Saturday, December 22, 2012

Wright State 63, Hofstra 57 (Or: It’s always the same, it’s just a shame, that’s all)



If you’re a dork, like me, you could win a bar bet by asking a Flying Dutchmen fan to identify the game against Wright State in which the Raiders led wire-to-wire.

Of course, there’s only a handful of other Hofstra fans, and none of them are nearly as dorky as me, so knowing the Dutchmen trailed from start to finish in last Saturday’s 63-57 loss to Wright State—and not in the 82-56 thrashing they endured in a Bracket Buster in February 2011—isn’t likely to benefit you at all. Sorry.

Still, this one was a little better than the first meeting between the teams, whatever that is worth, and when we sit down in March and look back at this, uhh, interesting season, we’ll certainly count this one as yet another “L” that probably would have been a “W” had four knuckleheads not gotten arrested. Perhaps by then I’ll be less bitter and no longer passive-aggressively referencing the fraudulent foursome without actually naming them. Doubtful. Anyway.

1.) The Dutchmen’s narrow margin for error was on display yet again against Wright State, which took advantage of early sloppiness by Hofstra to race out to a 12-2 lead barely three minutes into the game. The Dutchmen committed five turnovers and missed their first four field goals before Stephen Nwaukoni’s layup with 15:13 left in the first half. The Raiders extended the lead to 14 with 7:33 remaining, and while the Dutchmen mounted an 11-1 run immediately thereafter and got within a possession three times in the second half, they never got the equalizer. The Dutchmen have fallen behind by a double-digit margin in the first half in six of their eight losses.

“Turnovers—we just get down quick because we turn the ball over two or three times to start the game,” Mo Cassara said. “We’ve done that repeatedly here and it’s just putting us behind in a tough spot, so we’ve got to really look at that and try to find a way to get around that. Obviously it’s been a big, big issue for us.”

2.) Another big issue for the Dutchmen: Their poor shooting. The Dutchmen shot just 36 percent (18-of-50), but the reality was worse: Jordan Allen and Stephen Nwaukoni combined to shoot 9-of-13 from the field, which meant the rest of their teammates were a ghastly 9-of-37. In three home games since the arrests, the Dutchmen are shooting just 31.4 percent (49-of-156).

Not surprisingly, the Dutchmen struggled badly from beyond the arc: They shot 5-of-22 from 3-point land, including a combined 1-of-10 by Matt Grogan and Stevie Mejia, and are shooting 26.9 percent on 3-pointers (14-of-52) in the last three home games.

“You look at the stat sheet: 1-for-7, 1-for-8, 3-for-12, we had a lot of great opportunities,” Cassara said. “Two or three of those 3-pointers go in, it’s a different game. Matty hits one, Stevie hits one, different game. And that’s our margin: [It’s] just very slim.”

3.) Just as they did to Charles Jenkins in February 2011, Wright State did a tremendous job of shutting down the Dutchmen’s best offensive threat. A week after he scorched Long Island University for 29 points, Taran Buie was 3-of-12 from the field and had just 11 points. Veterans Mejia (1-of-8, six points), David Imes (2-of-6, six points, five turnovers) and Moussa Kone (2-of-4, four points) could not pick up the slack, so Cassara surely spent time this week figuring out a way to get others involved when Buie is cold and/or contained.

“Offensive execution—that’s what I think we need to work on a lot,” Mejia said. “We need to do better at it. Knowing each other, knowing where guys like the ball, [where] guys like to shoot.”

4.) There were some developments in that area, particularly with Mejia and Allen. Four of Mejia’s career-high eight assists were to Allen, who set career highs himself with 13 points and seven rebounds in 29 minutes. He’s set a career-high in minutes played in each of his last four games.

“I was just moving around on the court just finding different ways to be effective,” Allen said. “I credit [Mejia] for getting me the ball and finding me and making plays.”

Mejia also committed just two turnovers, the ninth time in 11 games he’s turned the ball over three times or less.

5.) Nwaukoni had another strong game on both ends of the floor as he recorded the third double-double of his career with 12 points and 11 rebounds. He has at least seven rebounds in each of the last six games in which he has played, a pretty impressive streak considering he’s coming off the bench and is averaging just shy of 24 minutes per game in this stretch.

Nwaukoni has been doubly valuable given the recent struggles of Imes and Kone, who are averaging just 26.5 and 18.3 minutes per game, respectively, since the arrests. With Daquan Brown scheduled to become eligible Saturday against Tulane, the Dutchmen might actually have some depth to work with down low.

3 STARS OF THE GAME (vs. Wright State, 12/15)
3: Jordan Allen
2: Stephen Nwaukoni
1: Stevie Mejia

SEASON STANDINGS***
16: Taran Buie
10: Stevie Mejia
8: Stephen Nwaukoni
4: Moussa Kone
3: Jordan Allen
2: Matt Grogan
2: David Imes

***21 points vacated

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

Long Island 88, Hofstra 84 (Or: Hazy Shade Of Winter)



1.) This is the second of many losses this year that we can blame on the absence of the four knuckleheads, and in particular the two who were starting. Do you think the Flying Dutchmen blow a 16-point lead in the final 12:01 if they’ve got a couple of those guys in the lineup? The arrests dropped the number of pure point guards on the roster from three to one, which meant the Dutchmen couldn’t hang on when Stevie Mejia fouled out with 2:35 left. Instead of the guy who used to wear no. 4 or the guy who used to wear no. 44 backing up Mejia down the stretch, that task fell to walk-on Adam Savion, who wasn’t even on the team in October. Once again: Thanks guys.

2.) This could have been a defining win for the Dutchmen, who were this close to becoming the first team to knock off the two-time defending Northeast Conference champions at home in more than two years. And now we’ve got to wonder if it will be a defining loss for a team that did all it could to win and still lost. The Dutchmen finally shot well (57.4 percent, the first time they’ve hit half their field goal attempts this year and their highest field goal percentage since the win over Long Island in the season opener last year), scored 52 second half points, had that big ol’ lead with 12 minutes to go AND STILL LOST. That’s a tough thing to overcome for a depleted team that is already staggered.

3.) That said, as much as the Dutchmen did to win, there were still obvious there is still plenty of room for improvement amid the evidence they’ll have to do everything right to win this year. The Dutchmen had another miserable afternoon at the free throw line, where they were just 19-of-33. And that included a 7-of-7 performance from the line by Stevie Mejia, so the rest of the team was an eye-popping 12-of-26. Teams with no margin for error can’t be missing that many free throws. Hofstra committed 19 turnovers, including at least three by every starter except Jordan Allen. Long Island played a full-court press during its dramatic comeback, but the Dutchmen were careless with the ball as well in the first half with eight turnovers.

