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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.