Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Hofstra 78, Northeastern 75 (Or: The Other Side)

Aerosmith is no better than my third-favorite Boston band behind Extreme and Boston, but damn if they don't write songs appropriate for Hofstra-Northeastern games! (And yes this is at least the third The Other Side reference I've made in a post, sue me)

The Line between euphoria and disappointment is equal parts readily apparent and microscopic. It was obvious in the smile on Charles Jenkins’ face Saturday afternoon, when he had perhaps his worst game in three years in the Flying Dutchmen’s 78-75 win over Northeastern, and the scowl he wore seven days earlier, after he cemented his status as Hofstra’s best player in generations by breaking the school scoring record in a 65-60 loss to Drexel.

It was clear in how Mo Cassara could relish the opportunity to eke out a nail-biting win in front of an enthusiastic crowd Saturday, and how playing in front of the first full house in four years provided him little consolation following the Drexel defeat. And it is obvious in the standings today, which show Hofstra tied for third place with Old Dominion at 9-4 in the CAA, as opposed to tied for fourth with Drexel at 8-5.

“I feel great,” Jenkins said. “I didn’t score a basket and we still won this game, I would have the same personality I have right now. Like last week when I broke the scoring record and we still lost the game—a lot of people were more concerned about the scoring record than the game. Winning is more important than anything to me.

“We needed it. Coach stressed that we just needed to get this game, to win this game, just to get right back into the mix of things because the standings are so tight.”

But how did they end up on the right side of The Line? How did the Dutchmen exit the Arena and walk into a foggy, rainy night with dispositions as sunny as a summer day while Northeastern trudged to their buses for a ride back to Boston that probably felt twice as long as the one Hofstra endured four weeks earlier?

How did Northeastern fail, in four opportunities in the final four minutes, to get the one late basket Drexel scored a week earlier that allowed them to withstand the Dutchmen’s attempts to come back from an eight-point deficit in the final four minutes? What is the difference between a team grabbing its first second half lead in four games and trailing the entire second half for a fourth straight loss and the fifth time in as many conference losses?

The box score is deceptively simple. The Dutchmen ended the game on runs of 10-0 (all following the final media timeout with 3:52 to play) and 26-7 as they completed their comeback from a 14-point second half deficit.

Jenkins scored nine of his team-high 21 points in the final 5:21. The Dutchmen had three players score in double figures, which increased their record to 14-1 in such games, and received so many contributions from so many players that it was almost impossible to whittle down the field of candidates for the 3 Stars of the Game (spoiler alert: We have copies of the Defiantly Dutch board game for Shemiye McLendon and Yves Jules).

Brad Kelleher scored 12 points on 5-of-6 shooting, hit two 3-pointers—the Dutchmen are 6-0 when he drains multiple 3-pointers—and set season (and, err, career) highs with six assists in 37 minutes. He also turned the ball over just once, the third time in the last four games he’s committed one turnover or none.

“Brad Kelleher’s best game,” Cassara said. “He really had some great composure today. I thought he did a great job really running the team and [being] able to pass the ball, too.”

McLendon played just 12 minutes, his second-briefest stint of the year, but scored nine points and hit all six free throw attempts, including the final four points of the game in the final 1:56 that completed the Dutchmen’s comeback. He has now hit free throws to force overtime, win or clinch a game in each of the Dutchmen’s last three victories.

“He doesn’t change his demeanor, whether it’s snowing or sunny or we’re up or down,” Cassara said. “That’s one of the real great things about him. A lot of credit to him, he’s been able to step up and make some big shots for us.”

Jules hit two 3-pointers as well, matching his total in his last 48 games, while also playing outstanding defense on Chase Allen in the second half on his way (Allen had six points on 1-of-5 shooting in the second half after scoring 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting in the first half) to playing a season-high 22 minutes—as many as he played in the previous three games combined.

“When you’re building a team and trying to continue to get better as the season gets longer in February, you need guys to step in and help you,” Cassara said. “And he’s had some games where he hasn’t played at all. He was willing to keep working hard at practice, had a real positive attitude and he came out and did a great job for us tonight.”

(Aside in case any of the dopes who work for the NCAA stumbled over here: We don’t actually have copies of the Defiantly Dutch board game to offer Jules, McLendon or any other student-athlete at Hofstra, or a Defiantly Dutch board game at all, though if we did, it would be bitchin’ and feature as many trivia questions about Scrubs as it did Hofstra basketball. So don’t go mounting a two-year investigation about impermissible benefits, you buttheads)

Mike Moore (16 points) recovered from a slow start to hit four of his final five shots from the field, pulled down a game-high 11 rebounds and single-handedly kept the Dutchmen in the game when it appeared as if Northeastern was about to pull away around the midway point of the second half: Moore scored all six Dutchmen points in a span of 2:36, the last of which he recorded when he grabbed Hofstra’s second offensive rebound of the possession and hit a layup to pull the Dutchmen within 66-54 and begin their game-ending run with 9:02 to play.

“I told Mike Moore walking off the court [the win was] really a credit to him—he was very vocal in the huddle, he just kept saying ‘Hey, we’re OK, we’ve gotta keep driving the ball, be aggressive.’” Cassara said. “Mike really attacked the basket well and a lot of credit goes to him. He really hung in there. And for Mike to get 11 rebounds tonight when we played small a lot, it’s really a credit to his hard work and real determination to kind of will us to win.”

“Coming into this game, rebounding [had been] a problem on our team,” Moore said. “I challenged the big men and told them I was going to be the lead rebounder today. And hey, look what happened.”

In many ways, though, what happened wasn’t so easily explainable. Jenkins, aka “The Wolf,” created at least as many problems as he solved: He set a career high by missing five free throws—including all three after he was fouled on a 3-point attempt midway through the first half—and an unofficial career high by missing at least three assignments on defense.

Jenkins could have cost the Dutchmen the game by allowing Joel Smith to get free on a backdoor layup, but Greg Washington managed to block Smith’s shot and the ball went out of bounds off Smith. “[He was] kind of like ‘God, help me,’” Jenkins said with a laugh.

Washington, who finally snapped his scoreless streak with eight points, also prevented Northeastern from taking the lead on its previous possession, when he forced Allen into an errant 3-pointer as the shot clock expired, and combined with David Imes to collapse on Ryan Pierson beyond the arc as the Huskies’ freshman desperately tried to create a final shot as the final six seconds ticked off the clock.

“I’ve said a lot: A lot of Greg Washington’s efforts and contributions don’t show up in the stat sheet,” Cassara said. “He changes a lot of shots, he affects a lot of shots He did a great job hedging out a couple times. He contested a couple shots on the 3-point line, that’s hard to do.”

So, too, was figuring out the exact locale of The Line. But better to be on the other side of it, regardless of how the Flying Dutchmen got there.

“I told our team in the locker room that the thing I’m most proud of is the facet that we never give up,” Cassara said. “I think the last five games we’ve been down at halftime. And this team believes—even in the huddle when we were down seven or eight points there with seven, eight minutes [left], they were bonding together and found a way to win.”

3 STARS OF THE GAME (vs. Northeastern, 2/5)
3: Mike Moore
2: Brad Kelleher
1: Charles Jenkins

Charles Jenkins 60
Mike Moore 31
Greg Washington 21
David Imes 15
Brad Kelleher 5
Shemiye McLendon 5
Dwan McMillan 5
Yves Jules 1
Stephen Nwaukoni 1

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

No comments: