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

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

***21 points vacated

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