Wednesday, January 27, 2010

For One Day, Hofstra Basketball is Number One

I normally don't like to talk about work. When you work in information technology, you know you will always be very busy and problems often occur. When I first started in IT, I was grateful to have a mentor, one Mark Kilarjian, a great systems manager and the author of the recipe "Kilarjian Chicken Parmigiana", which I often still make whenever I can. Mark once gave me advice about dealing with IT problems. He told me that you will only hear about the bad things not the good things. When you don't hear anything, that's when things are good. And if you accept that realization, you will do just fine.

Mark was so right and today was one of those days you heard about everything. It was the perfect storm. Anything that could go wrong, well, it did. Right now, Microsoft and Google are on my major hit list. It was a day of frayed nerves and no food. Yup, I didn't eat all day. It got to such a point that I closed my office door, put my head in my hands and seriously considered the monastery. I kid you not. I briefly thought about a profession that didn't use computers. Then two things changed that perspective. One, the picture above of my two wonderful boys and how I need to provide for them. And two, monks have become quite internet savvy.

So, considering my frame of mind, tonight did not seem like a good night to go see Hofstra host UNCW at the Mack Center. If you are a loyal reader of this site, you know how poorly Hofstra has played lately. For those who might be reading for the first time and are not well versed on CAA matters, Hofstra has lost five in a row and nine of their past eleven games. The team known for its defensive play had given up four 50 percent plus FG shooting percentage games in a row.

Hofstra has had a history with the team it hosted tonight, UNCW. The teams have had some battles over the years, including the 2006 triple overtime game at the Mack Center, won by Hofstra. That was a great day for Hofstra, but somewhat of an infamous day for me (see #6 on the list). Back then, I was always amazed at how many UNCW fans traveled to Hempstead, New York to watch their team play . And they should have traveled, considering how successful UNCW was in the midst of what would be three NCAA tournaments in five seasons.

However, UNCW has fallen on hard times. Last season, the Seahawks never got off the ground, won three games in conference all year and finished 7-25 by losing to the Pride in the first round of the CAA Tournament. This year, there has been some improvement, having won three games in conference already, one more than Hofstra had going into tonight's game, but still struggling with a 7-13 record. And the Seahawks struggles are more apparent by the complete lack of UNCW fans that traveled to tonight's game. Perhaps they knew what was going to happen tonight. My friend Tieff and I sure didn't.

Greg Washington's jumper 14 seconds into the game put the Pride up 2-0, a lead they would never relinquish. Keith Rendleman and Johnny Wolf tried to keep Wilmington close early as they were responsible for the Seahawks first seven points. The game at one time was 11-7 with 14:53 left.

Then Hofstra went on a run. A huge run. A 23-2 run over the span of five and half minutes. And it was a combination of good Hofstra offense and good Hofstra defense. During that span, Hofstra nailed three three pointers while holding UNCW to 0 for 8 from the field and forcing three turnovers. The only two points for the Seahawks were courtesy of two John Fields free throws.

The 23-2 run was capped by one of the most unique things I have ever seen in a basketball game. An eight point play. You read correctly. An EIGHT POINT play.

Here's how it happened. With 9:21 left Charles Jenkins went up for a layup. He made the shot but got fouled very hard by UNCW's Jeremy Basnight. The referee called an intentional foul on Basnight which incensed Seahawks' coach Benny Moss. This resulted in a technical foul called on Moss. Thus Jenkins went to the line to shoot FOUR free throws; two for the intentional foul and two for the technical. Jenkins hit all four free throws. Now due to the intentional foul, Hofstra got the ball back as well. Guess who hit a jumper five seconds later. Yup, Jenkins. Thus an eight point play.

The Pride went to the half up 54-25 as they shot 56 percent from the field, outrebounded the Seahawks 24-13, forced nine UNCW turnovers and blocked seven shots. What was impressive was the all around play of Hofstra. As I noted in a live update blog posting, I felt like I was in a parallel universe. This was a Pride team I hadn't seen since the beginning of the season. Good ball movement and ball handling, very good defense and smart shot selection.

