Saturday, February 18, 2017

I’ll Be Quirky: UNCW

Poor Casey Stanley looks tired after fielding all those "wrong number" calls to his hotel room last night.

A late comeback by the Flying Dutchmen fell just short Thursday night, when they trailed by 15 points with eight minutes remaining yet had the ball with a chance to take the lead in the final seconds of a 76-72 loss to Charleston. The Dutchmen will get one more chance to take on a CAA title contender this afternoon, when they host defending league champion UNC Wilmington (it still hurts) in the Senior Day home finale at the Arena. Doesn’t it seem early for a home finale? It is. Here’s  quick look back at the loss to the Cougars and a look ahead to the Seahawks.

Justin Wright-Foreman scored a game-high 26 points (ho hum) but had his potential go-ahead 3-pointer “blocked” with four seconds left as the Dutchmen fell short against Charleston. Replays showed Charleston’s Nick Harris appeared to hit Wright-Foreman’s arm as he shot. Joe Mihalich earned a technical for arguing the call and the Cougars hit two free throws to cover the spread and either infuriate or enthrall degenerate gamblers throughout the land. Brian Bernardi scored 21 points on seven 3-pointers, one shy of his single-game school record, while Rokas Gustys had 16 points (his most in conference play this season) and 12 rebounds in his first double-double since Jan. 26. Deron Powers had two points but collected 11 assists the most by a Hofstra player this season.

3 STARS OF THE GAME (vs. Charleston 2/16)
3: Justin Wright-Foreman
2: Brian Bernardi
1: Rokas Gustys

Justin Wright-Foreman 48
Deron Powers 31
Eli Pemberton 26
Brian Bernardi 23
Rokas Gustys 19
Ty Greer 9
Hunter Sabety 7
Jamall Robinson 5

Despite losing on Thursday, the Dutchmen still retain slim hopes of earning a first-round bye in the CAA Tournament and getting out of “Pillowfight Friday.” Northeastern lost to UNC Wilmington on Thursday, which leaves the Dutchmen two games behind the Huskies with three games to play. The Dutchmen would win any tiebreaker with Northeastern by virtue of sweeping the season series. Here are are bottom of the CAA standings entering today.

6.) Northeastern 7-8
7.) James Madison 6-9
8.) HOFSTRA 5-10
9.) Delaware 5-10
10.) Drexel 3-12

The Dutchmen are technically the eighth seed at the moment by virtue of their season sweep of Delaware. The Dutchmen are 0-1 against James Madison, whom they visit in the regular season finale next Saturday. 

The Dutchmen, Delaware and Drexel all went 1-6 through seven CAA games this season, but at 5-10 in league play, both the Dutchmen and Delaware have already exceeded the average finish of the 22 teams that opened 1-6 or worse between 2001-02 and 2015-16. Those 22 teams finished with an average of 3.5 CAA wins.

In addition, the Dutchmen and Delaware have also matched or exceeded the CAA win total of 18 of their predecessors. The Dutchmen and Blue Hens are trying to become the fourth and fifth teams to win as many as six CAA games after starting 1-6 or worse. William & Mary finished 7-11 in 2012-13 while James Madison (2001-02) and Northeastern (2010-11) each went 6-12.

Junior Rokas Gustys, in his second game back following a four-game absence due to an undisclosed injury, scored 16 points (on 8-of-11 shooting) and pulled down 12 rebounds on Thursday night. The 16 points and eight field goals were the most for Gustys since he scored 20 points and hit nine field goals against St. Bonaventure on Dec. 6. The double-double was the fourth of the CAA season for Gustys, who had five double-doubles in non-league play. 

Sophomore guard Justin Wright-Foreman scored a team- and game-high 26 points on Saturday. It was the eighth straight game in which Wright-Foreman has at least shared the team lead in points, the 10th time he has done so during CAA play and the 13th time overall this season.
Wright-Foreman has played at least 10 minutes in every game but one this season and has scored in double figures in 22 of 28 games, including the last 18. He scored more than four points and played more than 10 points in just one game last season, when he collected nine points in 17 minutes against Division II Molloy. 