4.) Can’t say this enough: Taran Buie is a big-time player. He scored 29 points, including 19 in a Jenkins-esque second half in which he was 7-of-8 from the field (he was actually much better from the floor than from the free throw line, where he was 3-of-7) and scored the Dutchmen’s last six points. He’s the main reason why you should believe this year will be better than last year, even given all the personnel losses the Dutchmen have absorbed. There will be some games this year in which he single-handedly carries the Dutchmen to victory. (I hope)

5.) Walk-on Savion (five points, four rebounds), freshman Darren Payen (a career-high seven points and three rebounds) and Stephen Nwaukoni (12 points on 6-of-9 shooting and seven rebounds) are all developing into solid role players. Of course, that’s the problem: Neither Savion nor Payen should be playing this year, and the Dutchmen would have been a lot better off if Nwaukoni was one of two or three guys providing six or seven rebounds a game instead of the only one. As always and once again: Thanks guys.

3 STARS OF THE GAME (vs. Long Island U. 12/8)
3: Taran Buie
2: Stevie Mejia
1: Stephen Nwaukoni

SEASON STANDINGS***
16: Taran Buie
9: Stevie Mejia
6: Stephen Nwaukoni
4: Moussa Kone
2: Matt Grogan
2: David Imes

***21 points vacated

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

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Five semi-useful things to know: Wright State


1.) Wright State is 6-3 and has alternated losses and wins since opening the season 3-0. Whoohoo! They’re due for a loss! The Raiders have two players averaging in double figures (Cole Darling with 11.8 ppg and Miles Dixon with 10.0 ppg) but have nobody averaging even four rebounds a game, which makes for a good matchup with a Dutchmen squad that has struggled on the boards since the loss of The Guy Who Used To Wear Number 1.

2.) This is the second all-time meeting between Hofstra and Wright State, after that brutal Bracket Buster in February 2011. The Raiders, who play in the Horizon League, have no common opponents with the Flying Dutchmen this year.

3.) It’ll be interesting to see how the Dutchmen look after a full week of practice—their first full week of practice, sans games, since the four knuckleheads were arrested. I’d expect roles to be better defined and perhaps some of the rust to be shaken off by players such as Darren Payen, Jordan Allen, Matt Grogan and even Taran Buie, all of whom were thrust into playing far bigger roles than envisioned prior to the arrests.

4.) Perhaps a week in the gym helped the Dutchmen shake the terrible shooting slump they’ve been in since the arrests, as well. The Dutchmen are shooting 38 percent from the field in their last three games, which includes a blistering 57.4 percent effort in last Saturday’s loss to Long Island University, and an almost incomprehensible 51.3 percent from the free throw line. Their poor performances at the free throw line likely cost the Dutchmen wins against Wagner and LIU.

5.) It will also be interesting to see if the Dutchmen exhibit any hangover from last week’s loss in which they blew a 16-point lead with less than 12 minutes to play. The Dutchmen need a win in the worst way and coming so close to beating an NCAA Tournament-caliber team—one that hasn’t lost at home in two years—could have a lingering effect. Mo Cassara, who already had his hands full trying to keep a decimated team upbeat, surely dug deeper into his bag of motivational tricks this week.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Wagner 52, Hofstra 44 (Or: They took a wrong turn and they just kept going)



The final sequence of the Flying Dutchmen’s 52-44 loss to Wagner summed up the entire evening and a season that’s gone south in a hurry.

The ball got loose near midcourt as the clock wound down and a scrum ensued before Taran Buie emerged with it and raced towards the basket. But he wasn’t able to get a shot off before the buzzer, and as the teams lined up for the postgame handshake, Buie took a handful of shots, as if he could somehow make up the eight-point deficit all by himself.

“We’re struggling to score right now, [the] last two games,” Mo Cassara said afterward. “Clearly we’ve got to get better at executing offensively and getting guys shots where they can be successful.”

1.) The Dutchmen had another miserable shooting night in all facets of the game. They were 16-of-48 from the field, but the quartet of Buie, Matt Grogan, Stephen Nwaukoni and Darren Payen were 12-of-27 while Stevie Mejia, David Imes, Moussa Kone and Jordan Allen were a combined 4-of-21 with one field goal apiece. The Dutchmen were also a brutal 8-of-19 from the free throw line, the second straight game in which Hofstra shot 50 percent or worse from the free throw line and the worst free throw shooting performance by the Dutchmen since Dec. 9, 2009, when Hofstra was 6-of-16 against Manhattan.

“Some days it goes in the hoop and some days it doesn’t,” Cassara said. “If you really go back over the last couple games, we’ve gotten a lot of good shots. I think back to SMU, boy, we had a lot of point-blank shots. We ran some good offense, just didn’t go in the hole. We’ve got to concentrate on that, we’ve got to work on it.”

2.) If you’re into such a thing, pray Buie stays healthy and on the court, because he’s a keeper. He led all scorers with 16 points and just about single-handedly kept the Dutchmen in the game in the second half, when he scored 14 of Hofstra’s 20 points. He scored all those points in a span of 9:18 in which just one other Dutchmen scored (Matt Grogan on a free throw). He certainly seems to have the “it” gene that Charles Jenkins had—as well as the ability to play far better after halftime than before it—and that the Dutchmen lacked last season.

“Like coach said, the ball just wasn’t going in the hole for a bunch of our guys today,” Buie said. “I was lucky enough to get it going in the second half. I didn’t have a great first half. I just credit my teammates and my coaches for getting me open spots so I could make shots.”

3.) The Dutchmen continued to miss the guy who used to wear no. 1, and I don’t mean Nathaniel Lester. In two games since the new/no longer no. 1 was among the four players arrested, the Dutchmen’s starting front court of Jordan Allen, David Imes and Moussa Kone have gone just 7-for-31 from the field. Stephen Nwaukoni had another solid game off the bench against Wagner (six points and a game-high 11 rebounds) and is a solid 5-of-10 from the field in the two games since the arrests, but he’s just 0-for-3 from the free throw line in that span.

“We’ve got to continue to throw the ball into them and those guys are going to have to produce, make some plays,” Cassara said.

4.) For the second straight game, Grogan took advantage of his suddenly increased playing time by draining two 3-pointers and scoring seven points. Grogan’s first 3-pointer with 6:04 left in the first half gave the Dutchmen a 15-14 lead—their first lead since the buzzer sounded against Marshall, which feels like 100 years ago—and his second trey extended the lead to five points for the first time.

Three days after setting a new career high with 23 minutes played against SMU, Grogan played 18 minutes—one shy of his old career high set last year against Wagner. He played a total of just three minutes in the first seven games of the season.

“He’s given us a great boost, obviously, offensively, and when he make a couple shots, it really opens the game up [as] it did in the first half,” Cassara said. “He’s always ready to play. He’s going to give us everything he has.”

5.) This was a sadly familiar defeat for the Dutchmen, who squandered a five-point halftime lead (as they did twice last year) and were outscored 33-20 in the second half (Wagner outscored the Dutchmen 32-20 in the second half last December in Staten Island).

The Dutchmen got within two or three points six times in the final 12:14 but never tied the score or took the lead. In the final 2:30, Wagner’s Kenneth Ortiz drained a pair of daggers—both of which extended the lead to two possessions—as the shot clock expired.

