Monday, November 23, 2009

Hofstra 87, Farmingdale 48 (Or: That giant sigh of relief you heard was Dutch Nation exhaling)

Even President Barack Obama--who has been rooting for the Flying Dutchmen ever since his appearance at the Hofstra debate lifted him to victory last November, snort--is relieved to hear Charles Jenkins is fine.

Tom Pecora was the calmest person in Hofstra Arena when Charles Jenkins limped off the floor with 4:20 left in the first half of the Flying Dutchmen’s game against Farmingdale State Friday night.

Most of the 2,655 in attendance (this is me rolling my eyes at Long Islanders failing to show up despite the perfect price tag) saw the Dutchmen’s NCAA Tournament hopes flash before their eyes when Jenkins got swept under Farmingdale’s Terrence Howard as he drove to the basket and crashed to the floor, where he laid face first for a few minutes.

“Get up, Charles,” one fan pleaded in the suddenly quiet Arena.

There seemed to be plenty of reason for concern when Jenkins pulled his jersey over his head in frustration as he headed off the court. But Jenkins—who was perfect from the field and the free throw line in scoring nine points prior to his injury—emerged from the locker room seconds before the start of the second half and watched the Dutchmen complete their 87-48 win over Farmingdale from the bench. Jenkins, diagnosed with a shin injury, appeared enthusiastic in talking to teammates and is expected to be play in tonight’s NIT consolation round game against Elon.

“He looks like an NFL running back,” Pecora said after the game. “Takes more than that to hurt him, so I wasn’t really concerned about it, to be honest. When I went in at halftime, I thought he would be fine, and then I just told him ‘We don’t need you to play in the second half.’

“I’ve seen him take worse.”

The good news on Jenkins allowed Pecora to focus late Friday on how pleased he was with the continued maturation of the Dutchmen. Pecora was curious to see how the Dutchmen would approach Division III Farmingdale, particularly after opening the season with high-profile games at Kansas and in the preseason NIT in Connecticut against UConn.

But the Dutchmen never trailed, though they allowed Farmingdale to close within a basket several times in the first 10 minutes before ending the first half on a 30-7 run.

“One of the reasons we put this game in was that this tells you how mature your team is, if they can go into this game and prepare the same way they did for a UConn or a Kansas or a Yale,” Pecora said. “They go out and perform at a pretty high level, then you know, they’re all buying in. and I think we did that tonight, so I’m very pleased with that.”

The Dutchmen scored eight of the first nine points in the second half to take a 30-point lead for the first time, after which the only remaining bits of suspense revolved around whether or not walk-on Matt Grogan would score (he did; his 3-pointer with 7:45 left were the first points scored by a Hofstra walk-on since Ryan Johnson on Dec. 17, 2005) and if the Arena scoreboard had enough room on it for triple digits.

But the Dutchmen, who haven’t scored 100 points in a game since Feb. 29, 1992, finished well shy Friday as Pecora, who began his coaching career at Farmingdale in 1989 and said playing the Rams was a way to thank the school for giving him his first opportunity, ordered his squad not to pile on in the waning minutes.

“At about the 10-minute mark, I told them ‘We’re not shooting any more 3-pointers, we’re not throwing any alley-oops or doing anything to embarrass our opponent,” Pecora said. “That’s not what we’re about.”

For Pecora, the waning minutes were about playing Nathaniel Lester—who had his third straight impressive game with a team-high 21 points and five steals—at power forward in anticipation of fielding a smaller lineup tonight against Elon as well as getting another extended look at freshmen Grogan, Yves Jules, Halil Kanacevic and Chaz Williams.

Jules scored his first collegiate basket and ended with 12 points. Kanacevic earned some good-natured ribbing from Pecora for collecting a season-low seven rebounds while Williams had another Loren Stokes-like effort (11 points, nine assists, six rebounds, four steals) that left even the demanding Pecora satisfied.

“I just gave Halil a hard time—I said you had 12 rebounds against Kansas, 10 against UConn, you only had seven against Farmingdale State,” Pecora said. “He still made some great plays. And Chaz did too…he had nine assists and two turnovers and I’m complaining. Imagine that.”

3 STARS OF THE GAME (vs. Farmingdale 11/20)
3: Nathaniel Lester
2: Chaz Williams
1: Miklos Szabo

Nathaniel Lester 7
Charles Jenkins 6
Chaz Williams 4
Halil Kanacevic 4
Cornelius Vines 2
Miklos Szabo 1

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