Monday, November 30, 2009

If you’re reading this, my NIT-picking over meager crowds is probably not aimed at you

Hofstra Arena, pictured above during the final two rounds of the Preseason NIT.

If the last 16 years have taught me anything, it’s that no amount of wailing and complaining about the lack of fan support for Hofstra athletics is going to change a thing. Better to just accept reality and enjoy the fact that Flying Dutch athletics is our little secret. Those who are missing out don’t deserve to be a part of it.

Yet even though I should know better, it’s nonetheless impossible sometimes to conceal my frustrations with Dutch Nation (snort)—like last week, when “announced crowds” of 737 and 783 turned out for the two consolation round games of the NIT at Hofstra Arena.

The attendance was lame and embarrassing and none of the old stand-by excuses are acceptable. Ten years ago, the easy thing to do would have been to blame the media for continually giving Hofstra short shrift in its coverage. But the mass media as we know it is dead of self-inflicted wounds, which is why schools like Hofstra have committed so many resources to getting the message out themselves. Nobody’s buying Newsday to see when the Dutchmen are playing.

And Hofstra did plenty to promote these games, neither of which were officially listed on the schedule. But it was long assumed Hofstra would host the final two rounds as long as it won a game during the first two rounds in Connecticut. The news became official Nov. 18, two days before a free—FREE!!!—home game against Farmingdale at which NIT tickets could be purchased.

Ticket prices were incredibly reasonable—$15 or $10 for two games, both nights. The games took place the Monday and Tuesday of Thanksgiving week, not Thanksgiving eve or Thanksgiving night. The NIT championship round didn’t begin until Wednesday. The Rangers were the only local team playing a home game and competing for the entertainment dollar Monday or Tuesday.

And still…the games drew the two leanest back-to-back crowds in the nearly decade-long history of the Arena. The only smaller crowd to turn out to the Arena for a men’s basketball game was the gathering of 527 that showed up during a blizzard to watch the Dutchmen play Delaware Jan. 22, 2005.

In defense of Long Island, it wasn’t the only locale to greet the NIT with a big ol’ yawn. The other two schools to host consolation round games, Western Kentucky and Texas Christian, attracted meager crowds as well: WKU drew 2,127 and 2,269 to its two games while TCU had 887 and 741 fannies in the seats.

But neither Western Kentucky nor TCU entered the consolation round having already played two nationally ranked teams. I would have understood the lack of interest if the Dutchmen got smoked by UConn, but their valiant effort and near-upset of the Huskies—as well as their season-opening loss at top-ranked Kansas—should have generated plenty of interest in the program.

Since it didn’t, it’s fair to wonder what can get people to the Arena. Obviously, an NCAA Tournament berth would do wonders—or would it? The average attendance at the Arena went from 3,330 in 2000-01, when Hofstra won the America East and the automatic NCAA berth for a second straight season, to 2,053 by 2002-03.

A conference change? The A-10 isn’t exactly bursting with natural rivals, either.

Regardless, Hofstra’s marriage of convenience with the CAA and inability to become a regular NCAA Tournament team shouldn’t diminish how unfortunate it is that the Dutchmen have toiled in anonymity for so long.

Do you guys know how good you have it here on Long Island? Hofstra may not be in the so-called big time, but it has had big time players and coaches for 15 years now. Flying Dutchmen alumni have gone on to coach in the Final Four, win an NBA championship and participate in the Olympics. Since the turn of the century, it has featured the best players and most successful teams of any metro area college program.

Jay Wright put this program on the map, but there’s a very good chance that every time you walk into Hofstra Arena, you’re watching Tom Pecora take another tiny step towards history. There was no keeping Wright here for the long-term, which was understood and accepted by everyone, but Pecora is the local guy who is a few years older than Wright, was never on the Wright-esque fast track and views this as his destination job.

“This is a lot better than I thought I’d ever do,” Pecora told Mike Litos in his book Cinderella.

There’s no guarantees he’ll be here forever, but you can feel pretty secure in assuming he’ll someday be Hofstra’s all-time leader in victories. And he’ll have accomplished the feat presiding over a program that tries to win the right way, not by any way possible.

His second season at the helm was sacrificed when the University suspended stars Rick Apodaca and Wendell Gibson were suspended 14 games apiece for failing drug tests. Two years later, Kenny Adeleke was kicked off the team for repeated behavioral issues, even though his presence probably would have lifted the Dutchmen into the NCAA Tournament. There are no such worries with the current centerpiece of the program, Charles Jenkins, who carries himself as well off the court as he plays on it.

Unfortunately, there’s no real urgency to get your butts in the seats for tonight’s game against Fairfield, since, with or without you, the administration is committed to men’s basketball as the flagship spot at the university. Hofstra will keep playing top-notch competition and the school will continue to pour money into marketing endeavors (seriously, though, I hope it didn’t take more than one lunch meeting to come up with “Roar With Us!”) in hopes of raising its profile.

But someday, there will be a new administration here, and maybe it will be less willing to invest in a program that just doesn’t register with the locals no matter how well it performs. And if that day ever comes, and the Dutchmen are no longer as viable as they are right now, you’ll know who to blame: Everyone who isn’t around you tonight.

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

Bits and Bytes: Roy Williams will soon have to give a [hoot] about Hofstra!

Roy Williams is already fretting over the possibility of facing the Flying Dutchmen next November!

The turkey wasn’t even in the oven yet when it was time to look ahead to next Thanksgiving—or, more accurately, the weekend before next Thanksgiving, when the Flying Dutchmen will make it two straight prestigious preseason tournaments by participating in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off Classic in San Juan.

The headline school in the eight-team field is North Carolina, which was my favorite college team before I came to my senses and arrived at Hofstra. As awesome as it was playing UConn this year, I think playing UNC might be even better. And don’t even get me going on the possibility—nay, the probability!—of the Dutchmen shocking the Tar Heels and Roy Williams ranting in the post-game press conference about how he doesn’t give a crap about the Pride vs. Flying Dutchmen debate.

