Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Love and Basketball (Recap of Delaware vs. Hofstra)

When you think of Valentine's Day, you don't think about spending it at a basketball game.  But when your six year old son would be despondent if he couldn't go to a Hofstra game, you adjust your plans accordingly.  Thus for the first time since the 2001-02 season, my wife, Michelle went to a Hofstra game along with my younger son, Jonathan, my older son, Matthew and me.  To mark the occasion, my wife got me a box of candy shaped in a basketball heart.

Unfortunately for Hofstra, not too many other couples and their families attended last night's game.  When we got there a few minutes before game time, the Lions' Den student section was empty.  Heck, most of the Mack Center was empty.  The announced attendance was 1,785.  Perhaps that included paid season ticket holders who had made other Valentine's Day dinner plans, but I would subtract anywhere from 785 to 1,000 from that number.  The crowd was so small you could hear Hofstra Coach Mo Cassara clear as day.

The lack of energy in the Mack Center appeared to affect the home team.  The Pride struggled to score from the onset while Delaware was scoring easy baskets on the inside.  The Blue Hens raced out to a 17-4 lead in the first seven minutes of the game and it looked like they would finally break their ten game losing streak at the Mack Center.

Delaware last won a game vs. Hofstra in the Mack Center during conference play in the 2000-01 season, the final season for both teams in the America East.  The then Flying Dutchmen would later defeat the Blue Hens in the America East championship at the Mack to start the ten game home winning streak.  It was also the last time Hofstra made the NCAA Tournament.

The Pride responded by outscoring the Blue Hens 24-11 over the next nearly eight minutes on a layup by Mike Moore.  Hofstra had a chance to take the lead, but Nathaniel Lester missed an open jumper. Delaware would then score the next seven points to go up 35-28.  It seemed like Hofstra' season in a nutshell, rally, tie, but they just couldn't get over the hump. The Pride did close the gap to four, 36-32 at the half.

There were so few people in attendance that the Hofstra mascots, Kate and Willy were going into the crowd and saying hi to whatever kids were there.  In fact, Kate had come by before the game and made friends with Jonathan, who found the female lion mascot quite amusing.  Kate came right back to see Jonathan before the second half and played peek a boo with him.  In return, Jonathan showed Kate his monster trucks.

The second half started just like the first half did as Delaware extended their lead to nine, 43-34.  The Blue Hens maintained their lead 49-40 with eleven minutes left.  As has been the case, the Pride was struggling to score.  Hofstra hit on only three of their first thirteen shots in the second half..

But Matt Grogan, a walk on who is starting to see more time because he can hit an open three pointer, buried a three to start a Pride 10-0 run over the next three minutes.  Mike Moore's rainbow three pointer gave Hofstra their first lead of the game 50-49 with eight minutes left.  The fans that were there stood and applauded as the Blue Hens called timeout.  As DefiantlyDutch noted on a tweet, it was the Pride's first lead in a game since six minutes left in the George Mason game last Wednesday.  Last Saturday, Drexel led from start to finish in their win over Hofstra.

However, the lead was short lived.  Jamelle Hagins grabbed one his eighteen rebounds off a Khalid Lewis miss and dunked it home.  It would be the beginning of a stunning 22-4 Delaware run over the next seven minutes of the game.  During that time, Hofstra would miss ten straight shots from the field and the fifth leading free throw shooter in the CAA, Moore, would miss three free throws during that span.

Lester hit an anti-climatic three point play to score the final points of the game, but most of the fans had picked up and left earlier, perhaps for late dinner plans. The Blue Hens had a convincing 71-57 win to end the ten game losing streak at the Mack Center.

Delaware's Jarvis Threatt led all scorers with twenty points, thirteen of which came from the free throw line.  Hagins had a double double with fourteen points, eighteen rebounds and added four blocks. Lewis and Kyle Anderson each added twelve points.  For Hofstra,  Moore had sixteen points and Lester added eleven.  The problem was the two combined to shoot an ugly seven of twenty nine from the field.  Steve Mejia added ten points for the Pride.

As Chelle and I said our goodbyes to Defiantlydutch and his much better half Michelle, both of whom sat with us in the second half, we made our way out of the Mack Center  A year ago, I was hanging out by the court celebrating Charles Jenkins' two buzzer beaters on my birthday in a win over William and Mary.  Now I was standing in a empty lot saying goodbye to my friend Tieff after Hofstra's fourteenth loss of the season.  They now have as many losses in conference this season as they had wins in conference last season.

Still, it was good to have the ones I loved with me for the game.  It's not how you spend your Valentine's Day that matters.  It's who you spend it with that matters.

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