Monday, January 30, 2012

Northeastern 58, Hofstra 51 (Or: Happiness one step behind)

Another tune that sums up this year's Flying Dutchmen. (And yes: To the well again with Extreme!)

Someday, college basketball historians will scan the smoldering embers of the 2011-12 Flying Dutchmen season and wonder how a team that should have been no better or worse than a middle-of-the-pack, .500-level team ended up mired at or near the bottom of the CAA and enduring one of the program’s worst seasons in a generation.

Those historians will find the answers to their questions if they can stumble across a DVD copy of the Dutchmen’s 58-51 loss to Northeastern Saturday at Matthews Arena. Therein is the explanation for how the Dutchmen could outperform the Huskies in many statistical categories yet lose the Barone Bowl Trophy (if only it existed) and fall by seven points in a game that was not as close as the final score indicated.

And the game film also provides the reasons why the Dutchmen are 1-10 in CAA play—and tied for next-to-last place now that Towson has ended its record losing streak, which @NUHF, @atowne07 and my wife “watched” via Twitter at Conor Larkin’s around the corner from Northeastern, have I mentioned lately on any social media forum how much of my soul I’d be willing to sell to move to Boston?— and why January 2012 was the program’s losingest month since January 1995, even if the Dutchmen have outscored by a mere 62 points since New Year’s Day.

Of course, you’d have to pay particularly close attention in watching the DVD, because the difference between victory and defeat for the Dutchmen this season is as fine as the blink of an eye.

“This is a tough league,” Mo Cassara said. “When you’re not playing well, and your margin for error is very small, one turnover for us almost seems like it’s four or five right now. We’re trying to create some easy baskets and we just haven’t been able to do that. We haven’t been able to string enough winning plays together to win.”

While the Dutchmen were once again frigid offensively—they endured eight scoreless stretches of at least two minutes and shot just 30 percent from the field in scoring 51 or fewer points for the third straight game—and had just 15 defensive rebounds to 11 offensive boards for Northeastern, they seemingly concocted a good recipe for winning by forcing six more turnovers than they committed (16-10) and by scoring more points than the Huskies off turnovers (18-11), second chance baskets (15-12), the fast break (10-7) and from the bench (12-2).

Yet the Dutchmen were done in by missed opportunities in every single one of those categories. The Dutchmen had the ball down one in the waning seconds of the first half, but at the end of an otherwise sharp possession, Matt Grogan’s pass down low was stolen by Jonathan Lee, who converted it into a layup that gave the Huskies a 30-27 halftime lead.

Three times in the second half, the Dutchmen forced a turnover and created a fast break but threw or kicked away a chance to close within six points. A David Imes pass eluded Nathaniel Lester just before the under-16 timeout while Mike Moore and Lester accidentally booted the ball off steals by Imes and Moore, respectively, in the final five minutes.

These games don’t exist in a vacuum, of course, but who knows how the tempo and tone would have been changed if the Dutchmen converted all three of those turnovers into fast break points?

Imes’ steal and turnover happened at the beginning of a two-minute stretch in which neither team scored but the Dutchmen missed four shots—two 3-pointers by Moore and two layups by Imes. Moore (17 points, steals) and Imes (10 points and eight rebounds) were the most impressive players on the court for the Dutchmen, but they needed 28 shots for those 27 points.

“Mike Moore had 17 points, but he’s 1-for-9 from 3,” Cassara said. “If he’s 4-for-9, it’s probably a one-possession game. We just need that extra shot to go in. We stole the ball a couple times going down the court to cut it to six and we didn’t even get a shot.”

As for Northeastern, it managed to get the extra shot to go in when it mattered most. The Huskies had eight third-chance points, including a 3-pointer by Lee to start the second half and spark a 10-2 run that basically buried the Dutchmen. Northeastern’s first 3-pointer of the game, by Quincy Ford, was also off a pair of offensive rebounds. And later in the first half, Ford drained a jumper after he rebounded the second of a pair of missed free throws by Kauri Black.

“I told our team I thought we had probably about 10 points in defensive breakdowns where we were late guarding or we weren’t in position,” Cassara said.

There’s no statistical measure for when a team is worn out by losing, the bad breaks it has absorbed and the bad breaks it can’t seem to help but create for itself. The Dutchmen seemed to reach that point Saturday for the first time this month—a month in which they were the only CAA team not to play consecutive home games as well as one of two teams with two two-game road trips (Towson). They were also one of just three teams (along with Old Dominion and Towson) to have two stretches in which they played three of four games away from home.

For the first time since the six-point loss to UNC Wilmington three weeks earlier, the Dutchmen never seriously threatened in the second half. They got within six points once in the final 16:54, on a meaningless 3-pointer by Shemiye McLendon with 42 seconds left.

Cassara did some mixing and matching in hopes of generating something—both Dwan McMillan and Stevie Mejia were on the bench for most of the final eight minutes—but the 10 points the Dutchmen got from their reserves came on a 3-of-13 shooting performance. Northeastern’s two bench points, meanwhile, came on a 1-of-3 effort.

The Dutchmen finally get a homestand this week—it’s Alanis-level ironic that the Dutchmen are playing a school-record 17 home games this season yet spent all of January living out of a suitcase—when Towson and Georgia State visit and Cassara hopes his squad can embark on a February that will at least leave everyone feeling a little better about this season while providing the returnees something to build on for next year.

“We’ve got a week at home, no travel, back to school, hopefully get a little bit of rhythm and get some confidence back and we get a couple shots to fall at home,” Cassara said.

Cassara and the Dutchmen could find reason for optimism Saturday on the other end of the court. Northeastern lost its first eight CAA games last year by a total of 86 points, a margin inflated by a 28-point loss to George Mason. But the Huskies won four in a row immediately after that, finished 6-12 in CAA play—by far the best record of any team to ever open 0-8—and are entrenched in fifth place this season at 7-4.

“We were in that situation last year, where we played good basketball but just not winning basketball,” Northeastern coach Bill Coen said. “I think you learn more from losing than you do winning.”

For the Dutchmen’s sake let’s hope the learning stops now that school has started.

3 STARS OF THE GAME (vs. Northeastern, 1/28)
3: David Imes
2: Mike Moore
1: Stevie Mejia

Mike Moore 48
Nathaniel Lester 32
Dwan McMillan 17
David Imes 14
Shemiye McLendon 9
Stephen Nwaukoni 8
Stevie Mejia 6
Moussa Kone 2
Bryant Crowder 2

Email Jerry at or follow Defiantly Dutch at

Thursday, January 26, 2012

George Mason 55, Hofstra 50 (Or: They’re going out of their heads going crazy)

An appropriate song in more ways than one for the 2011-12 Flying Dutchmen.

If I were to rank losses to George Mason on a scale of 1 to 10—one being barely bummed and 10 being Quoting-Ugly-Kid-Joe-pissed—then last night’s 55-50 loss to the first-place Patriots would rank no higher than a five or so.

(I realize it’s not normal to rank losses to a particular opponent on a scale of 1 to 10. But you knew what you were getting into here)

There was no Greg Johnson, driving the lane in the waning seconds with Hofstra down three in the CAA Tournament and Antoine Agudio begging for the ball all alone behind the 3-point line. There was no Agudio missing the free throw that would have given the Dutchmen a four-point lead in the final seconds of overtime.

This was not a lopsided loss by 20-plus points in Fairfax. There was no drunken Mason grad nearly sending me to the other side on the way home from a close loss at Mason. And, of course, there was no Ryan Pearson piling on with Montgomery Burns rubbing his bony fingers together in approval as his nation of Waylon Smithers lackeys declared him the world’s finest sportsman.

