Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Old Dominion 57, Hofstra 46 (Or: Father Knows Best)

The Anderson--err, Beach--clan gathers around Dad and begs him to change the channel to the Flying Dutchmen game.

My Dad is an old-school sports fan. He finds out when a game will be played by reading the newspaper. He determines who is the favorite not by reading some long-winded blogger but by checking the spread (even though he does not and never has bet on sports). Back in the old days, when newspapers had space and catered to their loyal readers instead of alienating the hell out of them, he’d read about who won and lost via the game capsules. Now, he relies on a line of type on the scoreboard page, or the scrolling ticker on one of ESPN’s 729 networks.

Once in a great while, he’ll tune in to a game on TV and use it for more than background noise. That was his post-church plan Saturday afternoon, when he figured he’d tune in to the Flying Dutchmen-Old Dominion game on MSG and see just what it is that his son yammers on and on about in this blog thingy.

So, Dad, what’d you think?

“The first time I flipped the game on, Hofstra had the ball underneath its basket and turned it over,” he said Saturday night. “The second time, someone on Hofstra threw a long pass that went out of bounds. So I figured it wasn’t their day and changed the channel.”

It wasn’t the Dutchmen’s day in a 57-46 loss, but there’s as good a chance the season was summed up in the two clips my Dad saw as it was in the entire 40 minutes, many of which were more encouraging than the final score would indicate. Welcome to Bipolar Basketball, The Sequel.

There will be moments in which the Dutchmen play as raw and as inexperienced as their collective age indicates (with Halil Kanacevic in the lineup, it’s official: Charles Jenkins has made one more start by himself—78—than the rest of the starting five combined), in which they can neither make a shot nor a stop and look like a team that has no shot in a loaded league in which experience rules.

The Dutchmen were buried against Old Dominion before they ever scored a point. The Monarchs scored four straight layups to jump out to an 8-0 lead and never trailed. The Dutchmen didn’t get on the scoreboard until more than six minutes had elapsed, didn’t hit a field goal until more than seven minutes were gone and ended the game by missing 12 of their final 15 shots. They finished with less than 50 points for the third time in nine games and committed 21 turnovers, one shy of the season high.

Williams committed six of the Dutchmen’s 21 turnovers and was just 1-of-10 from the field. Kanacevic was 3-of-10 with five rebounds. At one point in the first half, the lineup was four freshmen—Williams, Kanacevic, Yves Jules and David Imes—and Jenkins.

Yet the middle of the game Saturday was…not bad. In the 23 minutes and one second between droughts, the Dutchmen outscored Old Dominion 34-32. In a nearly nine-minute stretch spanning the halves, the Dutchmen went on a 21-7 run to turn a 26-11 deficit into a 33-32 nail-biter. In the latter spurt, the scoring was pretty evenly distributed among five players: Jenkins (eight), Cornelius Vines (five), Kanacevic (four), Williams (two) and Nathaniel Lester (two).

In addition, even after allowing Old Dominion to assert itself down low in the opening minutes, the Dutchmen still contained the monster that is Gerald Lee, limiting Jenkins’ fellow preseason player of the year to a manageable 11 points and five rebounds.

Miklos Szabo (six points and six rebounds) and Greg Washington (four points, seven rebounds and three blocks) weren’t spectacular, but they were more effective than not after the Monarchs’ initial flurry—particularly Szabo, who showed off his best offensive moves of the season in muscled his way under the basket for a well-earned sky hook late in the second half.

Of course, a wire-to-wire loss is still a wire-to-wire loss. And a thin roster (thank you very much, NCAA Clearinghouse) probably got even slimmer when Imes—who already missed six games this season with a bad ankle—went down with a sprained ankle in the first half.

But there is ample evidence the Dutchmen’s bipolar nature is a byproduct of youth and not a flawed roster. It can’t be said enough: Last year’s team endured five wire-to-wire losses in which its average margin of defeat was 18 points and two other blowouts in which it lost by an average margin of 25 points. It was impossible to know from one night to the next which Hofstra team would appear.

This year’s team may not be any easier to project, but its two wire-to-wire defeats have been by nine and 11 points and it shaved a 15-point deficit to one in one of the CAA’s toughest arenas.

There is something here, and while most signs indicate it won’t manifest itself until next year, there are enough glimpses such as the ones we saw Saturday to indicate maybe it’ll appear in March. If that happens, I’m pretty sure my Dad will tune in for a lot more than two plays.

3 STARS OF THE GAME (vs. Old Dominion, 1/9)
3: Charles Jenkins
2: Miklos Szabo
1: Halil Kanacevic

Charles Jenkins 27
Chaz Williams 18
Nathaniel Lester 18
Halil Kanacevic 17
Greg Washington 8
Miklos Szabo 7
Cornelius Vines 7

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

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