Wright-Foreman, who scored 44 points in 27 games last season, has scored 477 points this season, which is already the fourth-most by a Hofstra sophomore in the CAA era. He moved past Rokas Gustys and Kenny Adeleke on Thursday night. Wright-Foreman has averaged 21.6 points over his last 18 games. If he maintains that pace over the four guaranteed games the Dutchmen have left (four regular season games and one CAA tournament game), he would surpass Loren Stokes for third place on the list and finish just two points behind Antoine Agudio.

The only players in the top 10 to score fewer points as a freshman than Wright-Foreman are David Imes, who scored 25 points as a freshman in 2009-10 before scoring 251 points as a sophomore, and Ziggy Sestokas, who scored 29 points as a freshman in 2005-06 before scoring 219 points as a sophomore.

1.) Charles Jenkins 629 (2009-10)
2.) Antoine Agudio 566 (2005-06)
3.) Loren Stokes 549 (2004-05)
4.) JUSTIN WRIGHT-FOREMAN 477 (2016-17)
5.) Kenny Adeleke 468 (2002-03) 
6.) Rokas Gustys 459 (2015-16)
7.) Mike Radziejewski 265 (2002-03)
8.) David Imes 251 (2010-11)
9.) Woody Souffrant 244 (2002-03)
10.) Ziggy Sestokas 219 (2006-07)

With 477 points this season, Wright-Foreman enters today 22nd among sophomores in scoring, according to College Basketball Reference. Only one player ahead of Wright-Foreman scored fewer than 100 points as a freshman last season. Albany’s David Nichols, who has 478 points this season, scored 40 points in 15 games last year.

Today's game will be broadcast live on SNY (and other American Sports Network affiliates outside the New York area). Hofstra will provide a radio feed of today’s game at the Pride Productions hub.

Today’s game marks the earliest regular season home finale for the Dutchmen in the CAA era. The previous earliest home finale took place during the 2003-04 season, when the Dutchmen exited the Arena by edging James Madison, 65-61, on Feb. 21.

This is the earliest regular season home finale for the Dutchmen since the 2000-01 season, the program’s last in the America East. The Dutchmen beat Hartford, 73-54, on Feb. 11, though they did play one more game at home four Saturdays later. You might remember it. 

The home finale has traditionally been a happy occasion for both the Flying Dutchmen and Joe Mihalich. The Dutchmen are 20-3 in home finales in the DD era (1993-present) with the lone losses being absorbed in 1994 (Army won 87-76), 2001 (Towson won 61-60) and 2013 (Delaware won 57-56).

In addition, Mihalich is 16-2 in regular season home finales as a head coach and has a 10-game winning streak dating back to the 2006 season, when Niagara lost to Manhattan, 82-81. The only other time a Mihalich-coached team lost a home finale was 2001, when Niagara fell to Canisius, 85-70.

The Dutchmen will honor their two seniors, Brian Bernardi and Deron Powers, prior to the game. Bernardi is on pace to become just the third player in the last 10 years to start every game in which he plays for Hofstra (after Antoine Agudio and Charles Jenkins). Powers, the third senior to play one season at Hofstra under Mihalich, likely would have joined graduate transfers Zeke Upshaw (2013-14) and Denton Koon (2015-16) as one-year seniors to start every game but came off the bench due to illness on Jan. 7.

For more on Bernardi and Powers, check out today’s feature on the seniors.

The Seahawks, under third-year head coach Kevin Keatts, are 23-5 this season and sit alone atop the CAA with a 12-3 record in league play. The 23 wins are a school record. UNC Wilmington blew almost all of a 20-point lead Thursday before hanging on to edge Northeastern, 66-65. It was the second straight one-point decision and the third such game in the last five contests for the Seahawks, who fell to Elon 77-76 last Saturday and lost to Charleston, 67-66, on Feb. 2.