No, this one ended with an exhausted Pearson—who scored seven points and pulled down eight rebounds in the second half despite having his face bloodied twice in the first half—exchanging a relieved high five at midcourt with a similarly spent Mike Morrison as Sherrod Wright hit the game-icing free throws to cap a nearly perfect night at the line for Mason (20-of-23—these aren’t Monty’s Patriots) with 19 seconds left.

A few seconds later, after Morrison blocked Shemiye McLendon’s running layup and Corey Edwards grabbed the rebound, new Mason coach Paul Hewitt waved for Edwards to get the ball over halfcourt—not so he could call timeout and draw up a 3-point shot like his predecessor would have, but to run the clock out!

It’s a new era in Hofstra-Mason games (last night featured, by far, the most entertaining in-game Twitter exchanges in DD history) but the loss was the same old story in a whole lot of ways as the Flying Dutchmen fell to 1-9 in the CAA with their SIXTH CAA loss by six points or less.

As has often been the case this year, the Dutchmen were at least partially done in by a lack of bodies. Mike Moore (18 points on 7-of-12 shooting, including 4-of-7 from 3-point land, and a career-high six assists) and Nathaniel Lester (12 points, his CAA-best 14th straight game with at least 10 points) were a fine 1-2 combo again for Hofstra. But while Stevie Mejia, McLendon and Moussa Kone combined for just six points on 2-of-9 shooting in 52 minutes, Mason received 36 points on 9-of-22 shooting over 86 minutes from its reserves. No Mason player played more than 29 minutes while four Dutchmen played at least 28 minutes.

For the fifth time in the last six games, the Dutchmen raced out to an early lead of at least six points—and opened a lead of at least nine for the fourth time in that span—but could not build on it in the first half and squandered late opportunities to escape with the win.

For the third straight Wednesday, the Dutchmen came back from a second half deficit of at least eight points to tie the score or take the lead. And for the third straight Wednesday, the Dutchmen had a chance to tie the score or take the lead in the final minute but couldn’t get over the hump (get it?).

Moore, Lester and Mo Cassara looked steamrolled at the podium, and it had nothing to do with losing to big bad Mason. Every loss hurts at this point, and this funk doubly stings because it consists mostly of close losses to the best of the CAA.

Five of the Dutchmen’s last six games have come against teams currently in the top half of the CAA. The Dutchmen have lost those five games by a combined 33 points, and only once by more than six points.

“I think our energy and our effort’s been great,” Cassara said. “We’re winning at halftime against George Mason. We’re winning at halftime at Old Dominion. We’re down three at VCU. We just run out of gas a little bit, I guess. We’re going to have to keep trying to find ways to finish games, because we’re coming out with energy, we’re having great practices, our attitudes have been terrific. We just can’t seem to kind of get over the hump.”

The Dutchmen had more opportunities than usual to do so Wednesday. The Dutchmen scored the first nine points, didn’t allow Mason—which shot an unimaginable 4-of-23 in the first half—to break into double digits until there were less than three minutes to play and led 20-19 at the half. It was the first time the Dutchmen allowed fewer than 20 points in a half since Jan. 21, 2009, when they TRAILED William & Mary 17-15 at the Arena.

Andre Cornelius took charge for Mason to open the second half with consecutive 3-pointers to jumpstart a 19-10 run for the Patriots that gave them a 38-30 lead at the midway mark. But the Dutchmen inched back, tied the game twice on 3-pointers by David Imes and Moore and took the lead at 41-40 with 6:21 left on another 3-pointer by Moore.

That was the first of four times the Dutchmen took the lead over a span of a little more than four minutes. Imes, who scored all nine of his points in the second half, put the Dutchmen ahead twice with long jumpers from the corner, the last with 2:16 left.

But Sherrod Wright’s 3-point play with 1:47 left put the Patriots ahead for good at 51-50 and the Dutchmen missed an agonizing three shots—a jumper and a 3-pointer by Lester and a 3-pointer by Moore, all of which looked good out of their hands—before Edwards’ two free throws. Then, after Cassara used the Dutchmen’s last timeout with 27 seconds left, Mejia got a good open look at a tying 3-pointer, but it clanged off the rim.

That left Cassara saying the same things he’s been saying for weeks—bemoaning the Dutchmen’s rotten luck and hoping they salvage something from the season in February. “We’re better than our record shows,” Cassara said. “Again, we’ve been in an incredible amount of close games. We just haven’t been able to get something to bounce our way.

“Unfortunately, we just haven’t been able to finish and it’s a combination of a lot of things,” Cassara said. “But we have to keep working. February can be our month. I have to keep telling our guys that. Obviously, we’re frustrated because we’re in every game, especially against the top part of the league. But basketball’s a long season and we’ve still got a good month of February [ahead].”

3 STARS OF THE GAME (vs. Mason, 1/25)
3: Mike Moore
2: Nathaniel Lester
1: David Imes

Mike Moore 46
Nathaniel Lester 32
Dwan McMillan 17
David Imes 11
Shemiye McLendon 9
Stephen Nwaukoni 8
Stevie Mejia 5
Moussa Kone 2
Bryant Crowder 2

Email Jerry at or follow Defiantly Dutch at

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

It'll be weird rooting against Mason w/this guy 1500 miles south, but I think I'll adjust

Jim Larranaga gives orders to Tony Skinn in this file clip from March 2006.

Meet my friends in low places—err, Mason Nation!

I’m not sure if it’s the social media version of Stockholm Syndrome, as I pondered last week, or a matter of keeping your friends close and your enemies closer. But somehow, in the two years and five days (but who’s counting?) since I earned Most Loathed Man In Mason Nation status with this calm, reasoned and unemotional screed, George Mason fans have run neck-and-neck with Northeastern fans as the rival fans with whom I interact most on Twitter (and since Northeastern is Hofstra North, it probably shouldn’t count here).

So I thought, with the Flying Dutchmen preparing to play The Bad Guys tonight, it would be appropriate to introduce Hofstra fans to the best of Mason Nation: The fans who are as loyal, intelligent and fundamentally decent as those of us who root for Hofstra.

Of course, I couldn’t find anyone like that, so I asked these six guys instead. Meet my friends in low places (and follow them on Twitter)!

Matt Cerilli:

About Matt: Graduated from Mason in 2010. Triple majored in marketing, management and finger painting.

What he does for a living, other than randomly punch people in the nuts: Is currently a Professional Services Engineer for a service assurance testing company based out of Boston. (OK fine. The dude is smart. Sun, dog’s posterior, all that)

How Matt “met” me via my superduper fair and balanced Twitter feed and/or blog: “I think I came across your account when @gmuhoops retweeted something you said about three years ago and I was like ‘Wow, this guy is a douche.’ That was when I was still sort of new to Twitter and I remember taking everything you said bad about Mason so personal. Then I realized you will never last on Twitter if you do that and just went along with your jokes and threw in my own from time to time. I will admit they still get to me from time to time, haha.”

(I’m pretty sure Matt was the first GMU fan to call me names on Twitter during and following the Running Up The Score Game. Unlike most of the others, he kept it up, as did I. Somehow we didn’t block each other. We ended up following each other on Twitter and meeting and shaking hands a mere six weeks later at the CAA Tournament. Now we’re online besties who take long walks on the sand. Wait, what?)

Why Matt is a nice guy (in his own words): “I always look for the best in people. For example, if you are a Hofstra fan, I try and look past that and find something positive about the person no matter how hard that might be.”

