Sunday, February 27, 2011

Hofstra Downs Delaware On A Memorable Senior Day

As you get older, the years go by much quicker.  It seemed like yesterday I was up in Worcester, Massachusetts watching a freshman wearing #22, and built like a Miami Hurricane free safety, drive his way to the basket in his first game as a member of the Pride.  November 10, 2007 was one of the very few nights in Charles Jenkins' career that he scored less than ten points (by my count Jenkins scored less than 10 points six times in his career).  But really yesterday was February 26, 2011.  It was Senior Day, where a sold out crowd of 5,050 thanked Jenkins and his senior teammates Greg Washington and Brad Kelleher for all they have done.

My son Matthew and I walked into the arena about ten minutes to 1:00 PM, more than an hour before game time and forty-fifty minutes before the festivities would start. We each grabbed a free Charles Jenkins T-shirt and headed towards our seats. Already the Lions Den section was mostly full as it has been for a good part of the season.  The Hofstra student faithful wanted to properly send off their seniors.  Numerous cameramen and production people wearing dark blue CAA television sweatshirts were around the announcers table, as the game was the CAA Television game of the week with the always good Scott Graham.

Matthew and I got to our seats, and I noticed the decals with the numbers of 3, 22, and 32 on the court, signaling the numbers of the three seniors, Kelleher, Jenkins and Washington.  As I watched the teams warm up, Matthew quietly ate his goldfish.  A little later my good friend, Mr. Defiantly Dutch, Jerry Beach came by and we chatted about the big day, the fact JMU was winning at VCU and the upcoming CAA Tournament.

The festivities started with a video showing the highlights of the careers of the three seniors.  Then each of the seniors walked on the courts with their families to get their framed jersey and thanks from the University President, Stuart Rabinowitz, AD Jack Hayes and coach Mo Cassara.  First it was Kelleher, with the Lions Den chanting "Aussie Aussie Aussie!" complete with a Australian flag.  Then it was the six foot ten Washington who walked on the court.with the rest of his equally tall family.  Finally, it was Jenkins who walked out with his parents.

But Jenkins was not just getting a framed jersey on this day.   He was getting more than that.  For the first time ever in Hofstra's athletic history, an active player's number would be retired before their last game.  As Jenkins, his family and a capacity crowd watched, the black sheet was removed from the rafters unveiling Jenkins' #22 banner.  The Mack Center was electric as the Hofstra Lions Den chanted loudly "CHARLES JENK-INS".   It was one of the most special moments ever held at the arena, a fitting tribute to a great player and person.

But there was still a game to play against the Fightin Blue Hens.  Seventh place Delaware was looking to finish .500 in conference and had only lost by three in Newark to Hofstra.  And on Senior Day, Delaware senior guard Jawan Carter wanted to celebrate as well in his own way.  Carter would score eleven of Delaware's first nineteen points.  How he scored them was quite interesting.  One three pointer, six free throws after being fouled on two three point FG attempts and a layup.  The score was 19-17 Blue Hens with 9:09 left in the first half.

Hofstra was down two halfway through the first half of their Senior Day game and they needed a spark. They just so happened to get that from a freshman, who didn't play at UNCW on Wednesday as a result of a "teaching moment".  Shemiye McLendon came off the bench and hit two jumpers and assisted on a three pointer by Mike Moore.  It was part of a 12-2 Pride run that was capped by a Charles Jenkins three point play.  Hofstra was up 29-21 with 3:57 left in the first half.  The Pride would enter halftime leading 33-26 at the halftime.

During the first half, Hofstra found out they had at least clinched third place when it was announced over the PA system that JMU had defeated VCU 72-69.  The knowledgeable Lions Den roared in approval.  All that was left was the Pride to get the win and clinch a tie for second place and clinch a tie for their best regular season record in the CAA conference. And their senior trifecta being honored yesterday would lead the way on that.

Hofstra came out in the second half and rode its seniors to a huge run in the first ten and a half minutes.  Jenkins, Kelleher and Washington combined to score nineteen of the Pride's first twenty three points as Hofstra outscored Delaware 23-10 and took a 56-36 lead with 9:27 left in the game.  What was particularly impressive was that after thirty three minutes, the Pride only had four turnovers while dishing out fourteen assists.  The lead swelled to twenty one, 58-37 as Kelleher assisted Washington on a layup.

Towards the end of the game with the outcome certainly no longer in doubt, Coach Mo Cassara started taking his seniors out.  With 58.6 seconds left, Cassara took out Jenkins.  The capacity crowd at the Mack all stood up and gave the two time Haggerty Award winner a roaring standing ovation.  Jenkins hugged his teammates and Coach Cassara.  It was a fitting final tribute to Jenkins at the Mack.

The game ended with Hofstra soundly defeating Delaware 79-60.  Hofstra had five players in double figures in scoring, led of course by Jenkins and his 21 points (he also added 4 assists and 4 steals).  Washington had 12 points, 8 rebounds and 4 steals.  Kelleher also had 12 points and 5 assists.  McLendon had 11 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists.  And Mike Moore had 11 points and 6 rebounds.  The Pride are now 18-1 when three or more Hofstra players are in double figures scoring.  For Delaware, Carter and Devon Saddler combined for 38 points on 11 of 25 shooting.  The rest of the Blue Hens however shot a combined 6 of 23 for 22 points.

Hofstra now enters the CAA Tournament with a 20-10 record and a 14-4 conference record.  The Pride are the third seed and will face the winner of the #6 James Madison vs #11 William and Mary game.  It's the first time since the 2007 CAA Tournament that Hofstra has a first round bye.  And if you are one of the few, the proud, the readers of this site, you well know that since the CAA expanded to twelve teams in the 2005-06 season, the winner of the CAA Tournament has only come from one of the teams that had a bye in the first round.

As we started to leave the arena, one of the images I will remember the most about this Senior Day was taking place over at the left hand corner of the Hofstra Lions Den student section.  There Greg Washington, all six foot ten of him, was conducting the Hofstra pep band during their closing fight song.  Tieff, Mal, my son Matthew and I all stopped in amazement at what was definitely a humorous moment.  I didn't get my camera out in time to take a picture, but I will never forget seeing Washington's long arms waving the band on in song.

It was a fitting end to a very unforgettable day.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Jenkins Gets His Proper Due Today

When Hofstra announced a few days ago that Charles Jenkins' jersey was being retired BEFORE he played his last home game for the Pride, I thought it was the ultimate honor for the ultimate player.  Having witnessed so many of his games over his four seasons, I can honestly say I have never seen a better player in a Hofstra uniform than Jenkins.  And yes, I saw many of Speedy Claxton's games.