The Dutchmen and Seahawks had one mutual foe during non-league play. The Dutchmen fell to St. Bonaventure, 81-75, while UNC Wilmington edged the Bonnies, 81-80.

Per the wise guys in Vegas, for entertainment purposes only, the Seahawks are 5-point favorites.

UNC Wilmington won the first game this season against the Dutchmen on Jan. 14, when the Seahawks came back from an eight-point first half deficit and held off a late rally to earn an 84-76 win. The Dutchmen trailed by three points in the final minute.

The Dutchmen are third among CAA teams in scoring (76.9 ppg) but are allowing 76.5 ppg, the third-most in the league.

The Dutchmen rank seventh in the CAA in field goal percentage (44.4%), less than one-hundredth of a percentage point behind both sixth-place Towson and fifth-place James Madison, and third in 3-point field goal percentage (36.9%) They are allowing opposing teams to shoot 46.0 percent overall, eighth in the league, and 37.0 percent from beyond the arc, which is last. 

The Seahawks lead the CAA in scoring (85.1 ppg) and are allowing 74.4 ppg, which is seventh in the league.

The Seahawks are second in the CAA in field goal percentage (48.0%) and fourth in 3-point field goal percentage (36.1%). They are last in field goal percentage defense (47.4%) and third in 3-point field goal percentage defense (33.7%).

Hofstra is 18-18 against UNC Wilmington in a series that began when the Dutchmen joined the CAA prior to the 2001-02 season. The Seahawks are looking for their first season sweep of the Dutchmen since 2007-08. UNC Wilmington has won three of the last four games between the teams, including an 80-73 overtime win in the CAA championship game last Mar. 7. *cries more* 

The Dutchmen lost a whopping 50.3 ppg from last year’s squad via the graduations of Juan’ya Green (17.8 ppg), Ameen Tanksley 15.9 ppg), Denton Koon (11.4 ppg) and Malik Nichols (5.2 ppg). But they have “found” 55.5 ppg this season via five players who didn’t play for the team in 2015-16, plus the emergence of sophomore Justin Wright-Foreman. 

Justin Wright-Foreman (15.8)***
Eli Pemberton (12.6)
Deron Powers (12.6)
Ty Greer (6.2)
Hunter Sabety (4.4)
Jamall Robinson (3.9)

***The Wright-Foreman average subtracts the 1.2 ppg he averaged last season to better account for the “found” points.

Eli Pemberton, who was the first Hofstra freshman since Antoine Agudio (2004-05) to open his career by scoring in double digits in his first five games, is already the 19th Dutchmen freshman in the CAA era to score at least 100 points in his debut season. He ranks fifth on the CAA-era freshman scoring list.

1.) Antoine Agudio, 452 (2004-05)
2.) Charles Jenkins, 436 (2007-08)
3.) Kenny Adeleke, 433 (2001-02)
4.) Loren Stokes, 374 (2003-04)
5.) ELI PEMBERTON, 341 (2016-17)
6.) Chaz Williams, 325 (2009-10)
7.) Jamall Robinson, 312 (2013-14)
8.) Halil Kanacevic, 294 (2009-10)
9.) Carlos Rivera, 226 (2003-04)
10.) Nathaniel Lester, 189 (2007-08)

Dawson’s Creek bias! (I learned this week that One Tree Hill was not the only CW/WB teen drama shot in Wilmington)
Jerry Wainwright bias! (He was the coach when UNC Wilmington ruled the CAA during Hofstra’s early years in the league)
Coach Casey Stanley is a dork bias! (The UNCW assistant made a Hofstra football joke on Twitter yesterday)
Kevin Keatts was nice to my wife and daughter last year bias! (He crouched down to say hi to Molly after the CAA title game last year and made a graceful exit after seeing my wife wearing a Hofstra T-shirt and a forlorn look)

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