“Unfortunately had a lot of opportunities that got away from us,” Cassara said. “[Wagner] hit some tough shots. Got to give them a lot of credit down the stretch, I thought our kids battled, and we’ll get back to work and keep battling.”

3 STARS OF THE GAME (vs. Wagner 12/4)
3: Taran Buie
2: Stephen Nwaukoni
1: Matt Grogan

SEASON STANDINGS***
13: Taran Buie
7: Stevie Mejia
5: Stephen Nwaukoni
4: Moussa Kone
2: Matt Grogan
2: David Imes

***21 points vacated

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

SMU 73, Hofstra 47 (Or: Just Like Starting Over)



I made the mistake of waiting more than a couple days to write a game recap for George Washington. Let’s never do that again (after this spate of recaps) and never discuss why there won’t be a GW recap and just go over SMU, shall we?

1.) The Flying Dutchmen looked like a team that lost four key players less than 36 hours before the tip. SMU, which probably would have easily handled a full Dutchmen team, raced out to a 10-0 lead and led by at least six the rest of the way. The Dutchmen’s effort rarely waned, and an 11-2 run spanning the two halves narrowed the gap to 10 in the first half-minute into the second half,  but the Mustangs immediately mounted a 24-7 run and later scored 12 in a row after the Dutchmen pulled within 18 with 5:48 to play.

2.) The Dutchmen trailed wire-to-wire for the third straight game and played like an exhausted, undermanned and frustrated team in missing a bunch of point-blank shots and shooting 25.9 percent, the lowest shooting percentage in a game since the Dutchmen shot 25 percent in a 77-46 loss to Old Dominion on Mar. 1, 2003. Taran Buie was 3-of-13, Stevie Mejia was 3-of-9 and the trio of David Imes. Moussa Kone and Darren Payen were a combined 3-of-21 with one field goal apiece. The Dutchmen’s shooting struggles extended to the free throw line, where they were just 12-of-24. Frustrations also appeared to boil over when the Dutchmen were whistled for two intentional fouls, including one on walk-on Matt Grogan, who responded by kicking one of the panels along press row in between the two benches. The referees seemed to take sympathy on the Dutchmen in not immediately giving Grogan a technical.

3.) The men’s basketball program will be paying the price for the knuckleheaded actions of the four departed players for years to come. One immediate effect: The much-sooner-than-anticipated debut of Payen, who was supposed to redshirt this season but has been pressed into action because the Dutchmen have no other bodies. He was predictably shaky in his first game action in at least eight months, but with five rebounds and two blocks, Payen showed the talent that had Mo Cassara confident he could be a member of the CAA’s All-Rookie team next year.

4.) Payen wasn’t the only player to make his debut for the Dutchmen. Freshman walk-on Adam Savion entered late in the second half and hit three free throws. Grogan set a career-high with seven points, which means the Dutchmen had two walk-ons score in the same game for the first time since I started paying attention in 1993-94. Yay?

5.) Grogan, the only Dutchmen with multiple 3-pointers, was one of the few bright spots, as was junior Stephen Nwaukoni, who returned after a two-game absence for personal reasons and pulled down a team-high eight rebounds in 27 minutes. Nwaukoni is still an inconsistent player on offense, but he’s grown increasingly reliable on the boards with at least five rebounds in 21 of his last 27 games. Buie scored 10 points and pulled down seven rebounds while Mejia had 11 points, three assists and three steals.

6.) The one cool thing about an otherwise awful couple days was getting to ask SMU coach Larry Brown—whose return to his native New York was rendered a sidebar by the Hofstra debacle—about his connections to Hofstra, most of which were pretty obscure (hey, coming up with obscure connections to Hofstra is what I do here).

The obvious link between Brown and Hofstra was sitting courtside. Dutchmen icon Speedy Claxton was the 76ers’ first-round draft pick in 2000, when Brown was the 76ers’ head coach.

“One of my favorite guys,” Brown said at his press conference. “And in spite of that serious knee injury he had a heckuva career. I wish he had some eligibility left. I wouldn’t be so nervous before games.”

(Me too)

While living in Philadelphia, Brown became close friends with Jay Wright, who (duh) of course coached Claxton at Hofstra before he headed to Villanova. Brown credited Wright with keeping him sane—at the very least—during the almost 16 months he was out of work after getting fired by the Charlotte Bobcats and before he took the SMU job.

“He was a tremendous advocate of mine and helped me get where I am,” Brown said. “I over-praise him, but I think he saved my life in a lot of ways, just allowing me to be part of basketball after I got fired from Charlotte.”

Later, we asked Brown about what we thought was his first game as coach at UCLA—the Bruins’ 90-71 win over the Flying Dutchmen (who ACTUALLY were called the Flying Dutchmen back then!) on Dec. 1, 1979 (exactly 33 years to the day before his second game against Hofstra).

Turns out that was the second game of his UCLA tenure: The Bruins beat Idaho State the night before. The game against the Bruins was the season opener for Hofstra in Joe Harrington’s only year at the helm.

Brown remembered “…there was a kid from Long Beach” on Hofstra—David Taylor, who held the school record for most blocked shots in a career until Greg Washington broke it in 2010.

Brown also said he “couldn’t believe I was the coach of UCLA,” which went on to reach the national title game. It was the first (and so far only) time in program history the Flying Dutchmen faced a team that reached the national title game (THANK YOU 2006 FLORIDA).

Brown began his nomadic coaching career with the ABA’s Carolina Cougars from 1972-74. In his second season at the helm, he coached against former (and future) Hofstra coach Butch van Breda Kolff, who was with the Memphis Tams. The press conference following the SMU game was held in the Physical Fitness Center, where van Breda Kolff roamed the sidelines during his second stint with the Dutchmen, after which he was replaced by Wright.

See? All connected.

“I was a big Butch and Petey Carill fan,” Brown said, referring to the long-time Princeton coach who played under van Breda Kolff at Lafayette. “They were special guys.”

3 STARS OF THE GAME (vs. SMU 12/1)
3: Taran Buie
2: Stevie Mejia
1: Matt Grogan

SEASON STANDINGS***
10: Taran Buie
7: Stevie Mejia
4: Moussa Kone
3: Stephen Nwaukoni
2: David Imes
1: Matt Grogan

***21 points vacated

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

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

We take care of our own



We’re all adults here—even me, most of the time!—so I’m not going to spend the next 950 or so words telling you how to react to the arrests of four former Flying Dutchmen basketball players. (Yeah, they’re just “suspended” at the moment, but I have a better chance of suiting up in the next three or four seasons for Hofstra, and I exhausted my eligibility in 1996 and get winded walking up the stairs. So they’re former Hofstra players, and I’ll do my best to never mention them by name ever again.)

The common thread in the myriad of responses to Friday’s bad news was raw emotion—the sadness, the anger, the whatever-it-was-we-felt-but-can’t-describe.

At the risk of sounding like the clich├ęd homeowner after a terrible crime occurs in his neighborhood: This is the type of thing that doesn’t happen around here. These tabloid-ready examples of athletes running amuck are supposed to happen at the BCS schools run by presidents who value winning over everything else. Or at the very least, George Mason. Not Hofstra, where the president shows up to athletic events about as often as his students.