More importantly from all accounts, there has never been a better person than Charles Jenkins.  He regularly attends other sporting events on campus to support his fellow athletes and he has been humble in the face of  increasing attention, including a hilarious Chuck Norris influenced Facebook group called Charles Jenkins Facts.   I have met him a couple of times myself and he is genuinely a nice person.

So later that day, I came up with the idea to rename my blog on Saturday for one day in honor of Charles Jenkins.  I also ran the idea by Jerry Beach to see if he would join in and rename his blog in honor of Jenkins as well.  He agreed.  So "The Hofstra Bloggers", as Kyle Whelliston calls us, have both renamed their blogs for today, Saturday, February 26 for "The Man".

I first saw Jenkins' first game for the Pride  in November of 2007 in Worcester, Massachusetts.   Hofstra was facing Holy Cross in a return matchup from their BracketBuster game from February 2007, which the Pride won 65-64 at the Mack Center.  This time on the Crusaders home court, Holy Cross easily won 61-47 as Hofstra struggled with their new lineup.  Jenkins would only score five points in that game but showed "a propensity to drive to the basket strong but missed several layups".  Those layups started falling in the next game against Manhattan and kept falling thereafter that first season.

The 2007-08 season was also Antoine Agudio's senior season.  So it was quite ironic that Agudio, the former all time Hofstra leading scorer and Jenkins, the man who broke his record, played together that one season.   Despite having what would eventually become two iconic scorers, the Pride struggled that season going 12-18 and losing in the first round of the CAA Tournament to Towson.

Still, Jenkins would be named the CAA Rookie of the Year that season. Jenkins averaged 15 points per game that season while shooting 47 percent from the field and 78 percent from the line and added 4.6 rebounds per game.  I got to see Jenkins' best game that season in New Rochelle in February 2008.  Hofstra would defeat Iona on Bracketbuster Saturday 81-63.  Jenkins had a dominant day with a double double.  He scored 28 points on 11 of 20 shooting, added 10 rebounds and 4 assists.

Of course, Jenkins would only get better his sophomore season.  Though his field goal percentage went down to 40 percent, he averaged 19.7 points per game.  His assists shot up to 4.3 per game, more than double from the season before while his rebounds were at 4.8 per game.   The Pride improved to a 21-11 record and 10-8 in conference before losing to ODU in the quarterfinals of the CAA Tournament.

Jenkins would be named CAA First Team and won the Haggerty Award for being the best player in the NYC metro area.  My favorite Jenkins game from that season was a double overtime classic on February 18, 2009 at home vs. James Madison, one of a series of overtime gems between the two teams.  In that game Jenkins nearly had a triple double with 32 points, 13 assists and 7 rebounds.  He also added four steals while shooting 11 of 16 from the field and 10 of 12 from the line as the Pride outlasted the Dukes 99-96.

Last season, again Jenkins improved as a junior.  He would increase his points per game total to 20.9 ppg.  He averaged nearly four assists per game while averaging 4.5 rebounds per game.  Where he also improved was his three point field goal percentage, jumping from 31 percent  to 41 percent from beyond the arc.  His overall field goal percentage improved to 44 percent.  Jenkins would be named the CAA Player of the Year and again would be named the Haggerty Award winner for the second year in a row. 

The game that Jenkins stood out for me in the 2009-10 season was of course the game against UNC Wilmington at the Mack Center on January 27, 2010.  In the 93-54 win over the Seahawks, Jenkins would have an EIGHT POINT play.  It was the most surreal thing I had ever seen in a game.   Read the aforementioned link for my recap of the play, because I can't do it justice again.   Jenkins had 24 points on that night on a neat 7 of 9 shooting and 9 of 10 from the line.

Then there is this season where Jenkins again has stepped up his game.  He is one of the top scorers in the nation, averaging 23.2 points per game, shooting 53 percent from the field.  He is the only scorer in the Top 18 in scoring nationally that is shooting over 50 percent from the field.  Even scarier, he only averages a little over 14 attempts per game.  That's due in large part to being a free throw machine.  He averages seven free throws a game, shooting 82 percent from the line.  He has hit 169 free throws this season, the same amount he hit last season in five less games.

Jenkins has also stepped up his point guard abilities.  He averages 4.8 assists per game, making him only one of two players who lead his conference in both scoring and assists.  Jenkins has also improved his three point shooting to 42 percent from beyond the arc. As you can tell, his all around game has improved each season.

Due to Jenkins unselfish nature, he has got his teammates more involved.   And as a result, the Pride's conference record has dramatically improved this season.  Hofstra is 13-4 in the CAA and 19-10 overall.  The Pride are guaranteed a first round bye in the CAA Tournament and can finish third with a win over Delaware today.

Due to Jenkins' all around game, he has received national exposure from the Sporting News, ESPN, Yahoo Sports, the New York Times etc.   And he is getting a lot of attention from NBA scouts.  Twenty seven NBA scouts saw Jenkins play against Georgia State in Atlanta earlier this month.  And he had one point for each of them, with one left over for David Stern.  Chad Ford currently has him listed as #50 in his Top 100 overall NBA prospects for the upcoming NBA draft.

Jenkins has indelibly left his mark on this season with two classic games.  There was another overtime gem with James Madison on January 24 where Jenkins willed his team to win 92-90.  He had 35 points, 5 assists, 3 blocks, 2 steals, and the final rebound to seal the win.  The Pride had rallied from a 45-30 second half deficit to win in OT.   I vividly remember the ending of the game where Jenkins grabbed the ball underneath the basket after Julius Wells purposely attempted to miss the second free throw.  After the clock ran out, he went to the front row of the student section behind the basket.  There, he was mobbed by his teammates and the Hofstra Lions Den.   It was a fitting end to such an emotional game.

Then when you thought he could not top that at home, he did on February 15 and became a YouTube sensation.  Jenkins would score 28 points in a thrilling 81-78 overtime win over the Tribe.  But it's how he did that which has made him now a legend.   He forced overtime with a three pointer with four seconds left to tie the game at 69.  Then in the overtime, with no time left on the clock, Jenkins buried a 35 footer to win the game for Hofstra.   The moment was even more special for me because it was my 45th birthday and my five year old son attended the game with me.  Matthew is now hooked on basketball thanks to one Charles Jenkins.

And Jenkins is more about winning than setting personal goals.  After he set the scoring record in a loss to Drexel at the Mack Center, Jenkins could talk about nothing but the fact they lost.   He has also mentioned numerous times that he wants to accomplish what Speedy Claxton accomplished, a NCAA Tournament appearance.  That's why you don't see Jenkins take more than 14 shots a game.  That's why he averages nearly five assists per game.  The Man knows his priorities.

