Thursday, January 19, 2012

Drexel 56, Hofstra 50 (Or: Some people like to rock n’ roll, we’re always singin’ the blues)

If it wasn't for bad luck, the Flying Dutchmen would have no luck at all.

This is just getting freaking absurd now.

I mean, losing to James Madison by two in which a half-court shot was the difference was bad enough. Not as bad as the Flying Dutchmen losing to Delaware by one in a game in which they never led, a game in which they had a chance to take the lead in the final half minute except Mike Moore—who has made and attempted more free throws than any player in the CAA—missed two free throws. Which wasn’t as bad as the Dutchmen allowing Northeastern to score on 17 of its last 19 possessions to earn a two-point win in which the Huskies never led by more than three.

At oh-for-six, what else could possibly happen to the Dutchmen Wednesday against Drexel? Oh sure, the odds are they would lose, but how likely was it that they could lose in a fashion that would make the previous six defeats seem positively enjoyable and non-torturous in comparison?

How about losing to the preseason favorites, 56-50, in a game in which the Dutchmen were cost two points when David Imes accidentally tapped in a missed Drexel free throw? And were likely cost another two points when the worst officiating crew north of Richmond called Moore for a charge as he drove for the potential tying basket with 17 seconds left?

Did I mention it was Moore’s fifth foul? And that he’d never before fouled out in 53 games at Hofstra? And that Frantz Massenat was in the circle and his feet were the opposite of set?

“With our season so far, it seems like every play has been going against us,” Moore said. “Hopefully the luck can go our way soon.”

It can’t get worse, right? It can’t possibly get any worse than the fashion in which the Dutchmen fell to 0-7, with the losses by a grand total of 42 points. The average margin of defeat for the other six teams to start 0-7 in the CAA since expansion? One hundred and two points.

“Never—I’ve never in my playing career, coaching career, been through where we were so close,” said Mo Cassara, who managed to fashion an upbeat persona during the post-game press conference even though you can bet this is tearing him up inside. “I’ve been on some teams where you’re just quite not good enough every night. And I really feel that this team is good enough. This team’s beaten some very good teams.”

But who the hell am I kidding? It will get worse. It always gets worse. The Flying Dutchmen are the Sisyphus of the CAA, destined to roll the rock up the hill only to get flattened by it in new and agonizing ways.

George Mason visits next Wednesday. At this point, I expect Jim Larranaga to return for one night only, block out the sun in Hempstead and bring back Tony Skinn, who will drain the game-winning 93-footer at the buzzer to give the Patriots the one-point win and then race up to my seat and kick me in the nuts.

And two weeks from last night, Towson visits. Everybody wants Towson to win a game and end the longest losing streak in Division I history. Nobody wants to be the team that loses to Towson. You see where I’m going with this.

One week, two weeks, four weeks, eight weeks from now, we will look back on last night as the good ol’ days. Which, in the moment, REALLY SUCKED.

As usual, the Dutchmen got off to a fast start, draining their first three baskets in a 74-second span to force the ever-entertaining Bruiser Flint to call timeout. The Dutchmen then missed their next 12 shots over a span of 10-plus minutes in which they were only outscored 14-1. Things got progressively worse for the Dutchmen (but not for all their fans—my wife and I won a $50 gift certificate to City Cellar during a timeout, thanks Hofstra!) and Drexel seemed ready to end the suspense and put us out of our misery early for once when the Dragons took a 10-point lead in the final two minutes of the half.

But the Dutchmen, who haven’t won a game this year in which they have trailed by more than five points, inched back from an eight-point halftime deficit. They closed the gap to two points by the first two media timeouts and one point by the under eight timeout. A pair of Shemiye McLendon free throws after the latter stoppage gave the Dutchmen their first lead since 6-4.

“I told our guys it was our ball to start the half, let’s get this thing to a one- or two-possession game at 15 minutes, at the 10-minut mark,” Cassara said. “If we can get it to a tie game, the pressure shifts down to their bench. They’re the favorites.”