Why Matt is not a terrible guy (in my own words): Roots for the Pistons, Redskins and Washington Capitals, so he knows suffering. Huge baseball fan. Likes the Braves, a class organization that serves as his Mason antidote. Loves dogs. Funny as hell on Twitter.

Yeah, but…: He’s a Mason fan. Carries 17 items to the 12 items or less self-checkout lane. Also, he’s a Mason fan.

Three Questions For Matt Cerilli:

1.) Prove to me you didn’t begin following basketball in March 2006 and don’t freaking use Wikipedia (thank you very much SOPA). Name two former CAA schools, other than Richmond.

Navy and East Carolina are two former CAA schools, but I admit I really only know that from seeing their banners in the Richmond Coliseum during the NCAA Tournament.

(I told you he was smart. He can read!)

2.) Solve this math problem: If Tony Skinn’s fist is traveling at 30 miles per hour towards Loren Stokes’ groin, how long would it take Andre Cornelius to max out Stokes’ credit cards and book a flight to see Jim Larranaga in Miami?

Haha that is probably the funniest math question I have ever been asked. You have to admit, though, Stokes was in the way of Skinn’s fist so it’s partially his fault. (That should get you heated)


3.) Finish this sentence: “I knew Jerry Beach wasn’t a complete psychopath when…”

…we finally met up in Richmond during the CAA Tournament and he was just as funny in person as he is on Twitter.

Erik Hernquist

About Erik: Graduated from Mason in 1998. Double majored in business management and finger painting. Also received an MBA from William & Mary.

What he does for a living, other than randomly punch people in the nuts: Works for the Federal Reserve.

Adds Erik: “Speaking of ‘punching people in the nuts,’ my 4-year-old son did that to me a couple of weeks ago and I asked him why the heck he walked up to me and did that. His reply: ‘I want to make sure I don’t have any more brothers or sisters.’ He is small and loves basketball, so he may have a future.”

(Jim Larranaga just signed him to head his freshman class of 2025 at Miami)

How Erik “met” me via my superduper fair and balanced Twitter feed and/or blog: “We must be talking about two different things because ‘fair and balanced’ do not exist with you on your feed especially when the word ‘bias’ trends during Hofstra games. However, I first learned of you via the writings of Michael Litos on”

Why Erik is a nice guy (in his own words): “I have two boys and I have made it a rule that I will not force them to cheer for the Mets and Bills. Not putting them through the same torture I put myself through has to count for something.”

Why Erik is not a terrible guy (in my own words): The guy is a Mets and Bills fan. He REALLY knows suffering. Also, never badmouths me on Twitter and mostly resists making Tony Skinn jokes. Except in this interview. Jerk.

Yeah, but…: He’s a Mason fan. Doesn’t signal when changing lanes. Also, he’s a Mason fan.

Three questions for Erik Hernquist:

1.) Prove to me you didn’t begin following basketball in March 2006 and don’t freaking use Wikipedia (thank you very much SOPA): Which coach “led” the U.S. Olympic team to a bronze medal in 1988, thereby necessitating the formation of the “Dream Team?”

FAIL. I didn’t start following basketball until I attended Mason in ’94. In fairness, the team had seven straight winning seasons prior to 2006, making it to the NCAA and NIT twice each during that stretch.

(That is an acceptable answer)

2.) Solve this math problem: If Tony Skinn’s fist is traveling at 30 miles per hour towards Loren Stokes’ groin, how long would it take Andre Cornelius to max out Stokes’ credit cards and book a flight to see Jim Larranaga in Miami?

About as long as it takes a Hofstra fan to say “Mason should have never even been in the tournament in 2006 because we beat them every time we played them that year.”

(Damn right)

3.) Finish this sentence: “I knew Jerry Beach wasn’t a complete psychopath when…”

…after seeing several very entertaining Tweet exchanges with @gheorghetheblog about some of the most random movie and music references I can imagine.

Alan Kelly

About Alan: Graduated from Mason in 2010 with a double major in Information Technology and finger painting. Currently pursuing an M.S. degree in software engineering and a doctorate in finger painting.

Alan adds: “‘Finger painting?’ Pfft. It’s called Phalangeal Art, and it’s a highly respected form of abstract painting which has been taught to many species such as elephants, monkeys sports journalists and art students.”

What Alan does for a living, other than randomly punch people in the nuts: A web developer for a large federal IT contractor. “It’s impossible to make a living exclusively off of punching people.”

How Alan “met” me via my superduper fair and balanced Twitter feed and/or blog: “I think my attention was first drawn to you when you got in an argument with @gmuhoops on Twitter. (You were quickly identified as a crackpot with a blind grudge) Soon after, I discovered that you were a crackpot with a blind grudge AND a blog. (That identified you as even more unstable, as you clearly wasted a lot of time spewing your irrational hate. I hoped the padded cell would find you quickly) My opinions have since mellowed, if only slightly. (I will probably miss you when the padded cell finds you)

Why Alan is a nice guy (in his own words): “I agreed to participate in this exercise, didn’t I? OK you probably wanted more than that. 1.) I’ve never punched anyone from Long Island in the groin. 2.) I do not own a cat. 3.) I hate the Boston Red Sox. 4.) I recognize ‘southern bias’ exists in the CAA.”

Why Alan is not a terrible guy (in my own words): Huge baseball fan who roots for the Baltimore Orioles, which requires a certain amount of soul and dedication. A very funny guy to exchange Tweets with late at night. Recognizes Southern Bias exists in the CAA.

Yeah, but…: He’s a Mason fan. He doesn’t own a cat. Also, he’s a Mason fan.

Three questions for Alan Kelly:

1.) Prove to me you didn’t begin following basketball in March 2006 and don’t freaking use Wikipedia (thank you very much SOPA): Name two mid-majors to reach the Elite Eight in the decade prior to George Mason’s criminal Final Four appearance. UMass and Utah do not count.

Truth be told, I am a converted BCS heretic, so my knowledge of college basketball before the mid-2000s largely revolves around the Maryland Terrapins and the ACC. My first guess would be Memphis, but I’m not sure they should count as a mid-major and plus, the NCAA says it never happened. Gonzaga, obviously. UNLV comes to mind, but I don’t think they’ve made it back recently. Are you counting Xavier?

(Damn kid get to the point! #Irony Yes. Gonzaga and Xavier count.)

2.) Solve this math problem: If Tony Skinn’s fist is traveling at 30 miles per hour towards Loren Stokes’ groin, how long would it take Andre Cornelius to max out Stokes’ credit cards and book a flight to see Jim Larranaga in Miami?

Whichever is shorter: The number of minutes that Bryant Crowder played for Hofstra before fleeing for his life and sanity or the amount of time it would take to destroy the Richmond Coliseum if the collective hate of the fanbases of the “other 11” were ever unleashed against it in tangible form.

(OK THAT is funny)

3.) Finish this sentence: “I knew Jerry Beach wasn’t a complete psychopath when…”

…he laughed at a joke I made about fantasy baseball and, even more shockingly, did not blame me personally for the performance of the Orioles players on his fantasy team. (Anybody who relies on Kevin Gregg as a fantasy closer has it coming to them. I mean, really?)


“Floppin Dilbo”

About Dilbo: Graduated from Mason in 2004 with a double major in communications and finger painting.

What Dilbo does for a living, other than randomly punch people in the nuts: Wanted to become a sportswriter but is currently working at a low-paying media job at a financially unstable company. Wait. That’s the same thing.