A couple other quick bits and bytes while you polish off the remaining bits and bytes of the leftovers:

—A busy pre-Thanksgiving news week for the men’s basketball program, which announced the signings of small forward Marvin Dominique and highly touted Uniondale guard Devon McMillan to national letters of intent. Congrats to the two members of the Class of 2014 (good freaking God), and as always, don’t eat the Sbarro.

—Figure it’s about time I finally explain the 3 Stars of the Game concept. Even a non-puckhead like me recognizes it’s a hockey tradition, but I got the idea to bring it to the blog when a friend of mine from Boston, South Coast Today writer Jon Couture, used it as a daily—and, eventually, seasonal—measure of the Red Sox.

I loved the concept and was determined to shamelessly steal it for my own nefarious purposes, with one modification: He also dipped into negative stars, which was perfect there but which I will avoid here because these aren’t pros we're covering.

Hopefully the idea works as well here as it did at Jon’s blog. I’d recommend you check it out, but his newspaper’s blog network appears to be down. If you get a chance, though, check out his most recent column here.

—Some interesting discussion on the Any Given Saturday (I-AA football board) as well as the CAA Zone over whether Fordham or Stony Brook will replace Northeastern as the 12th football school in the CAA.

Of the two, Stony Brook would be a far better fit if the conference wants its football programs to be all-sports members (which is my hunch). Fordham is a better fit in terms of prestige, and the school wants to upgrade to full scholarship level in football even if it means bolting the Patriot League, but its men’s basketball program is in the midst of a two-decade funk, plays in a retro gym (and not the type of retro gym that inspires wordy prose) and would be a drain on the RPI.

I still think the CAA should hang tight at 11 teams for one season until Old Dominion joins in 2011 and then see if anyone steps aside before Georgia State joins in 2012. I would be surprised if Northeastern is the only school to pull its football program from the CAA.

—Should have mentioned this before Thanksgiving, but Tom Pecora deserves to be lauded for anticipating the clich├ęd lede from the writers sitting before him. I used to cover high school football in Connecticut, where most teams ended their regular seasons with a Thanksgiving morning game against their biggest rival.

Our paper covered two big rivalry games, and inevitably, someone—myself most certainly included—would take the bait and open his story with a turkey reference—i.e. “Joe Running Back’s turkey tasted a lot better last night after his 27-yard touchdown run with 20 seconds left gave Middle Of Nowhere High a 6-0 win over East Of Nowhere High.”

And so there I was last Tuesday night, old habits creeping up on me and filling my head with turkey-themed ledes, when Pecora closed his opening comments at his press conference by saying “…the turkey won’t taste as good.” I’m probably the only person in the room who thought that was awesomely ironic, but well, it was.

—Lastly, tonight’s game against Fairfield just gained a little bit of prestige with Mid-Majority declaring it the Game! Of! The! Night! So awesome. Check out Damon Lewis’ excellent and insightful preview here. I honestly don’t know how these guys develop such a mastery of 200-odd schools. I can barely do one and fake my way through another 11. Damon and Kyle deliver consistently fantastic work, and if you’ve got a few extra bucks laying around, please consider donating to the MM to ensure it can survive the season.

Here’s one really interesting thing to keep an eye on tonight: The performance of freshman Halil Kanacevic, who opened his career with a double-double at Kansas and was mighty impressive in the two NIT games in Connecticut. But Kanacevic’s numbers have dropped precipitously over the last three games—during which his points-rebounds have gone 8-7, 5-4 and 4-2—and I imagine he’s hitting the first of the rookie walls. I’ll bet the Thanksgiving break did wonders for him and will predict he places in the 3 Stars of the Game balloting.

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

Sunday, November 29, 2009

1994 Time Machine: Green Day

Been a while since we cranked up the ol’ Time Machine, and with the semester nearly over, I think I can safely say this hasn’t sucked at a high level, like I feared, but that a case of bad timing has made it a less regular feature than I would have preferred.

It’s always easy in August to foresee a day a week when there’s not much going on and I can fool around a little with some non-traditional programming (see, with that sentence, I’m auditioning for a job as a television executive), but November turned out to be a crazy month for Hofstra sports news and there was never a natural time to change gears.

Which doesn’t upset me at all: I’d much rather be digesting games against Kansas and UConn than the alternative, and pondering the future of Flying Dutchmen football is a great meat-and-potatoes topic. In fact, I’ve produced more stories this month than during any other in DD history (pat pat on my own back), and November isn’t even over yet!

But it’s the end of Thanksgiving weekend and the schedule opens up a little more for the next few weeks, so what the hell, let’s revisit the idea and see if we can’t find a day a week every week between now and Christmas to go all Entertainment Weekly on you.

First is Green Day’s “When I Come Around,” which was a ubiquitous presence on MTV back when MTV actually, you know, showed music videos—and, it seemed, especially inescapable on Thursday mornings, when I tried out my latest foolproof plan not to sleep the day away. Spending Wednesday nights laying out The Chronicle during my first year on campus led to many Thursdays in which I went to bed with the sun out and woke up with it long gone. Not the best recipe for a GPA, trust me.

So in addition to scheduling my Tuesday/Thursday classes at a reasonable hour in the fall of ’94, I decided, upon returning to my room after layout to nap with the TV on in hopes of not falling into a day-long deep R.E.M. sleep. It wasn’t a perfect plan, but it worked well enough so that I made more classes that I missed—and continue, even today, to rely on the doze-with-the-TV-on approach whenever I need to get somewhere on little sleep. Hooray me!