After such a terrific first half, my friend Mal texted me saying "Is Hofstra playing the UNCW band?" Tieff responded "The UNCW Band would be better." And it turns out in the second half, it might have been.

Normally, teams that have such a big lead at the half let up somewhat in the second half. Not Hofstra. The Pride came out in the first six minutes with a 17-6 run to go up forty, 71-31 with 14:17 left. UNCW would outscore Hofstra by one point the rest of the way as the Pride would win handily 93-54. Hofstra and UNCW are now both 3-7 in conference.

Now it was free foam finger night at Hofstra as pictured by my son Matthew after I got home. The foam finger could have signaled Hofstra being #1 tonight or it could have represented the giant hand of Greg Washington as he blocked shot after shot tonight. He had three blocks in the first half, which mind you is good, but not earth shattering.

But, then in the second half, it was the Greg Washington Block Party. Washington had seven blocks in the second frame. As you can do the math, on the game Washington had more blocks, ten, than John Fields had points on the game, eight. Washington was mainly responsible for shutting down Fields. Fields, who entered the game shooting 54.6 percent from the field, only shot 3 of 9 from the field.

In fact, Hofstra held Fields and Chad Tomko to a combined eight points, nearly 18 points under their combined season average. Tomko, who averages over 14 points per game was actually held scoreless on the night. UNCW as a whole, only shot 33 percent from the field. Johnny "Teen" Wolf was the only player for the Seahawks who scored in double figures with 14.

Meanwhile, Hofstra had five players in double figure scoring. Jenkins led the way with 24 points on 7 of 9 shooting from the field and 9 of 10 from the line. Cornelius Vines, back from Coach Tom Pecora's doghouse, added 15 points. Washington had 14 points and 8 rebounds to go with his 10 blocks. Halil Kanacevic had 14 points as well and Chaz Williams added 11 points.

So despite a really bad day at work, I found unlikely comfort in the play of Hofstra basketball. They may have had a unique night given their season. Or it may be a sign of good things to come. In either case, for one night, Hofstra Basketball was number one.

In other CAA action, UNCW didn't give up the most points on the night in conference. Towson got that honor as VCU put up triple figures as the Rams embarrassed the Tigers 112-53 at the Siegel Center. The Rams shot 63 percent from the field including, get this, 20 of 33 from beyond the arc. Towson's defense is so bad it's almost unreal. VCU's Bradford Burgess was 6 of 8 from three and had 22 points. Larry Sanders had a double double with 17 points and 14 rebounds.

There were also two stunners. First, James Madison went into Williamsburg and knocked off William and Mary 65-63 as both teams could not score a single point in the last two minutes and eight seconds of the game. JMU's Denzel Bowles had a great game, 21 points and 8 rebounds. The Tribe's David Schneider had a horrid game, 1 of 11 from the field, including 0 for 8 from beyond the arc, for three points. Quinn McDowell did his best for W&M scoring 23 points on 9 of 11 shooting from the field. A very bad home loss for a team considered a possible at large team. It's their second bad home loss for the Mary - they lost to UNCW earlier in the season. One bad home loss can be excused. But a second bad home loss can not be excused. W&M is now 6-4 in conference, while JMU is 3-7 in the CAA.

Drexel travel to Matthews Arena and ended Northeastern's eleven game winning streak on their homecourt, 61-48. Chris Fouch and Jamie Harris each had 13 for the Dragons. Drexel held Northeastern to 31 percent shooting from the field. The Huskies' Chaisson Allen, who had entered the game shooting 47 percent from beyond the arc, was held to 2 of 9 from three and 4 of 13 overall. His shooting performance matched Matt Janning's, who was held to 10 points, five under his season average. Northeastern is now 8-2 in conference while Drexel moves into third place in the CAA with a 7-3 record.

Finally George Mason handled Delaware 77-66. Cam Long led the way for the Patriots with 18 points while the Blue Hens' Jawan Carter led all scorers with 23 points.

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