So it is fitting that someone who has been more than just a great basketball player but a great member of the Hofstra community gets his number retired today.   And it's also fitting that someone who has given me four seasons of so many memories, and given my older son a memory he will never forget, should get what I hope he considers another honor.  For the only time ever, I will name my blog for this one day after a great player and an even better human being.

Charles Jenkins is the College Hardwood.  Congrats Charles.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Hofstra Holds On To Beat UNCW As Imes Leads the Way

Coming off a twenty six point loss to Wright State on Saturday, Hofstra needed to bounce back against UNCW.  To do so, the Pride had to play an all around better game against the Seahawks.   And Coach Mo Cassara decided to ride his starters for just about the entire night.  And one starter in particular came through in a big way.

As the game started, the UNCW feed looked like something from the good old days of old broadcast antenna TV.  The feed was warbled and there was the potential that this would rank up there with the Georgia State and William and Mary video feeds.  But thanks to the intrepid help of UNC Wilmington beat writer Brian Mull via Twitter, the feed was fixed.  However, Jerry Beach described it best stating the feed " redefining my fear of heights".

The first half truly was a duel between Charles Jenkins and Chad Tomko. Jenkins and Tomko might as well have been singing on the court "Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better", minus the six shooters.  Both were unstoppable in the first twenty minutes.  Jenkins was 6 of 8 from the field in the first half, while Tomko was 5 of 8 from the field in the first half.  Each ended up with fourteen points for the half.  And it figured that the score was tied thirty all after twenty minutes

But there were a couple of interesting things taking place for the Pride.  First, Hofstra's usual sixth man off the bench, Shemiye McLendon, never came in at all in the first half.  In fact he never came into the game at all, due to what Brian Mull later quoted Coach Cassara saying as "a teaching moment".   One of the first players off the bench for Hofstra was seldom used Matt Grogan.   Second, both David Imes and Greg Washington stayed out of foul trouble, so they stayed on the court the entire half.  Outside of Grogan, only Yves Jules played significant minutes off the bench for the Pride.

The second half was close for the first ten minutes as Hofstra took the lead from the start but couldn't extend it to more than six points, 47-41.  However, there was a major difference in the first part of the second half.  Cassara put Jules on Tomko and the Pride sophomore guard held UNCW's version of Jenkins scoreless for the first ten minutes.  The UNCW radio announcers raved about Jules and how he was so aggressively playing defense on Tomko.

The Pride finally extended the lead out to seven points, 52-45 on a Mike Moore jumper with exactly ten minutes left.  But during this time, Jules left the game and Tomko came alive.   Tomko hit a sick looking off balance jumper to cut the lead to five.  Jenkins hit a three to put Hofstra up eight, 55-47.  But then, Tomko nailed a three, then a layup and assisted on a Keith Rendleman layup.   Just like that, the score was now 55-54 with 6:33 left.   And a few minutes later, a Darryl Felder three tied the game at 59 with 3:49 left.

But Hofstra's player of the game came through.  It wasn't who you normally think with Hofstra.  After Dante Morales blocked a Jenkins shot, Imes hit a jumper to put the Pride up 61-59 with about three minutes left.  Imes was all over the court last night for Hofstra as he had 12 points and 17 rebounds including five on the offensive end.   After Jules harassed Tomko into missing a three point jumper, Moore buried a three pointer to put Hofstra up five, 64-59.

UNCW would not go away though.  Keith Rendleman would score the Seahawks next five points and the score was 68-64.  But UNCW could not get any closer as Rendleman missed the front end of a one and one and Tomko, thanks in large part to Jules, missed his last five shots.   The Pride would win 71-64.

Tomko and Rendleman did all they could for the Seahawks.   Tomko, of course, nearly matched Jenkins with 21 points on 8 of 16 shooting and seven assists.  Rendleman was very impressive with 20 points on 8 of 13 shooting and 9 rebounds.  Senior Darryl Felder had a season high 13 points on Senior Night for UNCW.

As for the Pride, Jenkins had another solid night with 22 points on 9 of 14 shooting and five assists, though he only shot 2 of 5 from the line.  Moore earned his 20 points by shooting 8 of 10 from the field.  With Jenkins, Moore and Imes all scoring in double digits, the Pride are now 17-1 when three or more players score in double digits.  Greg Washington had a nice stat line with seven points, seven rebounds, three blocks and two assists.

But it was only fitting that Imes gave them the lead last night.  Based on Beach's pre-game thoughts, Imes took the Wright State loss very hard.  And he channeled that and came out playing 38 minutes of tough defensive basketball.  And he made some key fouls shots going 6 of 7 from the line.   When you think about it, this is really the sophomore Imes' freshman season.  He played six minutes a game last season under Tom Pecora.  And that's when he played.  Due to injury or coach's decision, Imes only played in twenty of the Pride's thirty four games last season.  That wasn't much time to develop his game.

When Hofstra hosted the Season Ticket Holder Reception in October of last year, Coach Cassara stated publicly that Imes had been impressive during practice and would be a big part of the team this season.  Cassara was correct, as Imes' work ethic has shown through. After averaging six minutes a game last season, Imes now averages thirty minutes a game.  He also now has six double-doubles on the season.  Hofstra is 6-0 when Imes has a double double.

With the win, Hofstra (19-10, 13-4 CAA) is now technically in second place in the CAA after VCU lost at Drexel.  The Pride are still tied with the Monarchs of ODU in the loss column.  ODU still has to play their game tonight at James Madison and holds the tiebreaker on Hofstra, having beat them at the Mack earlier in the year.  If Hofstra defeats Delaware on Saturday, they can finish no lower than third.

Before the season began, the Pride lost two of  their likely starters to transfer and a third starter/sixth man, Nathaniel Lester, to injury.   Not too many people thought Hofstra would be 13-4 and in third place in the CAA at this moment in time.  It's a pretty impressive feat by the Pride and their season is still far from over.  Yes, Jenkins has been the main focal point and Moore has been a very solid wingman.

But last night, Imes came through when the Pride desperately needed him.  They are going to need him more and more come CAA Tournament time.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Wright State Downs Hofstra With A Familiar CAA Feel

My blog first started during the 2005-06 CAA season.  And this current season has so many similar aspects to that season.  First, there was the potential for multiple bids to the NCAA Tournament.   In 2005-06 you had UNCW, George Mason and Hofstra.  In 2010-11, you have George Mason, Old Dominion and VCU.  Second, three of the four teams that had first round bye spots in 2005-06 - Mason, ODU and Hofstra have first round bye spots this season.

