset #1 seed George Mason, Hofstra was hoping to knock off #2 Old Dominion, the defending CAA champions. Could there be another upset in Richmond?
the Pride lost to the Monarchs 77-69. With all five starters scoring in double figures for Hofstra, it was only the second time all season the Pride lost when that happened.
It may have been a disappointing end to the CAA Tournament season for Hofstra and particularly for Jenkins, but they had a lot to be proud of as a result. The Pride had thirty one assists and only six turnovers in two games which is an astounding 5-1 assists to turnover ratio. Hofstra held Quinn McDowell to six points one night after he set the all time CAA single game scoring record. The other three CAA semifinalists all made the NCAA Tournament. ODU lost on a buzzer beater to eventual National Runnerup Butler in the first round, George Mason won their first round game against Nova and of course there was VCU's epic Final Four run.
The Pride season would end in their season on a Division II basketball court in an anti-climatic loss to Evansville in the CBI 77-70, which featured terrific stat updates by the Evansville web site (yes, that was sarcastic). The Pride would finish 21-12 on the season.
New York Times, the Wall Street Journal (and here's a second one), Sports Illustrated and ESPN, among other national publications. Jenkins received an honorable mention all America this season as well. And when your program receives national attention like that, it certainly helps getting your name out in recruiting.
But the team also had a big following via social media and a lot of that had to do with Coach Cassara's embracing of social media. Coach Cassara is probably up around 5:30 a.m. and already he is posting on Facebook, where he has 1895 friends and on Twitter, where he has 1614 followers. And the coach has a sense of humor using social media. Someone started on Facebook "Charles Jenkins Facts", a hilarious takeoff on Chuck Norris Facts. When Hofstra traveled to UNCW, Cassara remarked "Charles Jenkins is driving the bus."
after he thought he might have been without a job after Tim Welsh got fired. During a Hofstra women's home basketball game against Virginia, I was sitting with my friend Tony and Defiantly Dutch. Coach Cassara came by to say hi to Dutch and he sat with us for about 20 minutes. I remember him vividly him talking how he genuinely appreciates the opportunity he received and how he loves the Hofstra community.
Cassara can often be found at many Hofstra sporting events and functions. And from what I have seen, the Hofstra community loves him. Hofstra home basketball game attendance was certainly up this season and there were two sellouts. I have never seen the Lions Den student section so animated since the 2005-06 season. There is a buzz around the basketball program now, one that certainly had not been there before. Yes, much of that credit belongs to Jenkins, but much of it also belongs to Cassara as well.
All I know is that I wish college basketball season started today. And many other fans that I know feel the same way. There is one in particular, a soon to be six year old boy, who can't wait for Hofstra basketball season to start. All I can tell him is to have patience. It will be worth the wait.
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
The 2010-11 season really started in April of last year when Tom Pecora left the comforts of Hempstead for Rose Hill. Along came Tim Welsh, whose 30 day stay ended in resignation after being arrested for DWI. Faced with the possibility of completely starting from scratch, Hofstra Athletic Director Jack Hayes instead turned to Cassara, one of Welsh's assistant coaches and offered him the position after a meeting with University President Stuart Rabinowitz. It turned out to be a terrific move.
But Cassara would be dealt with another loss as senior starter/sixth man Nathaniel Lester would tear his quad during training and be redshirted for the season. Finally, Cassara would play even another man short for the first eight games of the season as guard Brad Kelleher got an additional eight game suspension by the NCAA after being disallowed to play his junior season for signing an application form.
Cassara though developed an immediate friendship with Hofstra's best player, the now three time reigning Haggerty Award winner and now two time CAA Player of the Year, Charles Jenkins. The two of them would have to guide a relatively young team through the entire season.
The shorthanded Pride won their first game handily against Division III Farmingdale State before heading to the Puerto Rico Tip Off. In their first round game against North Carolina on national TV, Jenkins matched heralded Tar Heel freshman Harrison Barnes shot for shot in the first half before North Carolina ran away with the game in a 107-63 win. Then came the 2nd round loser's bracket game vs. Western Kentucky. Hofstra led most of the way and was up 52-39 with 3:50 left. But the Hilltoppers' press caused numerous Pride turnovers the rest of the way. Hofstra was outscored 23-8 the rest of the game and Western Kentucky came away with a 62-60 win. The Pride finished up the Puerto Rico tipoff losing to Nebraska.
