Very sorry this is so late, but sometime between the end of the Flying Dutchmen’s 61-58 win over Delaware Saturday afternoon and the time I put my head to pillow in a truly crappy Howard Johnson’s early Sunday morning, I either got food poisoning (say it ain’t so Chick-Fil-A!) or the stomach flu and I’ve spent the last 48 hours becoming besties with my bathroom. Thank goodness my wife went down to Delaware with me because if I had to make the drive home by myself I’d probably still be in Brooklyn. That was an interesting ride home.
Anyway, it sucks to have to do five post-game thoughts for a game I actually covered, but as the saying goes, you can’t fight diarrhea. Or something like that. Here goes:
1.) Charles Jenkins was The Wolf when it mattered most. Jenkins had a quiet game by his standards—23 points, three rebounds, three assists, three turnovers, one steal—but scored the Flying Dutchmen’s last six pressure-packed points to keep Delaware from stealing a game it never led (seriously, I would love to know if that’s ever happened before—Hofstra leading wire-to-wire and winning by three). Jenkins drained a jumper with Devon Saddler in his face to extend the Dutchmen’s lead to 57-53. After Saddler’s layup made it a two-point game again, Jenkins bled the shot clock, drove the lane with less than five seconds to go, drew the foul from Delaware forward Jamelle Hagins and hit both shots to put the Dutchmen up four again. And for good measure, he blocked Saddler’s shot on the other end with nine seconds to go, grabbed the board, drew the foul and hit two foul shots to ice it. The Wolf. He solves problems.
“Everybody in the gym knew who was going to get the ball,” Jenkins said. “I’d been getting fouled early in the game and I really wasn’t getting rewarded for the phusical play, but at the end I really decided to go after the big man and not shy away.”
“We called a timeout, ran a play for Charles, he made a big-time jump shit and then we called another play that we executed with him driving to the basket and he made two big free throws,” Mo Cassara said. “That’s what All-Americans do. Makes me look like a good coach.”
2.) Before Jenkins’ transformation into The Wolf, the Dutchmen were carried by the trio of David Imes, Greg Washington and Mike Moore. Imes (six points, 12 rebounds) pulled down nine rebounds in the first half to spark a suffocating defensive performance by the Dutchmen (Delaware shot just 19.2 percent in the first half) and then hit two key jumpers in the first 10 minutes of the second half to quell mini-runs by Delaware. Washington had a big first half (nine points, three rebounds) that featured perhaps his niftiest basket ever—a spinning layup as the shot clock dwindled—before getting into foul trouble in the second half. And Moore had his trademark game, very quietly and with no fanfare netting 17 points on 6-of-12 shooting (including 2-of-4 from 3-point land) and pulling down five rebounds. We’re telling you, he’s Norman Richardson Jr.
3.) So how does a team lead wire-to-wire and only win by three? The Dutchmen’s youth and inexperience was on display as they nearly frittered away a handful of double-digit leads. The most telling sequence occurred just before the under eight timeout in the second half, when Stephen Nwaukoni stole the ball in the Delaware backcourt, dished to Shemiye McLendon…and then trotted over and gazed at Cassara as a suddenly pressured McLendon tried to save the ball from going out of bounds by firing it to Nwaukoni. Delaware ended up with the ball back and eventually capped the possession by hitting one of two free throws. A livid Cassara stared down Nwaukoni as he walked to the bench before he smashed his clipboard against the floor.
“I grabbed Stephen as we were walking to the locker room and I put my arm around him and I said ‘Listen, Stephen, I love you, our staff loves you and you’re going to get better and the best thing that you’re doing right now is you’re taking criticism and you’re handling it. You know you made a mistake, we talked about it, you went to the bench and you came back in and gave us some other minutes,’” Cassara said. “I’m real proud of that and that’s ultimately why our team is finding a way to win. We’re sticking together as a team because guys are willing to [handle] criticism, they’re willing to take responsibility for their mistakes and that’s the sign of a team. That’s what we’ve been preaching since last May.”
4.) Also indicative of the Dutchmen’s inconsistency and inexperience: A negative assist-to-turnover ratio (7/9) and a notable gap in the second half rebounding stats (Delaware pulled down nine offensive rebounds to just seven defensive boards for the Dutchmen). The good news, of course, is that it was just the fifth time this season the Dutchmen have had a negative assist-to-turnover ratio, only the second time since Puerto Rico and the first time they’ve managed to win a game with a negative ratio.
“I’m a little disappointed we only had seven assists, we didn’t share the ball as well as we need to, but we made plays when we had to,” Cassara said. “I thought our defensive intensity was great in the first half. Second half, we got a little lazy, a little tired and they really got to ever 50/50 ball. They had two, three chances at the basket. The games where we give up extra shots lke that—like we did against the Old Dominions and the Drexels—it’s really hard for us to win. So we have to really continue to work on that.”
5.) Hey, who cares, a win is a win. The Dutchmen flew to Georgia Tuesday, beat Georgia State Wednesday, flew home early Thursday, got on the bus early Friday afternoon and beat Delaware Saturday. Anyone anywhere in the CAA will take a 2-0 record through that stretch. And for good measure, the Dutchmen haven’t trailed in more than 78 minutes.
“We had two road games?” Jenkins asked. “Feels good. Most important is winning. I don’t really care where it is as long as we win.”
“I think for us to get out of this week with two wins is incredible—it’s an incredible testament to this team,” Cassara said. “The one thing we keep saying is we haven’t played our best basketball yet.”
The 2-0 week was especially valuable because it cemented the Dutchmen’s ability to control their own fate in the race for a bye. As long as they win two of their final three CAA games, the Dutchmen will be off Friday—an often-inconceivable thought during the chaos of last spring. They could cement a bye as early as tonight if they beat William & Mary and Drexel loses to UNC Wilmington.
“I’m very happy—thinking about a bye and having rest, waiting for teams to beat up on each other [and] for us to come on in and put more pressure on the team that just played the night before,” Jenkins said. “It’s definitely a good feeling. But we have three more games left and we just have to take care of business.”
3 STARS OF THE GAME (vs. Delaware, 2/12)
3: Charles Jenkins
2: Mike Moore
1: David Imes
Charles Jenkins 66
Mike Moore 33
Greg Washington 23
David Imes 16
Brad Kelleher 6
Shemiye McLendon 5
Dwan McMillan 5
Yves Jules 1
Stephen Nwaukoni 1