But it happened, and for the foreseeable future and likely much longer, the burglaries will shape the narrative and serve as the reference point for everything that happens to the Hofstra men’s basketball program.

It’s embarrassing, and the fact last week’s arrests were only the worst evidence of misbehavior by the Flying Dutchmen, and not the only evidence, has people angry. Message board posters at the CAAZone were calling for Mo Cassara’s job, professing to boycott home games the remainder of the season, wondering why there wasn’t more transparency from the school and suggesting Hofstra should leave the CAA, if not Division I entirely. We can only imagine what those who aren’t on the CAAZone were thinking and saying in the privacy of their own homes.

Some of last week’s instant reactions aren’t the most rationale, but again, this is unchartered territory for all of us. Dropping to Division II or Division III is a non-starter (at least I pray it is). Changing conferences, even if it means taking a step down in Division I, is always a possibility, but one that existed long before Friday.

Those wanting transparency from Hofstra, meanwhile, are wanting the school to deviate from the behavior it has exhibited for decades. As a private school, Hofstra can Bill Belichick its way around who knew what when, and nobody has any recourse to get anybody to talk. That’s fine. In defense of Hofstra, every other private school in the country would do the same thing. Doesn’t make it right, but that’s life.

While I understand people demanding the dismissal of Cassara. I will not join that chorus of voices. And if you want to call me a Hofstra homer and a Cassara apologist, that’s fine.

But I’ve had long discussions in his office with Cassara about the importance of character in a program, and how he had to find guys like the ones he inherited—Charles Jenkins, Greg Washington and Brad Kelleher—who helped make what should have been a tumultuous first year a wildly successful one.

I think he was as blindsided by Friday’s news as the rest of us, and find it very difficult to believe that he knowingly laid the foundation for his program by taking on four potential felons in his first real recruiting class.

I do wonder about the future of Cassara and his staff, because Stuart Rabinowitz hates bad publicity far more than he likes Cassara (and he likes Cassara a lot), and six suspensions in a semester and eight suspensions (Bryant Crowder was a two-time offender) in a 12-month span are a lot to overcome.

Cassara is smart enough to know he may be the one who takes the fall for the delinquent acts of his former players, and during his post-game press conference Saturday night, he sounded like a man making a pitch to keep his job. My guess is we won’t know if it was good enough for another three months, but that it sure can’t hurt Cassara if the Dutchmen win a bunch of games with their depleted roster, starting tonight against Wagner.

And speaking of tonight, I’ll be there, and I hope those who suggested a boycott on Friday and Saturday are there as well.

If you don’t want to pay to see the Dutchmen tonight, or to see any of the 10 subsequent home games, because you feel it necessary to make a statement on the direction of the program and/or you worry there’s more of this where Friday came from, I can’t blame you. Nor can I blame you if you are not in the mood to cheer because two of the nine remaining scholarship players, Taran Buie and Jamal Coombs-McDaniel, have already been disciplined by Cassara this year.

But how is a boycott fair to David Imes, Stevie Mejia and Matt Grogan, a trio of good guys whose senior seasons just disintegrated? Underclassmen created this debacle. So why should we punish junior Stephen Nwaukoni, sophomores Moussa Kone and Jordan Allen and freshman Darren Payen for doing the right thing, instead of something that could land them in an East Meadow jail?

The nine scholarship players and handful of walk-ons now filling out the roster will pay the price for the actions of their former teammates during every road game the rest of this season. Why should home feel hostile, too? Why shouldn’t we close ranks around those still here, instead of closing them out?

It is unlikely this season gets the Hollywood ending we’d all like to see, but the long-shot attempt to speed up and rewrite the narrative begins tonight. Tonight begins the healing process. Tonight, we should take care of our own.

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

Saturday, December 1, 2012

“How could we have such bad luck? Really, how is this possible?”



We were driving down Hempstead Turnpike last night, me at the wheel and my wife in the back seat with our daughter, who was none too happy after two hours in the Babies ‘R Us photo studio. (Things they never tell you during childbirth class: Newborns HATE being propped up for posed photos) We were trying to figure out what to pick up for dinner as we crawled along in the usual Friday night bumper-to-bumper traffic, but for a few traffic lights all we did was ask each other the question over and over again with neither one of us actually making a suggestion.

“I think we just have a Hofstra pallor,” my wife said.

At this point, I think it’s our default setting.

The Flying Dutch faithful endured its latest worst, most embarrassing day ever yesterday, when news broke that four players—Shaq Stokes, Jimmy Hall, Kentrell Washington and Dallas Anglin—had been arrested Thursday for executing a spate of burglaries on the Hofstra campus. According to news reports, the quartet stole more than $20,000 in Apple products. As of late last night, Stokes (five counts of burglary), Hall (four counts) and Washington (two counts) remain jailed while Anglin (one count each of burglary and tampering with evidence) is out on bail.

It was pretty awful to wake up to that news, but the day just got worse as it dragged on. In the mid-afternoon, Nassau County police said Mo Cassara had been burglarized by the four accused players, though Hofstra later issued a statement that Cassara reported items missing in the spring, long before the arrestees arrived on campus.

Around dinner time, we officially cemented our 15 seconds of short attention span fame by landing on Deadspin, which picked up on the New York Post’s salacious report and added its usual unique brand of snarky sports commentary. Hooray us.

The day unleashed a whirlwind of emotions and thoughts that are difficult to organize into anything resembling coherence. But here goes.

First I was humbled. I’ve had a lot of fun mocking George Mason and its fans for the trouble that Patriots players have gotten into over the last few years. Nothing any of those guys did compares to the knuckleheadness of the acts the Hofstra quartet is accused of perpetuating. When you taunt fans of other schools who have no control over how the players on their favorite team behave, you’ve got no choice but to absorb the slings and arrows when the laundry you root for lets you down.

I was—am—furious with the four accused players and the shame they’ve brought to our university. Beneath my ever-present cynicism, and behind my penchant for disagreeing with the administration, lies an unconditional love for Hofstra. It has been the epicenter of my universe for 19 years and has given me so much. Without Hofstra, I would not have my wonderful wife, our beautiful daughter, the hundreds of friends and acquaintances I have made and the innumerable memories they’ve all helped create.

I take, pun intended, pride in the school, and to see it wounded like this destroys me. All caveats about letting the judicial system play out apply, but if the four players are found guilty of the charges levied against them, I hope they never step foot on campus again. We’ve all been foolish 18-, 19- and 20-year-olds doing things that make us cringe 18, 19 and 20 years later. But even accounting for the absent foresight of youth, there are some discretions that cannot be scrubbed away by time.

Speaking of scrubbed away, the names of the accused have already been deleted from the roster at GoHofstra.com, so my suspicion is we’ve seen the last of them, in any capacity, at Hofstra.

I am heartbroken for the people dealing with the fallout from the actions of the foolish foursome. Staffers at Hofstra were feeling the same emotions as the rest of us Friday, except with a rawer and more immediate intensity. I suspect they, and we, will feel the reverberations of yesterday’s news for months and years to come, in ways we cannot imagine yet.

I feel terrible for the players who did nothing wrong, yet will be the ones forced to answer for their ex-teammates and to field the insults from fans in CAA arenas up and down the east coast this winter as they try and pick up the pieces of a shattered season.

I hope this season turns out to be a Hollywood special, though the numbers suggest reality will be cruel. I hope that Hofstra fans can look past their fury with the accused and show up at the Arena today and Tuesday night and support David Imes, Stevie Mejia, Matt Grogan, Moussa Kone, Taran Buie and Jordan Allen (and Stephen Nwaukoni and Jamal Coombs-McDaniel, if they’re playing).

I feel terribly for the coaching staff, which recruited these four players, offered them scholarships—and in Stokes’ case, spent months fighting on his behalf to get him a hardship waiver so that he could play this year—and basically entrusted them with coaching careers that quite frankly seem imperiled at the moment.

I feel particularly bad for Cassara, who has been a great ambassador for the university as he invests immeasurable time and energy into rebuilding this program. I’ve spoken to him first thing in the morning, after a sleepless night, and run into him in the middle of the day, when he’s yet to put a single piece of food into his mouth, and seen him at the end of an 18-hour work day as he heads home for another mostly sleepless night.

While Cassara has taken chances with players with baggage, he has always struck me as a man who values character, someone who would rather go 16-16 than try and win at all costs. He moved on quickly from Bryant Crowder last year and suspended Buie and Coombs-McDaniel for the first two regular season games of this season. I find it difficult to believe he ever envisioned something like this happening with his first real recruiting class, and imagine his nights will remain mostly sleepless for some time to come.

Mostly, I’m just numb, and wondering if these body blows to Hofstra athletics and its small but loyal fanbase will ever cease. I had, of all things, the Anthrax “Behind The Music” on as background noise Friday morning when one line from band founder Scott Ian jarred me from my stupor:

“How could we have such bad luck? Really, how is this possible?”

For my purposes, I am going to just assume he broke the fourth wall and was talking directly to me. How can we have such bad luck? Three days shy of the three-year anniversary of the demise of football and we’re still getting regularly buckled by bad luck and bad news, most of which is delivered after we’ve been lulled into thinking our fortunes have finally turned.

Two weeks ago this morning we were reveling in the joys of an upset of an NCAA Tournament-caliber team, experiences we would replicate within 48 hours. The Dutchmen were deep and talented and young. Better days were here, until they weren’t. Old story, new cast of characters. Rinse, wash, repeat.

“How could we have such bad luck? Really, how is this possible?”

Really, how could we think this time would be any different?

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

Friday, November 30, 2012

Dutchmen quartet arrested, suspended


Two weeks ago, the Flying Dutchmen produced one of the most memorable regular season weekends in recent history by sweeping South Dakota State, District of Columbia and Marshall—three teams likely to reach the NCAA Tournament, albeit in two different divisions—and authored what the first signature moment in this new era of Hofstra basketball.

It was likely the last, at least for this season.

Newsday reported this morning that four Hofstra players—sophomore Shaquille Stokes and freshmen Jimmy Hall, Kentrell Washington and Dallas Anglin—were arrested yesterday on multiple counts of burglary. Per a university press release, all four players have been suspended immediately from the team and school.

The incidents occurred on campus between Oct. 4 and Nov. 5. According to Newsday, Stokes was arrested on five counts of second-degree burglary and Hall was charged with four counts. Washington was arrested on two counts of second-degree burglary and Anglin was charged with one count. The players are scheduled to be arraigned today at First District Court in Hempstead.

The indefinite suspensions will cripple the Dutchmen. Hall earned comparisons, now sadly apt, to Kenny Adeleke by emerging as a nightly double-double threat as a freshman and was already the Dutchmen’s best player (12.7 ppg, 9.7 rpg). Stokes was averaging 10 ppg, fourth-highest on the team, and hit clutch shots in the wins over South Dakota State and Marshall.

The Dutchmen’s already lean depth will take an unrecoverable blow as well. With Stephen Nwaukoni (personal) out the last two games and UConn transfer Jamal Coombs-McDaniel yet to play because of a knee injury, there’s a good chance the Dutchmen will take the floor against SMU tomorrow with a grand total of five scholarship players (seniors David Imes and Stevie Mejia, sophomores Moussa Kone and Taran Buie and freshman Jordan Allen) available.

The arrests are also a staggering blow for a program, an athletic department and a fan base that has absorbed plenty of punches in the last three years. This was supposed to be the season in which Mo Cassara began rebuilding a program decimated following the departure of Tom Pecora in 2010, and the early results were encouraging. To say he didn’t need this, with a new athletic director as well as a president who loathes any kind of bad publicity, is an understatement of the grandest order.

News of the arrests broke a mere three days before the third anniversary of Hofstra’s decision to kill football, which angered alums (you don’t say). There had been some hope that a new day had dawned over the last few months, during which the softball team came within a base hit of reaching the College World Series and the women’s soccer and volleyball teams reached the NCAA Tournament.

But this morning’s news prove that the black cloud still hangs above us and the fates are still pulling the football away every time Hofstra manages to mount a running start. Good grief.

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

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Six semi-useful things to know: George Washington


1.) George Washington is 1-2, with a 72-59 win over Boston University in the Mike Jarvis Bowl sandwiched around an 80-73 loss to Youngstown State and a 65-48 loss to Notre Dame. The Colonials were 10-21 last year and were picked 13th in the 16-team Atlantic 10 (MISNOMER BIAS!) in this year’s preseason coaches poll. Their head coach is Mike Lonergan, in his second year at George Washington after six years at Vermont, where, after replacing the popular Tom Brennan, he led the Catamounts to one NCAA Tournament and two NITs.

2.) George Washington and Dutchmen have two common opponents this year: The Colonials face James Madison and Manhattan in consecutive games Nov. 28 and Dec. 2. The Colonials also visit VCU on Feb. 16. Ha ha better you than us!

3.) This is the second meeting between Hofstra and George Washington. Thirty years ago, the Flying Dutchmen—WHO WERE ACTUALLY KNOWN AS THE FLYING DUTCHMEN BACK THEN—beat the Colonials 82-67 in something called the Juice Bowl Tournament. Per GW’s game notes, the Dutchmen are the only CAA team against whom the Colonials have a losing record WHOO WHOO WE’RE NUMBER ONE! George Washington is 82-42 all-time against current members of the CAA, including 38-25 against William & Mary.

4.) The Dutchmen, meanwhile, are 32-95 all-time against current members of the A-10, with winning records against only George Washington and Duquesne (1-0). Damn! So close to Alanis-level irony. The bulk of the Dutchmen’s games against current A-10 schools have come against local rival Fordham and former ECC foes St. Joseph’s, Temple and LaSalle as well as that VCU team that used to play in the CAA. No, really, you could look it up.