Finally, as Brian Mull pointed out to me in a reply tweet,  just like this season, most of the top players in 2005-06 were seniors.  There was Jose Juan Barea, Lamar Butler, Jai Lewis, Tony Skinn,  John Goldsberry, Vladimir Kuljanin, Alex Loughton, Isaiah Hunter, Aurimas Kieza, Adrian Uter and Nick George among others.  In 2010-11, you have Charles Jenkins, Cam Long, Frank Hassell, Ben Finney, Jamie Skeen, Joey Rodriguez, Denzel Bowles, Chad Tomko, Chaisson Allen and Jawan Carter among others.

As Bally could tell you, everyone obviously remembers George Mason from that season.  But outside of UNCW faithful, hardcore CAA fans and college basketball journalists, many don't remember the CAA champion that season - UNC Wilmington.  Coach Brad Brownell led the Seahawks in 2005-06 to their third NCAA Tournament appearance in the past five seasons, two of which he was the head coach.    My friend Tieff and I were always impressed with Brownell's teams' fundamentals and especially their suffocating defense.  

But Brownell left under what seemed to be personal issues with the now former UNCW athletic director.  Brownell, his coaching staff and his best recruit, Vaughan Duggins all left for Wright State.  And sure enough, in his first season there, the Raiders won the Horizon League Tournament and made the NCAA Tournament.    Brownell's record in four seasons at Wright State was 84-45, including 49-21 in the Horizon League.   Brownell left Wright State for the head coach position at Clemson.  But Brownell's number one assistant at UNCW and Wright State, former associate head coach, Billy Donlon took over as head coach.  Duggins, Wright State's leading scorer at nearly 18 points per game, redshirted in the 2008-09 season due to injury and 2010-11 is his senior season.

In Donlon's first season as head coach, Wright State is first in the Horizon in scoring defense, three point FG percentage defense, turnover margin and free throw percentage, all the marks of a typical fundamentally sound, Brownell influenced team.  The Raiders are also second in three point FG percentage.  In a way, for a longtime CAA fan like me, it was Hofstra facing UNCW-Ohio. 

The Hofstra - Wright State game start was 11:00 AM on ESPNU.  My hotel was basically across the street from the Nutter Center, so I got there before 9:30 AM to make sure I got a good parking spot.  One of the parking attendants informed me that the doors wouldn't open until 10:00 AM.  So I sat in my car reading Seth Davis'  "When March Went Mad", a birthday present from my wife and kids.   I read the first two plus chapters and just like all good books, the time flew and it was 10:00 AM.  I got out of my car and headed into the Nutter Center.

When I walked in, it was free T-Shirt day and I got a white Wright State T-Shirt.  I guess it was their version of a "White-out".   The Nutter Center opened in 1990 and is really a big facility that can seat 12,000 people.  They host concerts, monster truck events and of course host Wright State Basketball.   When I got to my seat and looked up at the ceiling, it reminded me of the giant airplane hangars at the United States Air Force Museum.  But overall, I personally found it to be a nice arena with plenty of concession areas and friendly personnel to help you.

As it got closer to game time, I was impressed with the Wright State fans.  They all stood when their team came out on to the court and the WSU band played their fight song.  And they all stood again when their starting lineup was announced.   The 12,000 seat arena was about a half full, so when I saw the attendance at 5,073, which would be a sellout at Hofstra, it was a good turnout for an 11:00 am game.

The first thing I heard from the Wright State fans sitting around me was they were amazed at how Jenkins, Hofstra's star player who got a lot of national publicity for his late heroics vs W&M, was built like a linebacker.  I quickly struck up a conversation with a couple of them and they asked about Jenkins and the team itself.   

Wright State fans are very polite, friendly and know their basketball.  I think they also respected the fact that I knew their previous coach, Brownell from his CAA days and liked his style of basketball.  Plus, I also made points when I caught a T-Shirt during the T-shirt toss and gave it to a young Wright State fan.

The game started out with Hofstra jumping out to an early 4-0 lead as Charles Jenkins assisted on a Greg Washington jumper and Mike Moore hit a layup.   A Jenkins layup made the score 7-4 Hofstra.  After the first official TV timeout, the Pride had a three point lead and the game had all the makings of a typically close Hofstra game.

After the official TV timeout, Wright State came out and went on a 13-2 run over the next five plus minutes to go up 17-9 with 10:15 left.  Duggins did most of the damage, scoring seven of the points during that stretch with a dunk, a layup and a three pointer.   Hofstra got the score back to 19-15 on two Jenkins' free throws and Jenkins assisted on a Shemiye McLendon layup with 7:53 left.

But Hofstra was struggling to score as Wright State did a really good job of playing the passing lanes and stopping the Pride guards on potential drives to the basket.  As a result, Hofstra, who entering the game was second in the CAA in turnover margin, uncharacteristically turned the ball over eight times in the first half alone.  And when they weren't turning the ball over, Hofstra missed on all but one of their three point attempts in the first half.

Though they missed several open three point attempts, Wright State was stretching out the lead due to its good defense and their ability to hit free throws.  The Raiders were 8 of 8 from the line in the first half and they scored their last six points of the half from the charity stripe.  Duggins' two free throws put Wright State up 33-23.  But the Pride's lone three of the first half, a Brad Kelleher shot, made the score 33-26 at the half.

The Pride were fortunate to only be down seven at the half.  Despite shooting 1 of 9 from behind the arc and an uncharacteristic 11 of 18 from the FT line (Hofstra came in first in the CAA at 76 percent), Wright State shot an ugly 1 of 13 from behind the arc as well, though they had sixteen more FG attempts than Hofstra (35 to 19).  Also, Hofstra was the beneficiary of some very questionable foul calls in the first half much to the chagrin of the Raiders' faithful.  The worst call of the day was a foul call on the Raiders' Cooper Land, who clearly blocked Yves Jules' shot attempt.  The play was right in front of us in our section, and it was just a bad call.  Land had all ball. 

Any hope Hofstra fans had of a second half comeback similar to the one vs. William and Mary were quickly dashed at the start of the second frame.  In the first seven minutes, the Raiders outscored the Pride 23-9 as Wright State hit three 3 pointers and hit on all eight of their free throw attempts.  The score was 56-35 with 13:06 left in the game and the 5,000 plus Wright State fans roared in approval.

The officials slowed the game down significantly in the final twenty minutes of the game as the teams would combine for forty free throw attempts in the second half alone.  In fact, Hofstra would score sixteen of their thirty second half points from the free throw line (16 of 22 from the line in the second half).  And the Pride would actually have one more FG attempt in the second half, 23 to the Raiders' 22.

The problem was that the Raiders would shoot 14 of 22 from the field in the second half and 15 of 18 from the line in the second half.   Wright State also held Hofstra to 7 of 23 from the field in the second half and 33 percent overall for the game.  Also, the Pride, the third best team in the CAA in assist to turnover ratio, only had four assists and twelve turnovers, compared to the Raiders' fifteen assists to four turnovers.  When you combine those statistics, no wonder the final score was Wright State 82 Hofstra 56.

