Saturday, November 19, 2011

Pride Hold Off Pesky Terriers

Hofstra started their season with a convincing win at home over LIU.  Then on Wednesday, they traveled to Corvalis, Oregon to play Oregon State. The game was close throughout.  But in the end, the Beavers prevailed 82-72 over the Pride.   Hofstra came back home for a chance to rebound against another NEC team, Saint Francis.

Even though Saint Francis was 0-2, both games were close losses.  The Terriers had Seton Hall on the ropes, leading most of the game before eventually falling to the Pirates at the Prudential Center in overtime 75-71.  Then Saint Francis traveled to Lafayette.  They had a six point lead midway in the second half before losing to the Leopards 79-73.  This was their third of nine straight games on the road for the "Rise and Fire" Terriers, who had forty nine 3 point attempts in their first two games (St Francis had made nineteen of those attempts).  I noted in a tweet earlier today (@gmoore21566) that their motto should be the Intellivision B-17 Bomber game's cry "Bombs Away!".

After a birthday party for my younger son Jonathan at Chuckie Cheese in Hicksville, my older son Matthew and I made our way to the Mack Center at Hofstra University in Hempstead.  After we entered the arena, we found out it was a free Hofstra team poster day.   Matthew gladly took his poster along with his pretzel and we made our way to our seats.

It was clear early on that, offensively, this was going to be a contrast of styles.  Saint Francis was content to look for the open three on the Hofstra two-three zone, while the Pride looked to drive to the basket on the smaller Terriers.   And the end result was going to be a close game.  Saint Francis' largest lead of the first half was four, 17-13, after, what else, a P.J.Santavenere three pointer.

In the first half, the Pride behind Mike Moore and Nathaniel Lester were taking their defenders to the hole.  In particular, Moore was having success, often by being fouled.  He went to the line eight times, hitting seven of his free throws, on his way to scoring fourteen points in the first half.  Lester was also effective, scoring seven points before having to sit part of the half due to two fouls.  Hofstra's biggest lead of the first half was six, 28-22, after a David Imes three pointer.  The Pride only had three 3 point attempts in the first half.

Meanwhile, St Francis was living up to their B-17 Bomber reputation.  Of their twenty seven first half field goal attempts, fifteen of them were three pointers, connecting on five.  Leading scorer Travis Nichols buried two of those five three pointers, scoring eight points.

The Terriers three pointers offset the Pride's advantage in free throw attempts in the first half, nineteen to six.  What made things closer was the Pride only made twelve of those three point attempts.   And the Pride didn't help themselves on the boards, managing not even one offensive rebound in the first half.

So it was no surprise to anyone that the score was 32-30 Hofstra at the half.  During halftime, the crowd's attention was drawn to an interesting contest where students competed in a rapid fire free throw shooting contest for a round trip JetBlue ticket.

At the start of the second half, the Pride picked up where they left off on offense.  Nathaniel Lester scored the first four points for Hofstra, as the Pride continued to work inside for layups.  However, the Terriers changed their offense at the start of the second half.   They worked the ball inside to Akeem Johnson, who scored seven points in a little over three minutes and Saint Francis was up 42-39 with a little over sixteen and a half minutes left.

Over the next twelve minutes, the lead changed back and forth often in the second half (eight times overall in the game). The Terriers had a three point lead, 57-54 with 6:24 left.  But the Pride went on a 7-0 spurt, culminated by who else, Mike Moore with a turnaround jumper to put the Pride up to stay 61-57 with a little more than two and a half minutes left..

It was during this time that the Pride's most improved player, Dwan McMillan was directing the team.  McMillan was supposed to be the backup point guard for Hofstra this season now that Rhode Island transfer Steve Mejia was eligible to play after sitting out a year.  But Mejia has struggled early on in the season and McMillan's inspired and tenacious play, along with his ability to hold onto the ball and create opportunities, has resulted in a significant amount of playing time.  During the last six minutes of the game, McMillan, not Mejia, was on the court.

The Terriers would not quit.  Nichols would hit a jumper off a set timeout play to cut the lead to 61-59.  Then after a few empty possessions by both teams, Saint Francis' Dre Calloway was fouled on a layup attempt.   The Lions Den student section, hungry for a chance to make a difference, screamed as loud as they possibly could on the free throw attempts.   To them, Calloway was fresh meat.   And Calloway obliged, missing both free throws badly and the Pride had another chance to put the game away.

But last season's second best free throw shooter in the CAA, Moore, missed both of his free throw attempts.  Again, the Terriers had a chance again to tie or take the lead.  But Calloway again played the goat, turning the ball over.  Shemiye McLendon stole the ball from Calloway and immediately was fouled.  The man nicknamed "Ice" by Hofstra Blogger Jerry Beach, aka Defiantly Dutch, calmly buried his two free throws.  Hofstra held on for a hard fought 63-59 win.

Moore led the way for Hofstra with a double double, twenty three points and ten rebounds.  Lester nearly had a double double of his own, thirteen points and nine rebounds.  Nichols had twelve points to lead Saint Francis, while Johnson added eleven points.  The big difference in the game was free throw attempts.  Hofstra had thirty six attempts, though they only made twenty three.  Saint Francis only had thirteen, making ten. And of course, the Terriers matched their season average on three point attempts, attempting twenty five three pointers on the night, hitting only seven.

For Saint Francis, their long November road doesn't get any easier with a Tuesday night game vs. St John's. As for Hofstra, they are home again to Florida Atlantic, also a Tuesday night game.  Another night at the Mack Center, another recap for the 800 Games Project.

I wonder how the Lions Den feels about Owls.

(This article is also posted on the 800 Games Project on the MidMajority Site)

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