Monday, November 15, 2010

Hofstra 102, Farmingdale 62 (Or: Mo Cassara is the winningest coach in Hofstra history! Party time! Excellent!)

But what I'd really love is to do Defiantly Dutch for a living. It might happen. Shaw. And monkeys might fly out of my butt. (If you are of a certain age, you mimicked this scene for the rest of 1992. For the rest of you, including DC, watch and see what you missed!)

The Flying Dutchmen went almost 19 years—a span of 546 games, four head coaches, three conferences and two on-campus arenas—between 100-point games. In what will likely come as a shock to the fans of the rest of the CAA, neither Charles Jenkins nor Greg Washington were on both teams.

Like many other CAA observers, though, Jenkins and Washington—two of the Dutchmen’s three senior co-captains—are beginning to feel as if they’ve been here forever. “We’re kind of like the old heads on the team,” Jenkins said Saturday. “We need 10 more minutes to stretch.”

Neither fifth-year senior felt very old Saturday, when Jenkins and Washington each—to borrow a phrase from Tom Pecora, who coached 281 of those games—filled the boxscore as the Dutchmen won Mo Cassara’s debut by cruising past Division III Farmingdale, 102-62, in front of an enthusiastic crowd of 3,727 at the Arena.

It marked the first time the Dutchmen scored 100 points in a game since Feb. 29, 1992, when Hofstra beat Maryland-Baltimore County 103-87 in the East Coast Conference (hey, I told you it was a long time ago) regular season finale. Back then, Jenkins was a day removed from his third birthday, Washington was three months shy of his fifth birthday (and, we can presume, the tallest kid in preschool) and Brad Kelleher’s parents unknowingly committed an NCAA violation by signing a permission slip that allowed their nearly six-year-old son to go on a field trip.

It was so long ago that Wayne’s World was the number one movie in America, which unfortunately convinced Lorne Michaels that every moderately amusing Saturday Night Live skit--and some that were not even that, hello MacGruber--deserved to be a 90-minute movie. Mr. Big’s “To Be With You” topped the charts, and the future creator of a Hofstra blog may or may not put the song on repeat on his CD player (look it up kids!) as he nursed a broken heart and wondered if a guy could really win a girl back by going to her house, holding aloft a boom box and playing a really romantic song, or if that crap only worked in the movies. Why are you looking at me?

Where was I? Oh yes.

While hitting the century mark sent me to Wikipedia (I need help: I knew “Wayne’s World” was no. 1 off the top of my head, just be glad it wasn’t really “Basic Instinct”), it also provided a nice blend of what the present and the future might look like under Cassara.

All caveats apply about how there’s not much to glean from a game against a Division III foe—the Dutchmen never trailed and were much more impressive than in their scrimmage against Division II Molloy six days earlier. But the Dutchmen were crisp and efficient on offense, racking up an Arena-record and school-record tying 25 assists on 36 field goals. Five players scored in double figures even though Jenkins was the only one to play more than 27 minutes.

“I thought we came out and made some good passes, we got some real good looks at the basket,” said Cassara, who is now in first place all-time among Hofstra coaches in winning percentage. “I tell our guys all the time: When we make the ball move and we are really aggressive to make the extra pass, we tend to make a lot more shots. Charles did a great job sharing the ball and Greg did a tremendous job early on really hitting the glass and being a presence down low…I thought it opened up the game on the perimeter a lot.”

Jenkins may or may not have set a school record by leading or sharing the team lead in four categories (26 points on 10-of-13 shooting with, eight rebounds, eight assists and four steals as well as two blocks). Washington blocked three shots in the first minute and scoring seven points before the first media timeout. He finished with 13 points, eight rebounds and six blocks and, most importantly, was 3-of-5 from the line—the first time he took more than four free throws in a game since Jan. 5, 2009, a span of 49 games.

He also made his friend look clairvoyant. “Tell them what I told you yesterday,” Jenkins said.

“Last night Charles said he was going to get me going early,” Washington said. “And today he was like ‘Let’s start it off with a block.’ And that’s how it happened.”

“Kind of psychic a little bit,” Jenkins said.

Jenkins—as well as Cassara—could be forgiven for not foreseeing the impressive play of newcomers Dwan McMillan and Shemiye McLendon. Junior college transfer McMillan played well against Molloy so his Chaz Williams-esque line Saturday (15 points, including 9-of-10 from the free throw line, six assists and no turnovers) was no surprise, but the freshman McLendon was the first player off the bench and racked up 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting—including 4-of-7 from 3-point land—after not playing at all against Molloy.

“He didn’t play a minute against Molloy, so my tactics must have worked a little bit,” Cassara said. “He’s one of those guys that’s just got the ability to make shots in bunches and he really did a good job tonight. Actually, one shot I didn’t think was great, and it went in before I could even yell at him.”

With the outcome not in doubt at all after the first few minutes, the afternoon was all about experimentation for Cassara and the Dutchmen. Eight players saw at least 10 minutes of playing time and all 11 players in uniform played at least six minutes. There were flashes of a four-guard lineup, with McLendon and Mike Moore providing some bulk.

Newcomers accounted for 52 points and 24 rebounds, and let the record show that freshman Roland Brown, who was 13 months old in February 1992, put the Dutchmen into triple digits by hitting a jumper with 2:13 left.

The large lead also allowed Cassara the luxury to both call timeouts in each half to correct same flaws he saw as well as let someone work through his mistakes: Stephen Nwaukoni had eight rebounds but displayed his rawness on offense by missing five put backs.

“[Nwaukoni] struggled finishing around the basket, but his 0-for-5, I guarantee you if he keeps working as hard as he is, in a couple years, that’s going to be 5-for-5 or that’s going to be 5-for-8,” Cassara said.

It wasn’t perfect by any stretch Cassara admits there’s plenty of work ahead for both he and the Dutchmen. Cassara called a timeout a split second before David Imes dunked, which led Imes to tell Cassara he owed him laps.

“Just like our players who are inexperienced—so am I, and I’m anxious to get out there all the time and work with them and continue to get better,” Cassara said. “That’s something I tell them all the time. I have that type of relationship with these guys. I tell them they need to get better and I need to get better. So we’re a continuing work in progress.”

3 STARS OF THE GAME (vs. Farmingdale, 11/13)
3: Charles Jenkins
2: Greg Washington
1: Shemiye McLendon

SEASON STANDINGS (hey, there are standings after the first game everywhere else!)
Charles Jenkins 3
Greg Washington 2
Shemiye McLendon 1

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very funny stuff Jerry! Keep it coming.