How Dilbo “met” me via my superduper fair and balanced Twitter feed and/or blog: “I’m pretty sure I’d see the DD blog a few times beforehand, but it was the epic Twitter meltdown of 2010 that got my attention. Hofstra got pounded (I mean really pounded. Hard. It was great) by Mason and I believe Jerry was courtside Tweeting away as Coach L kept some starters in a little too long for his tastes.

(I was in the stands. And it was a lot too long)

“I don’t think I was even on Twitter yet, but thanks to the app that had Tweets going straight to, I witnessed the full fury of Jerry’s anti-Larranaga and anti-Mason madness.”

Why Dilbo is a nice guy (in his own words): “I’m grumpy and tend to be ‘meh’ about most people I meet. But my redeeming qualities include kindness to animals, especially my two beloved cats, loyalty to my saint of a wife, letting people merge into traffic and a dislike for the Mason fans who made fun of Jerry for being unemployed. I have a low tolerance for assholes and bullies, and while Jerry may be completely unhinge when it comes to Larranaga, O’Connor and GMU, he’s…he’s…wait, what was my point here?”

Why Dilbo is not a terrible guy (in my own words): Being serious for the only time here: I was moved by Floppin’s disregard for the worst of the anti-me Tweeters. He’s also a low-paid writer grunt, likes cats and is loyal to the Redskins. How can I not like the guy?

Yeah, but…: He’s a Mason fan. Plus, he’s a Mason fan.

Three questions for Floppin’ Dilbo:

1.) Prove to me you didn’t begin following basketball in March 2006 and don’t freaking use Wikipedia (thank you very much SOPA): Four teams won the NBA Finals between 1980 and 1990. Name the only one of these teams NOT to win it all twice in this span.

The 76ers.


2.) Solve this math problem: If Tony Skinn’s fist is traveling at 30 miles per hour towards Loren Stokes’ groin, how long would it take Andre Cornelius to max out Stokes’ credit cards and book a flight to see Jim Larranaga in Miami?

Sometimes I like to mess with Jerry by telling him Tony Skinn was one of my favorite Mason players of all-time. It’s true, although “the punch” was the darkest moment I’ve had as a fan. To this day I’ll never wrap my head around why Tony did that, and I know we’re damn lucky that it didn’t turn out much, much worse for us that March. Conversely, I understand Hofstra’s bitterness—to an extent.


3.) Finish this sentence: “I knew Jerry Beach wasn’t a complete psychopath when…”

…he didn’t knife me at the CAA Tournament last year. My seats were about a mile from the court, so he could have done it quickly and disappeared before my screams reached the nearest fan.

(Not true, his wife was there)

I’m grateful he’s sane and didn’t do this (although I might not have minded being shanked the next day after VCU eliminated Mason from the tourney for the 76th time).

(Ha ha)

Ryan Kish

About Ryan: Graduated from Mason in 2006 with a double major in accounting and finger painting.

What Ryan does for a living, other than randomly punch people in the nuts: Runs the blog, panhandles around the Patriot Center and Brion’s Grill.

(I’m not making that up. He actually wrote the panhandling bit, along with: “Definitely get more that way instead of any job I could have got with a Mason degree.”)

How Ryan “met” me via my superduper fair and balanced Twitter feed and/or blog: “Good question. I don’t remember. Haven’t we been bickering since the dawn of time?”

(Or 2008, yes)

Why Ryan is a nice guy (in his own words): “I’m really not that good of a liar.”

Why Ryan is not a terrible guy (in my own words): He’s honest about being a bad guy with no soul! He’s also a Jets fan, so he’s not a complete frontrunner. Plus, he began running a Mason blog in 2006 (very easy) and is still operating it today (very difficult). Major respect for anyone who keeps at blogging. I give him major props for that, even if we disagree on, well, everything.

Yeah, but…: He’s a Mason fan. He drives really slow in the ultrafast lane. Also, he’s a Mason fan.

Three questions for Ryan Kish:

1.) Prove to me you didn’t begin following basketball in March 2006 and don’t freaking use Wikipedia (thank you very much SOPA): Two players have won the CAA Player of the Year Award three times. David Robinson is one. Who is the other?

Too easy. George Evans, the ageless wonder.

(Correct! Even if this should be the Mason version of getting 400 points on the SAT for simply writing your name)

2.) Solve this math problem: If Tony Skinn’s fist is traveling at 30 miles per hour towards Loren Stokes’ groin, how long would it take Andre Cornelius to max out Stokes’ credit cards and book a flight to see Jim Larranaga in Miami?

165. Oh sorry, I thought you were asking how many CAA wins Larranaga had.

3.) Finish this sentence: “I knew Jerry Beach wasn’t a complete psychopath when…”

…when I found out he was also a Jets fan. J-E-T-S!

(Actually I’m not, but he’s on a roll)

Shawn Brann

About Shawn: Graduated from Mason in 1995 with a triple major in English, speech communications and finger painting. Received a master’s degree from Mason in education in 1999. Received a certificate in educational leadership from Mason in 2006. Currently studying for his doctorate in finger painting.

What Shawn does for a living, other than randomly kicking people in the nuts: Technical Trainer for CACI in the D.C. area, one of the many government contractors in the region.

How Shawn “met” me via my superduper fair and balanced Twitter feed and/or blog: “I first noticed your blog via the comments section of the CAAHoops blog by Litos. He seems to love you. I seemed to irritate him. I had to check out your blog to see why Litos loved you and hated me.”

(Impeccable judge of character, that Litos)

Why Shawn is a nice guy (in his own words): “I’m a happily married man of almost 14 years to another Mason graduate and a proud father of two incredible children. Plus I try to stay active in education—my former career—through extra-curricular activities at my daughter’s elementary school.”

Why Shawn is not a terrible guy (in my own words): He was the first Mason fan to ever write me, in response to this piece from February 2009, and he a.) spelled everything correctly and b.) didn’t tell me to go **** myself! Also has a good sense of humor and asked me to participate in a Q&A at his own blog last year.

Yeah, but…: He roots for Mason. He also roots for the Yankees, Cowboys and Spurs. (Except this year, when he roots for the Cardinals, the Patriots and/or Giants and the Mavericks) Also, he roots for Mason.

Three questions for Shawn Brann:

1.) Prove to me you didn’t begin following basketball in March 2006 and don’t freaking use Wikipedia (thank you very much SOPA): What, beyond Villanova’s upset win, was so unique about the 1985 national championship game?

If my memory serves me correctly, I think it was the FG% of Villanova in the game. I never liked Georgetown hoops, so I rooted hard for Nova that game.

(Acceptable. The answer I was looking for was it was the last game played before the implementation of the shot clock, which made it possible for Villanova to slow the game down enough to beat Georgetown, but anyone who remembers “The Perfect Game” knows his sports.)

2.) Solve this math problem: If Tony Skinn’s fist is traveling at 30 miles per hour towards Loren Stokes’ groin, how long would it take Andre Cornelius to max out Stokes’ credit cards and book a flight to see Jim Larranaga in Miami?

I was an English major and former English teacher…I hate math! (Except when it comes to the number of Mason wins over the Pride)

(Dude, it’s the Flying Dutchmen. And shut up.)

3.) Finish this sentence: “I knew Jerry Beach wasn’t a complete psychopath when…”

…we did an interview session with our respective blogs a year ago. Plus. He may have been right about Larranaga, who let me and many other diehard fans/grads down when he bolted for $$s in Miami.

(This Brann guy is OK!)