But what was most impressive was Wright State's Duggins.  He did everything Saturday morning.  He scored  a career high 31 points on layups, hit jumpers and posted up various Hofstra defenders, including fouling out Hofstra's best defensive guard, Yves Jules.  Jules had no answer for Duggins, who shot 10 of 18 from the field and was a perfect 10 of 10 from the line.  He also helped out in guarding Jenkins, who only had eight FG attempts, though he did have fourteen FT attempts (hitting 12 of them).  Jenkins was held to 18 points, five under his season average.

Wright State won convincingly without its third leading scorer, Troy Tabler, who scores 11.6 points per game.  If that last name is familiar to old school baseball fans, it should be.  He is the son of Pat Tabler, former Cleveland Indian, most well known for his ability to hit with the bases loaded.   Tabler has been out due to a fractured finger.  One of the Wright State fans I became friendly with told me that he should be back for their last regular season game vs. Detroit before the start of the Horizon League Tournament. 

For Hofstra, though they didn't play very well, they still have two games in conference left to improve on their position for the CAA Tournament.  They are at UNCW on Wednesday, then finish at home vs. Delaware on Saturday.  They are guaranteed to finish no lower than fourth and have clinched a bye spot.  But they could finish as high as second if they win out and ODU and VCU each lose on of their two remaining games.   To do so, they will need to play much better than the game vs. Wright State.

As I left, the Wright State fans who I struck up conversations with wished me a safe trip back to New York.  I responded with a thanks and told them that they will be fine in the Horizon once Tabler comes back.  And I really believe they will be if they keep playing defense like they did on Saturday.   I felt like I had gone back in Sherman and Peabody's Way Back Machine and saw UNCW circa 2006.  Only this time, Vaughan Duggins played the combined part of John Goldsberry and T.J. Carter.

Then I made my way back to my car and headed back out on I-675 as I headed east back to New York.  The drive went smoothly for the first several hours on I-70 and I-76/Penn Turnpike.  As I made my way on I-81, there was a high wind warning in the eastern part of Pennsylvania and New York.  Sure enough, I hit a lot of seemingly 50 mph crosswinds on I-81 that made large tractor trailer trucks sway in and out of their lanes.  For safety's sake, I decided to get off at a Hershey exit at around 8:00 PM and stayed overnight at what turned out to be a very noisy Fairfield Inn.   

I left the non quiet confines of Fairfield Inn at 2:15 AM very early Sunday morning and got back to my house at 5:15 AM.   Someone asked me Saturday afternoon after whether or not it was really worth to drive all the way to Dayton and back, especially after Hofstra lost.   I responded that despite the Hofstra loss, it was a fun trip.  I got to see the terrific U.S. Air Force museum, had a good dinner at a fun place (South Park Tavern) and saw good live college basketball at a venue I had never been at before, the Nutter Center.  

So of course, I would do a ten hour drive long as I had someone come with me and split up the driving.   At 45 years old, I really can't do 9 1/2 hour solo trips straight any more (though I did it Friday morning).  The trip back Saturday evening was a struggle and even if there wasn't high winds in Pennsylvania,  I probably would have stopped in Hershey or Bethlehem anyhow.  

The next road trip is in less than two weeks.  It's the annual six hour road trip to Richmond for the CAA Tournament.  This time Tieff is driving, and it will be nice to be a passenger for a change.  Ten live college basketball games in three days (and it will be eleven in four days if Hofstra makes the CAA Tournmament Final).  You can't beat that.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Road to Wright State

When I told my wife I was leaving at 3:00 AM Friday morning for my trip to Fairborn, Ohio, she said "Why are you leaving so early?"  I replied, "To beat the traffic out of New York."  There were historical reasons for doing this.

My family was from Glenshaw and Etna, Pennsylvania, towns right outside of Pittsburgh.  When I was young, when we visited my grandparents and my Uncle Elmer and Aunt Syl, we often left very early in the morning, around 3 or 4 AM for that eight hour drive to Pittsburgh.  We still did that as we got older.  Years ago, we rented a van to drive to Pittsburgh for my cousin Ron's wedding.  We left around the same time.  It was always the same reason.  Avoid the traffic in New York.

So here I was, at 4:00 AM on a Friday morning, driving to Ohio for a basketball game.  Dayton is western Ohio, so the trip is somewhat different from Pittsburgh.  But a good part of it takes you into central and western Pennsylvania, highways and scenery I am very familiar with over the years.

The last family trip I took to Pittsburgh was the summer of 2008 when my mom went with my wife, my kids and me on vacation.  It was the last trip my mom would ever take to Pittsburgh.  When I saw the familiar signs off I-81 for I-76/Penn Turnpike, I thought about all the vacations I took with my siblings and parents.  And then I thought about the last trip to Pittsburgh I took with my mom with my own family.  My mom always loved the trip.  I couldn't keep my eyes from watering up.

The trip takes you from southwestern Pennsylvania, briefly through "Wild and Wonderful" West Virginia,  through Columbus onto Fairborn, which is right outside of Dayton.  The hotel, I am staying at, the Fairborn Holiday Inn on Presidential Drive is literally across the street from Wright State University.  It's also a very short drive from the Nutter Center, where Hofstra is playing Wright State later this morning.

If you can't tell from the picture, Wright State is named after the famous Wright Brothers, who moved to Dayton from Indiana in the late 1800s. The University of Dayton's mascot name, Flyers, comes from the first Wright Brothers engine powered plane, "The Wright Flyer".  It's also home to the Wright Patterson Air Force Base, which contains the magnificent National Museum of the United States Air Force.

The first thing you need to know about the museum is that admission is free.  Parking is also free. The museum contains over THREE HUNDRED real planes. They have various galleries - hangars from early planes, to World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Asia-Southeast War (Vietnam), to Cold War era planes and finally an awe inspiring missile gallery. There is also a special registered tour of Presidential planes that you can signup for and and an air park.   It is literally a little boy's dream.  You can click here for a virtual tour.

And it's not just American manufactured war planes.  There are a signficant number of World War I and World War II German and Japanese planes.   A lot of the planes were donated by other countries. One Japanese Zero was found on the Island of New Guinea.  An Air Force B-10, which based on the placard story, the Air Force was desperately trying to find one still intact for the museum.  This B-10 had the insignia of the Argentine Air Force.  That's because the Argentine government bought several of them and this one was donated by the Argentine Air Force. 

My brother, who is ten years older than me, was in the Air Force.  So when he was stationed over in England in the 70's, he would write me letters and enclose drawings of World War II planes, which I so loved.  So, as I walked through the entire World War II gallery, I was a veritable kid in a candy store. As much as I love the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, this so blows it out of the water.  As I walked through the various hangars, I wished my two sons, who love airplanes, were with me to see all these.