5.) With three freshmen in their projected starting lineup, the Colonials have gone even younger than the Dutchmen. Like the Dutchmen with Jimmy Hall, George Washington has its conference’s reigning rookie of the week in freshman guard Joe McDonald, who is second on the Colonials in both scoring (11.3 ppg) and rebounding (5.3 rpg) behind 6-foot-9 senior forward Isaiah Armwood, who is averaging 12.0 ppg and 7.0 rpg.

6.) This is a big challenge for the Dutchmen, in a figurative as well as a literal sense (that’s for loyal reader @GSorensen, who loves the correct usage of the word “literal”). Mo Cassara was decidedly displeased with how the Dutchmen’s continued road struggles during Wednesday’s loss at Manhattan. The Dutchmen didn’t win a true non-conference road game last year (their lone non-conference win was over Cleveland State at Rhode Island) and haven’t won a non-conference road game at a school south of New Jersey under Cassara. But a win here, in less-than-optimal conditions (day off Thursday, travel day Friday, back after the game today), against a school from a big-time conference, would go a long way towards restoring the good vibes the Dutchmen generated last weekend. It won’t be easy, especially if Stephen Nwaukoni didn’t travel to D.C. with the team. The Colonials have three starters who stand at least 6-foot-5, but if Nwaukoni isn’t available, the Dutchmen will have next to no depth behind starters Hall, David Imes and Moussa Kone. Regardless of Nwaukoni’s availability, the Dutchmen will need to get far better shooting performances from their guards, who are shooting just 26.2 percent in road games.

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

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Manhattan 67, Hofstra 56 (Or: This coming and going is driving me nuts)



Just as Mo Cassara feared, the soaring Flying Dutchmen were grounded by a furious and overdue-for-a-win Manhattan squad Wednesday night, when the Jaspers beat the Dutchmen 67-56 in the Bronx (what’s up with that anyway, why isn’t there a Division I school called the Bronx in Manhattan?). Three days after the Dutchmen capped one of the most stirring regular season weekends in program history—and raised hopes for what looked to be another rebuilding season—we, and Cassara, were reminded there will be at least as many downs as ups this year as a young team undergoes the maturation process.

“I thought they were the more aggressive team and really jumped us early, as we really anticipated,” Cassara said at the post-game press conference. “We were a step slow tonight offensively and defensively.”

1.) Last night’s game evoked some of those bad memories of 2011-12 that we thought had been buried last weekend. After never trailing in regulation in consecutive wins over the University of District of Columbia and Marshall, the Dutchmen fell behind 13-2 last night and never led, though they did tie the game early in the second half. The Dutchmen were prone to suffering the untimely defensive breakdown: While the stats indicate they did a nice job of defending Manhattan along the 3-point arc (7-of-28), the Jaspers’ Michael Alvarado nailed three straight treys in a span of 3:09 late in the second half to fuel an 11-4 run that basically ended the game. Unable to complete a comeback and prone to late gaffes on defense that mar an otherwise solid performance? That sound you hear is anyone who saw a lot of Hofstra games last year shuddering.

2.) We were also reminded how thin the line is between precociousness and inexperience, and how quickly a seemingly deep team can be depleted. Moussa Kone, who emerged in the first two weeks as part of a 1-2 frontcourt punch we’ve rarely if ever seen at Hofstra, had no points and one rebound in 28 minutes and punctuated the tough loss by missing a layup with 14 seconds to play. But with Stephen Nwaukoni unavailable for unspecified reasons, and David Imes fighting foul trouble during an otherwise solid game (six points, nine rebounds), Cassara had little choice but to leave Kone out there and hope he snapped out of it. Along those lines: Last night marked the first time this season that only seven players played as many as 13 minutes.

3.) With the loss, the Dutchmen fell to 0-3 on the road, a disconcerting development for anyone who saw last year’s squad go 2-12 in road or neutral site games. And for the third time in as many road games, the Dutchmen fell behind big, came back to make it competitive but ended up routed down the stretch.

“We’ve got to find a way to get tougher and win on the road,” Cassara said. “We were very good at home this weekend where we’re comfortable. When we’re not comfortable, we’re not quite tough enough physically or mentally to win on the road. And this is going to be a big challenge for this young group.”

In addition, the Dutchmen guards—and Shaq Stokes in particular—once again struggled from the field on the road. Dutchmen guards were 10-of-28 shooting, a mark that was considerably impacted by Stokes’ 2-of-10 performance. Hofstra guards are shooting 26.2 percent on the road (22-of-84) and 41.3 percent (45-of-109) at home.

The good thing is Cassara feels much more comfortable being direct with this group than he was last year, when he often felt as if he had to speak in coaching tongues about the issues that haunted the Dutchmen. And it’s also good the Dutchmen will get another opportunity right away to try and record a win on a hurried road trip: After wolfing down some turkey and pumpkin pie today, the Dutchmen will head to Washington D.C. to take on George Washington on Saturday afternoon.

4.) There was some good news last night. Jimmy Hall remained in beast mode by collecting the third double-double (12 points, 10 rebounds) of his young college career. His numbers through six games (14.3 ppg, 9.7 rpg) compare very favorably to those of Kenny Adeleke, the best homegrown big man Hofstra has had in the Defiantly Dutch Era, through the same period in 2001-02 (15.8 ppg, 7.7 rpg).

Taran Buie continued to provide instant offense and a sustainable surge off the bench. Buie missed his first shot of the game for the first time as a Dutchman, but he scored a career-high 22 points, including seven unanswered in a 2:13 span in the first half to begin the Dutchmen’s first run. Is he turning into the Dutchmen’s version of Chris Fouch, someone who provides loads of offense in a reserve role?

And Dallas Anglin may have begun to regain his confidence when he drained both his shots, including a 3-pointer, after entering the game in the final four minutes. Anglin had as many field goals in two attempts last night as he did in 24 attempts in his first four games.

5.) STAT AND MINUTIAE FUN! For the third straight year, the winning team in the Hofstra-Manhattan game never trailed. The Dutchmen, alas, are just 1-2 in those games, losing last year and winning in 2010…The Dutchmen also went almost wire-to-wire in their 44-39 win over the Jaspers in December 2009…The Dutchmen are 3-3 for the fourth straight year and the 24th time in program history…The Dutchmen fell to 0-5 all-time against Manhattan when Stephen Gorchov is with the team in an official capacity. Gorchov, the new men’s basketball SID, was the team manager in all four of his undergraduate years from 1992-1996. GORCHOV HEX! (In the interest of fairness, he notes Hofstra has won in plenty of other sports when he has represented the school in an official capacity)

3 STARS OF THE GAME (vs. Manhattan 11/21)
3: Taran Buie
2: Jimmy Hall
1: David Imes

SEASON STANDINGS
13: Jimmy Hall
5: Taran Buie
5: Stevie Mejia
4: Moussa Kone
4: Shaq Stokes
3: Stephen Nwaukoni
2: David Imes

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

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Five semi-useful things to know: Manhattan


1.) Manhattan is 0-2, with losses to a pair of pretty good teams in Louisville and Harvard. The Jaspers, who return all five starters from last year’s team that went 21-13 under then-rookie head coach Steve Masiello, were picked to finish second in the MAAC in the preseason coaches’ poll. Manhattan should get a big boost tonight with the return of reigning MAAC scoring champion George Beamon, who missed the first two games of the season with an ankle injury.

