Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Hofstra 75, New Hampshire 58 (Or: I went to a Hofstra basketball game and a Kiss concert broke out)

Gene Simmons would have enjoyed the Dutchmen's theatrical 75-58 win over New Hampshire. Of course, if he was running the Hofstra men's basketball team, he'd probably be charging $500 a ticket for us to watch Charles Jenkins wearing a Speedy Claxton jersey.

For a few minutes Saturday afternoon, long before the Flying Dutchmen completed a 75-58 win over New Hampshire in which there were more candidates than spots for the 3 Stars of the Game competition, the leading contender for top honors in our World Famous And Shamelessly Ripped Off From Other Folks ranking system was Hofstra trainer Evan Malings.

That, of course, was not a good sign, but there had to be some kind of reward for Malings tending to bloodied Flying Dutchmen at every turn. First he assisted Greg Washington, whose nose started bleeding in the 90 seconds or so between being announced as a member of the starting lineup and heading to the court for the opening tip. That forced Pecora to tinker with the lineup for the first time all year as he sent Halil Kanacevic out as the center and made Washington the oddest last-second scratch in the history of sports.

“I don’t know what happened to Greg,” Tom Pecora said. “He just got a bloody nose as he was walking off the floor. Nobody hit him. And it was a bad one. I mean, it just wouldn’t stop. I went over to the ref [and] I said ‘Hey, one of my guys started bleeding, he can’t start.’”

Then, a mere four minutes into the game, Charles Jenkins sent a scare into the announced crowd of 2,687 (insert an eye-rolling smiley here) when he remained face-down after he banged his head diving for a loose ball. Jenkins, his lip already swollen, got up after a few minutes and slowly walked towards the locker room as Malings wiped the blood off the court.

What, exactly, is it about games that New Hampshire that turns the weird-o-meter to 12? Last year, Pecora missed most of the game in New Hampshire when he got sick during the first half.

“I was afraid to go to the bathroom at halftime,” Pecora said.

Fortunately for the Dutchmen, Jenkins only spent a few minutes in the locker room and came back with a focus that was as tight as his teeth were loose. “First thing I said to them is ‘Kill these guys, they just busted my lip,’” Jenkins said.

Jenkins ended up leading the Dutchmen in both minutes (35) and points (21) and one-liners as he sparked a victory that was as thorough as it was encouraging. Asked about the condition of his mouth, Jenkins—whose fat lip was audible in his voice—said if he’d lost any teeth, he’d have “…just a $500,000 smile now instead of a million dollar one.”

Pecora was certainly flashing a broader smile Saturday than Wednesday, when he was disappointed with the Dutchmen’s effort in their 44-39 win over Manhattan. Despite the chaos prior to the first media timeout of the afternoon, the Dutchmen remained composed and were rarely threatened in leading for the final 36 minutes. New Hampshire closed within 28-24 with just over four minutes left in the first half, but the Dutchmen went into the locker room on a 15-7 run. The lead grew to as many as 24 late in the second half before Pecora emptied the bench.

“We talked about it in just about every timeout: I said ‘We’ve got to extend this lead,’” Pecora said. “When it’s eight, you’ve got to get it to 12. When it’s 12, you’ve got to get it to 16. We even talked when we were up 19, look, let’s get this into the 20s. And that’s important. As I’ve said before, we’re not playing just to win this game. You’re playing to get better at things you need to get better at. In turn, it allows you to win games down the road.”

The Dutchmen shot 47 percent from the field, including an impressive 67 percent from 3-point land, and made 13 of their 15 free throws after an ugly effort from the line against Manhattan (6-of-16). Defensively, the Dutchmen limited New Hampshire to just 35 percent shooting (19-of-55) and were particularly suffocating on the perimeter, where the undersized Wildcats were just 3-of-19 (16 percent) in 3-point attempts.

“Before the game, I didn’t talk to them at all really about offense,” Pecora said. “Talked to them about defending. You make defending and rebounding the focal point of what you do as a team, you can win, you can keep yourself in games when you’re not making your shots. Tonight, we did both.”

While veterans Jenkins and Cornelius Vines (16 points on 5-of-6 shooting from 3-point land) were the Dutchmen’s top scorers, freshmen Kanacevic, Chaz Williams and David Imes, in particular, were impressive in shouldering a larger load than anticipated following the early injuries to Washington and Jenkins.

Kanacevic produced his second straight solid game by recording eight points, eight rebounds and three rebounds in 25 minutes. “I was kidding around with the assistants [and said] ‘This could be like one of those situations where the guy comes in in an odd situation and you never get your position back,’ because we know what Halil is capable of doing,” Pecora said. “And he came out and he played very well from the beginning.”

Williams scored nine points and produced an eye-popping assists-to-turnover ratio of 10-to-0 in 31 minutes. And Imes, who played just 20 minutes in his first three games, played 21 Saturday and scored six points—all off nifty no-look assists from Williams—while adding three rebounds and two blocks.

“David Imes is going to be a big part of what we do here the next four years,” Pecora said. “Tough, rebounds the ball by nature, he’s a better scorer than I thought he was when we first saw him. He’s a part of this big freshman class. I love ‘em all.”

Pecora was feeling fond of just about everybody Saturday. “I couldn’t watch the [Manhattan] game until late the following afternoon,” Pecora said. “It wasn’t pretty. This will be a lot more fun to watch.”

3 STARS OF THE GAME (vs. New Hampshire 12/12)
3: Charles Jenkins
2: Chaz Williams
1: Cornelius Vines

Charles Jenkins 16
Nathaniel Lester 12
Chaz Williams 7
Cornelius Vines 7
Halil Kanacevic 7
Greg Washington 6
Miklos Szabo 5

Email Jerry at defiantlydutch@yahoo.com or follow Defiantly Dutch at http://twitter.com/defiantlydutch.

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