Since I only got to my hotel at 2:00 PM, I didn't get to the Air Force museum till 3:00 PM.  I basically rushed through the galleries in about two hours since the museum closes at 5:00 PM.   As I headed back to the gift shop entrance, I saw one of the museum attendants.   Figuring he worked for the Air Force,  I casually stated "You have a great museum here."

The attendant turned around and said, "No, this is your museum," and he proceeded to start a conversation with me.  Jeffery was a volunteer, a retired Dayton policeman, who served 22 years on the force and unfortunately who had been injured on the job.  He talked about how the museum is run by a non profit organization that is entirely funded by donations.  The Air Force only funds the normal operations and maintenance costs of the facility.  Other than that, Jeffery noted that it's people like you and me that fund the museum foundation.  If you would like to donate to the foundation, you can click here.  I plan to become a member when I get back to Long Island.  

Jeffery also talked that they have numerous other planes for which they don't yet have the hangar space.  The museum is also planning to get the Shuttle Atlantis to the museum since the shuttle flew a lot of private missions for the Air Force.  Now that will be really cool to see, since I later got both my boys a toy space shuttle in the museum gift shop.

Finally Jeffery talked to me about the concerns the museum community and people in Dayton in general have about Dayton's economic fortunes.   He talked about how Delco, NCR, Frigidaire and many other companies left Dayton.  He also talked about the GM Truck plant that closed not too long ago.  Apparently many museum officials and Dayton civic leaders are concerned that Dayton will become "unpopulated" as he put it.  They are hoping that another company will come in to beef up employment and that events like the NCAA First Four will help tourism and increase interest in the museum.

As Jeffery talked about Dayton's woes, it reminded me of the manufacturer of a lot of the planes in the museum, Northrop Grumman, or as I knew it growing up, simply Grumman. As many people know, Grumman was a major manufacturer of airplanes for the United States Armed Forces over the years.  Grumman was based in Bethpage, where I lived much of my life.  During the 70's and 80's, many people were employed by Grumman, including several of my brother's friends.   When the Cold War ended, the military aerospace industry basically went into the tank.  Grumman no longer had a lot of government contracts and basically left the island, leaving many people unemployed or finding other jobs.

My mom's house is on Cherry Avenue in Bethpage, across from the high school.  When Grumman was in its heyday, Cherry Avenue was the busiest street between 7:00-9:00 AM and 4:00-6:00 PM during the weekdays.   It was actually a dangerous street to cross.  Nowadays, the traffic is 1/20th of what it was.  The high school is still there and there's now actually a traffic light by the entrance, which was never there years ago (Grumman wouldn't have allowed it).

We have been trying to sell my mom's house for the last several months with few people interested.  From what I hear from my sister, the people that have looked at it are turned off that it is on such a main street with a lot of traffic.  When I heard that, I had to laugh.  If they only knew what it was like in 1980.

I thanked Jeffery for his time and the talk.  When I get back to New York, I will join as a member of the museum foundation and tell others to join as well.   And I will definitely make my way back to Dayton and the museum with my two boys.  They have to see this museum and this time, I will make sure to have most of the day available for the museum.

I got back to my hotel, rested for a few minutes, then went into downtown Dayton for dinner.  I drove around a little bit and noticed that a lot of downtown was vacant on Friday night.  It reminded me of downtown Richmond and Jeffery's comments about Dayton's now lack of industry hit home.

But I made sure to have dinner at the South Park Pizza Tavern that has been made so famous by the Mid Majority's PIG party which he has in honor of the Play in Game annually held in Dayton.  Dayton is now a host site for the "First Four", so it will have two games there, not one, since there are now 68 teams in the tournament.  It's a cozy place that has great unique beers on tap (had the Kolsch last night) and very good pizza.  I recommend the Cheeseburger deluxe.  Very good.   The South Park Tavern also has the U.S vs U.S.S.R hockey game which I played many a night at the Ground Round during the late 80's when watching the NCAA Tournament.

When I was heading towards downtown on Colonel Glenn Highway, I noticed a Dairy Queen on the left side.   So of course on my way back to the hotel,  I stopped at DQ for my traditional blizzard.  I brought my Blizzard back to the hotel and ate it while watching UConn vs. Louisville.  I wanted to watched the replay of VCU vs. Wichita State on ESPN3 on my laptop, but I couldn't get it due to the Holiday Inn wireless.  No matter.   It had been a long day, but a very good one and today brings the BracketBuster game.  Can't ask for anything more than that.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

CAA Miscellaneous and Hofstra - Wright State Bracketbuster Preview

Tuesday night was a big night for the CAA and not just for Charles Jenkins adding to his legend.  As a result of one of the games, the four bye spots for the first round of the CAA Tournament are all set.  George Mason had already clinched due to last Saturday's action.  After Tuesday night, VCU, Old Dominion and Hofstra all clinched spots.  That was due to Drexel losing at UNC Wilmington.  How the four teams will be seeded still has to play out with two games left.  But with one more win, the Patriots will clinch the top spot.

Since the CAA expanded to twelve teams in the 2005-06 season, the winner of the CAA Tournament has come from a team that has had a bye in the first round.  When you dig deeper, since 2005-06 all but one of the top seeds in the CAA Tournament have gone on to win the CAA Tournament.  The only top seeded team that didn't win the CAA Tournament was VCU in the 2007-08 season when they lost to #5 William and Mary in the semis of the 2008 CAA Tournament.

As for the rest of the eight teams' seedings, only one is guaranteed. At 0-16, Towson has clinched last place in the conference and gets to play the #5-#12 game in the afternoon session on Friday March 4th at Richmond Coliseum.   At least it will be a quick exit.  William and Mary is likely the #11 seed at 3-13.  After that, seeds #5 through #10  have not been decided.  Drexel and James Madison are tied for fifth at 9-7.  Madison has the tiebreaker, having swept Drexel in their season series.  But Madison has to host ODU then play at VCU.  Meanwhile, Drexel hosts VCU then plays at Towson.  Likely the Dragons will finish no lower than sixth, though Drexel could finish seventh if they lose two and UNCW wins two due to tiebreaker (UNCW defeated Drexel in their only matchup).  Madison can finish no lower than sixth due to tiebreakers over UNCW and Delaware.

What's really up in the air is who will finish seventh through tenth.  UNCW and Delaware are tied for seventh, with Georgia State one game back in ninth and Northeastern in tenth.  The Seahawks have the tiebreaker on the Blue Hens having won their only matchup on the season.  The Huskies, depending on how the other teams' games play out, could jump up to seventh if they win both of their games. That means they will have beaten UNCW in the last game of the season.  If tied with the Seahawks,  the Huskies would have the tiebreaker having swept the series.