2.) Manhattan is Hofstra’s most frequent non-conference foe, by far. This is the 61st all-time meeting between the teams dating all the way back to the second game of Hofstra’s second season in 1937-38, the third-most games Hofstra has played against any opponent behind just Delaware and Drexel. Manhattan leads the series 38-22 and beat the Dutchmen 68-59 at Hofstra last year. This is the seventh straight year the two teams have met, which makes it Hofstra’s longest active non-conference series.

3.) Manhattan is the only MAAC school Hofstra is scheduled to face this year, the first time since 2005-06 the Dutchmen have faced only one MAAC foe. That year, the Dutchmen actually weren’t scheduled to face anyone from the MAAC but drew Siena in the Bracketbuster. Thank goodness we don’t have to worry about THAT anymore!

4.) This is a dangerous game for the Dutchmen, who are justifiably feeling pretty good about themselves after stunningly winning three games in as many days at home last weekend. Manhattan is in the spot the Dutchmen were in just five days ago—0-2 and mad—and Mo Cassara recognized on Sunday the task ahead of the Dutchmen tonight.

“They’re 0-2 sitting on us, just like we were 0-2 sitting on South Dakota State,” Cassara said. “So they’re going to be hungry.”

5.) The Dutchmen unveiled a pretty sturdy eight-man rotation against Marshall on Sunday, when Jimmy Hall, David Imes. Moussa Kone, Stevie Mejia, Shaq Stokes and reserves Taran Buie and Stephen Nwaukoni combined to play 186 of 200 minutes in regulation before Kentrell Washington provided some much-needed depth (and free throws) in the second overtime. Washington looks to have settled into a reliable role as a backup guard-of-all-trades, so it’ll be interesting to see if Jordan Allen, who played just nine minutes on Sunday, gets more time and if Dallas Anglin, who recorded the first DNP-CD of his career, gets another shot to find his, uhh, shot.

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

Hofstra 103, Marshall 100 (Or: There’s a light where the darkness ends)



Mo Cassara plopped himself down at the podium late Sunday afternoon and promptly realized he was just as stuck for adjectives as those seated before him.

“Get it started with a statement,” Hofstra sports info guru Brian Bohl said.

Cassara rubbed his right eye with his right hand before pulling his right hand down and rubbing both eyes and the bridge of his nose.

“If you can,” Bohl said.

Finally Cassara came up with some words to begin describing what he’d just seen: The Flying Dutchmen’s 103-100 double overtime victory over Marshall that will be remembered as one of the greatest regular season basketball games ever played at Calkins Hall, the PFC, the Arena or whatever building my beautiful daughter Molly (the sleeping good luck charm who is now 3-0 in home games) sees the Dutchmen in come the fall of 2030.

“What a difference a week makes, you know?” Cassara said with a tired laugh. “A week ago right now we’re 0-2, we’re in West Lafayette, Indiana, we couldn’t make a basket. We lost two games by 29 points. We were just almost in disarray, if that’s a word I could use to describe us. Credit to these guys, I’ve never seen a team in a week come back and play the way that we did.

“So proud of our guys. What an incredible win. To complete a 3-0 weekend is almost a marvel.”

It was one of those games which demands context and appreciation, even if the facts and the stats say more than any pontifications from a wordy windbag ever could. So why don’t we start there?

1.) Less than 24 hours after the Dutchmen put six players into double figures for the first time since I started paying attention—that’s a long time—they had four players with at least 14 points and two more with nine apiece. The Dutchmen never trailed in regulation but squandered a 12-point lead in the final 6:57 and surrendered a pair of game-tying 3-pointers in the final 91 seconds, including Elijah Pittman’s open 3-pointer that forced overtime with seven seconds left. The Dutchmen finally fell behind by three more than midway through the first overtime, crawled back to tie the game with three free throws 56 seconds apart and held Marshall scoreless the rest of the period (and survived three missed shots, including a 3-pointer at the buzzer). Shaq Stokes (more on him shortly) scored the first six points of overtime as the Dutchmen never trailed, but Marshall got within a basket an incredible four times in the final minute. Freshman Kentrell Washington, who played just nine minutes in regulation, drained three of four free throws in the last 38 seconds before Stokes put the Dutchmen over 100 against a Division I opponent for the first time in 21 seasons with four free throws in the final seven seconds.

There were 69 total fouls, 99 free throws attempted, 143 field goals attempted and 203 total points (duh) as both teams reached the century mark for the first time in Hofstra history. Four players fouled out, and at one point, Marshall had five players on the court with five fouls. The Thundering Herd’s DeAndre Kane had a triple-double in defeat (33 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists).

It was awesome to watch, if a bit nerve-wracking to participate in as a player or a coach.

“I’m shot,” Moussa Kone said.

“I’m 23,” Stevie Mejia said. “I’m finished.”

“I tell you what, I’m exhausted,” Cassara said earlier. “I mean, I’m exhausted. There were more end of game situations in that game than I’ve ever been a part of. We had an opportunity to foul in regulation, we didn’t, we gave up a three. We lost our man on a switch and in overtime they hit another three. So I’m over there killing myself.”

2.) Jimmy Hall had his second double-double in five collegiate games, and it was even better than the boxscore would indicate. He had 10 rebounds alone in the first half, as the Dutchmen asserted themselves against the far bigger Thundering Herd, and finished with 14 boards and 16 points in an amazing 44 minutes. This is a FRESHMAN playing 44 minutes 15 days after he was benched for the first half OF AN EXHIBITION. for goodness sakes. We haven’t seen a freshmen big man like this since Kenny Adeleke, and if you root for Hofstra, join us in praying we aren’t discussing Adeleke similarities when Hall is a senior somewhere else.

And we haven’t seen a pair of underclassmen big men at Hofstra like Hall and Moussa Kone since, well, ever. Kone also had a double-double (14 points and 10 rebounds) before fouling out. He has matched or exceeded his freshman year high in points (six) four times and matched or exceeded last year’s high in rebounds (nine) twice. All caveats about small sample sizes apply, but through five games, Hall and Kone are averaging a combined 21.6 points and 16.4 rebounds per game. Hello.

3.) The misery of last year only makes it seem like forever since the Dutchmen had a player as clutch as Stokes. The statistical revolution in sports has led to much debate about clutch play and how it is impossible to measure. Maybe so, but the eyes don’t lie, and Stokes has the Jenkins and Speedy clutch gene. Who else would find his legs in the second overtime, after shooting 4-of-17 in the first 45 minutes, and score 10 points in the SECOND overtime and drain seven of eight free throws, thereby making up for missing the free throw in the final minute of regulation that likely would have sealed the victory? All less than 48 hours after draining a game-winning 3-pointer with three seconds to play? Everything is going so well, I fully expect the NCAA to declare he has to go back to Hawaii at any moment.

