Friday, December 23, 2011

Hofstra Gives Hope for the Holidays (Recap of Colgate vs. Hofstra)

Several days after their twenty point win over Binghamton, Hofstra was looking to make it two wins in a row against Colgate.  The Pride needed to get on a roll going into next week's important game against Iona, a team that many think is the best team in the local New York City area (with all apologies to Seton Hall fans).

It was the second Hofstra basketball game that I would be attending yesterday.  I took a half day off yesterday to watch the women's team rally and win an exciting contest over Marist 71-69 to take the championship of the New York Life Holiday Invitational.  Shante Evans dominated the court with a twenty nine point, eighteen rebound performance for the Lady Pride.   Now it was up to the men's team to provide a suitable encore in the nightcap.

The holidays are a wonderful time of year.  But they are also a detriment to the attendance of college basketball games.  The fall undergraduate session ended a few days earlier and there was barely any students in the Lions' Den Section last night.  The overall announced crowd was a little over 1,400, but it felt less to me, especially without rowdy students to harass the Colgate free throw shooters.

The game started out with Hofstra's number one gunslinger, Mike Moore shooting away at the Raiders. Moore buried three shots from beyond the arc and the Pride jumped out to a 17-7 lead with 15:13 left in the first half.   At the time, they were five of nine from the field and it looked like Hofstra, especially Moore, would shoot Colgate out of the Mack Center.

But as has happened many times over the course of this season so far, the Pride would suffer one of their extended shooting slumps.  Over the last fifteen plus minutes of the first half, Hofstra would shoot four of twenty one from the field, including missing their last six shots in the half.  This allowed Colgate to slowly work their way back into the game.  Over the last five plus minutes of the first half, the Raiders outscored the Pride 16-7 to cut the deficit to one, 35-34 at the half.  

Moore had nineteen of Hofstra's thirty five points in the first half.  The problem was the rest of the team combined for sixteen. On top of that, the Pride were shooting thirty percent from the field and no other player had more than five points.  

The halftime event was another CYO basketball game where the teams' colors were actually the same as the Colgate colors.  I had to check to see if we were at Cotterell Court in Hamilton, New York (home of Colgate University).  And actually, the Raiders brought a decent rooting section with them behind their bench.

At the start of the second half, Colgate had a chance to take their first lead of the game, but Mitch Rolls would miss a jumper.  It was the last chance the Raiders would have to take the lead the rest of the game. How the Pride would secure the win in the second half was possibly the most interesting dynamic so far this  season.

Before the game, Bryant Crowder left the Hofstra men's team for personal reasons.  He had been suspended most of the season and I happen to see in person two of the three games he played in for the Pride.  Combine that with starting point guard Steve Mejia out due to a lingering hamstring problem and Hofstra had only an eight men available to play last night.   It meant everyone had to step up for Coach Mo Cassara last night and they did so in the second half.

 But before they did so, a play occurred early in the second half with an interesting subplot, well perhaps interesting to only yours truly.  Colgate's Pat Moore committed a hard foul on Hofstra's Mike Moore, sending him crashing to the floor.  A flagrant foul was called resulting in free throws, Hofstra retaining the ball and Pat Moore being public enemy number one for the Hofstra fans the rest of the night.   There should be a law against "Moore on Moore Violence", especially when the author shares the same last name as the two players involved.  Also it should be noted that Pat is probably short for Patrick, which happens to be my older son Matthew's middle name as well as mine.  After the play, I publicly disavowed to my fellow season ticket holders around me of any relation to the Raiders' Moore.

After the "Moore on Moore Violence" occurred, Hofstra started to slowly pull away from Colgate.  What was once a one point lead was now, 54-43 with twelve and a half minutes remaining in the game.  There were encouraging signs.  Nat Lester had scored the most recent basket to put Hofstra up eleven.  It was his third field goal of the second half.  Also during this 19-9 run, Dwan McMillan had four points and three assists.  

The Raiders would continue to hang around for the next few minutes.  They actually were only down nine, 59-50 with about nine and half minutes left.  It seemed the Pride wouldn't be able to shake them.

But then Hofstra would seal the deal with a 14-3 spurt over the next five minutes.  And every one on the Pride contributed, as you can see pictured.  David Imes hit several shots. Shemiye McLendon buried jumper after jumper.  Dwan McMillan drove the lane, hit layups and had several more assists.  Moore ended the spurt with a layup and Hofstra was up 73-53 with a little more than four and half minutes left.  

The Pride would go onto win the game 82-57.  Hofstra would shoot nearly sixty eight percent from the field in the second half, outscoring Colgate 47-25 over the last twenty minutes.  The most amazing stat was that Mike Moore only contributed five of the forty seven points scored in the second half.  It was everyone else who "Put one foot in front of the other", to coin a famous holiday song, that gave the Pride their twenty five point win.

McLendon, the second coming of Vinnie Johnson, had seventeen points for the Pride, while McMillan had a double double with thirteen points and ten assists (with only two turnovers).  Imes added ten points and seven rebounds, while Lester also had ten points and nine rebounds.  And of course, Moore led the way with twenty four points.

The Pride gave the crowd a nice encore to the earlier Women's Basketball team's victory - a start to finish win.  And the Pride did it as a team, despite being shorthanded.  They gave their fans a nice early present before Christmas.  More importantly, Hofstra gave their fans hope that they can compete in the CAA when everyone on the team plays up to their skill level.  

And hope is what people, especially college basketball fans, need in the holiday season.

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