First, they would defeat comedic and basketball royalty in defeating Wagner. The Pride's second win in a row came as a result of a solid defensive effort on the road defeating Rider. It was followed by a convincing home win over conference rival Towson.
Then came one of Charles Jenkins' many season defining moments as he and Mike Moore were the ultimate two man duo at Binghamton. Moore kept Hofstra in the game in the first half with 15 points. But in the second half, it was all number 22. Jenkins scored 17 points over a five and half minute span to rally the Pride from a double digit deficit. He then scored his 30th and 31st points of the second half on a layup with six seconds left to force overtime. Jenkins final two points, which gave him forty on the night, combined with Mike Moore's OT points gave Hofstra the win. Jenkins and Moore combined for sixty eight of the Pride's eighty-nine points as Jenkins and company that night managed to overheat my Macbook Pro, which was playing the streaming video of the game.
Brad Kelleher's Free to Play for Hofstra Day, the Pride would bounce back with a win at Manhattan, where Jenkins got his 2000th career point.and Defiantly Dutch learned that you have to get to a Manhattan game early, otherwise you have to park in the next borough. Then came a home win over Holy Cross, where Antoine Agudio was there to see Jenkins receive a special commerative basketball for getting his 2000th career point. But the 2010 calendar year ended on sour note as Hofstra was dominated by Iona at the Hynes Center, losing to the Gaels 87-62. Heading into 2011, the Pride's record stood at 7-5.
In October of last year at the Hofstra Season Ticket Holder Reception, Coach Cassara stated that David Imes had been a player that really impressed him during the initial practices. Imes had been seldom used in his freshman season under Tom Pecora. But Imes became a starter for Cassara and he came through big time against the Dragons. Imes scored twenty points and grabbed eight rebounds to lead Hofstra to an impressive 75-69 road win over Drexel.
the two teams have a recent history that dates back to 2006. The Pride hadn't beat the Patriots since 2007. But the Mason streak would end that Wednesday night. It didn't seem that way early on as GMU took a 20-10 lead early on Hofstra. But the Pride would outscore them 29-15 the rest of the half and go up four at halftime. In the second half, again Mason went up in the beginning, due to an 8-0 run. But again Hofstra responded with a 14-0 run of their own and never looked back. The Pride gave the Patriots their worst regular season conference loss, an 87-74 drubbing, much to the delight of Defiantly Dutch. It gave Hofstra sole possession of first place in the CAA at 3-0. Jenkins had 32 points, but four other players also scored in double figures for the Pride.
Hofstra had a chance for a sweep of gauntlet week at Northeastern, always a tough place to play for the Blue and Gold. But again, Hofstra would have balanced scoring. All five Pride starters scored in double digits and Hofstra came away with an impressive 76-67 win. The Pride shot 53 percent from the field and 90 percent from the line in the win. Hofstra finished the First Gauntlet Week at 4-0.
and led from start to finish, winning handily 74-60. What impressed me the most about the win was the Towson radio announcers commenting how well Hofstra moved the ball around again the Towson zone. It was emblematic of how the Pride were playing in January. Good ball movement, balanced scoring and excellent ball possession, all marks of a good team.
ground and pound" game to perfection, rallying back and eventually wearing down Hofstra to take a two point halftime lead. In the second half, led by eventual all First Team CAA forward Frank Hassell, the Monarchs held off the Pride and eventually won 75-64. It was Hofstra's first loss in conference and ODU was only one game behind them.
when Charles Jenkins' nationally recognized eight point play doomed Benny Ross. Hofstra used a 14-2 second half run to erase a five point deficit. In a game that I will always remember for the T-shirt toss and a bad intentional foul call, the Pride would end up winning 66-57 to improve to 6-1 in conference.
Later that week, Hofstra traveled to Williamsburg to take on a William and Mary team that was a lot better than their record indicated. The Tribe led a good part of the game but somehow the Pride kept the game close at halftime. Later in the second half, Charles Jenkins put Hofstra up to stay and they held off W&M for a hard earned 67-64 road win. Hofstra was now 7-1 in conference with one more game left at home before they reached the halfway point.
as the Pride won 92-90 in overtime.
In exciting fashion, Hofstra finished the first half of the conference season at 8-1, 14-6 overall, tied for first place in the CAA. A team that had started January at 7-5 won seven of their next eight games. The second half of the conference season awaited them, as did a game on national TV vs. an 8-1 VCU team for sole possession of first place. What also awaited the Pride was their most difficult challenge of the season. How they answered that challenge will be in Part II of this retrospect.