So it goes…it’s the Hewitt Era now. GO MASON.

(You had to go and ruin it didn’t you Brann?)

Email Jerry at or follow Defiantly Dutch at

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Postgame Buffet: VCU 61, Hofstra 49 (Or: I await the day good fortune comes our way and we win down the Kings Highway)

Do the Flying Dutchmen have to travel down the King's Highway in Virginia to get to Richmond? For purposes of this blog entry, I am going to assume yes.

Buried in day work and something special for tomorrow morning (hint: who does Hofstra play tomorrow?), so here’s a postgame buffet from the Flying Dutchmen’s 61-49 loss to VCU that makes up for in brevity what it lacks in timeliness. Or something like that.

1.) The Dutchmen’s 14th loss of the season was the one that stung the least. The win over James Madison Saturday lessened the desperation that accompanied every game since the start of January. And let’s face it, of the 18 conference games, this was probably the one the Dutchmen weren’t going to win no matter what. Because the Dutchmen have NEVER won at VCU’s Siegel Center. Last night’s loss, in the 2,012th men’s basketball game in Hofstra history, dropped the Dutchmen to 0-9 all-time on the road against the Rams. So, you know, we’re kinda used to this.

2.) Still, this one did sting a bit, because it was very easy to make a case the Dutchmen had a shot at remaining in this one until the last minute for the 17,000th time this year, if not flat-out win the game. The Dutchmen displayed their usual resiliency in the first half, when they fell behind by at least seven points three different times yet closed to within 35-32 when Mike Moore banked a 3-pointer just before the first half buzzer.

And the Dutchmen had four chances to tie or take the lead in the first two-plus minutes of the second half but could never get the equalizer or inch ahead. Who knows what might have happened if David Imes’ 3-pointer from the left corner was a couple inches longer and the Dutchmen grabbed a one-point lead in the first 90 seconds? Instead, missing two shots over five empty possessions proved to be a sign of things to come for the Dutchmen, who were just 4-of-20 from the field and scored just 17 points on 31 second half possessions. Tough to win when the shooting touch goes that ice cold.

3.) Not surprisingly, VCU suffocated Moore after he scored 11 of his game-high 17 points on 5-of-10 shooting in the first half. And unfortunately for the Dutchmen, Moore grew frustrated by his inability to get open and get touches during the second half, when he scored six points—four from the free throw line—and hit just one of his four field goal attempts. It was a lapse into bad habits for Moore, who was similarly covered by James Madison Saturday yet dished to Stevie Mejia for the game-winning layup. After recording multiple assists in five straight games, he had just one assist and tied his career-high with six turnovers Monday. The Dutchmen fare best when Moore gets others involved when he is draped—i.e. in the second half—and any hope they have of mounting a second half run and advancing beyond Friday in the CAA Tournament rests on Moore resisting the instinct to force things offensively.

4.) Here’s a good bar bet question for you (if you happen to discuss Hofstra basketball at a bar, but I’m pretty sure I’d be the only person who did that, if only I went to bars): Name the Dutchman whose current streak of double-digit scoring efforts is the longest in the CAA. It’s not Moore but Nathaniel Lester, who extended that run to 13 games by scoring 12 points while adding a team-high eight rebounds. It wasn’t quite the game Lester appeared headed for at halftime, when he had seven points and seven rebounds, but it was still a very sturdy effort by a player who is very quietly putting together a legitimate run at earning second- or third-team All-CAA honors. Lester ranks ninth in the CAA in scoring and is tied for 10th in rebounding, which makes him just one of two players to rank in the top 10 in both categories. This is the type of year everyone envisioned for Lester when he was the jewel of the freshman class of 2007-08, which makes it so bittersweet that he’s capping his career in fine fashion in the midst of what looks like a lost season for the Dutchmen.

5.) While the Dutchmen didn’t lose this one in agonizing fashion, it was still symbolic of their close-but-not-quite season. “In the first half we were right there,” Mo Cassara said in Brian Bohl’s postgame recap. “We just ran out of gas a little bit and their pressure wore us down.”

In other words, an earnest and tireless effort wasn’t enough to overcome the Dutchmen’s razor-thin margin for error. A team that needs a little bit of everything didn’t get it. While reserves Mejia, Shemiye McLendon and Moussa Kone combined for another solid game (12 points on 5-of-10 shooting), Dwan McMillan was just 1-of-8 shooting and the trio of Kone, David Imes and Stephen Nwaukoni combined for just seven rebounds.

The Dutchmen forced 17 turnovers, but committed 18. And the Dutchmen looked wiped in the second half, and while it didn’t help this was their second road game in three days and their third game in six-day span overall, the second half fade was a familiar one for a team that basically only has an eight-man rotation (though Matt Grogan saw some time in the waning moments). Again: This one didn’t sting nearly as badly as the other seven CAA losses, but it carried with it the “what ifs?” of every defeat other than the Jan. 2 loss to VCU. Unfortunately for the Dutchmen, it almost certainly won’t be the last time that happens in a season in which the line between contention and wearing the road uniforms on Friday in Richmond is a razor thin one.

3 STARS OF THE GAME (vs. VCU, 1/23)
3: Nathaniel Lester
2: Mike Moore
1: David Imes

Mike Moore 43
Nathaniel Lester 30
Dwan McMillan 17
David Imes 10
Shemiye McLendon 9
Stephen Nwaukoni 8
Stevie Mejia 5
Moussa Kone 2
Bryant Crowder 2

Email Jerry at or follow Defiantly Dutch at

Monday, January 23, 2012

Hofstra 71, James Madison 69 (Or: Happy Happy Joy Joy)

I'll teach your grandmother to suck eggs!

Mo Cassara had tried just about everything to coax a win out of the Flying Dutchmen and end the longest streak of bad luck in college basketball this season. He yelled and he provided verbal pats on the back. He worked the Dutchmen hard in practice and he eased up. He expressed frustration at press conferences and he expressed optimism. He implored the Dutchmen to channel the 2004 Red Sox and the 2011 New York Giants.

Turns out all he had to do was ditch his sport coat.

With his coach displaying an ultra-rare look on the sideline, Stevie Mejia drove the lane and converted the winning 3-point play with just over six seconds to go before he provided the suffocating defense at midcourt that clinched the Flying Dutchmen’s 71-69 win over James Madison. The win, the Dutchmen’s first CAA win in 321 days (but who’s counting?), finally ended the second-worst conference start in Hofstra history, a stretch in which the Dutchmen lost seven games by a mere 42 points.

“It’s like the weight has been lifted,” Cassara said from Richmond Saturday night. “It was a big-time winning play. We’ve been talking about how we’ve got to make more winning plays and we had a bunch tonight. Fortunately we were able to make enough down the stretch to win the game in a hostile environment.”

When Cassara flung off the coat, though, it looked like the Dutchmen were destined to suffer yet another gut-wrenching loss. Cassara, a superstitious sort in all facets of life but particularly when it comes to his game day attire, is the anti-Shaka Smart when it comes to his suit jacket: It stays on. Always.

Yet he ditched it in fury with 1:16 left Saturday, right after James Madison took its first lead in almost 16 minutes on a dunk by Enoch Hood. Cassara was already furious over what happened about 90 seconds earlier, when, with the Dutchmen nursing a four-point lead, Dwan McMillan fouled out on the second worst charge call of the week. Actually, this one might have been even worse, since McMillan was at half court when it happened.