4.) The Dutchmen have now won two games they would have lost last year, when they were (as you no doubt know and/or remember by now) 1-4 in games decided by three points or less and 2-8 in games decided by six points or less. Better depth is surely a factor (eight players have played at least 13 minutes in all five games, something that happened just six times all of last season) but the Dutchmen have the intestinal fortitude and intangibles they lacked a year ago. Last season’s team loses this game because it couldn’t get the momentum back late in the second half (the first game against James Madison), or because it missed key free throws late (the first game against Delaware) or because it suffered breakdowns on every defensive possession down the stretch (pick a loss, any loss). This year’s team has a bunch of players—Hall, Stokes and Taran Buie, the latter of whom hit his first shot of the game for the third straight game) clearly have that edge that infuses the Dutchmen with a layer of late-game toughness, as does Mejia, who is finally healthy and able to impart his will upon the team. Mejia scored a career-high 22 points and earned sub-regional MVP honors

“When you have three games in three days, guys are tired, and you could just see the physical and the mental exhaustion,” Cassara said. “To be honest with you, we were in a little better shape and we were able to kind of hang in there and get some fouls down the stretch and get to the line. How about Kentrell Washington stepping up and hitting three out of four free throws as a true freshman who didn’t play very many minutes?”

5.) Some more stats and minutiae: The Dutchmen are 3-2 for the 23rd time in program history…Stokes’ 46 minutes were the most by a Dutchmen since Jenkins (49 minutes) and Cornelius Vines (48 minutes) were ironmen in the Dutchmen’s last double overtime game, a loss to Northeastern in the 2010 CAA Tournament. And Hall’s 44 minutes were the most by a freshman since Jenkins played 44 minutes against Manhattan in the second game of his career in 2007…The Dutchmen improved to 17-6 in overtime games and 5-2 in multi-overtime since the 2000-01 season…This was the second time in four years the Dutchmen have won an overtime game in which they didn’t trail UNTIL overtime. The Dutchmen edged UNC Wilmington in similar fashion in the 2008-09 regular season finale…Washington’s performance at the free throw line in the second overtime conjured up memories of Mike Davis-Sabb against James Madison in the Dutchmen’s most recent double-overtime win in February 2009. Because of disqualifications, Davis-Sabb was pressed into duty in the final minute of the second overtime after sitting since the first half and promptly drained two free throws to seal the game.

3 STARS OF THE GAME (vs. Marshall 11/17)
3: Jimmy Hall
2: Shaq Stokes
1: Stevie Mejia

SEASON STANDINGS
11: Jimmy Hall
5: Stevie Mejia
4: Moussa Kone
4: Shaq Stokes
3: Stephen Nwaukoni
2: Taran Buie
1: David Imes

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

Hofstra 74, University of District of Columbia 59 (Or: Keep on moving)



The Flying Dutchmen made some history and led wire-to-wire Saturday, but didn’t get to .500 in the most artful of fashions in their 74-59 win over Division II foe University of District of Columbia. But just getting to .500 was good enough for a team that six days earlier looked as if it might send certain stat dorks diving into media guides in search of the worst season-opening losing streak in program history.

“We’ve got Marshall at home [today], a NCAA Tournament-type team, a chance to win three games in a row,” Mo Cassara said. “If you would have told me that last Monday, I would have said you’re absolutely crazy.”

1.) This may have been the most balanced game ever played by a Hofstra basketball team. Six Dutchmen reached double figures—almost certainly the first time that’s happened in the Defiantly Dutch Era, I will research and report back to you ASAP—and all six scored between 11 and 13 points. Five players had between seven and nine rebounds. And six players played between 21 and 29 minutes. It all happened against a Division II foe, of course, but that’s still pretty impressive.

2.) The Dutchmen were never seriously threatened after opening the game on an 11-0 run—District of Columbia twice had a chance to close within four or five points in the second half—but they never really buried the Firebirds either after opening a 20-point lead 15 minutes into the contest. Cassara, recognizing the Dutchmen were battling fatigue after an emotional win over South Dakota State less than 24 hours earlier, fiddled with the lineup in the second half in hopes of finding a cohesive mix.

“We just didn’t have that zip today, we didn’t have the energy,” Cassara said. “We had a chance to really put them away midway through the first half and kind of end the game and we didn’t. And that’s something that we have to learn from, we have to continue to get better, continue to find ways that we don’t let that happen.”

3.) The Dutchmen got what they needed out of their handful of veterans. Stevie Mejia had another solid game (11 points and seven rebounds, his second straight game with seven boards, in 29 minutes) while David Imes had 11 points—including the historic jumper that provided the Dutchmen’s final points with 43 seconds left—seven rebounds and two blocks in 29 minutes. And Stephen Nwaukoni turned 21 years old in impressive fashion as he scored nine of his career-high 13 points and grabbed five of his nine rebounds in just nine second half minutes. Upperclassmen accounted for 75 of the 200 minutes played by the Dutchmen, the most this season.

4.) Nwaukoni wasn’t the only projected starter to provide a boost off the bench. For the second straight game, Taran Buie jumpstarted the Dutchmen by draining a 3-pointer on his first shot of the game. Buie’s 3-pointer began a 26-12 run by the Dutchmen in which he scored all 12 of his points as the Dutchmen took their biggest lead at 39-19.

Buie’s production and pedigree suggests he’ll start sooner than later as long as he can stay out of trouble, but for the moment Cassara is happy with him serving as the Dutchmen’s Vinnie Johnson (GOOGLE IT EVERYONE EXCEPT GARY MOORE)—even if Buie, in a moment of refreshing honesty by both player and coach, admitted he’d rather start.

Asked if he liked coming off the bench, Buie paused and looked at Cassara, who grinned. “You can answer it honestly, it’s OK,” Cassara said.

“No, I’m not really too thrilled about coming off the bench,” Buie said as those in the room laughed. “But like I said, I’m just going to do anything to help this team get towards the win.”

5.) FUN STATS! The Dutchmen are 2-2 for the 27th time in program history and for the second year in a row. They are 2-2 after an 0-2 start for the fifth time in program history and the first since 1990-91. I was a high school senior back then! #OLD…The Dutchmen have had at least five players score in double figures 11 times in their last 82 games dating back to a 93-54 win over UNC Wilmington on Jan. 27, 2010. That game snapped a 122-game streak in which the Dutchmen never had five players score in double figures, dating back to the epic win over George Mason on Feb. 23, 2006. Hey, did that win catapult the Dutchmen into the NCAA Tournament?...This is the second straight year in which Nwaukoni has set his career high for points in the middle game of a Gazelle Group tournament. He scored 12 points against Cleveland State last Nov. 26. Hey, at least someone likes the Gazelle Group!

3 STARS OF THE GAME (vs. University of District of Columbia, 11/16)
3: Stephen Nwaukoni
2: Jimmy Hall
1: Stevie Mejia

SEASON STANDINGS
8: Jimmy Hall
4: Moussa Kone
4: Stevie Mejia
3: Stephen Nwaukoni
2: Taran Buie
2: Shaq Stokes
1: David Imes

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