Anyway, it seemed I’d either wake up to “When I Come Around” or “hear” it multiple times during my non-deep sleep in the fall of ‘94. It’s a damn good song (albeit not as catchy or irresistible as its predecessor, “Basket Case”), and the meandering and unfocused vibe of the video seemed to summarize what everyone else wanted to think of Generation X (my favorite image is lead singer Billy Joe Armstrong randomly pulling a pay phone off the hook)—at least until we began wasting the prime years of our lives being instructed to do more with less.

But at no point 15 years ago did I think I was hearing anything more than a one- or two-album wonder. Green Day was a band of 20-something punk rockers whose first single off Dookie, “Longview,” was about smoking dope and masturbating. Such opening salvos don’t usually lend themselves to a long, fruitful career, and indeed, when their follow-up album, Insomniac, was released in October 1995 and sold a mere two million copies—a notable figure, to be sure, but also seven million copies fewer than Dookie—it seemed as if Green Day was destined to follow Hootie and the Blowfish into gradual obscurity.

Except, somehow, Green Day hung around the mainstream long enough to emerge as America’s Most Important Rock Band with 2004’s concept album, American Idiot, which sold five million copies, earned the band armfuls of awards and inspired it to deliver another concept album, 21st Century Breakdown, earlier this year. According to Wikipedia—which is never wrong—Armstrong calls the new album a “…snapshot of the era in which we live as we question and try to make sense of the selfish manipulation going on around us whether it be the government, religion, media or frankly any form of authority.”

All well and good, but I do enough of that during the day. Quite frankly, I’d be just as happy to forget the real world for a few minutes by walking around and pulling pay phones—if they all haven’t gone the way of videos on MTV, of course—off the hook.

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

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Charlotte 80, Hofstra 72 (Or: Tom Pecora said there’d be days like this…man he wasn’t fooling)

Long before he started looking like a freak (seriously, you better have an iron stomach if you're going to Google images search Steven Tyler), falling off stages and causing breakup rumors to swirl around Aerosmith, Steven Tyler was singing songs about the Flying Dutchmen!

The kiddie corps didn’t drive Tom Pecora crazy Tuesday night, but the veterans did.

Pecora said before the season that the Dutchmen would be in trouble if the team didn’t take on the personality of its holdovers, and so it was that Cornelius Vines and Miklos Szabo ended up in his crosshairs after the Dutchmen’s lapses in defensive intensity and a second half shooting slump resulted in an 80-72 loss to Charlotte in the final consolation round game of the Preseason NIT in front of another embarrassingly low crowd of 783 at the Arena.

“When you have five new guys, everyday is a new experience,” Pecora said. “And everyday is a learning experience. So you add tonight to the list.”

Pecora praised the Dutchmen Monday for their tenacity on defense against Elon, but Charlotte and its inside combination of 6-foot-8 Chris Braswell and 6-foot-6 Boston College transfer Shamari Spears provided a far greater challenge. The duo combined for 41 points on 15-of-22 shooting while Braswell pulled down a game-high 11 rebounds for the Rams, who outrebounded the Dutchmen 45-36. It was only the second time this season and the 13th time in 39 games dating back to last season that the Dutchmen have been outrebounded.

Spears, in particular, gave the Dutchmen fits: He hit his first four shots of the game, including a 3-pointer, and scored 17 points in the first half before the Dutchmen managed to limit him in the second half. But even with Chaz Williams stepping into help Greg Washington collapse on him, Spears was able to dish the ball back out to the perimeter and create opportunities for the Rams.

The potency of Braswell and Spears also stretched the Dutchmen’s already-thin rotation beyond its breaking point. Szabo, Washington, Nathaniel Lester and Halil Kanacevic all had two fouls by halftime and Szabo, Lester and Kanacevic all picked up their third fouls by the first media timeout of the second half.

The Dutchmen only suited up eight players with David Imes still recovering from an ankle injury and the NCAA continuing to twiddle its thumbs with Brad Kelleher, who apparently committed a greater sin in playing with some pros in Australia than Kentucky’s John Wall did in accepting “travel benefits” from an AAU coach who just also happened to be a sports agent.

“The defensive discipline is more just knowing when you can’t pick up a silly [foul], because we need the bodies on the floor,” Pecora said. “I thought we [had] pretty good effort, but we’re also coming off playing two teams that are nowhere near as talented or as athletic, and I think that we had to raise the bar with our defensive effort. And we didn’t get it.”

Pecora found plenty to critique in the first half but was hopeful the Dutchmen would pull out the victory when they went into the half leading 41-39. But the Dutchmen went cold from the floor in the final 20 minutes, during which they shot just 32 percent (12-of-38), including 13 percent from 3-point land (2-of-15). It was the second-worst half of the season for the Dutchmen, who shot 23 percent in the first half against UConn eight days ago.

The Dutchmen’s top two scorers Tuesday, Washington and Charles Jenkins, shot a combined 8-of-14 in the second half. The rest of the team was just 4-of-24, including 1-for-8 after a Jenkins jumper pulled the Dutchmen within 71-67 with 2:43 left. Included in that stretch was a potential game-tying 3-pointer by Lester that was halfway down the basket before it rimmed out.

Vines, a night removed from perhaps his most complete game in a Hofstra uniform, was 0-for-7 from 3-point land in the second half and finished with just three points in 36 minutes. It wasn’t a completely lost night for Vines, who had seven rebounds (one shy of his career high) and was his usual rabble-rousing self with Spears, with whom he exchanged words after Spears fouled Washington midway through the second half. A minute or so later, Vines went over to Spears and offered his hand, but Spears refused to shake it as Jenkins sarcastically clapped his hands at Spears.

Szabo, meanwhile, had seven points and only two rebounds overall and was just 1-of-3 with no rebounds in nine minutes in the second half

“Not much from our seniors,” Pecora said.

Vines and Szabo, a pair of junior college transfers who were part-time starters last year in their first season with the Dutchmen, have struggled to find consistency in the first two weeks of the season. Vines has played more than 30 minutes and scored six or fewer points three times while Szabo has one double-double but has also recorded four or fewer rebounds in a game three times.