Of course, the Dutchmen would never lead again. A Drexel turnover led to a missed 3-pointer by McLendon and Chris Fouch drained a 3-pointer in transition to give Drexel the lead. A Dwan McMillan jumper tied the score for the final time at 42-42. I began a #reversejinx on Twitter and declared the game over around the time Drexel pulled down two offensive rebounds and Dartaye Ruffin finally converted a 3-point play to put the Dragons up 46-42.

“It comes down to one or two plays,” Cassara said. “Shemiye gets a great look at a 3, misses, Fouch comes down in transition and hits a 3 in the corner. It’s plays like that—it’s just really tough for us to fight back from something like that.”

But a 3-point play by Imes pulled the Dutchmen within two with 1:15 left and a 3-pointer by Moore with 35 seconds left made it a one-point game at 51-50. Massenat hit one of two free throws to set up the Moore charge, now and forever known as The Worst Call In The History Of The World, Not Counting Anything That Happened During Drexel-VCU Last Year.

For all my screeching about regional biases and bad refereeing, I’m only kidding 90 percent of the time. OK, it’s only 50 percent of the time, but I’m trying to keep it light 90 percent of the time. Referees have the world’s worst job, one that absolutely everybody is convinced they can do better than the paid professionals.

It’s a lot like journalism, in a way, except leagues aren’t hiring untrained people to do the job for free. Maybe the CAA should consider it.

There’s no joking about how awful the crew was Wednesday night. The trio (I won’t name them, ‘cause I’m a nice guy) called 18 fouls in the first half (nine per team) and 29 in the second half (15 for Hofstra, 14 for Drexel). It’s as if they realized, duh, this is a Hofstra-Drexel rock fight. We’re supposed to call fouls.

McMillan was called for a foul that was whistled by an official across the court, even though the official two feet away from McMillan never moved a muscle. Then there was the Moore foul, which I’d declare an awful foul if it was on a Drexel player and preserved a Hofstra win (of course then I’d do it with a smile on my face and glee in my heart, instead of a perpetual scowl and simmering rage, respectively).

Who calls that with less than 20 seconds to play in a conference game? A CAA official, that’s who. Buzz Peterson is my new favorite coach not named Mo Cassara, and it’s because he told the cold hard truth after he was amateurishly whistled for two technical fouls in a matter of seconds Saturday: Complain all you want, nobody in Richmond ever listens.

“We can’t harp on the referees,” Cassara said.

(I can.)

The Dutchmen had a chance to win a game in which they were 1-of-13 from 3-point land, 9-of-19 from the free throw line (their worst performance since going 6-of-14 against North Carolina Nov. 18, 2010) and got outrebounded by Drexel, 41-35.

Moore had just 13 points. Stephen Nwaukoni, who has been bordering on breakout star status this month, was limited to eight minutes thanks to four fouls. Moore, Nathaniel Lester (10 points, five rebounds) and Dwan McMillan (nine points, five rebounds, two assists, four turnovers, one steal) all finished with at least four fouls, all of which meant Moussa Kone led the Dutchmen with 32 minutes played—five more than his career high and 10 more than he played the last two games combined—and pulled down a team- and career-high nine rebounds.

All that and the Dutchmen lose by six. Which was really four, since Damian Lee slammed home an uncontested dunk with three seconds left. Which was really two, since Imes gave the Dragons a basket midway through the second half by reaching up for a missed free throw by Samme Givens and somehow tapping it in.

“I was just trying to get the rebound,” Imes said. “And I ended up tipping it in.”

And really, it was a tie game because of the brutal call on Moore. And—oh forget it.

“If you look at our stat line tonight, if you covered up the score and I looked at 1-13 from 3 and 9-19 and we get outrebounded, I would have said we probably lost by 20 points tonight,” Cassara said. “But yet it comes down to one play, maybe the chance to tie the game. So we’ve got to continue to build on that.”

Over and over and over and over and over and over and over again.

3 STARS OF THE GAME (vs. Drexel, 1/18)
3: Mike Moore
2: Moussa Kone
1: Dwan McMillan

Mike Moore 41
Nathaniel Lester 24
Dwan McMillan 17
Shemiye McLendon 9
Stephen Nwaukoni 8
David Imes 8
Stevie Mejia 3
Moussa Kone 2
Bryant Crowder 2

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