(Note: It wasn’t worse than Dennis Allocco’s travesty)

Humpty Hitchens (HIM AGAIN) drained a 3-pointer on the Dukes’ subsequent trip to pull James Madison within 62-61 and even Cassara was thinking the Dutchmen—who were up by nine points in the first half and by eight points earlier in the second half—were doomed. He was so furious he took off the coat because the sleeves were restraining him and “…I couldn’t swing my arms fast enough.”

The Dutchmen were in the midst of one of their best games of the year and were winning even though Mike Moore (10 points on 3-of-10 shooting) was bottled up. And they were finally getting contributions from everyone: Dutchmen reserves scored just seven points in the previous two games but Mejia, Shemiye McLendon and Moussa Kone ended up with 19 points on 8-of-11 shooting.

And yet it was happening again. “I was just so frustrated,” Cassara said. “It was like a Twilight Zone. Playing our butts off and then we just can’t get a break.”

But unlike the previous seven losses, the Dutchmen made their own breaks down the stretch and finally got a couple things to go their way. David Imes, who scored a team-high 11 points in the first half, pulled down two rebounds, one on each end of the floor, following the Hitchens 3-pointer and hit three of four free throws—his only points of the second half—to give the Dutchmen a four-point lead again.

Imes’ defensive rebound came when after the Dukes missed two shots in the paint, including a thunderous dunk by Hood. It was Imes who had one of the Dutchmen’s two missed dunks against Northeastern in a 64-62 loss and Imes who accidentally tipped in a missed Drexel free throw in the 60-54 loss to the Dragons Wednesday.

Then A.J. Davis’ 3-point play and Hood’s dunk finally put the Dukes ahead, Nathaniel Lester—who had another huge second half and scored 17 of his 23 points after intermission—drained a 3-pointer to give the Dutchmen the 68-66 lead.

“I’ve got to credit coach [Pat] Sellers,” Cassara said. “We went through a little rut in the second half, they were just doing so much to take away Mike [Moore]. And [Sellers said] ‘Gotta go to Nat, Nat’s hot, he’s got a good shot, we’ve got to keep going to him.” We called his number a bunch of different times and he hit some big shots.”

But Lester ended up needing Mejia to save him from misery. Lester stole the ball on James Madison’s next trip and, after a timeout, missed a layup with 23 seconds left. Hood slammed home a dunk on the other end, was fouled by Mejia and hit the free throw to put the Dukes up 69-68.

“When Nat misses that layup at the end of the game and they get a 3-point play, they go up, I was like ‘You’ve got to be kidding me,’” Cassara said.

The Dutchmen didn’t have a timeout, but Mejia—who was the third option on the play behind Moore and Lester—got the ball from a heavily covered Moore, drove the lane, hit the layup and was fouled by Hitchens. Mejia, who had hit just 11 of 25 free throws, drained the free throw and then pressured Devon Moore into losing the ball at half-court. Despite contact being made, no foul was called, and the Dukes didn’t get a shot off before the buzzer.

It was a cathartic layup for Mejia, who has struggled badly and lost his starting job to McMillan since suffering a hamstring injury against Boston University Nov. 27. Mejia’s three field goals Saturday marked the first time he had multiple baskets in a game since Nov. 26—the day the Dutchmen stunned Cleveland State.

During a chat in his office last week, Cassara implored Mejia to focus less on what has gone wrong this year and more on the next year-and-a-half. “I’m just so happy for Stevie Mejia, he has been such a shell of himself,” Cassara said. “Stevie and I had this long heart to heart the other day. He’s starting to get healthy—maybe 75 to 80 percent—and mentally he wasn’t. He’s just so frustrated. He’s wanted to do so well and hasn’t been able to.

“I said to him ‘Listen: We’re not talking about Rhode Island anymore or this injury anymore. What we’re going to do is make this a successful year-and-a-half for you, on and off the court.

“Later on he texted me and [said] ‘Thank you. I feel so much better.’ He played that way today. Just so happy for him.”

And after ending the losing streak, Cassara found out that plenty of people were rooting for him, as well. “My phone just blew up—texts from people around the league, ADs, coaches,” Cassara said. “People knew how close we were. It wasn’t like you’re a bad team and you can’t win. It was like, hey, this is a pretty good team, just haven’t been able to catch a break.

“So I really appreciate that. I think that’s a sign that this is not a bad team. Just a team that has been, between injuries and various other things and some tough luck, hasn’t been where it would like to be.”

3 STARS OF THE GAME (vs. James Madison, 1/21)
3: Nathaniel Lester
2: Stevie Mejia
1: David Imes

Mike Moore 41
Nathaniel Lester 27
Dwan McMillan 17
David Imes 9
Shemiye McLendon 9
Stephen Nwaukoni 8
Stevie Mejia 5
Moussa Kone 2
Bryant Crowder 2

Email Jerry at or follow Defiantly Dutch at

Saturday, January 21, 2012



Reality beginning to set in for Dutchmen

Bart will heal the Flying Dutchmen today, when Hofstra finally wins a game!

Mo Cassara struck a positive tone late Wednesday night, when he agreed with Mike Moore that the Flying Dutchmen are a much better team than their record indicates and spoke hopefully of the Dutchmen channeling the New York Giants after Hofstra endued its latest agonizing near-miss and remained winless in the CAA with a 60-54 loss to Drexel.

“As Mike Moore said in the locker room, we’ve all been on teams before that are losing teams or teams that are not winning,” Cassara said. “But I don’t see a losing team in that locker room. I see a team that continues to come out and fight and battle and practice hard everyday. We just haven’t been able to execute enough plays down the stretch.”

“I used a little bit of the New York Giants analogy. The Packers are the best team in the league all year and the Giants, before Christmas, were in disarray. They weren’t winning they were going to fire the coach and the team wasn’t going to make the playoffs. And now they won one game at a key time and then all of a sudden they’re playing well. We’re just waiting for that one win and it’s going to come.”

But even as Cassara remained optimistic and hopeful of a dramatic turnaround from an 0-7 CAA start, realism began to creep into his sentiments. Even if the Dutchmen fare far better down the stretch and in the CAA Tournament than the previous teams to start open the conference season with seven straight losses, the odds are the Dutchmen will have to take solace in playing for and salvaging—wait for it—pride.

Hofstra and Towson are the sixth and seventh teams to start 0-7 in CAA play since 2001-02 and the 11th and 12th to endure such a start in conference history. There’s little doubt the Dutchmen are the best of these 0-7 teams—their seven losses are by 42 points, a margin rivaled only by Richmond in 1994-95 (47 points)—but even a historic end-of-season run by the Dutchmen will make it difficult to avoid the fate suffered by their predecessors.

Only two teams started 0-7 in CAA play and managed to avoid finishing last or next-to-last in the conference (William & Mary in 2004-05 and Northeastern last year). In addition, none of the 0-7 squads went on to win more than one game in the CAA Tournament.

In a conference in which the lack of a bye has proven to be an insurmountable hurdle even for teams that finish in the top half of the conference—as you know, the next team to play on Friday and win the CAA Tournament will be the first—even the most devout of Dutchmen followers will have a hard time envisioning a scenario in which the Dutchmen aren’t headed home well before the Monday night championship game.

“I told our team [the win] might come in February, it might come in the last week in February, and if we can string a couple together and then win a couple games in the CAA, that’s what we’re going to remember and that’s what we’re doing to look to continue to build on,” Cassara said.

Making the climb even tougher for the Dutchmen is an unforgiving schedule. After playing at James Madison today, the Dutchmen visit VCU—where they have never won—Monday before returning home Wednesday to host George Mason. Then there’s a trip to Boston for a game next Saturday against Northeastern, whose rebuilding program appears to be coming to fruition a year ahead of time.