“[Vines] might have taken one or two ill-advised [shots],” Pecora said. “He was just trying to do too much. He missed a 3 and then fouled a guy in the backcourt. It’s not lack of effort, but as a senior, you’ve got to have a little more poise and understand the game will come to you.

“And then they shot 33 free throws in our building. We shot 18. They had a much better post presence than we did. So our post guys have got to step up a little bit.”

The Dutchmen’s troubles on the boards and from the floor overshadowed a typically solid game by Jenkins and the continued breakout of Washington. Jenkins was limited to nine points in each of the last two games due to the injury he suffered against Farmingdale and the lopsided nature of the win over Elon, but he racked up 25 points and committed just one turnover in 40 minutes Tuesday. Washington scored a career-high 18 points and led the Dutchmen with nine points and three blocks in a season-high 31 minutes. Williams added 10 points, five rebounds, three assists and no turnovers in 23 minutes.

“These two guys put up numbers,” Pecora said as he was flanked by Washington and Jenkins in the interview room. “But there are other things that have to take place. We’re not a two-man team.”

3 STARS OF THE GAME (vs. Charlotte 11/24)
3: Charles Jenkins
2: Greg Washington
1: Chaz Williams

SEASON STANDINGS
Charles Jenkins 9
Nathaniel Lester 7
Greg Washington 5
Chaz Williams 5
Cornelius Vines 4
Halil Kanacevic 4
Miklos Szabo 2

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

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Hofstra 70, Elon 46 (Or: A Very Special Episode of Life With Corny)

Life With Corny turns into a team leader during sweeps month. Coincidence? I think not.

The closest thing to a crisis moment in another wire-to-wire Flying Dutchmen victory arrived at the eight-minute media timeout of the second half Monday. Tom Pecora looked to his bench for a veteran presence to calm a lineup that featured two freshmen—and found Cornelius Vines.

You know, the guy with the million-mile-a-minute motor. The guy who engenders enough drama on the court for his very own reality show. The guy who was on the wrong end of many a withering stare last season from Pecora and ended the season on the bench. The guy who inspired Pecora to utter this all-time quote: “It’s nice to have to take a little air out of the tire instead of having to pump it up all the time.”

Yup. That Cornelius Vines.

And guess what? It worked like a charm. Vines hit consecutive 3-pointers to end any hope Elon had of a miracle comeback and the Flying Dutchmen cruised to a 70-46 win in front of 737 true, loyal fans (do not get me going on that) in the consolation round of the Preseason NIT Monday. The Dutchmen will host Charlotte—which beat Yale 88-74 in the opening game of the doubleheader Monday—in their final NIT game tonight no earlier than 7 p.m.

“Cornelius made big shots, that’s what he does,” Pecora said. “[Elon closed] to 19 and we had the kiddie corps out there [and] they’re driving me crazy. But he made the plays he needed to [make]. I said to the three freshmen: ‘Look who’s on the floor with you. These are the guys who have got to make plays for us.’ And they did a good job of that.”

Vines led the Dutchmen with 17 points, though he collected them in a decidedly un-Vines way. The two 3-pointers he hit late in the second half were his only ones of the game as Vines drove the lane with regularity and took eight of his 14 shots from inside the 3-point line. He took just 11 2-point shots in the first four games. In addition, Monday marked just the fourth time in 35 career games Vines has taken more than 50 percent of his shots from inside the arc.

“Just coming in and trying to get everybody together—be patient and just run the offense when he put me back out there,” Vines said.

Of course, as Pecora then reminded Vines, there was still a little of the familiar Life With Corny out there. “Still shot 2-for-6,” Pecora said as Vines grinned. “That’s a good answer. 2-for-6, it wasn’t like you were 4-for-6.”

While Vines was the offensive key Monday, another player whom Pecora shuffled in and out of the lineup last year starred on the defensive end. Greg Washington earned the coaching staff’s defensive player of the game honors by leading the Dutchmen with seven rebounds, three blocks and three steals. Overall, the Dutchmen outrebounded Elon 39-26, limited the Phoenix to 35 percent shooting—including 22 percent from 3-point land—and had nine steals while allowing just one theft.

“Greg Washington did a great job—I thought he played with tremendous energy, blocking shots, steals, but also getting people where they needed to be on the floor,” Pecora said.

Despite the easy win, Pecora was not as pleased with the consistency of the rest of the Dutchmen, who hit six straight shots and nine of 11 during a game-opening 23-5 run and expanded the lead to 31 eight minutes into the second half before Elon’s 12-0 run forced Pecora to put Vines back in the game.

The “kiddie corps” that drove Pecora crazy seems likely to get a tongue-lashing before tonight’s first tip. Pecora didn’t identify the targets of his ire but said he told two freshmen that he would “…deal with them in the morning.”

For what it’s worth, Chaz Williams and Halil Kanacevic each had the worst games of their brief careers. Williams played fewer minutes (16) than any Dutchmen except walk-on Matt Grogan but had more turnovers (four) than points (two) or assists (three). Kanacevic set season lows in both points (five) and rebounds (four) while fellow freshman Yves Jules scored four points in 23 minutes.

“I was happy with some of the things we did, but we call it ‘fools gold’—you don’t want to think this effort is going to be a good enough effort to beat the best teams that we play the rest of the year,” Pecora said. “And it wasn’t. So we’ve got to build off that.

“Look, you’re happy about it, but you say ‘What do we gotta do to get better and how are we going to reach the goals that we have set for the year?’ And playing like this isn’t going to do it.”

3 STARS OF THE GAME (vs. Elon 11/23)
3: Greg Washington
2: Cornelius Vines
1: Miklos Szabo

SEASON STANDINGS
Nathaniel Lester 7
Charles Jenkins 6
Cornelius Vines 4
Chaz Williams 4
Halil Kanacevic 4
Greg Washington 3
Miklos Szabo 2

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

Monday, November 23, 2009

How many dominoes will fall now that Northeastern has dropped football?

