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