Finally, on Feb. 1, the Dutchmen get Towson for the only time this season. This is the 27th season in which Hofstra and Towson are in the same conference and the first time in which they play just once in the regular season. It’s been that kind of year.

“We’re going to get back to work [Thursday] and we’re going to get back to work on Friday and we go to James Madison and VCU in three days,” Cassara said. “So it doesn’t get much easier. Then we come back home and play George Mason. So you tell me where the break is there. I’d like to know. But we don’t really have one right now.”

Email Jerry at or follow Defiantly Dutch at

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

Email Jerry at or follow Defiantly Dutch a t

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Of bad luck, how good we've had it and Bartering one’s soul for a win, never mind 19

There are more seasons of The Simpsons than there are games remaining on the Flying Dutchmen schedule. Don't make me keep digging for game day clips and photos!

You may find this hard to believe, given my milquetoast online personas, but I’m an argumentative sort. I enjoy a good debate and defending my side of an issue. And so it has been, in the three-plus years I’ve been writing Defiantly Dutch, that I’ve defended the recent performance of Hofstra men’s basketball and declared that those who criticized the Flying Dutchmen in recent years had no idea how good they had it.

While the Dutchmen have yet to reach the NCAA Tournament since joining the CAA (grrr) and haven’t even gotten to the CAA Tournament championship game since 2006 (double grrr), they have been in the thick of the race on an almost annual basis since breaking into CAA contention in 2004-05.

The Dutchmen are one of just 19 Division I teams to win at least 19 games in six of the last seven seasons. Of course, in typical rotten Hofstra luck, the Dutchmen are the only one of those 19 programs to never reach the NCAA Tournament in that span. But still, even without that life-affirming trip to the NCAA Tournament, such consistency is far, far better than the alternative.

Which, unfortunately, we are observing first-hand now. At 0-6 in the CAA—the worst conference start for Hofstra since the 1987-88 team opened 0-10 in the ECC—and 6-12 overall, the Dutchmen just want to win a conference game, never mind 12 more games after that. You don't need to be a journalism major like me to figure out 19 wins is not likely to happen this year.

And even if we believe the Dutchmen can be the team to rewrite the history of 0-6 teams—of the 14 previous teams to open CAA play 0-6, none finished .500 in conference and none won more than a single game in the conference tournament—the odds are this season will end with a below-.500 record and elimination on Friday or Saturday of the CAA Tournament.

And in many ways, Hofstra was due for a season like this. Even accounting for the fact the regular season is several games longer now than 15 or 20 years ago, it’s damn tough to win 19 games six out of every seven seasons. There’s no shame in having a hiccup 28 percent of the time.

And while my good friend Gary Moore is right that teams generally make their own luck, the Dutchmen’s recent skid has served as a gentle reminder of how decidedly fortunate they have been during this run.

On their way to a 21-win season in 2008-09, the Dutchmen endured a stretch in which they lost six of eight games spanning December and January. But after opening January by getting smoked by Drexel and Northeastern in consecutive wire-to-wire losses, the Dutchmen drew Delaware at home, edged the Blue Hens by five despite a 4-of-24 shooting performance from Charles Jenkins and then lost at VCU and Drexel to fall to 2-4 in the conference.

Then the Dutchmen won four in a row, a stretch in which they beat Northeastern and William & Mary at home and edged James Madison and UNC Wilmington on buzzer beaters on the road. The Dutchmen benefited from a schedule in which they faced the ninth-, seventh-, 11th- and 12th-place teams in a stretch of seven games.

The Dutchmen suffered another midseason funk during a 19-win 2009-10, when they lost nine of 11 and started out 2-7 in the CAA. But over the second half of the season, the Dutchmen played the bottom four teams in the CAA a total of six times and won all six games on their way to authoring one of the best stretch runs in conference history.

There has been no such break this year. Five of the six teams the Dutchmen have played thus far are .500 or better in conference. And who knows where the Dutchmen are right now if the first week of January begins with two home games instead of ends with two road games?

The schedule gets no easier, which tinges this start with an even bigger sense of desperation. The Dutchmen’s final five opponents this month enter tonight with an 18-12 conference mark. That’s doubly impressive considering James Madison’s 1-5 record is included in there.

The Dutchmen get a rematch with James Madison Saturday, but at Harrisonburg. And after that, they have to head straight to Richmond to take on VCU, after which the Dutchmen return home to face first-place George Mason. All of a sudden the idea of two 0-11 teams facing off when Towson visits Feb. 1 is no longer so outlandish.

No matter how bad this bad start gets, take solace in knowing how good we’ve had it—even if you disagreed with me earlier—and knowing I’ve seen much, MUCH worse. The Dutchmen were 28-56 during my three years on campus from 1993-96. They began play in a conference that doesn’t exist anymore (hi Litos!), which is almost as bad as winning a conference tournament that doesn’t exist anymore and didn’t carry with it an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament (or even the CBI!)

It got better in a hurry after I left—not the first time that’s happened!—and the Dutchmen won 19 games in 1997-98 and won 22 games and reached the NIT in 1998-99 before, of course, winning back-to-back America East titles in Jay Wright’s final two seasons at the helm.

There is ample reason to hope Mo Cassara’s second year is just like Wright’s second year—a painful transition season before his big-time recruits, in this case Jamal Coombs-McDaniel and Taran Buie, arrive—and that another stretch of successful seasons are right around the corner. As bright as the future looks, though, right now I think I’d barter my soul for a win tonight.

Email Jerry at or follow Defiantly Dutch at

Postgame Buffet: Old Dominion 69, Hofstra 61 (Or: Same sing song, makes me sad)

Damn that radio song.

Been there, done that: Blown leads this year, blown leads against Old Dominion the last few years, later than anticipated postgame buffets. Hooray! With just a few hours to go until the Dutchmen try to win their first CAA game of the season for the seventh time, here’s the buffet from the 69-61 loss to Old Dominion Saturday:

1.) Before we get into the meat and potatoes of the Flying Dutchmen digging themselves an even bigger hole, a quick note to marvel at the coaching acumen of Old Dominion’s Blaine Taylor. Old Dominion is 10-5 against the Dutchmen since the start of the 2004-05 season. In five of those wins, the Monarchs came back from deficits of at least eight points, including Saturday’s comeback from a 13-point deficit. And in two other wins, they came back from a five-point second half deficit and a six-point first half deficit. The man can coach, and now that he whom we shall not name is gone to South Beach, there’s no doubt that Taylor is the finest architect in the CAA. This of course is subject to change if VCU becomes a regular visitor to the Final Four or Sweet 16 under Shaka Smart, but at the moment nobody in the league can match the consistency of Old Dominion.

2.) The Dutchmen are consistent too, in all the wrong ways. After another fast start—the Dutchmen bolted out to a 16-3 lead three days after scoring the first nine points against Northeastern—the Dutchmen squandered a second half lead of at least seven points for the second game in a row and the fifth time this season.

The problem Saturday was turnovers and a lack of depth. The Dutchmen had an assist-to-turnover ratio of 4/7 in the second half against Old Dominion and had just one assist and all seven turnovers after taking their biggest second half lead at 46-39 with 16:47 to go.