What school will be the next to hang up the helmets for good?

If you’re like me and passed up the Flying Dutchmen football game at Northeastern nine days ago, you missed out on the final home game in Huskies history. Northeastern confirmed the rumors flying around on message boards last night when it announced the school is dropping football, effective immediately. The Boston Globe has a story about it here as well as a column by Dan Shaughnessy here.

It’s a seismic decision whose impact will be far-reaching. In the short term, what does it mean for the CAA? Will the conference make do with an uneven alignment next season until Old Dominion becomes the 12th member in 2011? Or does the conference immediately replace Northeastern with another northern school—and there is absolutely no better or more obvious candidate than Stony Brook—and proceed as if it will eventually end up at 14 teams with the additions of ODU and Georgia State?

More importantly, what does the decision mean long-term for the CAA and Hofstra? What happens if the tealeaves are correct and the CAA wants to be known as much for football as it is for basketball? Is there a home in the league for Northeastern if it is not playing football?

As for Hofstra, it is already restless in a conference in which all the power is wielded by the core southern schools. The increasing emphasis on football by the CAA is only further widening the gap between the university and the conference.

Conference shifts seem to occur easiest when there are multiple schools involved. Might our thinking-out-loud idea of Hofstra, Northeastern and Drexel moving to the Atlantic-10 look a bit more realistic this morning?

This, too, is nothing more than thinking out loud. Just because Northeastern dropped football doesn’t mean Hofstra will follow suit. But the similarities between the schools—located in markets where college sports barely register with the fans and run by a president and athletic director who inherited swimming-in-the-red football programs—are also difficult to ignore.

Hofstra and Northeastern, of course, are not alone in operating unprofitable I-AA programs. The viability of I-AA football has been an increasingly regular topic of conversation in these toxic economic times.

It was one thing for most of the MAAC football schools to drop football, since those programs were playing non-scholarship ball and had only joined I-AA at the NCAA’s insistence in 1991. But it’s quite another for Northeastern—which is in the best I-AA conference in the land, has played at this level since it was established in 1978 and has sent multiple players to the NFL—to cash out.

The thinking here for months has been that schools would be more likely to let their football programs down gently by going the non-scholarship route instead of pulling the plug entirely. But the precedent has been set.

Yeah, Northeastern played at a rundown field and had reached the I-AA playoffs just once in its history, but if it can bury more than 70 years of tradition with one stroke of the pen, guess what? Anyone can.

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 20, 2009

Bits and Bytes: JAY WRIGHT IS A GOD AMONG MEN!!!!

Fifteen years later, Jay Wright is still defending Hofstra's honor!

I’ve said it for a while, and I’ve never been as determined to see it happen as I am right now. Hofstra must raise a “122” banner at the Arena in honor of Jay Wright and the number of wins he recorded as Flying Dutchmen head coach.

Actually, make it 123, because none of the victories he recorded from 1994 through 2001 were as pivotal or meaningful as the one he recorded yesterday, when Wright scored a win for Hofstra fans everywhere as Villanova beat George Mason, 69-68.

No, you know what, check that. Name the whole damn Arena after him. Someday, the Flying Dutchmen can play on Tom Pecora Floor at Jay’s Gym.

I was implored by someone more mature than me (long list, that) to root for Mason for the betterment of the league. And now that there are no players left from the 2006 team, I’ll be the first to admit I shouldn’t punish these Patriots players for the transgressions of their predecessors. Plus, I’ve exchanged Tweets with Mason blogger Ryan Kish, who seems like a great guy. And he’s just hammering George Washington fans for trying to turn the Mason-GW game next month into some kind of blood feud, so I’m not sure I want to end up on his bad side.

But still…no. I can’t do it. Not as long as those two are still there. Speaking of them, it seems like Jim Larranaga didn’t cover himself in glory during the final minute yesterday as Mason blew a four-point lead. Can you smell the Schadenfreude from here?

Anyway, it’s very, very early, but both Hofstra and Mason have acquitted themselves quite well against Big East powers. So let me be the first to ponder it: Can you imagine if they’re the last two teams standing on the first Monday in March? I’m honestly not sure I can handle the stress of that—the payoff/punishment gap is too great to ponder. Oh but the payoff…

Still 107 days until we get there. In the meantime, here are a few Bits and Bytes you prepare for tonight’s home opener against Farmingdale:

—Kansas-Yale-UConn-Farmingdale. I don’t think anyone’s ever opened the season with that kind of RPI yo-yo. I’m sure Tom Pecora spent the last few days warning the Dutchmen not to overlook Farmingdale, which reached the Division III Elite Eight last year. The young Dutchmen looked pretty mature Tuesday, but today is a similarly pivotal test of where they are in their development. Beat Farmingdale soundly and it’ll be a good sign this squad has a finely honed focus. I’ll predict that things go well enough so that Matt Grogan becomes the first Dutchmen walk-on to score in almost four years.

—More on the uniqueness of the Dutchmen’s early season schedule: They are the only team in the country to have played two Top 25 teams…at least until this afternoon, when those bums from Mason play Georgia Tech. Damn you for stealing Hofstra’s thunder!

—Returning from a road trip to Kansas and UConn to host Farmingdale might make the home opener feel a bit anticlimactic, but I’m looking forward to it as much as ever. The home opener is kind of like the first day of school: You become re-acquainted with your surroundings, get to see the summertime improvements that were made, see who looks different in the fall than in the spring (where oh where have the cornrows gone, Life With Corny and Nathaniel Lester?), reconnect with your good friends and settle into a fun and familiar routine.

You also get to, if you’re me, beat up Sully Ray in the scrum for a free T-shirt. I don’t think I ever officially revealed last year’s standings, so let’s do it here, shall we:

Me 2
Sully Ray 1

Score one for the doughy over the athletic!!

