Saturday, November 12, 2011

Hofstra's New Dynamic Duo Downs LIU

This was supposed to be a year of transition for the Hofstra Pride.  The first season of the post Charles Jenkins era is supposed to be a stop gap between last season's team and next season's team.  In 2012-13 much ballyhooed transfers Taran Buie and Jamal Coombs- McDaniel will be eligible and talented recruits Jimmy Hall from St. Anthony's and Dallas Anglin from Seton Hall Prep, both of whom just signed on Wednesday, will be part of a freshmen class that still has two scholarships available.

The 2011-12 version of the Pride is supposed to hold the fort until that new class takes over.  The Pride were picked anywhere from sixth to tenth in the CAA this season.  The biggest question with this season's team was how were they going to make up for the loss of Jenkins in the scoring department.  Jenkins just happened to be in attendance for last night's game vs. LIU.  What Jenkins and 3,586 other people saw might have been the answer to that question as Nathaniel Lester and Mike Moore combined for fifty six points as Hofstra rolled over LIU 89-71.

My son Matthew and I got to the Mack Center early last evening.  Hofstra was holding a FanFest at the Physical Education Center next store.  The Fanfest had free food, inflatables for the kids to play in and for Matthew, the ability to shoot hoops, one of his favorite things on the planet.   There was a pretty good crowd there, a mixture of Hofstra students, families and their children and long time season ticket holders.

My little partner in crime and I left the Fanfest early and got to our seats an hour before game time.  Before long, a good crowd started filling up the Mack Center.  The students did their part, filling up the Lions Den for the first game of the season.  Long before tipoff, the Lions Den started a "LETS GO HOF - STRA" chant.  It was an electric feeling to start the season.

This was going to be a tough test for the Pride.  The Blackbirds were coming off a 27-6 season where they won the NEC championship on their home court, then gave #2 seed North Carolina fits for the first fifteen minutes of their first round NCAA Tournament game before losing only by fifteen, 102-87.   Six of their eight top players, including their top two leading scorers, Julian Boyd and Jamal Olasewere, returned for this season.

The game started out in LIU's favor as Boyd scored four quick points for a 7-2 Blackbirds' lead.  But then David Imes and Nathaniel Lester combined to score twenty five of Hofstra's first twenty nine points.  A Lester layup put the Pride up 29-20.  However, the Blackbirds would close the gap and a Michael Culpo three pointer would make the score 32-30 at the half.

It was a sloppy first half in many regards.  The two teams combined for twenty one turnovers in twenty minutes.  LIU struggled at the line shooting 6 of 13.  Hofstra only had two free throw attempts in the first half and Imes missed both of them.  Both teams shot well when they held onto the ball.  LIU shot nearly 44 percent while Hofstra shot 50 percent.

Another sign that it was a sloppy first half was that Moore struggled with only two points. Last season, Moore was the wingman to Jenkins that he so sorely lacked in his two previous seasons.  Moore averaged about 15 points per game.  But now, Moore is the top gun, not the wingman.  And two points in a half just wasn't going to cut it.

The second half started out like the first, relatively close.  It was 37-35 Pride with sixteen minutes left in the game when Moore caught fire.  He scored eight straight points to put Hofstra up nine 45-36.  The Blackbirds would only get as close as five the rest of the way, 47-42 on a three point field goal by Joey Rodriguez clone Jason Brickman.

Then Lester and Moore took over.   The Pride went on a 38-17 run with Moore and Lester accounting for twenty five of those points.   I can honestly say the crowd was stunned as Hofstra was up 85-59 with three minutes left.  No one and I mean no one expected to see the Blackbirds dominated like that.  Moore scored twenty one of his twenty three points in the second half.  But that was to be expected.  What Lester did was a revelation.

When Lester first came to Hofstra for the 2007-08 season, he was a much ballyhooed recruit from Canarsie.  It was going to be Charles Jenkins and Lester that were going to take the Pride to new heights.  While Jenkins more than live up to the hype, his good friend Lester struggled in his role under Tom Pecora.  He was sometimes a starter, sometimes a sixth man.  Often, to be honest, he seemed to be in Pecora's doghouse.

When Pecora took his ball and his recruits to Fordham, Lester had a new chance under new Coach Mo Cassara. Unfortunately, he tore his quad during off season workouts and was redshirted for the 2010-11 season.  He sat on the sidelines as his team and his dear friend, Jenkins, finished third in the CAA with a 14-4 record, their best since the 2006-07 season.  Lester graduated from Hofstra with his undergraduate degree and now has one last chance to fulfill the promise he came with back in 2007.

And last night he showed that promise.  Lester was aggressive and confident.  He consistently drained his three pointers (3 of 4 from beyond the arc) and drove with authority to the basket.  He used his strong frame to gain position and put in shots or get fouled.  Lester was 12 of 14 from the line last night and had five rebounds, three on the offensive end.  With Jenkins in the stands, Lester put on a performance worthy of Sir Charles himself, scoring a career high thirty three points on the night.

Lester wasn't the only revelation last night.  Dwan McMillan, who was injured for most of last season, came off the bench and had ten assists in twenty five minutes.  McMillan, who looks definitely quicker than last season, ran the offense extremely well.  The Pride shot a stunning 71 percent in the second half and 59 percent for the game.  Defensively, the Pride forced twenty turnovers and held LIU eleven points under their average from last season.  David Imes had ten points and seven rebounds while Steve Mejia had seven points and four assists.for the Pride.

LIU was led by Olasewere with thirteen points, while Brickman had eleven points, while Boyd finished with only nine points. The Blackbirds had a very off night from the line, shooting only 17 of 32 from the charity stripe and were only 8 of 21 from beyond the arc as well.

There were areas for improvement for Hofstra as the Pride committed eighteen turnovers.  Hofstra also shot an uncharacteristic 23 of 34 from the line.  But overall, it was a very successful, albeit surprising night for the Pride and their fans.

And thanks to the new dynamic duo of Lester and Moore, Hofstra's "year of transition" may be a lot more than that.


  1. Excellent article as always Mr. Moore. Here's to hoping the year of transition is both "more" and "Moore" than expected!