And while Old Dominion got 73 minutes and 32 points from its bench, the Dutchmen received just 31 minutes and two points from the trio of Moussa Kone, Shemiye McLendon and Stevie Mejia. The inability of the reserves—particularly McLendon, who played a career-low three minutes and has just three points in his last three games—to provide a spark proved particularly costly when the Dutchmen twice went eight straight possessions without a field goal and generally looked exhausted in shooting 7-of-26.

3.) The absence of bench production was doubly noticeable because Mike Moore, Nathaniel Lester and David Imes were a combined 14-of-43 from the field. Moore (19 points) and Lester (10 points) combined for 29 points in the first half but just eight in the second half, including two by Moore. Imes hit two jumpers in the second half as the Dutchmen got off to a fast start but had just two free throws the rest of the way.

The good news is Imes was shooting nearly 60 percent (26-of-44) in his previous six game, Lester is shooting 44 percent (47-of-108) in 10 games following his early season slump and Moore still leads the CAA in scoring. But the Dutchmen simply can’t win when their three most experienced players shoot 33 percent combined and nobody else steps up when Moore gets double teamed in the second half.

4.) I don’t know if this is good or bad, but the Dutchmen continue to look like the best 0-6 team in CAA history. The Dutchmen have lost those six games by 36 points. That’s a smaller margin of defeat than any other team to start CAA play 0-5 since 2001-02. No misprint there.

As our good friend Mike Litos noted Monday, the effort never waned on Saturday, to the point that trying too hard might have contributed to the Dutchmen’s second half carelessness. Led by Imes’ 10 rebounds and Stephen Nwaukoni’s eight boards (the fifth straight game in which he had at least eight rebounds), the Dutchmen ended up outrebounding Old Dominion 37-32, no small feat against a program that led the nation in rebounding margin last year.

And there were the stretches in which the Dutchmen clearly outplayed Old Dominion: The beginning and end of the first half (when the Dutchmen scored five points in the final 12 seconds to take a 38-33 lead) and the beginning of the second half. How is a team like this 0-6 in CAA play?

5.) Well, because the Dutchmen have no margin for error. They’re more talented than the average 0-6 team, but with a thin bench on even the best of days and no otherworldly superstar to carry them down the stretch, they’re not good enough to make up for a poor assist-to-turnover ratio or the end-game defense that plagued them against Florida Atlantic, James Madison and Northeastern.

If the Dutchmen have any hope of faring a whole lot better than the previous 14 teams to start a CAA season 0-6—and only three played .500 or better ball the rest of the CAA season and none won more than a single game in the CAA Tournament—they’ll have to begin minimizing the mistakes tonight against Drexel. Or else I’ll have to update the 0-fer file again and I really don’t want to do that.

3 STARS OF THE GAME (vs. Old Dominion, 1/14)
3: Mike Moore
2: Dwan McMillan
1: Nathaniel Lester

Mike Moore 38
Nathaniel Lester 24
Dwan McMillan 16
Shemiye McLendon 9
Stephen Nwaukoni 8
David Imes 8
Stevie Mejia 3
Bryant Crowder 2

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Saturday, January 14, 2012

It’s just a little losing streak, it’s still good, it’s still good!

Preach on Homer. And shut up, Bart.

College basketball fandom is all about selective rationalization, and always finding reason to believe it’s still early even when the calendar says otherwise and even when you are a pessimistic pain in the ass in all other facets of life.

For instance: That 62-60 loss to James Madison? Stung like a sonofa, but it was only one game and it was only December. That 17-point loss to VCU 12 days ago? A tough one, but VCU’s going to win the CAA going away. (What’s that? Oh. Never mind.) The Dutchmen were 0-2, and history has proven an 0-2 start is almost impossible to overcome and still earn a bye in the CAA, but as long as they could split the road trip to Delaware and UNC Wilmington and beat Northeastern they’d be fine—2-3 and right in the thick of the muddy middle of the conference.

Then the Dutchmen lost to Delaware, 67-66, in the most unlikely wire-to-wire defeat in the history of sports. But it was still OK. Maybe they’d steal a win at UNC Wilmington, then beat Northeastern and still be at 2-3 after five games.

But they didn’t beat UNC Wilmington, which won last Saturday, 86-80, in a game that wasn’t really that close. The history of 0-4 teams in the CAA is REALLY bad, but I guaranteed on Twitter that if the Dutchmen could beat Northeastern on Wednesday then they’d beat Old Dominion on the road today and then they’d be 2-4. And then, my thinking went, they’d steal a home game against Drexel this coming Wednesday and beat James Madison on the road and they’d be 4-4 with a four-game winning streak going into VCU and the toughest place to play in the CAA.

And then the Dutchmen lost to Northeastern, 64-62, after allowing the Huskies to score on their last four billion possessions (give or take a couple), and even I was done. At dinner Wednesday night—during which not a single bite of food tasted even the slightest bit good—I told my wife we were looking at an 0-10 start in CAA play and the specter of playing Towson, which of course is in the midst of the longest losing streak in Division I history, with 11th place and an 11th straight conference loss on the line on Feb. 1.

I was done. The Dutchmen were done. There’s only so many times you can come agonizingly close before the season goes down the crapper. And three losses by a grand total of five points, with the at Old Dominion-Drexel-at James Madison-at VCU-George Mason-at Northeastern gauntlet coming up, meant the Dutchmen were done.

Except…except that was Wednesday. By Thursday, I was telling myself the Dutchmen were too damn good to be 0-5. I mean, this isn’t Jay Wright’s second team at Hofstra, one that was basically recruited to play in the East Coast Conference (a league that I made up) but was trying to compete in the North Atlantic Conference (a league I may also have made up). There are big-time players on this team.

Sure, they’re not perfect, but Mike Moore is probably going to lead the CAA in scoring and Nathaniel Lester is a nightly threat for a double-double and a legit second half scorer in the Charles Jenkins mold. Stephen Nwaukoni, David Imes and Moussa Kone give the Dutchmen enough bulk to compete down low in a grind-it-out league.

By Friday, I was telling myself how this Dutchmen team does not stack up to the other squads to start 0-5 in CAA play since 2001-02. While the Dutchmen are in a transition season, they are not rebuilding like Delaware in 2006-07 or Northeastern and William & Mary last year, nor are they in the midst of the greatest overhaul in conference history, a la Towson this year.

Mo Cassara is not trying to turn around a program conditioned to second-division finishes, a la Tony Shaver at William & Mary in 2004-05 and 2005-06. And Hofstra is not a program predisposed to underachievement, a la James Madison in 2003-04 and 2005-06 or Delaware 2005-06 or Towson 2009-10 and 2010-11.

I don’t know where the Dutchmen will be come the first weekend of March, only that they will have more than the six wins that, so far, represent the ceiling for a team that opens conference play 0-5. For the second time in three years, I’ll be writing about their rise from the ashes of a terrible start in conference play.

And so it is that this morning I woke up absolutely certain the Flying Dutchmen would win at Old Dominion, a place they haven’t won since 2005-06. Old Dominion can’t shoot straight (I say that in the most endearing, complimentary way possible). Hofstra can hang with the Monarchs on the boards. The Dutchmen are DUE—for not only a good break, bur for their end-game defense to become something more than non-existent.

And then, after the Dutchmen win today, they’ll stun Drexel at home Wednesday and go to James Madison and beat the Dukes a week from today. Then they’ll be 3-5 and bursting with confidence going into VCU. And if they can win that one, and upset George Mason two days later, and then beat Northeastern in Boston two weeks from today—well hell, they not only have a chance at being 6-5 when the month ends, it’s a goddamn ironclad lock. It’s just a little losing streak. It’s still good, it’s still good.

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