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

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

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