Thursday, December 10, 2009

Hofstra 44, Manhattan 39 (Or: I’ve called Hofstra wins ugly, pug-ugly, fugly, pug-fugly, but never ugly-ugly…)

A Flying Dutchmen win as ugly as Moe the Bartender left Tom Pecora feeling as grumpy as, well, Moe the Bartender.

The Flying Dutchmen didn’t trail for the final 36 minutes against Manhattan Wednesday night, scored 19 unanswered points during a first half in which they held the Jaspers scoreless from the field for nearly 14 minutes, limited the Jaspers to 21 percent shooting and made history with the final score.

Yet at the podium afterward sat two forlorn-looking players and one head coach, the latter of whose disgust threatened to bubble over. Three weeks after the Dutchmen learned that Tom Pecora doesn’t believe in moral victories following the loss to UConn, they learned Wednesday he’s not one to find beauty in ugly wins, either.

And the Dutchmen won in historically grotesque fashion by edging Manhattan, 44-39, in front of a season-high 3,076 at the Arena (can football be killed again before the New Hampshire game Saturday?). The 44 points were the fewest Hofstra has scored in a victory since the Flying Dutchmen (who were really called the Flying Dutchmen back then) beat something called an Albright, 43-36, in 1961-62. In addition, the victory marked the first time Hofstra won with less than 50 points since the 1992-93 season, when the Butch van Breda Kolff-led Dutchmen (who, yes, were also still called the Dutchmen back then) edged Yale 48-46.

More impressively, it was the first time since Jan. 18, 1989, when Hofstra beat Rider 48-34, that the Dutchmen have allowed fewer than 40 points. Neither Charles Jenkins or Halil Kanacevic, the two players at the podium Wednesday night, had been born yet. (I was in 10th grade, listening to hair metal and sporting a mullet. I am no longer in 10th grade, though)

Despite the victory, Pecora was disappointed the Dutchmen performed nothing like the team that clicked so well in blowing out Towson, 84-64, in the CAA opener Saturday. The Dutchmen scored more points in the second half Saturday (48) than in 40 minutes Wednesday.

“I could sit here and tell you it’s a win, every win’s great,” Pecora said. “Well, I’m trying to express to them on a daily basis [that] you look at the big picture. It’s not about winning one game. It’s about being good enough and making yourself a good enough team so you win a championship. I don’t like wasting a day. And today, we kind of [did].”

The Dutchmen, who had committed 10 or fewer turnovers in each of their previous three games, turned the ball over 19 times, their most since the first round NIT win over Yale. They also had a season-low six assists, which made for the program’s worst assist-to-turnover ratio since the same 6/19 in a 78-54 loss to George Mason Feb. 3. The Dutchmen shot 34.6 percent, their second-worst performance of the season behind only the UConn game, and just 37.5 percent from the line, by far their worst outing of the year.

Pecora felt the Dutchmen were outworked and took on the personality of a young team instead of a veteran one, even though it was the freshman Kanacevic (a team-high 10 points and 11 rebounds in his second career double-double) who was the biggest reason Hofstra avoided an embarrassing loss.

Charles Jenkins scored nine points on 3-of-14 shooting, including just 1-of-7 in the second half. He had four steals, none after halftime. Nathaniel Lester had seven points and seven rebounds in a team-high 38 minutes, but big men Miklos Szabo (four points, five rebounds, four fouls) and Greg Washington (eight rebounds and five blocks but just two points and three fouls) annoyed Pecora with foolish fouls while Cornelius Vines had one point, five rebounds, no assists and four turnovers.

Pecora was most discouraged with how the Dutchmen allowed Manhattan to remain in the game even after the Dutchmen went on a 19-0 run in which the Jaspers missed 21 straight shots. The Dutchmen were as dominant on defense as the run would indicate—the lasting image of the drought was that of Jenkins and Washington leaping, one after the other a la synchronized swimmers, to contest a Manhattan shot—but Manhattan finished the half on a 12-4 run and continued chipping away in the second half as the Dutchmen relied too much on jump shots.

“I’m concerned—I talked to Charles about it, just talked to the two seniors about it: We have to take on a mentality of a veteran team, even though we’re split right down the middle,” Pecora said. “We can’t take on that immature mindset of a team with that many young guys. And I thought tonight we played like that. We played in an immature fashion and our veterans have got to impose their will on this basketball team, every night, if we’re going to get better.”

The Jaspers got within 36-34 on a layup by Ryan Pickett with 7:03 left, but a layup by Kanacevic following a Pecora timeout ended a nearly four-minute drought for the Dutchmen, who never led by less than a possession again.

“We won this game because we were home, we got a good turnout, the students were great. But we didn’t shoot well from the foul line. We just looked like a team that wasn’t focused. And I said to these guys ‘We played cool tonight we didn’t play hard.’ We’ll fix that [today at practice].”

3 STARS OF THE GAME (vs. Manhattan 12/9)
3: Halil Kanacevic
2: Nathaniel Lester
1: Greg Washington

Charles Jenkins 13
Nathaniel Lester 12
Halil Kanacevic 7
Greg Washington 6
Cornelius Vines 6
Miklos Szabo 5
Chaz Williams 5

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