—Tonight’s game is free, a concept that still blows my freaking mind, so the perfect price coupled with the buzz surrounding the Dutchmen means there’s no excuse for the crowd to number less than 3,000. Doesn’t mean I expect the crowd to exceed 3,000, of course.

—Fun fact: Tonight is the Dutchmen’s first Friday home game of the Tom Pecora/CAA era. The America East used to regularly play a Friday-Sunday schedule and the 2000-01 Dutchmen recorded Friday home victories over New Hampshire, Northeastern and Vermont during the 18-game winning streak that finally ended against UCLA in the NCAA Tournament.

—I’ll once again be live Tweeting tonight’s game, so if you’re not following me yet, what are you waiting for?! Check out all the instant analysis at http://twitter.com/defiantlydutch. My guess is the recap will wait until Monday, because it’s been a long and hectic week here—I actually spent a day in Connecticut dealing with car trouble, hence the lack of a post Thursday—but who knows, I might bang something out late tonight. Regardless, be back here all next week for coverage of the Preseason NIT consolation games Monday and Tuesday.

—And next week, I swear, I’ll explain the 3 Stars concept…but in the meantime, I realize I forgot to unveil the 3 Stars Tuesday. So without further ado…

3 STARS OF THE GAME (vs. UConn 11/17)
3: Charles Jenkins
2: Cornelius Vines
1: Nathaniel Lester

SEASON STANDINGS
Charles Jenkins 6
Nathaniel Lester 4
Halil Kanacevic 4
Cornelius Vines 2
Chaz Williams 2

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

Of conflicts, clarifications and no longer concealing my inner private school girl

Phoebe Cates ditching her uniform top was much better than me ditching mine.

When I started this blog last August—ironically, in that it’s not ironic at all, it was a week in which a Hofstra team traveled to Connecticut to face UConn—I didn’t expect to face the internal conflict I was presented with Tuesday night.

As I debuted here, I was content to wax nostalgic about the good ol’ days of Hofstra athletics as well as provide some admittedly biased analysis of an athletic program that is too often overlooked by the local press. But it didn’t take me long to realize I wanted to do more with the blog, and would like to augment my recliner rantings with the types of interviews and feature stories I used to do way back when I drew regular checks for writing (ahh, now THOSE were the good ol’ days).

Yet as tricky as it can be to straddle the line between having an oft-stated rooting interest in a school and trying to cover it in an occasionally straight-forward fashion, I’ve found that the even more delicate balance is the one between writing as a fan and trying to convey the thoughts of the players and coaches, because there is almost always some sort of disconnect between the two sides. It’s not a negative one by any stretch, but the players and coaches understandably live much more in the moment than we do.

Which brings me to Tuesday night. When I arrived at Hofstra 16 years ago, the thought of the Flying Dutchmen competing against a nationally renowned opponent was inconceivable. The 1993-94 Dutchmen lost to St. John’s by 28 and to Maryland by 26…and to Old Dominion by 26 and to Maine by 35. The year before, when the Dutchmen played an independent schedule and spent most of the season on the road, a two-point loss to St. John’s was overshadowed by lopsided defeats at UNLV (38 points), Villanova (38 points) and Richmond (31 points).

For those of us who experienced one or both of those seasons, the concept of watching the Dutchmen play at Kansas last Friday and at Gampel Pavilion Tuesday—and knowing there was more to their presence than an overmatched foe collecting a paycheck—was pretty awesome. And to be in the stands at Gampel as the Dutchmen scared the hell out of the Huskies, led by nine with less than 10 minutes to play and had the ball down one with a minute to go? Seriously awesome, as I will further detail shortly.

Perhaps, sometime in the summer, Tom Pecora smiles as he thinks about how far the program has come since he arrived on campus with Jay Wright. But he wasn’t thinking Tuesday of how the Dutchmen lost to Drexel by 33 in the NAC Tournament in 1995. Nor does Charles Jenkins, who was five when the Dutchmen won the final East Coast Conference tournament, marvel at what playing at Kansas and UConn means in the context of the history of the program.

The present is much more vital and important to the Dutchmen than the past, so nobody on the bus back to Hempstead was sitting there marveling at almost beating the Huskies. And on my own drive home, I got to thinking that the Dutchmen’s story—of a team and a program that expects excellence and expects to compete at a national level, even as the playing field is tilted more and more in favor of the haves every season—was more interesting than mine.

So I wrote about that, and what I perceived as the condescension ESPN displayed in airing Monmouth-Saint Peter’s at 6 am Tuesday and how it all tied into the major/mid-major chasm, and thought I did an OK job.

A few hours later, I was a bit concerned when I woke up to a text from Loyal Reader Matt, a dear friend for nearly 25 years who is more supportive about my writing than anyone outside my family yet who was writing to express disappointment with the tone and subject of the column.

“Instead of focusing on how well HU played & what a good game it was, it came across as whiny. ‘Oh the poor widdle mid-major has it so tough.’ Not that your points aren’t valid, it’s just that it should be a topic for a different day.”

I re-read the entry a couple times and could see where Matt was coming from. Was I a little bit overdramatic? For the first time ever, probably. I wasn’t intending to complain about the unfair uphill climb of mid-majors at the expense of recapping a memorable game and an unforgettable night for Hofstra fans.

But I can understand how it came across as such and apologize to anyone else who was disappointed. I wish I could have also explained the sights and sounds and emotions of a Hofstra fan watching the game, but it was already 8 or 9 am when I finished and I was already at 1,300 words, and even I have my limits.

That said…it’s a different day, so let’s revisit a topic that should have been handled Wednesday and allow me to explain how Tuesday allowed me to get in touch with my inner private school girl.