Here's probably the easiest thing to figure.  Mason, VCU, ODU and Hofstra all have byes.  Mason will beat Northeastern at home next week (sorry Huskies fans and Jerry Beach) and finish first.  Towson will finish last.  Wait till the end of next weekend to see how the rest of the seeds play out.

George Mason has been on a flat out roll.  Ever since they lost two straight at Hofstra and ODU, the Patriots have won twelve games in a row.  Their average margin of victory is just about 18 points.  During their streak, the only game they have not won by double digits was a two point win at James Madison in a nationally televised game.  

Now Mason is known for their offense, since they are 14th in the country in FG percentage at 48 percent.   But in seven of those twelve wins, the Patriots have held their opponents to under 39 percent or less shooting from the field.  Four of those came in the last five wins they have had (Hofstra, ODU, JMU, and VCU).  That's why Mason is third in FG percentage defense and scoring defense in the CAA.

John Hollinger is a NBA statistical guru.  He has a statistical rating called PER - Player Efficiency Ratings, which is a statistical breakdown of efficient a player is in various categories, scoring, assists, rebounds etc.   It basically shows which players are helping their teams the most.   Hollinger has developed a PER for college players as well, which you can find at the link below.

But BEFORE you click on the link, I want to tell you two about two of the CAA players that are in the top 22 of the ratings.  First, it's not surprising that Charles Jenkins is currently sixth in Hollinger's ratings, ahead of Jared Sullinger and Jimmer Fredette.   But the second player ranked currently 22nd is definitely surprising, though he is one of my favorite players in the CAA.  Can you guess who is 22nd in Hollinger's ratings?  Denzel Bowles?  Nope, he is 41st.  Jamie Skeen.  No, he is 75th.  Cam Long? Nope.  Quinn McDowell?  No.

The answer is Frank Hassell.  Hassell, ODU's near double double machine, averages 14 points, 9.5 rebounds, 1.4 blocks, nearly shoots 54 percent from the field and shoots 73 percent from the line.  His Hollinger PER rating is currently higher than Kentucky's Terrence Jones or Duke's Nolan Smith.  That's how good Frank Hassell has been for the Monarchs.

When the CAA Coach of the Year voting is done, certainly George Mason's Jim Larranaga is going to get votes for how dominant George Mason has been.  And certainly, Hofstra's Mo Cassara deserves a good amount of consideration for taking a Hofstra team to a top four finish despite losing two all CAA freshmen in Chaz Williams and Halil Kanacevic to transfer and their sixth man, Nathaniel Lester to injury.

But another coach also deserves a lot of recognition for the job he has done.  UNCW's Buzz Peterson took over a team that was 9-22 and 5-13 in conference last season and lost several players due to transfter.   The Seahawks are currently 13-14 and 7-11 in conference.  They have a decent chance of finishing over .500 overall and finishing .500 in conference.  Many people, including yours truly predicted a lot worse.   Good job, Buzz!

Finally, here's a BracketBuster Preview of Hofstra vs. Wright State.   I will be heading out early tomorrow morning for the road trip to Dayton, Ohio  to see the nationally televised game Saturday morning at the Nutter Center on the campus of WSU.

Hofstra comes into the game 18-9 overall, tied for second at 12-4 in the CAA.  The Pride have won four games in a row and have clinched a top four seed and first round bye for the CAA Tournament.  Wright State enters the game 17-12 overall, in fifth place at 10-7 in the Horizon.  The Raiders have lost three in a row.

The Pride of course have Charles Jenkins, the CAA's leading scorer at 23.5 ppg and reigning CAA Player of the Year.  Hofstra is fourth in the CAA in scoring offense at 71 points per game, fifth in FG and three point FG percentage, second in blocked shots and third in assist to turnover ratio.  The Raiders have Vaughn Duggins, the Horizon's second leading scorer at 18.5 ppg, and are first in the Horizon in scoring defense at 62.7 points per game and first in three point FG percentage defense at 30.9 percent.  They are also sixth in the Horizon in FG percentage at 44.2 percent, the same exact percentage as Hofstra.

Now both teams excel at certain categories.  Wright State is first in the Horizon in turnover margin at +3.5.  Hofstra is third in the CAA at +2.22.   The Raiders are first in the Horizon in FT shooting at 75.1 percent while Hofstra is first in the CAA at 76.2 percent.  However, both teams do not rebound well.  Wright State is next to last in the Horizon at -5.9.  Hofstra is dead last in the CAA in rebounding margin at -4.7.   Finally, despite leading the Horizon in scoring defense, the Raiders are dead in last in FG percentage defense at 46.4 percent.

So what does this all mean?  Well based on watching Wright State's game vs. Cleveland State last night (a 74-72 loss for the Raiders at the Nutter Center), WSU loves to shoot the three as they shot 10 of 20 from beyond the arc.   Since Wright State lacks size, I expect Hofstra to play a lot more man to guard against the three.  Also, Duggins likes to post up smaller guards as he did often vs. Norris Cole last night.  Look for Hofstra to play Mike Moore on Duggins.  Like the Pride has in Mike Moore (15.1 ppg), the Raiders have a second scoring threat in N'gai Evans, who averages 15.5 points per game and is quite quick   You may see Hofstra use their defensive stopper Yves Jules on him.

As for Hofstra on offense, Wright State guards the three so well but doesn't have much size.  So look for Jenkins and Moore to drive the lane a lot.  And look for Greg Washington and David Imes to be a large part of the Pride offense inside.  Cleveland State's forwards Aaron Poque and Tim Kamczyc combined to shoot 12 of 14 from the field last night and that probably explains why Wright State's FG percentage defense is last in the Horizon.

Hofstra's weakness, rebounding, is not Wright State's strength.  However, watching the Raiders last night, I can see they play the passing lanes really well and thus why they are first in the Horizon in turnover margin.  Jenkins and Brad Kelleher must be very careful with their passes Saturday morning.

Look for a close game with both teams who can shoot free throws well.  I expect a three to four point margin at most.   Who's going to win?  I gave up BracketBuster predictions after last season. Just turn on ESPNU at 11:00 AM Saturday and find out.  And maybe you will see me sitting in the crowd.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Jenkins is Mr. Buzzer Beater as Hofstra Defeats William and Mary in Overtime

February 15, 2011 was my 45th birthday.   It just so happens that on my birthday Hofstra was hosting William and Mary at the Mack Center.  That's because the CAA was on a Tuesday night schedule with BracketBusters starting on Friday.   So what better way to celebrate my birthday than with live CAA college basketball.

