Saturday, November 14, 2009

Kansas 101, Hofstra 65 (Or: That 101-63 run was a bit much to overcome)

ESPN, realizing it does not want the full fury of Dutch Nation (snort) unleashed upon it, makes sure to air on SportsCenter a highlight of Hofstra's early dominance of Kansas!

For a variety of reasons, the Flying Dutchmen’s 101-65 loss to top-ranked Kansas—in which the Jayhawks made a dramatic comeback from an early 2-0 deficit, look, the picture doesn’t lie!—didn’t lend itself to the recap all nine of you Loyal Readers grew accustomed to last season.

With a million TVs (give or take a few) and a menu that’s as tasty as it is affordable, Miller’s Ale House is a great place to watch a game (look at me, selling out!). But sitting atop bar stools about six inches from one of the big screens—the wife most accurately described it as sitting in the front row of a movie theatre—put us so close to the telecast that the players were actually blurry and it took an extra second or two to digest whatever we were seeing.

Hopefully, with tickets procured to at least the next three games—that’s right, we’re going to the NIT baybee—we’ll be able to provide the type of thorough recap I’d like to think I produced with regularity last season.

In addition, too much should never be read into the season opener, regardless of how it turns out—especially when it goes according to script like it did last night. It was a lopsided loss—the biggest margin of defeat for Hofstra since a 79-43 loss to Xavier in 1996-97—yet nowhere near the type of soul-crusher that inspires great, wordy angst.

This was Kansas, after all, and the Jayhawks are really freaking good. That number one ranking isn’t a fluke, and there was little to no chance they’d be caught off-guard in the season opener. All my razzing of Kansas and mean, bullying fans like Loyal Reader Tommy aside, it’d be cool if the Jayhawks win the very last game of the season, too.

The Flying Dutchmen didn’t suffer any injuries, the players and coaches got to open the season in one of the best environments possible and the school got the burst of priceless publicity it expected. The highlights of the game aired during the first segment and before the first commercials on this morning’s SportsCenter and the final score was the first men’s basketball score displayed along the ticker at the bottom of the screen.

The evening was a pretty neat one for Hofstra fans as well. To be standing in a restaurant and see the words “Your receiver will autotune to Hofstra @ Kansas on 721 ESPN at 8 p.m.” appear on multiple screens is to realize just how far the basketball program has come in the last 15 or so years. And to actually see people showing up at a restaurant to watch Hofstra on TV and to hear them cheering wildly when the Dutchmen made their best run late in the first half? Awesome beyond words.

All that said, there were some actual basketball observations worth noting. Like these!

—I realized after getting to Miller’s Ale House that I couldn’t remember how to spell Halil Kanacevic. That’s not going to be a problem for long. Kanacevic had perhaps the most impressive debut of the Tom Pecora Era with 12 points and 12 rebounds in 31 minutes. He almost single-handedly made things interesting for a brief period of time in the first half, when he had five points, two rebounds and a steal during an 8-0 run in which the Dutchmen closed to within 31-22 and forced Bill Self to burn two timeouts.

Kanacevic is the first Hofstra player to put up a double-double in his debut since Kenny Adeleke had 13 points and 10 rebounds against Florida Atlantic Nov. 17, 2001. Let’s hope the similarities end there, shall we?

Again, nobody should jump to conclusions after the season opener, but putting up a double-double against the best team in the country is pretty damn impressive.

—That said, I’m going to gush a bit here, but let me preface it by saying (or writing) that I don’t think I properly expressed my enthusiasm over another freshman, Chaz Williams, in Friday’s season preview. But this guy is going to be really good really soon, and may have already officially become the point guard the Dutchmen have lacked the last two years.

Williams didn’t start but played 37 minutes—the most by a Dutchman in his debut game since Antoine Agudio played 38 minutes in the 2004-05 season opener—and did a pretty good Loren Stokes impersonation by doing a little bit of everything (seven points, six assists, five rebounds and one steal) and driving the lane with the type of fearless regularity unbecoming of such a slight frame.

Most importantly, and most impressively: He didn’t commit a turnover. That, too, is worth noting when it occurs in a season opener against the top-ranked team in the land.

—The players whose spots in the starting lineup would be most endangered if Kanacevic and Williams continue to emerge had mixed results Friday. Miklos Szabo scored the seismic basket that gave the Dutchmen the early lead and hit all three of his field goal attempts in the first half, but foul trouble limited him to just 18 minutes and he fouled out with nine points and five boards.

Life With Corny, meanwhile, evoked memories of last season, and not in the good way, by missing all but one of his nine field goal attempts and all six of his shots from 3-point land. He finished with two points, the seventh time in his last nine regular season games he failed to reach double digits. I wouldn’t expect to see him pulled from the lineup in the first couple rounds of the NIT, but is he already on the hot seat?

—Charles Jenkins didn’t have a classic game, but he acquitted himself well on the big stage after a rough first half (2-of-9 from the field). Jenkins scored 18 points in the final 20 minutes and led the Dutchmen with 23 points and four steals while also adding five rebounds. This just in: He’ll be fine.

—The other two juniors were considerably quieter. Greg Washington drew four fouls in the first half and fouled out in just nine minutes. Fun fact: He started in his Hofstra debut Nov. 10, 2007 and fouled out in seven minutes. Nathaniel Lester, whose newly shorn hair and more muscular build makes him look about 10 years older than he did a year ago, had just six points and one board.

— Yves Jules was scoreless in eight minutes as the eighth and final member of the rotation. David Imes missed the game with an ankle injury and Brad Kelleher is at the mercy of the NCAA’s idiotic Clearinghouse (but hey, John Wall missed a game last night too, hooray fairness!).


(I’ll further explain this Monday, but rest assured it’s a concept I’ve shamelessly ripped off from others!)

3: Halil Kanacevic

2: Chaz Williams

1: Charles Jenkins

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