You know the type: Glorified in B comedies (and, perhaps, some, ahem, straight-to-cable movies you might find on channels that cannot be viewed by children under 18) since the dawn of time, the preppie whose wild streak is unveiled once she sheds her uniform.

(Boy, if the juxtaposition of paunchy ol’ me and a teenaged girl hasn’t horrified you, you’ve got an iron stomach)

I wore to the game Tuesday my 2000 NCAA Tournament T-shirt, which is basically the good luck shirt that can be worn without me worrying it’ll disintegrate as I’m wearing it. But even though one of this blog’s slogans is “Blissfully Biased” and even though I took the game in from Section 11 way high up in Gampel and not press row, I still for reasons nobody around me can understand want to return to a world in which wearing a team T-shirt to a game would be career suicide. (Of course, I never wore a team T-shirt inside a press box and my career is still in dire straits, but I digress)

So I wore a fleece over the T-shirt. But at the final media timeout, with the no cheering rule already broken in half at some point during the Dutchmen’s spate of 3-pointers, I said the hell with it (or something to that effect) and ditched the fleece. It was a moment straight out of a cheesy ‘80s flick, even if it didn’t result in the desired Hollywood ending.

I also should have written about how instant technology allows sports to remain a communal experience even when we’re separated by hundreds of miles. “OMG” the wife wrote in a text message at 8:35.

“Too nervous to text,” Matt wrote at 8:48. He should have tried Tweeting with fumbling fingers, like I did.

And it was cool to see Matt write that he “…would have been thrilled” if Hofstra won because of what it would have meant to the HU grads he knows, and to realize he, too, gets what Litos wrote yesterday about how these games are so very meaningful to the mid-majors.

After the game, I was talking to my wife, who wasn’t very responsive. I finally asked what was wrong, figuring I’d forgotten to take the clothes out of the washing machine or hadn’t fed the cats or had left the shower running when I left Monday.

“Just a little let down right now,” she said.

Then, a couple minutes later: “Man, I am so worn out right now.”

Upon getting back to my Dad’s, it was fun to read the Facebook status updates of Hofstra fans as they began to believe the Dutchmen could win…as well as the status updates of UConn fans who went from smugly certain of victory to making-a-deal-with-the-devil desperate to avoid a loss to a school that might not even play Division I.

For the fan who remembers the days of Hofstra basketball irrelevance, Tuesday was an incredible night, one in which inhibitions and caution and layers of clothing were discarded in favor of investing fully in the possibility of a long-shot victory . It didn’t turn out to be THE GREATEST THING TO EVER HAPPEN to a Connecticut native and Hofstra grad, but it was an evening with many more positives than negatives…no matter how I originally portrayed it.

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

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

UConn 76, Hofstra 67 (Or: Stand up and face the enemy)

Long Island's own Pat Benatar has penned multiple songs about the 2008-09 Flying Dutchmen.

I can’t tell you exactly where I was in the trip from Gampel Pavilion to my Dad’s house last night—it might have been Burlington; if you’ve heard of it, I was probably the designated driver at the kegger we hit in northwest Connecticut in 1992 or so—when it occurred to me the theme of the Flying Dutchmen’s compelling 76-67 loss to 12th-ranked UConn could not be summarized in one or two of the many memorable images the Dutchmen snapped Tuesday.

Let’s sift through the shoebox, shall we? (Nobody stores photos in a shoebox anymore, but I like the analogy so work with me here)

Cornelius Vines jumping up and down in front of the Hofstra bench before the tip-off, and later staring at the UConn student section and pointing to the words across his chest after hitting a 3-pointer. Nathaniel Lester, Chaz Williams and Charles Jenkins driving the lane at will despite giving up many inches and many more pounds to the Huskies’ big men. Jenkins doing against UConn what he does against a whole bunch of opponents UConn fans have never heard of: Emerging from a quiet first half (four points) to take the game over late and hit big shot after big shot in a 21-point second half.

Halil Kanacevic, eight months removed from starring in the basketball Siberia that is Staten Island and becoming the last of this year’s five scholarship freshmen to sign a letter of intent with Hofstra, collecting 10 rebounds and scoring eight points. There’s the Dutchmen outhustling and outworking the Huskies down low and enjoying a 43-39 rebounding advantage.

There’s Jenkins, Kanacevic and Vines combining to drain five 3-pointers in six attempts during a span of 2:24 midway through the second half in which the Dutchmen took a 54-45 lead and threatened to turn the seemingly impossible into the probable.

Vines fouling out with 1:39 left and refusing to be the chum for the student section, which serenades disqualified players with a chant of “Left…right…left…right…SIT!” Vines continued to stand, until play finally resumed and he had to sit down.

Williams was even more defiant 80 seconds later, when he drew his fifth foul and continued to stand in front of his chair. Vines even put an arm on Williams’ elbow, as if to tell the freshman he supported him, and Williams might still be standing there if Van Macon hadn’t motioned for him to take a seat (at which point, it should be noted, the student section shouted “SIT!”).

After participating in the post-game handshake, Jenkins turned around, as if to get a glimpse of what could have been, and pulled his jersey over his head. Vines came along and the two draped an arm around each other as they walked off the floor and out of sight.

Take these images, spread them out on the floor in front of you to create a collage—or, if you must, display them one after the other in a slideshow on the laptop—and absorb them in the collective in order to understand the meaning of an evening in the sticks of Connecticut:

The Flying Dutchmen belong.

This is usually the point in the conversation where I riff on a cheesy ‘80s song, but for the first time in the last 14 months I’m not going to make a pizza here. Last night was about Tom Pecora and the Dutchmen refusing to be the round peg in the little round hole in which mid-majors are expected to reside without complaint—and expecting greatness even as they agree to play by the ever-shifting rules that are devised to favor the UConns of the world.

The powers that be—the NCAA and its broadcast partners—want to marginalize those who don’t sit at the BCS table and make the mid-majors grateful for any morsel of food thrown their way. Look no further than the Monmouth-Saint Peter’s game that aired at 6 am Tuesday as part of ESPN’s 24-hour college basketball marathon.