When I got home from work, I exchanged my three year old son Jonathan with my five year old son, Matthew, who was going to the game with me.   But first, we had to pick up Tieff from the Mineola Train Station at 6:27.   But of course, the LIRR wouldn't be the LIRR without the train being 20 minutes late.  During this time though, Matthew got a nap in.  Somehow, we got there right at tipoff.

The concern I had coming into the game was that the Pride might come out flat after a big road win at Delaware.   Hofstra was now up two games on Drexel for a first round bye spot in the CAA Tournament with three games to play and you had to wonder if they would be focused at the start of their home game.

Well, the Pride came out pretty focused.   In the first five minutes, Hofstra bolted out to a 15-3 lead as Mike Moore buried three three pointers while Charles Jenkins chipped in with six points.   It looked like the Pride were going to run the Tribe out of the building.

But despite their 3-12 record, William and Mary has a couple of wins over Drexel and James Madison, two teams over. 500 in the standings.  They also played Hofstra very close at Williamsburg earlier in the season and had just lost only by two points at Drexel on Saturday.   And thanks in large part to Quinn McDowell, the Tribe were going to answer the Pride's run and then some.

Over the next 17 and a half minutes, which included 90 seconds into the second half, William and Mary outscored Hofstra 36-11.   Yes, that's correct, 36-11.  It was a combination of good offense and defense by the Tribe, and the Pride settling for two many threes.  Hofstra started out the game shooting five of seven from the field (with five assists).   They would only hit on three of their next sixteen shots.  Meanwhile, Quinn McDowell had 11 points and Julian Boatner 8 points during the Tribe run.  The score was 39-26 William and Mary with 18:27 left.

But as they did so many times this season, like against James Madison and Northeastern, Hofstra would  rally in the second half.   And "The Man", "The Wolf", "The Force of Nature", Jenkins would be at the center of the rally.   Over the next five plus minutes, the Pride would outscore the Tribe 21-4.   Jenkins would score eleven of those points, including a three pointer that put Hofstra up 44-41.   After a Brad Kelleher three, the score was 47-43 Pride with 12:44 left.

The Lions' Den and the rest of the 2,378 were really into the game now.   And there was one other member of the 2,378 in attendance who was very much into the game.  My five year old son Matthew. I always kept asking him to go to basketball games this season, but he didn't want to go.  He was reticent to go to this game originally, but he did it because it was my birthday.  

Once there, he was having a great time.  He kept asking me who was winning, kept raising his foam finger after a Hofstra basket, and said the pretzel he had was "yummy".  Finally midway through the second half, he turned to me and said "Daddy, I want to go to another basketball game."  It was the best birthday present I could ask for yesterday.

The Tribe would not quit though.  Boatner and McDowell would bury threes and W&M outscored Hofstra 8-2 to go up 51-49 with 7:55 left.  But the Pride responded, outscoring the Tribe 12-4 over the next three and a half minutes to go up 61-55 as Moore scored seven of those points during that stretch.

However, during the second half, the best free throw shooting team in the CAA was unusually missing shots from the charity line.  Hofstra, who shoots 76 percent from the line on the season, would miss five out of fourteen free throws in the second half.   Moore and Jenkins, two of the top seven free throw shooters in the CAA each missed a free throw within the last two minutes of regulation.

And William and Mary would capitalize on those misses.  Trailing 65-60 with 1:59 left,  Julian Boatner and Brandon Britt would combine for all nine Tribe points over the next 1:50 as W&M scored six of the points from the line.  The home crowd was stunned as William and Mary was up 69-66 with nine seconds left.

Hofstra Coach Mo Cassara called timeout with six seconds left.  Tieff and I wondered who was going to shoot the game tying three point attempt.  But there never should have been any doubt.  The best player in the CAA was going to get the ball.

Jenkins received the ball and took a shot from the top of the key over the outstretched hand of a W&M player.  The Hofstra faithful went nuts as the teams went to overtime tied at 69.  And seemingly for the the upteenth time this season, the home crowd was set for another exciting finish by their Pride.  Little did they or I know how exciting it would be.

The overtime started out with Hofstra jumping out to a 74-69 lead with 2:57 left.  But again William and Mary would rally around their best player, McDowell.  McDowell would score seven of the Tribe's nine points during the overtime period.  McDowell would bury a three to put the Tribe up 76-75 with 1:08 left.

But Jenkins would hit a jumper to put Hofstra back up one 77-76 with 32 seconds left.   Hofstra had a chance to extened the lead to three, but Brad Kelleher missed one of two free throws and Hofstra was only up 78-76 with 13 seconds left.  It was the third missed free throw by Hofstra in the overtime period.   It would setup the exciting finish.

The Tribe called timeout to setup their play.  And Coach Tony Shaver called it for McDowell.  McDowell with Hofstra's best defensive player Yves Jules on him drove the lane and got the foul call on Jules.   With the Lions Den section trying their best to to distract him, McDowell calmly sank both free throws to tie the game at 78 with 4.5 seconds left.

But there were 4.5 seconds left. And once again, you knew who was getting the ball.  Jenkins.  And he received the inbounds pass and dribbled the ball up the court.  At about 35 feet out from the wing, otherwise known as Dominick Mejia range (know your old school CAA), Jenkins got a good look and launched his shot in front of two Tribe defenders.  As the buzzer sounded, the ball went right through the net.  Swish.  Jenkins raced down the court with his teammates and celebrated with the Lions Den Section as Hofstra won 81-78.  I can honestly say that might have been the most amazing thing I have ever seen on my birthday.

With that three pointer, Jenkins had 22 of his 28 points after the first half and probably cemented his legend in Hofstra basketball lore.  Moore added 25 points and 8 rebounds while David Imes added a double double with 12 points and 10 rebounds.  Brad Kelleher had nine points, seven assists, six rebounds and five steals for the Pride who are now 16-1 when three or more players score in double figures.  McDowell led W&M with a double double 28 points on 6 of 10 shooting from beyond the arc and had 12 rebounds.  Boatner added 16 points on 4 of 10 shooting from beyond the arc.  The Tribe was 12 of 25 from beyond the arc while Hofstra was 12 of 31.

With the win, Hofstra clinched a first round bye in the CAA Tournament since Drexel lost a little earlier at UNCW.  The Pride is also now in a second place tie with VCU and ODU after George Mason crushed the Rams on their home court 71-51 while Old Dominion easily handled Georgia State.  The Pride now travel to Ohio for their Bracketbuster game on Saturday vs. Wright State.

After the game, Tieff and I talked with Jerry Beach and his wife, while my son got to run and play on the court.   Before Matthew left the house last night, he wasn't sure if he wanted to go.   Three plus hours later, he was having so much fun, he didn't want to leave.

I think the Pride just got themselves another fan.