Sunday, February 26, 2012

A Senior Day to Remember (Recap of UNCW vs. Hofstra)

After watching Fordham rally to defeat LaSalle, my son Matthew and I were able to quickly make our way out of a back exit of Rose Hill gym.  We made it  to our car in the Fordham parking garage quite quickly before the rest of the Ram and Explorer fans.  Our mission was to make it to Hempstead by 4:00 PM. We made it to Hofstra with time to spare for Senior Day at the Mack Center as Hofstra was hosting UNCW.

Senior starters Mike Moore, Nathaniel Lester and Dwan McMillan were all given a special ceremony by Hofstra University before their last home game as members of the Pride.  All three have been significant contributors this season. Moore, the leading scorer in the CAA,  and Lester, the eighth leading scorer in the CAA,  both scored their 1000th career points for the Pride this season.  McMillan, the CAA leader in assists per game, became the starting point guard after Steve Mejia struggled with injuries.

The three thousand plus fans in attendance gave all three a nice ovation, but nowhere near the ovation that last season's seniors Brad Kelleher, Greg Washington and Charles Jenkins received for Senior Day last season.  Perhaps that might have been because a) the Pride had a sold out Mack Center on Senior Day last season and b) the Pride were 13-4 in conference on Senior Day last season as opposed to 2-15 this season. It just so happened that Washington and Jenkins were in attendance for the day's festivities.

The Pride came out very quickly as they have done on several occasions this season.  Lester scored five quick points and Hofstra went out to a 9-0 lead.  UNCW Head Coach Buzz Peterson was so upset with his team's play, he benched all five starters two minutes into the game.

As has occurred several times this season, the Pride would see their early lead evaporate.  The Seahawks went on a 14-3 run over four minutes.  Tanner Milson's second three pointer put the Seahawks up 14-11 with twelve and a half minutes left.  The Hofstra fans had seen this act before and were afraid of the same result.

However, the Pride responded with a huge run. It started with what must have been forward Moussa Kone's longest jumper of the season, which was a ten foot bank shot.  Then a Moore three pointer and a Lester layup put  Hofstra back up 18-14.  Those three baskets were part of the Pride outscoring the Seahawks 34-11 the rest of the half.  Hofstra hit on nine of their last thirteen shots from the field and only missed two of their thirteen free throw attempts for the entire half.

The Pride led at halftime 45-25 in what was easily their best first half of the season.  The team shot six of ten from beyond the arc, had thirteen assists and outrebounded the Seahawks 21-11 in the first twenty minutes.  Moore and Lester had thirty two combined points.   This didn't seem like the same Hofstra team that had lost to UNCW in Wilmington earlier in the season.

During the game, Jenkins, now of the Golden State Warriors, was honored with a special game ball by Coach Mo Cassara.  It was for being the all time scoring leader in Hofstra history.  The entire crowd gave Jenkins a well deserved standing ovation.  Throughout the entire first half, kids came up to Jenkins for autographs and he more than obliged.  Charles Jenkins is truly a class act.

If anyone thought that the first half was a fluke, they were quickly dissuaded in the first six minutes.  Keith Rendleman tried his best (he had sixteen points and nine rebounds for the game), but the rest of the Seahawks were getting overwhelmed by the Pride.  The lead ballooned to thirty, 60-30, with 14:25 left in the game.  Moore and Lester had nailed two more three pointers and the rout was on.

Late in the second half, Hofstra had a lead of thirty seven points.  Think about this. A team that came into the game with only two wins in conference and nine wins in total  was beating their opponents 90-53 with a little over two minutes left.  Cassara cleared what little he has of a bench (due to injuries, redshirts and dismissals), making sure all his seniors got a standing ovation as they left the court.    The Pride would win their last regular season conference game in impressive fashion 93-64.

The final statistics were bewildering.  Hofstra shot fifty six percent from the field, including twelve of nineteen from beyond the arc.  What might have been more impressive was the Pride having twenty five assists and only eleven turnovers.  Moore had thirty points, including shooting six of nine from beyond the arc.  Lester added twenty points.  Stephen Nwaukoni held his own against Rendleman with a double double, ten points and ten rebounds.  Mejia and Shemiye McLendon each had ten points.  But perhaps the most impressive stat was McMillan with fifteen assists and only four turnovers.

Hofstra ended their regular season on a high note.  Hopefully it will give them momentum for next Friday night's first round game vs. Georgia State.   But at least all three seniors had a truly memorable performance in their last home game for the Pride.

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