Do I love the idea of watching basketball as the sun rises? Hell yeah. Do I love the concept of a school doing something funky like this and also hosting an all-night party in advance of it? Sure. As long as it’s the school’s idea.

But what transpired Tuesday morning was so damn condescending. “Aww, isn’t it cute, the widdle mid-majors are so eager to appear on ESPN, they’ll do so at 6 am on a Tuesday!” Next up: A 4 a.m. game in which players wear pajamas and the fans play truth or dare during the TV timeouts.

I thought often yesterday of Hofstra’s decision not to pursue a bid to the CBI or CollegeInsider.com Tournament last season. My disappointment in the choice is well-known, but you know what? I’m starting to get Pecora’s reasoning behind it, and beginning to believe it’s a lot more than a convenient excuse for the administration’s tight purse strings.

As Pecora told the New York Daily News’ Dick Weiss in May: If the mid-majors leap at the CBI or CIT, then what is to stop the NCAA and NIT—both of which are now run by the NCAA—from completely ignoring the mid-majors as at-large candidates? And in regards to yesterday: How can the national perception of mid-majors change if they acquiesce to ESPN and play a gimmick game as the roosters crow?

The Powers That Be want little to do with the mid-majors in the NCAA Tournament. But until they drop all pretenses and officially slam the door on the Hofstras of the world, the NCAA Tournament is still the ultimate destination for every Division I player and coach.

To get there, the Flying Dutchmen must play by the rules established by those who are actively trying to come up with ways to not invite them to the party. And the rules, this year anyway, say that a team like Hofstra has to play a rigorous non-conference schedule in order to boost its RPI.

Pecora will speak well of the boost in profile Hofstra gets from these games, because it’s a good talking point and it’s important to the people who sign his checks. But the goal of trips to Kansas and, particularly, Storrs isn’t to end up on SportsCenter or to generate a couple bullet points within the literature Hofstra distributes to potential students and in the annual reports distributed by the athletic department and president’s office.

It’s to win. There is no joy in how close the Dutchmen came to turning UConn’s 61-4 record against non-conference foes at Gampel into 60-5, no ultimate satisfaction in having a chance to take the lead in the final minute.

Victory is the objective, even in a game that is tilted to favor your opponent. When you agree to play Texas Hold ‘Em with a five-card stud hand, there can be no complaints when the three of a kind is trumped by the full house on fifth street.

UConn was 30-of-36 from the line Tuesday while the Dutchmen went just 10-of-12. Purely coincidental that 24 hours earlier, Jim Calhoun called it “despicable” that the Huskies went to the line just 10 times against Colgate Monday.

Pecora’s reaction immediately after the game? “That’s a big-time crew, they’re all good officials. We had the opportunity to take the game and we didn’t…I don’t think the officials made a big difference in the game.”

And if the Dutchmen go 27-7, lose in the CAA finals, possess an RPI in the top 40 and are still denied an at-large bid this season? Then Pecora and Jack Hayes will ask what they need to do differently to improve Hofstra’s candidacy next year, and The Powers That Be will recommend something different than they recommended last year, and the Dutchmen will do it, and just like last night, any complaints about the process will not be made for public consumption.

Because that’s what teams do when they belong.

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

Quotebook: Tom Pecora

We caught up with Tom Pecora last night after the Flying Dutchmen fell to UConn, 76-67, in the second round of the Preseason NIT in Storrs. Thanks as always to Pecora for taking the time to chat as well as to Jeremy Kniffin for setting up the interview.


On what it was like to coach in such a game:

Yeah, it was wonderful, except for the outcome. I think we lost our way a little bit. Got up nine and [Stanley] Robinson made a three and then we had a couple of empty trips offensively. They picked up their intensity a little bit defensively. That’s where we could have really extended our lead. We weren’t able to do that. We battled ‘til the end, obviously, it was a one-point game with 1:20 to go. But no one’s going to give you those types of wins. We had an opportunity [to win] and we didn’t.

On his thoughts when the Dutchmen took a 54-45 lead more than halfway through the second half:

I knew there was a ton of time. You really want to extend the game and extend your lead [and] get yourself to a point where maybe you can start burning a little bit of clock. We were still a long way off from doing that.

On the Dutchmen driving the lane regularly against the bigger Huskies:

I thought it was great. Early on, I think the first few possessions, we got offensive rebounds on our first three possessions and that set the tone for the night. In the first half we shot the ball so poorly—we shot 22 percent—that there were a lot of offensive rebounds to go around. We had 11 at the half. We outrebounded UConn, we only had 12 turnovers. That was the key for us. We said if they don’t beat us up on the [boards] and we don’t turn the ball over, we’ve got a chance to win. Watching tape, we probably missed six or eight layups, stick back plays. Those were the ones that break your back.

If we shoot the ball as well as we usually do and we rebound and then don’t turn it over like we did tonight, we win the game. We weren’t able to win.

On the environment in Storrs:

For our first three games, we played no. 1 and no. 13. I think the experience at Kansas really prepared us for tonight and allowed us to take care of it.

On Charles Jenkins’ performance (25 points, including 21 in the second half:

Once again, every time we play games like this, it’s a marquee game for the program—but also our chance to show Charles his wares.

On what he takes from the near-upset:

This program is beyond moral victories. I wanted to go play in the Garden next week. And I think we better learn from our mistakes here, because it’ll cost us a game later this year. We’ve got a lot to do and we didn’t finish it.

On the early-season scheduling and how it raises the Dutchmen’s profile:

I think there’s a method to our madness in scheduling these games. I think it’s going to help our RPI tremendously. We have wins over teams that are perennial below 200 teams, our RPI is 100 points lower than it will be Monday with one win and two losses. That could help us during the [season], make us a better team and prepare us.

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